Get out(doors)! Top things to do in East Anglia with the kids
From giraffe feeding, tree house adventures and seal colonies to musical sculpture trails, steam trains and crabbing, East Anglia offers a plethora of family outings. We take a look at ten of the best places to visit.
This tree house adventure park is a superb day out for families with children aged 2-12. We particularly enjoy the tree houses and jungle bridges although the zip wires, boat trips and marsh walks are great fun too. Set in the Norfolk Broads, BeWILDerwood is a mystical land based on the ‘A Boggle at BeWILDerwood’ book. You can take a lazy boat ride across the Scaaaary Lake, brave the Broken Bridge or whizz down the Wobbly Wires. For smaller children, there’s Toddlewood which is like BeWILDerwood – just a miniature version. The characters you’ll see are superb too, from Swampy the Marsh Boggle, Moss the Boggle and Thornyclod to Hazel the Wood Witch, Snagglefang the BeWILDerbat and Willow the Sticklenose. Local food is available but we love to take a picnic. For the more energetic, there’s bike hire available at the Norfolk Broad Cycling Centre.
Banham Zoo in Norfolk was the first zoo our daughter ever visited. Located half an hour from her grandparents’ house in Suffolk, it’s a superb family day out. There are around 2,000 animals to see, with experiences including giraffe and meerkat feeding, bird of prey displays, animal handling in the Farm Barn (always our favourite - especially the rabbits!) and a Lemur Encounters’ walk-through.
Located in 50 acres of beautiful parkland, there is an array of animals to keep children entertained from the Amur tiger, Sri Lankan leopard and cheetah to the white-faced saki monkey, the ring-tailed lemur and the golden-headed lion tamarin. The Amazing Animals presentation is worth checking out as children can learn about animals and watch them live onstage too. We particularly enjoyed it when a parrot was flying about the theatre! If little legs are tired, you can explore on the Safari Road or grab a bite to eat at the Parrot Pavillion. Other pit stops include a Southern Fried Chicken outlet and the Trading Post coffee shop.
Our daughter has always been a climber and loves the great outdoors. Anywhere that allows her to scale trees and explore nature’s playground ticks all the boxes. Situated in Thetford Forest, High Lodge offers woodland trails, cycle paths and loads of activities. The trails are great – our favourite is the Sculpture Play Trail with its spider, woodpecker, woodlark and rabbit sculptures. The Sound Trail is fun too with its giant structures including a multi gong, the granite xylophone, wind pipes and jumping sound cushions. We all know kids walk further if they’re distracted and both trails do exactly that. For older children there are cycling routes (bike hire is available) and there’s a Pyramid Tower for climbers with whizz down slides, scramble over rope bridges and tunnels. Plus a giant swing that accommodates 13 people! Aside from the car park, High Lodge is free with the only paid for activities a high wire through the trees, Segway hire or pony rides. We enjoy having a picnic in the forest before walking but there’s a café too.
Steam trains are fascinating for all children and Bressingham has a great mix - steam trains and beautiful gardens. You can visit the gardens and woodland on one of the four railways and visit the locomotive shed to see steam engineering up close. Gallopers are always good for a giggle and there are three here with fairground games, dodgems and a waltzer. Food and drink is available at the Steam Museum café but there’s seating for picnics too if you fancy taking your own. Bressingham Steam Museum and Gardens also offers driver experience packages (paid for in advance).
Blakeney National Nature Reserve
Blakeney National Nature Reserve enables children to learn about nature and explore the great outdoors with wildlife, crabbing and boating on offer. For the more adventurous, you can take a boat trip to Blakeney Point to see England’s largest colony of seals (booking is essential). There’s a vast array of wildlife there due to the varying landscapes that encompass a four-mile sand and shingle spit, sand dunes and saltmarshes. As well as the nature reserve itself, family events take place regularly – like crab catching (with all important instructions on how to hold them!), bug hunting and looking for wildlife using binoculars.
Get ready for a real hands-on experience at this small livestock farm that houses rare breeds. Young children can get up-close and personal with piglets, chickens, goats, sheep, cattle, goats, poultry and alpacas. These kind of experiences are a great way for kids to learn about animals. Chicken-feeding takes place every day and at the weekend Baylam House stages Greet the Goat experiences along with Bunny Barn cuddles! There’s a children’s play area too so you can relax with a cream tea or homemade cake while they enjoy themselves. You can take your own picnic as well.
Another gem from the National Trust is this Georgian Italianate palace set in Suffolk woods and parkland. There’s ample space for children of all ages to blow away the cobwebs plus there’s an adventure playground and a plethora of ancient (but sturdy!) trees to climb. As well as larking around in the trees and playing hide and seek, we enjoyed old games like dominoes and draughts inside the palace although the wooden soldiers were a great hit too. The classical Rotunda is particularly impressive and the landscape, which includes a walled garden, is glorious. Re-fuelling comes in the form of two eateries, the West Wing or the Porter’s Lodge cafés, but you can take your own food as well.
Pleasurewood Hills has something for everyone with children, family and thrill seeker rides on offer. Scream-inducing rides include the likes of water log ride Timber Falls, the Enigma coaster and the Fireball pendulum. Then there’s Wipeout - the fastest and most extreme rollercoaster in the East of England! For a more family-friendly coaster, Marble Madness is your best bet or you can swing on the Pirate Ship. The Flying Elephant is great for little ones as is going on a Safari and taking the Woody Copter. There are also sea lion and parrot shows that are always great fun. Food is available at the Merry Mariner restaurant, Sharkey’s fish and chips, Christine’s Tea Rooms and Smokey Joe’s Burgers and Bear Grill.
Beacon Rally Karts is for racing enthusiasts from 5 upwards. You can enjoy adrenaline packed karting fun with fully trained marshals. Age-appropriate karts with roll bars are available for all children with crash helmets, race suits and gloves also provided. The adult karts for (16+) reach speeds of 35mph though so you need to concentrate! Each of the outdoor tracks complements the kart sizes so young children are not on the same track as the older ones. A pit-stop cabin provides hot and cold refreshments.
The Norfolk coastline is a beautiful spot famous for its wildlife and sandy beaches. It’s a beautiful place for a wander. You can take in the ancient Brandodunum Roman Fort, admire the coast and wildlife at Brancaster Staithe or capture the panoramic views of the saltmarsh and Brancaster Staithe Harbour. Special activities include Wild Wednesday or 50 Things Thursday, where you join National Trust staff and learn how to fly a kite, skim stones or hunt for creepy crawlies. Refreshments are available at Brancaster Beach Café or you can take your own.