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Venues Listed in Days Out

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Hatfield House

Hatfield House

The main entrance of Hatfield House, opposite a bustling urban railway station, gives little clue to the size and splendour of this Jacobean mansion and its beautiful gardens, set in 1000 acres of tranquil parkland.

Built in 1611, and still home to the 7th Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield has sumptuous state rooms full of paintings, fine furniture, tapestries and armour. The adjacent Old Palace, dating from 1485, was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth 1 who famously learned of her succession to the thone while walking in the park (at a place now marked by an oak tree).

Outside are the West Garden's fountains, terraces, scented plants and wilderness area dotted with unusual sculptures. Keen horticulturalists should note that the East Garden is open only on Thursdays. There are three marked walks to enjoy in the park (ranging from one to three miles) while children can climb, swing and slide in the Elephant Dell Play Area, which has shady picnic tables for a packed lunch.  Light lunches, cream teas, cakes and a good selection of hot and cold drinks (including speciality beers) are available from the Coach House Restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating. New in 2011 is Hatfield Park Farm (traditional breeds) and Bloody Hollow (adventure playground).

Highlights

  • Fascinating history, architecture and interiors
  • The beauty and tranquillity of the gardens and surrounding park
  • Good quality restaurant catering and service
  • Great children's play area with equipment for all ages
  • Entry fees tailored to the scope of your visit

Note: the model soldiers exhibition is up a flight of steps and is not wheelchair accessible.

2 reviews

Royal Air Force Museum

Royal Air Force Museum

Been there, done that? Try the RAF Museum in Colindale. It's free, fun, fabulous indoor entertainment for rainy days. Five huge buildings contain everything you need to know about the history of aviation, from early balloon flights to modern jet fighters.

The spectacular Milestones of Flight exhibition charts the first century of powered flight against key social and political events. With the scene set for your visit, wander on and enjoy the amazing array of aircraft and exhibits in Bomber Hall, Historic Hangars, Battle of Britain Hall and the Grahame-White Factory.  Budding pilots of all ages will enjoy the excellent  Aeronauts Interactive Centre with over 40 experiments exploring the properties of flight.

Refreshments are available at the Museum's recently refurbished Wessex Café and the newly renovated Wings Restaurant which has a good selection of drinks, snacks, hot meals, children's lunch boxes and a licensed bar.

The museum has changing exhibitions and special events for children and families – check their website for details. You'll need several hours to see everything, but with free entry, it's a great place for regular visits.

Highlights

  • the amazing range of aircraft on display, from Louis Bleriot’s Type XI monoplane to the Eurofighter Typhoon
  • experimenting with air, trying a handglider, taking the fighter pilot test
  • accessible, informative and interactive exhibits
  • the chance to sit in real and simulated cockpits and try flight simulators
  • free entry and friendly staff 
2 reviews

Bekonscot Model Village

Bekonscot Model Village

The world’s oldest model village has been delighting children and adults since 1929. Its 1.5 acres of minature landscape, built on a scale of 1:12, has everything from archers to a zoo, all linked together by a network of model trains running on 400m of track.

Wander around the six themed village areas and watch the tiny population enjoying the funfair, a lazy day on the beach and their favourite sports. Look out for working models of a coalmine, windmill, tramway and a house on fire. Find the oil refinery, aerodrome, arbour and castle while listening out for station announcements, brass bands, choirs and morris dancers.

Little ones can marvel at being bigger, rather than smaller, than everything and everyone else for once. They can also let off steam in the colourful play area and enjoy a train ride (weekends, bank holidays and local school holidays only, 90p for over 2s).

The refreshment kiosk serves hot and cold snacks but as a visit is best enjoyed on a dry day we recommend bringing your own food and making use of two handy picnic areas.

Highlights

  • small but perfectly formed – a compact attraction to visit and enjoy
  • 1930s nostalgia and the incredible attention to tiny details
  • model trains, trams and planes for transport enthusiasts
  • excellent play area for a run-around
  • modest entry fees (free for under-twos) and all profits go to charity

Note: elevated walkways are up steps and some paths are too narrow for side-by-side double buggies.

1 reviews

Whipsnade Zoo

Whipsnade Zoo

If you want to get close to some of the most fascinating animals on the planet and you're a good walker, then this is the day out for you. Set in 600 acres of parkland on the Chiltern Hills, Whipsnade has over 2,500 animals, great exhibits and lots to learn about.

