Not the prettiest part of Dorset's Jurassic coastline, but you're not here for the photo album; you want dinosaurs. You'll find tips on fossil collecting at the Heritage Coast Centre next to the beach: there's a short film on what to look for, or ask one of the wardens what to do. Alternatively, there are regular guided walks. Best check for tides before you go and rest assured: you WILL find fossils.
tel: 01297 560772; www.charmouth.org
Corfe Castle is a story-book medieval ruin, set on a hillock above a village on Dorset's Isle of Purbeck - not, in fact, an island, but a peninsular. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the castle and its surroundings, but if the children have enough energy afterwards, you could combine it with a walk over Ballard Down to Swanage (about 5 miles, so take snacks to keep them going). While you wouldn't describe this seaside town as sleepy - chip shops on every corner - there's still something wonderfully old-fashioned about the place, epitomised by the steam railway, which runs up and down the coast, and will get you back to Corfe Castle in about 15 minutes.
I took my then 2 year old daughter to Fruitstock (the Innocent Smoothie festival) last year and it's one of the best things we did last summer. We just took a picnic and met up with a bunch of friends (none of them had children with them) and there was plenty to do for adults and children alike. There was a wonderful play area for toddlers and lots of other activities. I expect it'll be even better this year now that she is three.
This year is is on 5&6 August in Regents Park, London.
I'm just a previous attendee, with nothing to gain from publicising this other than sharing the fun!
Step back in time to 1645 - this manor house dating from Tudor times is staffed by the 'servants' of Colonel Prichard. They dress, speak and behave in period and in character and manage to convey a wealth of information in an engaging and entertaining way. Their enthusiasm and professionalism are quite remarkable. Questions are encouraged and it never feels remotely 'educational'. No two visits are the same, and there are special events and displays through the summer.
Head North from Cardiff on the A470 for about 15 miles, then follow the brown signs from the roundabout. Also near the Welsh National Rock Climbing Centre
One of the most interesting places I've visited. Cycling through Bangkok back roads along canals, taking a local train, then continuing into the countryside, where you can visit farmers, villagers, schoolchildren, temples, markets.
People are very friendly. We had lunch in the simple Thai house of a village head. Participating in a local classroom was also fun and lively, with people trying to speak to us, even though they couldn’t speak English. While cycling, you are surrounded by rice fields everywhere you look. I was blown away.
You can see pictures of our tour here: www.absoluteexplorer.com/share/dailypic.php?year=2006&month=6&day=22
OK, so it’s an adult free zone, but it’s great summer fun for kids aged 7-16. Parents can relax knowing the kids are in safe hands and leave them for a week or two in this beautiful site where they have loads of sports and activities to keep them busy. They also have other residential camps by the sea in north Norfolk, close to Cromer, and day camps all around London.
Bembridge, Isle of Wight;
The stretch of Kingsland Road between Shoreditch and Hackney can seem barren at the best of times, with little more than car mechanics and tool hire shops to stop for, but a sure sign that things are changing is The Fox, a gastropub ripe for serving the new cluster of flats springing up in the area.
The menu is organic, and changes monthly, and they have a special menu for kids. Sunday morning is a real family-fest. When I visited the patrons seemed to span in age from 8 months to 80 years.
372 Kingsland Road, London E8; tel: 020 7254 4012
Beamish Open Air Museum, located between Newcastle and Durham, is a fantastic attraction – a full day out for families of all ages. Step back in time as you discover what life was like 100 or 200 years ago.
Restored trams and period double-decker buses take you around this vast site as you hop on and off to visit the different attractions. There is an early 20th century Town Street, complete with shops, pub, bank, houses, a Masonic Hall and even a sweet factory. Elsewhere there is a Colliery Village with a drift mine you can take a tour into. There is also the fantastic Pockerly Waggonway - where you can ride along behind replicas of three of the world’s most famous steam engines - Puffing Billy, Steam Elephant and George Stephenson's Locomotion 1.
Other attractions on site include Home Farm - a working farm with animals and Pockerley Manor a grand Georgian manor house set in beautiful Gardens. There is also a range of events that take place throughout the year which are included in the admission price.
Beamish Open Air Museum, County Durham, DH9 0RG
tel: 0191 370 4000;
The Railway Centre in Bickleigh, near Tiverton is everything you would want from a steam engine centre - plenty to put your hands on, working engines, rides, models, etc - but on a delightfully small scale. It is perfect for small people. They even provide steps to stand upon for the smallest to see the model railways housed inside original carriages. Thoughtful and helpful staff, a nice (inexpensive) shop and beautiful scenery around make for a place we shall be returning to for a few years yet.
A superb 'genuine' Italian coffee shop - in Melbourne – where you can get homemade biscuits, cakes, sweets and confectionery to go with your coffee, and for the kids - gelati. This little cafè has become a fave with the local Hamptonites. The name Amaretto? From the Italian liqueur.
