Must do family days out in the East Midlands | Day Out With The Kids

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Exciting East Midlands: Must do family days out

Penny Alexander

26 February 2017

Time to Read

4 minutes

From the ruggedly stunning Derbyshire Peak District, to the ancient forest of Robin Hood’s Nottinghamshire, to the wild coast of Lincolnshire and the pretty market towns and thatched cottage villages of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire and England’s smallest county Rutland, the East Midlands is brimming with awesome days out.

Better still, here are the top ten must do places that leapt to fellow parents’ minds when I asked the question, ‘Where do you love to go in the East Midlands?’

1. National Space Centre, Leicestershire
Leicestershire has some out of this world attractions, the National Space Centre for starters. This is a really popular trip for schools in the local area, it’s educational, awesomely immersive and hands on. With interactive galleries, the UK’s largest planetarium, unique 3D Simulator experience and the iconic 42m high Rocket Tower, the National Space Centre is pretty mind blowing. My kids loved getting hands on with the science experiments and found the scale of the exhibits truly inspirational.

Three children posed and dressed in space suits at the National Space Centre

2. Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire

A brilliant one for your little monkeys. Twycross has the largest collection of monkeys and apes in the Western world, and in 2006 re-launched itself as a World Primate Centre. My two were truly transfixed coming face to face with so many monkeys and gorillas. Twycross have around 500 animals from almost 150 species on show including Bornean orang utans, Amur leopards, Asian elephants, snow leopards, meerkats, Humboldt penguins, Western Lowland gorillas, giant Aldabran tortoises and the UK’s only breeding group of bonobos.

Leopard in grassed enclosure at Twycross Zoo

3. Sherwood Forest Country Park, Nottinghamshire

It wouldn’t be a visit to Nottingham without checking out Sherwood Forest and paying your respects to the Major Oak, the tree where Robin Hood and his merry men are said to have sheltered. It weighs an estimated 23 tons, has a girth of 10 metres, a canopy of 28 metres, and is about 800–1000 years old. I’m always wowed enough by the tree, but for kids, the visitor centre, restaurant and gift shop add to the merriment. 

Path and trees at Sherwood Forest Country Park

4. Nottingham Castle, Nottinghamshire
Although the castle was demolished in 1649 and again in 1831 by rioters, it was rebuilt as a museum and art gallery with plenty of dramatic stories to tell - we love the interactive displays and costumes. It is built on the very impressive Castle Rock, if your kids are up for it take the Nottingham Castle Caves tour - it is a lot of steps and the story telling is a little gruesome in places - we really loved finding underground Nottingham. The tour also brings you out at The Museum of Nottinghamshire Life in Brewhouse Yard. Afterwards visit Ye Olde Trip To Jeraslaeum, England’s oldest inn, it’s family friendly and mine love that you can see up into castle rock from inside the pub.


5. Chatsworth House Farmyard, Derbyshire 

Iconic Chatsworth is a day out with something for all the family, from dreaming of Mr Darcy, whose residence Chatsworth became in the film version of Pride and Prejudice, to exploring the farm park and breathtaking grounds. Its a stately home that is beautiful and not just grand, nestled in the most ruggedly gorgeous part of the Peaks.  Mine have whiled away many a day just letting off steam around the grounds, before scoffing afternoon tea in the courtyard. The formal gardens, house and farm park all have fascinating stories to tell too


Garden hedge shaped as Robin Hood holding a bow and arrow at Nottingham Castle

6. Sudbury Hall and Museum of Childhood, Sudbury

Perfect for a multi generational day out, Sudbury is guaranteed to get parents and grandparents talking about their childhoods and children pondering their own lives. The Victorian school room and chimney sweep experience are a must when you want your kids to realise how truly lucky they are. My Dad likes to demonstrate how his Mum did the washing in the old laundry room, much to my kids’ amazement: ‘Is this what it was really like when you were a Victorian Grandad?’ always makes us chuckle. Afterwards there is National Trust tea and cake and a lovely little playground under the trees.

7. Bugtopia, Northamptonshire

Bugtopia was formed in 2012 as a way to get kids interested in the super heroes of our world - Bugs! So if your child is more into Deadly 60 than petting bunnies, this could be the trip for them. Book a hands on meet and greet and say hello to stick insects, lizards, giant snails and tarantulas and learn fascinating facts about insects, invertebrates and reptiles from in-depth talks with their handler.

Bugtopia Zoo also recently opened a zoo at Rutland, from leaf cutter ants, to crocodiles and frilled dragons, expect even more unusual, and larger creatures, guaranteed to fascinate!

Giant green stick insect on adult's hand at Bugtopia

8. Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Rutland 

Rutland Water, Europe’s largest man made lake, is a wonderful place for all kind of outdoor activities, if you are looking for a place to begin, local parents recommend the nature reserve. From nature detectives to family drop-in days there’s plenty to keep the kids happy during the holidays, including pond dipping, bug hunting and nature related craft sessions.

9 . Belton House, Lincolnshire

Probably one of the most imaginative and extensive outdoor playgrounds you are likely to find, this came up so many times when I asked fellow parents for ideas. From wild den building areas to water play, musical instruments, forts and even a small train, the play opportunities at Belton are pretty unrivalled and are set in the beautiful woodland surroundings of a country estate. A brilliant place to let them play outdoors freely and enjoy a day out with friends. If it rains there’s an indoor play area and cafe, plus a discovery centre with children’s activities.


Father and child crouching down towards a lake at Rutland Water Nature Reserve

10. Mablethorpe Beach, Lincolnshire

Don’t forget the East Midlands stretches out to the coast! Mablethorpe is the place to go to make sandcastles, with vast golden sands and grassy dunes it’s the perfect East Midlands day out by the seaside. The calm waters are good for swimming and the award winning beach has lifeguards in Summer.

Do let us know what would be on your top 10? How many of these have you ticked off?

Sun setting over a view of Mablethorpe beach


Penny Alexander

26 February 2017

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Penny Alexander is a multi-award winning travel blogger and writer, passionate about UK travel and loves to help families find their perfect escape. Penny is one of our much loved Trusted Explorers, which means all content has been written exclusively for in exchange for a contribution to their family piggy bank. All posts are first hand, honest and based on real experiences.

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