WHAT’S ON FOR KIDS IN BRISTOL AND NORTH SOMERSET: SCHOOL HOLIDAYS SUMMER 2019
The summer’s here, hurrah! Welcome to my new guide to family friendly attractions and free days out in Bristol, Portishead and North Somerset which I’ve tried to pack with as much useful information, age guidance and as many money saving tips as possible! To make it easier for you to find details of your perfect day out, I’ve divided the guide into the following sections.
- Free family days out in Bristol, indoors (perfect for rainy days!)
- Free family outings in North Somerset, outdoors
- Attractions with an entrance fee in Bristol, North Somerset and Gloucestershire
- Summertime family theatre shows in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare
- Fun ways to explore Bristol
- Family friendly places to eat in Portishead this summer
- Places to eat in Bristol including a special summer holiday pop-up beach bar.
Enjoy the guide!
FREE FAMILY DAYS OUT IN BRISTOL – INDOORS
BLAISE CASTLE HOUSE MUSEUM
See how people lived through time, what they wore, the toys they played with and how they managed their household chores. Free entry. Click the link below for Blaise Castle opening hours and special events.
Blaise Castle House Museum
BRISTOL MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
Explore collections of art, nature and history on display in this beautiful building. Find out about the last billion years of Earth’s history, explore the region’s natural wonders and discover more about people’s lives, past and present. Click the link for Bristol Museum opening hours and special events.
Bristol Cathedral welcomes visitors Monday to Friday from 8.00am until 5.00pm. You can either potter around or join in Bristol Cathedral’s family events including Crafty Cathedral, a free art and craft drop in morning for children and families during school holidays. Free entry. Click the link below for Bristol Cathedral opening hours and special events.
Bristol Cathedral Summer Activities.
CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE VISITOR CENTRE
Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre is open every day from 10am to 5pm and you can even join a free guided tour on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from Easter to October. Keep an eye out for the explainers in orange high-vis jackets who will be more than happy to answer questions and tell you about the history of Brunel’s famous bridge.
If you want a less structured visit and don’t have a problem with heights, you can just amble over the bridge and admire the spectacular views across Avon Gorge and the city of Bristol. There’s a toll for motorists but crossing the bridge is FREE for cyclists and pedestrians. Click through for more information on tours and opening times at Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre.
If you’d like a more in depth tour of the suspension bridge and the opportunity to climb down under the tower, see the vaults tour in the paid attractions section below.
THE GEORGIAN HOUSE MUSEUM
Discover what a Bristol sugar plantation and slave owner’s home might have looked like around 1790. Eleven rooms spread over four floors reveal what life was like above and below stairs, from the kitchen in the basement where servants prepared meals to the elegant formal rooms above. Click the link below for Georgian House opening hours and special events.
Georgian House Museum, Bristol.
See amazing film and photographs, listen to moving personal stories, encounter rare and quirky objects and add your own memories of Bristol through the interactive displays. From prehistoric times to the present day, M Shed tells the story of the city and its unique place in the world. Follow the link for M-Shed opening hours and special events.
What’s on at M-Shed.
THE RED LODGE MUSEUM
What secrets lie behind the bright red door? Step inside the TARDIS and experience more than 400 years of history in the museum where you feel you have left the modern world behind. From ‘royal party house’ of the 16th Century to Victorian reform school for girls, see how the lodge has changed over time. Follow the link below for Red Lodge Museum opening hours and special events.
Red Lodge Museum, Bristol
FREE THINGS TO DO IN NORTH SOMERSET WITH KIDS – OUTDOORS
Abbots Pool is a hidden gem near Abbots Leigh, North Somerset on the outskirts of Bristol. The woodland with a large pond centrepiece dating back to medieval times offers a free outing with free parking. Children enjoy natural pursuits here, from racing pooh sticks in the stream to playing hide and seek with a woodland backdrop. Check out our Abbots Pool video for more info.
Why not visit a Portishead beach? We wouldn’t go swimming at Portishead seafront but there’s plenty of fun to be had without getting into the water. Click the following link to read about our visit to one of the beaches in Portishead. The beach in the photo is just below The Royal Inn so there’s food, drink and loos on hand at that one too.
Click the link for general Coastguard Safety information.
GREAT BRITISH WILDFLOWER HUNT
Visit www.plantlife.org.uk/wildflowerhunt to take part in Plantlife’s Great British Wildflower Hunt.
THINGS TO DO IN BRISTOL WITH KIDS £££
WE THE CURIOUS
As a family, we always enjoy visiting ‘We The Curious’ (or ‘At Bristol’ as it was known for many years). It’s a fun and fascinating educational attraction packed with interactive science exhibits. During our visits over the years, it’s managed to keep our three sons’ attention from tots to the age of fifteen (so far!). We grown ups enjoy it too and always end up wishing we’d allowed more time to explore everything. There must be other similar attractions around but I still haven’t come across anything which rivals ‘We The Curious’.