565 Hampton St, Hampton, Victoria 3188;
Sausalito is a beautiful town that nestles in the hills across the bay from San Francisco. You can hire bikes at Fisherman's Wharf, cycle around the bay, enjoy great views over the Golden Gate Bridge and drop down into Sausolito. We used Blazing Saddles and the quality of the bikes was very good.
When you get there enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants and then return to San Francisco on the ferry. If you are feeling energetic you can run the route! As you would expect, runners are everywhere on the bay and it truly was a most memorable run.
Yueba Buena Gardens are situated opposite the Museum of Modern Art. After a little culture you can while away a couple of hours in these very tranquil gardens. Our two-year-old loved the waterfalls. Make sure you go across the bridge to the children's play area. It is sunk into the ground with really imaginative playgrounds, free equipment to play with and a wonderful puppet shop.
Opposite MOMA and above the Moscone Convention Center, covering two square city blocks bounded by Mission, Folsom, Third and Fourth Streets;
A perfect lazy day out. Start off with a long picnic down by the lake, followed by a drenching in the water maze (bring spare clothes) and a run around the adventure playground. Finish off with a walk around the castle getting the kids to check for secret doors and passages. In the summer, jousting sessions are an added bonus....
Three miles from Edenbridge off the B2026 between Sevenoaks and East Grinstead in the village of Hever.
30 miles from London, exit the M25 at junctions 5 or 6 and follow the Brown tourist signs.
Trains take about 30 mins from London Victoria.
The amazing 170m tall viewing tower in Portsmouth has fantastic panoramic views over the harbour and out towards the Isle of Wight. It also has Europe's largest glass floor on its first viewing deck ,which kids and adults alike can't get enough of... so long as you've got the nerve to take the first step on it!
Located on the fab development of Gunwharf Quays with is bustling bars and restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating in the summer and great shops to keep mums quiet too!
Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, PO1
A warren of underground streets and houses hidden beneath Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Costumed guides take you around this amazing site, revealing the stories of the former residents. Very eerie and supposedly very haunted. Great for adults and older kids alike.
Mary King's Close, off the Royal Mile;
Bookings: 08702 430 160;
Classic Sichuan (and Chongqing, where hot pot is even spicier) food. Large bowl of soup/sauce in the middle of the table, perched on a gas hob/burner. Most often the metal bowl has a barrier vertically across the middle, so that a red, spicier soup is in one half, and a white, less spicy soup is in the other. Fans of the spicy half and the less spicy half can dine together, and of course you can mix and match.
Your group orders food, which is brought to you so you can decide what to put into the bubbling soup. Sliced pork and beef, vegetables, doufu, and mushrooms are all standard fare, and you can also get kidneys, liver and many other body parts for the soup. A very sociable way of eating.
Some places do a 'buffet' deal where you pay one price per person (rather than paying for the food you order), and you stroll up to the buffet table to get the food bits - good for your first hot pot, and this overcomes ordering problems. The buffet deals are pricier, but usually include beer and red wine and soft drinks.
Hot pot (huo guo) restaurants are on almost every vaguely lively street. One town we were in had seven hot pot restaurants.
More detailed guide on www.randomstuff.biz in the Eat section of Chengdu.
The best secret cafe of the island is on Campos beach. Excellent sandwiches, salads and pasta, well groomed cocktails, and the must have - enormous cheesecake pieces (surely the best I've ever tasted).
After your swim, relax by playing backgammon or reading a book listening to nice world music. Before you leave, don't forget to buy a trendy George's Place souvenir t-shirt!
On the far left of Campos beach, 5.5 km from the port of Skala. When you get to the beach, You have to walk through the sand to reach it; tel. 22470 31881
A genuine family-run Italian restaurant down Preston Street, just off Western Road, with a great menu ranging from the de rigeur pasta through to excellent meat and fish dishes, all made with fresh ingredients and served with the best owner/maitre d around - the Italian owner Angelo! By far the best restaurant in Brighton.
29 Preston Street, Brighton;
tel: 01273 328 775
Lebanese restaurant. Gorgeous food - mezes, grills etc (must try fatoush). Great value, especially the set menu. Very friendly. Family run and therefore very welcoming toward young children. Top off your food with a hubba bubba pipe. Everyone we take loves it and takes their friends too.
44 Preston Street, Brighton;
tel: 01273 734 810
As in olden days, you can sit outside in the park and read and listen to the orators in the forecourt or inside, where the reading room takes you back to early last century. Quaint and quiet and a great place to while away a few hours. I recommend the tour to discover the history and facilities offered by the institution.
328 Swanston Street, Melbourne,
corner of Swanston and La Trobe Streets;
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