Half term is finally here for many families across the country and with it the perennial problem of what to do with the children if the weather turns rainy – which is looking more and more likely. On the positive side, the beach is rarely a realistic option at this time of year anyway – except if a blowy walk is what you’re after.
So it’s worth checking out some of the best indoor attractions around the country. From discovering the tricks of the trade in the magical world of Harry Potter films to the UK’s only underground bouncy net experience in a disused Victorian slate mine in Snowdonia, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained – and away from their tablets – without getting wet.
Enjoy a Bond-style boat ride
A new interactive attraction at the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust (PNBPT) brings British naval history to life for children, experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of this historic 12-acre dockyard. For thrill seekers, exhilarating ‘Bond-style’ boat rides can be booked on a selection of historic boats, including motor gun boats, seaplane tenders and RAF high-speed launches.
How to do it: A 20-minute boat ride costs from £10pp and includes free entrance to the PNBPT (pnbpropertytrust.org). Double rooms at Florence House Hotel (florencehousehotel.co.uk) cost from £79pn.
Go on a magical mischief tour
New for 2022, the Warner Bros Studio reveals some of the film-making trickery behind the magic and stunts of the Harry Potter films (Jan 22-May 1). Visitors will be able to witness some of their favourite scenes brought to life, including the disappearing effect of the invisibility cloak, the infamous fireplace letter scene, and how Mrs Weasley delivered an origami howler to her son in The Chamber of Secrets.
How to do it: Tickets to Warner Bros Studio London (wbstudiotour.co.uk) cost from £49.95 adult; £39.95 child; under-fours free; must be booked in advance. Double rooms at the Holiday Inn, Watford (ihg.com) cost from £165pn.
Bounce through a Victorian slate mine
Set deep underground in a disused Victorian slate mine double the size of St Paul’s Cathedral, the UK’s only underground bouncy net experience is the perfect rainy day solution for anyone over the age of seven. Unleash your inner thrill-seeker in this enormous underground adventure park, jumping, bouncing and sliding your way through six layers of bouncy nets, chambers, tunnels and slides.
How to do it: Tickets (zipworld.co.uk) from £25 adult; £20 child. The Anglesey Arms (anglesey-arms.co.uk) has double rooms from £94pn.
Enter a world of optical illusions
Camera Obscura & World of Illusions is the Scottish capital’s oldest purpose-built visitor attraction and is a magical family-friendly option come rain or shine. There are five floors with more than 100 interactive, hands-on exhibits, including several optical illusions, a mirror maze and a vortex tunnel. From the roof-top terrace, visitors can enjoy 360 degree views of Edinburgh.
How to do it: Tickets (camera-obscura.co.uk) cost £18.95 adult; £14.95 child; under-fives free. Double rooms at the Rutland Hotel (therutlandhotel.com) cost from £105pn. Read our review here.
Learn about natural wonders
If your children are dinosaur fanatics or would be thrilled to see a life-sized blue whale, the Natural History Museum houses a wide range of natural wonders, from complete dinosaur skeletons to a moving, roaring recreation of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. There are regular new experiences and galleries and, this half term, Operation Earth explores the world’s environmental and climate challenges through a range of family activities.
How to do it: Free (nhm.ac.uk). Double rooms at the Strathmore Hotel (gemhotels.com) cost from £144pn.
Go wild in botanic gardens
From Feb 19–27, the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire is offering nature-based activities including daily wildlife safari walks, make-your-own bottle bird-feeder workshops, nature tables, and owl-pellet dissection. They know it rains in Wales, so all activities will take place undercover in the Theatr Botanica. Kids can also discover incredible tropical plants in the world’s largest glasshouse and check out the British Bird of Prey Centre for close encounters.
How to do it: Tickets to the Botanic Garden of Wales (botanicgarden.wales) cost from £12.50 adult; £6 per child; under-fives free. Double rooms at the Mansion House, Llansteffan (mansionhousellansteffan.co.uk) cost from £225pn. Read our review here.
Attend a family-friendly festival
More than 160 events in this year’s Imagine Festival have been packed into 12 days from Feb 9-20. The largest festival of its kind in the UK, it is dedicated to families who want to enjoy art and culture together and offers everything for children and their grown-ups, from theatre to comedy, music, literature and dance.
How to do it: More than 50 per cent of the festival is free across the Southbank Centre site (southbankcentre.co.uk). Double rooms at the Ruby Lucy Hotel (ruby-hotels.com) cost from £123pn.
Head to the theatre
The Circus of Horrors is coming to Great Yarmouth’s historic Hippodrome (Feb 17-19), with an all-new family-friendly show. This Addams Family-themed extravaganza is a mix of rock music and daring circus acts combined with a spectacular light show. It’s designed to have you sitting on the edge of your seat – when not falling off it with laughter. The Hippodrome is tailor-made for this classic night of fun with Britain’s favourite gothic horror troupe. Perfect for your little monsters.
How to do it: Tickets (hippodromecircus.co.uk) cost from £16 adult; £12 child; showtime 5-7pm. Double rooms at the Hotel Ocean (hotelocean.co.uk) cost from £85pn.
Travel back in time
Re-opening from their winter closure on Feb 14, just in time for half-term, the Crannog Centre is the perfect destination for children to learn about the Iron Age. History is brought to life with a fascinating visit to a Crannog Roundhouse, surrounded by the beautiful landscape of Loch Tay. Here, Iron Age village life can be experienced through original artefacts, demonstrations of textiles, cooking, ancient crafts and technologies, and even a paddle into pre-history in replica log boats.
How to do it: Tickets (crannog.co.uk) from £7. The Kenmore Hotel (kenmorehotel.com) has double rooms from £75pn.
Embark on a treasure hunt
London’s National Gallery is home to some of the most famous, beautiful and interesting paintings in the world. On this tour with Blue Badge Tourist Guide, Sarah Ciacci, you and the children will act as detectives, hunting for the most important paintings, uncovering clues and discovering their background stories as you go.
How to do it: Tours last from 1.5-2 hours with Tours for my kids (toursformykids.com). Tickets from £15.60. The Club Quarters Hotel, Trafalgar Square (clubquartershotels.com), has rooms from £165pn.
Grab a discount
The National Lottery is offering £25 towards days out at selected attractions and experiences across the UK. The vouchers offer savers with a valid Lotto ticket up to £25 off entry through the VisitBritain shop (nationallotterydaysout.com)