WE THE CURIOUS PLANETARIUM SHOW
During our recent visit we ventured into the giant silver ball for a planetarium show with excellent 3D effects, presented by Tammy from the Live Science Team. (The planetarium ticket is in addition to the general admission charge.)
Follow the link below for We The Curious opening hours, special events or to book tickets on-line at a discounted rate.
We The Curious
SS GREAT BRITAIN
Visit the SS Great Britain and included in the entrance fee is the loan of an engineer’s satchel. Filled with all the tools needed to explore the ship with new eyes, children will be able to use the contents to solve problems and get an insight into some of the skills required to become an engineer!
THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS AT SS GREAT BRITAIN
Specially for summer 2019 The Invisible Circus will be at the ship, performing stunts and aerial displays, flinging themselves from the rigging and telling the story of life-changing voyages on board the world’s first great ocean liner. Shows are included in the admission price and The Invisible Circus will be aboard every day until 1st September 2019.
BEING BRUNEL MUSEUM AT SS GREAT BRITAIN
Also included in the ticket price is the Being Brunel Museum which celebrates the life and legacy of Britain’s great engineer. Here you can discover never-seen-before personal possessions and experience Brunel’s life through his own eyes in an immersive audio visual experience.
SS GREAT BRITAIN SPRING/SUMMER OPENING TIMES
Until November 2019 open: 10:00am to 6:00pm. Last entry: 5:00pm (one hour before closing)
BOOK SS GREAT BRITAIN TICKETS ONLINE and save 5%. SS Great Britain tickets include unlimited returns for a whole year!
Aerospace Bristol tells the amazing story of Bristol’s world-class aerospace industry and gives you and your family the chance to step aboard a British icon, Concorde Alpha Foxtrot. Designed, built and tested in Bristol, she was the final Concorde to be built and the last to fly. There’s loads to discover at Aerospace Bristol, starting from the earliest days of powered flight, through to today’s cutting-edge aerospace technology.
AEROSPACE BRISTOL OPENING HOURS:
10am – 5pm. Last entry: 4pm (one hour before closing). Click the link below for more information and special events at Aerospace Bristol.
THE NEW ROOM BRISTOL: JOHN WESLEY’S CHAPEL
The New Room in Broadmead is the oldest methodist chapel in the world however the museum is a fairly new addition to Bristol, only having opened in July 2017.
We visited as a family for the first time this summer and we were very impressed by the amount there is to see and learn here as well as the quality of the displays (designed by Bristol based company Cod Steaks), many of which are interactive. A knowledgeable volunteer tour guide took us around the twelve rooms which offer a real flavour of early Methodism. We learnt about the inequalities of life in Georgian Bristol and how Methodism spread throughout Britain, America and across the rest of the world.
As a Bristolian born and bred, I had a decent knowledge of both John Wesley who brought methodism to the masses and his brother Charles who wrote some of the best known hymns of the period. However I was surprised to learn that John Wesley fought against social injustice, took a stand against slavery and actively promoted equal rights for women. He was also knowledgeable and wrote about healthy lifestyles, much of which is still considered to be good advice today.
There is a modest entrance fee to go into The New Room – for our family of five it’s currently £15 but tickets are valid for a year. There’s an additional charge if you’d like to book a tour guide. We’d highly recommend this museum, particularly for older children and adults. Follow the link for more information, opening hours and special events at The New Room, Bristol.
BRISTOL ZOO GARDENS
This summer you can join in with a fun Wallace and Gromit trail which is at Bristol zoo up until October 13th. Activities include joining a Claymation workshop and and learning about being a trainee zookeeper.
If you like a bargain, use the link to book as online tickets to Bristol Zoo Gardens are always cheaper than paying on the door.
WILD PLACE PROJECT AND LEAP OF FAITH
Bristol’s Wild Place Project is a wildlife attraction with an emphasis on protecting habitats both locally and around the world. The big news at The Wild Place project this summer is that the brand new Bear Wood exhibit is now open. Thousands of years ago, European brown bears lived in Britain and Wild Place Project is bringing them back as part of a rewilding project.
LEAP OF FAITH AT WILD PLACE PROJECT
The Leap of Faith climbing experience is just inside the entrance to the Wild Place and is available both to visitors and to the public. Our ten and fifteen year olds spent a fun and exhausting hour scaling up the range of high wooden structures at the outdoor climbing experience and then jumping off the namesake 25 feet high “Leap of Faith”. My muscle tear injury offered me the perfect excuse for not joining them for the climbing part but I couldn’t resist having a go on Bristol’s only 25-ft giant swing! The whole experience was a lot of fun and our fab helper, Jen, teased us mercilessly and seemed to enjoy it as much as the kids!