Although the Zoo has been criticised for being run down, it's investing in conservation projects, new animal enclosures and improved visitor facilities. The £1million, 5,000 sq m Cheetah Rock exhibit, opened in March 08, enables visitors to admire these amazing cats from just a few metres distance inside a floor-to-ceiling glass walled hut.  The revamped, eco-friendly Rhinos of Nepal exhibit includes indoor heated pools for year-round wallowing enjoyment, a maternity wing and a spacious viewing area.

On a lighter note, there's sealion show, elephantastic demonstrations, a chimpnasium and every animal you can think of, whether you like penguins, pandas or pythons. They all need room to live and breed in, so be prepared to walk a lot, hop on and off the free tour bus or pay extra to take your car in. There are several places to grab a drink or a snack (some are seasonal only), or eat your our own picnic on a grassy spot. Even on a warm summer's day, it can be chilly up at the zoo so we recommend that you take something warm, just in case.

Highlights

  • meeting and learning about so many unusual animals
  • a children's farm for little ones
  • a ride on the steam-hauled Jumbo Express (check times and prices at the Zoo)

Admission: See website for current prices and to book tickets online.

1 reviews

London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum

The ultimate day out for any bus and train enthusiast (commuters aside) is to hop on the rail service from St Albans to St Pancras, pick up the Piccadilly Line to Covent Garden and spend a couple of hours exploring the wonders of the London Transport Museum housed in a former Victorian flower market in Covent Garden.

Newly reopened after a two year £22 million refurbishment, the museum's interactive galleries tell the story of London's changing transport systems and the people who travelled and worked on them during the last 200 years. 

Entering through the dazzling World Cities gallery, you ascend in a lift that time-travels you back to the 19th century. From Victorian omnibuses, trams and the early steam-powered Metropolitan Line, you journey through three fascinating and fun-packed floors charting the development of electric underground trains, the growth of 'Metroland', the popularity contest between buses and trams, the importance of London Transport during two World Wars and the way in which iconic designs of artwork and vehicles have become part of our heritage before returning to the present to contemplate the future of public transport.

Highlights

  • the innovative design gallery showcasing the much loved maps, signs and posters
  • the fascinating details of what the world''s first underground railway entailed
  • the unexpected… we encountered a 'fluffer' (track cleaner) – one of the museum's actors that brings exhibits to life
  • for adults – all the nostalgia of the wood-panelled tube carriage from the 70s and the routemasters we used to hop on and off before trendy bendy buses arrived
  • for children – lots of interactive displays, a gallery trail (with stamps to collect), the chance to dress up and drive a bus or tube train, a compact but fun play area for the under-6's and special activities during school holidays
  • free entry for children and reasonable prices (£10 for 2 sandwiches, 2 coffees and a muffin when we visited – although we bought these from the self-service picnic area on the ground floor - the Upper Deck café is table service and more expensive).
0 reviews

Natural History Museum at Tring

Natural History Museum at Tring

Where can you find over 4,000 animals from around the world? In the Victorian galleries of the Natural History Museum at Tring. A great place for a family day out (or an hour of exploring while the rain passes), the museum and its contents were gifted to the nation by Walther Rothschild, a keen zoologist who used zebras to draw his carriage.

Wandering through the six galleries with help from a Wild, Weird and Wonderful tour guide, visitors encounter everything from polar bears, big cats, elephants and rhinos to hippos, crocodiles and sharks. Then there are birds, butterflies and bats, not to mention the fleas dressed as Mexican dancers (seriously). Once you've had had your fill of stuffed and mounted animals in glass cages, visit the Zebra Café for a snack (sandwiches, hot and cold drinks, ice creams). Then enjoy the Discovery Room, where children can try more hands on activities to explore their senses and the natural world. Finally, discover more about the Museum's creator in the Rothschild Room, which recreates a Victorian office and is home to a giant tortoise (of course).

Highlights

  • the chance to see so many familiar, unusual, endangered and extinct creatures
  • a gorilla and human skeleton looking very surprised to see you
  • themed activity trails for children
  • changing exhibitions and special events during school holidays (check website)
  • free entry - a small charge is made for some events and for activity sheets.

Note for wheelchair users and those with buggies – the Park Street entrance and most of the ground floor (galleries 1 and 2, toilets and café) is step-free. Access to the upper floors is via steps.

0 reviews

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