Buy Wild Place on-line tickets at least a day in advance to save money. Follow the link for more information about Wild Place Project opening hours and to buy tickets.
Wild Place Project
CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE VAULTS TOUR
There’s the option to enjoy a free above ground guided tour of Bristol’s iconic bridge (see above in the free section) however a few weeks ago we were invited to join a tour which takes you into the vast chambers underneath the tower at the Leigh Woods end which nobody knew existed for many years. I didn’t even know this tour was a thing until this summer!
Our lovely guide, Laura, gave us a history of the bridge and enthusiastically pointed out areas of interest along the way. (She even drew our attention to the fledgling kestrels which have been nesting in the gorge!)
Back in the 1830s, as part of a competition, Isambard kingdom Brunel submitted various ambitious designs which were rejected before ending up with the bridge which is so familiar to us today.
The tower on the Bristol side is on a natural promontory which remained when surrounding rocks were quarried but the gentle slope at the Leigh Woods end meant that a platform was needed to support the tower.
Having designed the highest and longest suspension bridge in the world, which was a great coup for Bristol, Brunel died before its completion and somewhere along the way his drawings were lost so the structure of the towers became a mystery and nobody knew what lay under the platform.
On the vaults tour you can find out exactly what lies beneath and it’s an impressive sight. Once we were kitted out in high vis and hard hats, we climbed down a short, steep ladder and into the vaults. 7.5 metre stalactites hang down from the high roof. The size of the larger chamber made me feel like I was in a cathedral and the booming acoustics reinforced that feeling. When you’re down there it’s so spacious it’s hard to imagine you’re underneath the bridge!
Entry to the chamber requires a reasonable level of mobility. Access is down a set of vertical steps and once you’re inside the first chamber, you need to stoop a little and keep your arms by your side to access the second one. Having said that, I didn’t find it at all claustrophobic, despite my height, as it’s big and high once you’re down there.
We found this tour extremely interesting and I’ll never look at the bridge in quite the same way again. Follow the link for more information about booking a Clifton Suspension Bridge Vaults Tour.
In addition to the talks and feeding demonstrations which take place every day, Bristol Aquarium invites you to learn more about their inquisitive rays during the summer holidays, with talks, feeds, hands on workshops and the opportunity to see these incredible animals right up close. Summer Rays runs until 1st September and Bristol Aquarium is open for an extra hour everyday throughout the summer holidays from 10am-6pm with last entry at 5pm. For more Bristol Aquarium information and opening hours follow the link below.
THINGS TO DO IN NORTH SOMERSET WITH KIDS £££
PORTISHEAD OPEN AIR POOL & COMMUNITY CAFE
Saved by the community for the community, Portishead Lido has a heated open air main pool, heated toddler pool, tuck shop and community cafe next door. Overlooking the Bristol channel this is an amazing place to get away from it all, have a dip, watch ships go by, enjoy the views and while away a few hours.
Follow the link for Portishead Pool opening hours, prices and busy day policy. Portishead Open Air Pool.
NOAHS ARK ZOO FARM
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm houses over 100 species of animals in over 100 acres of beautiful North Somerset countryside. It’s easily accessible from both Bristol and Portishead. Here are ten good reasons to visit Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm plus handy info & tips on making the most of your outing and how to get the best value tickets.
THINGS TO DO IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE WITH KIDS £££
OLD DOWN COUNTRY PARK
Old Down Country Park is a farm attraction set within 66 acre grounds in a rural Gloucestershire. We visited on a warm summer’s weekend when you might expect a place like this to be at its busiest, yet because the park covers such a big area, it still seemed quiet.
There’s masses of safe space for kids to run around and enjoy the fresh air in the large adventure playground while their grown ups can relax on picnic blankets or the wooden benches and picnic tables dotted around. The assault course kept our ten year old happy while younger children enjoyed playing in and ‘driving’ the big red London bus nearby. There are also trampolines and a jumping pillow in a separate area.
If you fancy a walk, there’s a meadow lined with beautiful wild flowers leading down to a lake. Otherwise just laze on one of the deckchairs on the lawn and admire the thriving walled garden.
We founds Old Down Country Farm a relaxing, attractive place to visit and think it would be particularly appealing to families with younger children. Opens 10-5 over the summer. Follow the link to find out what’s on at Old Down Country Park
SLIMBRIDGE WETLANDS CENTRE
If you fancy heading a little farther afield, what about a visit to the new Arctic Adventure attraction at Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge? See the Bewick swans and Greenland geese which travel over 4000 miles to visit during winter and while you’re there, you could have a go at birdwatching or analysing some bird poo! Click the link for more information on Slimbridge
FAMILY THEATRE SUMMER 2019 £££
1st-8th August – HOO-HA! FESTIVAL at Colston Hall, a family festival which includes musical mayhem, games, workshops and silly dancing! HOO-HA FESTIVAL 2019
10th August – ALIENS LOVE UNDERPANTS at The Playhouse, WSM. BUY ALIENS LOVE UNDERPANTS TICKETS HERE
28th August – TABBY McTAT at The Playhouse, WSM. BUY TABBY MCTAT TICKETS HERE
7th September- 23rd November 2019 – LION KING at The Bristol Hippodrome – BUY LION KING TICKETS HERE (affiliate)
25th September – STICK MAN at The Playhouse, WSM. BUY STICK MAN TICKETS HERE
28th September – PRIVATE PEACEFUL at The Playhouse, WSM. BUY PRIVATE PEACEFUL TICKETS HERE
Theatres in Bristol and North Somerset:-
THE REDGRAVE THEATRE in Clifton which regularly presents family shows
BRISTOL OLD VIC, the longest continually running theatre in the English speaking world
TOBACCO FACTORY THEATRES which present a range of shows in unique industrial spaces.
The tiny WARDROBE THEATRE in old market.
FUN WAYS TO EXPLORE BRISTOL £££
Hop aboard a Bristol Ferry and explore Bristol harbour and beyond from a different perspective. Doesn’t travelling by boat make you feel like you’re on holiday? And a ferry cruise is the perfect way to cool down on a summer’s day. Click through Bristol Ferry map, timetables and pricing.
BRISTOL INSIGHT BUS TOURS
Bristol Insight is a hop-on guided tour service and they love showing passengers around the super city of Bristol on their bright red buses.
You can hop on and off as many times as you like along the route. Keep hold of your ticket for discounts along the way! Click the following link for Bristol Insight timetables and discounted tickets.
Bristol Insight Bus Tours
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN PORTISHEAD THIS SUMMER £££
We have some fantastic spots for eating out with kids in Portishead during the summer, including restaurants and pubs overlooking Portishead Marina and Bristol Channel. Whether you’re after information on Indian restaurants, family friendly pubs with play areas or family run pizzerias, you’ll find it in our guide Top places to eat in and around Portishead.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN BRISTOL THIS SUMMER £££
MOJITO BEACH IN BROADMEAD, BRISTOL
(open until September 2019)
Why not take a break from school uniform shopping and head to the pop-up open air beach bar in Bristol’s Broadmead shopping quarter for a holiday vibe? Settle into one of the private booths, kick off your shoes and enjoy the feeling of real sand between your toes. Sip a cocktail or mocktail, tune into the chilled music and you can pretend to be relaxing next to the ocean while the kids sway on one of the big swings or amuse themselves with an outdoor game. Way more fun than a department store coffee, don’t you think?!
Have you tried out any of the Places to eat and drink at Bristol’s Wapping Wharf?. If not, check out our guide for some interesting restaurants on Bristol harbourside.
Hopefully you have plenty of ideas for things to do with kids in Bristol! Now perhaps it’s time to treat yourself with a browse around sustainable clothes shop, Beyond Retro, one of the vintage shops in Bristol. It’s in Broadmead not far from Cabot Circus.
Phew! So there we have it. I hope you find our 2019 holiday guide helpful. If so, please do share it and have a great summer!
Many thanks to Visit Bristol who arranged free entry to many of the attractions and experiences so that we could produce this guide. Follow the hashtag #SummerinBristol for more summer fun ideas!
MANY THANKS TO COBEN ASSOCIATES ACCOUNTANCY PRACTICE FOR SPONSORING OUR GUIDE TO WHAT’S ON FOR KIDS IN BRISTOL AND NORTH SOMERSET SUMMER 2019.
DISCLOSURE: WE WERE OFFERED FREE ENTRY TO MANY OF THE ATTRACTIONS LISTED FOR PURPOSES OF PRODUCING THIS GUIDE HOWEVER PRACTICALLY PERFECT MUMS RETAINS FULL EDITORIAL CONTROL AND ALL OPINIONS ARE MY/OUR OWN.
*POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS WHICH CAN PROVIDE A SMALL COMMISSION ON BOOKINGS AT NO EXTRA COST TO THE USER AND HELP SUPPORT THIS WEBSITE. THESE ARE CLEARLY MARKED, “AFFILIATE”.