A local treasure. 18th century landscaped gardens, re-discovered and renovated from the 1980s and still ongoing. Enjoy a wonderful walk around a beautiful landscape, discovering architectural follies along the way. Feed the ducks, geese and swans in either of the two lakes, visit the newly re-opened and rejuvenated crystal grotto, explore the walled garden and enjoy lunch or afternoon tea in the cafe. There is a large seasonal programme of events for children and grown ups. Open daily. If you plan to visit at least three times in a year, it’s worth getting membership – which also gets you advance booking to visit Santa in the Grotto, it sells out every year!
Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey, KT11 1JE. www.painshill.co.uk Tel: 01932 868 113
TIP: Take bread along to feed the ducks and look out for the ice house, an original from the 18th century.
TIP 2: Scooters are permitted but not bikes. There is a marked flat, disabled route for the less mobile.
5 minutes down the A3 towards Guildford is Wisley – Flagship HQ of the Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley is absolutely lovely, even if you don’t enjoy gardening. Children will love the open lawns and forest trails, the outdoor play area and the specimen gardens to tear about in. Adults will enjoy a nice walk in beautiful surroundings knowing that there isn’t much that can go wrong regarding the small people. Seriously, Wisley is a really lovely day out with lots of fantastic quality cafes and restaurants dotted over the estate as an incentive to keep walking and see what cafe you find next! You used to be able to feed the frankly ENORMOUS fish in the big pond although this has been restricted and sometimes banned in the past year so don’t bank on it.
There is a huge calendar of activities which includes butterflies in the Glasshouse in January/February time – a must see but try to avoid going in school holidays when the queue to get into the butterfly area can be over an hour long.
Once again, if you plan to visit more than a couple of times in a year, it’s probably worth getting membership. It also takes the pressure off MAKING A DAY OF IT because you can pop in for a couple of hours, flashing your membership card and not feeling you have to be there from opening time to closing just to get your money’s worth.
TIP: The Conservatory Cafe has a small soft play area at the back which may allow you a little time to enjoy your tea and cake whilst the little people burn off a bit more energy.
TIP 2: Scooters are not permitted and if you say ‘oh you’re joking’ when they tell you that at the ticket desk, you’ll get a look which tells you they most certainly are not.
www.rhs.org.uk/wisley-garden RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey, GU23 6QB
Alice Holt Forest
Go for a great day out in the woods! You can walk, cycle, play or have a picnic in these lovely woods. Experience life in the trees with Go Ape, take a relaxing break in the café and finish your visit with a quiet stroll in one of the more remote parts of the forest. There’s loads to explore and it’s one of the few bike-friendly places to visit.
If being left to your own devices isn’t your thing, there are loads of activities throughout the year. Some require pre-booking so visit the website to see what’s on and how to reserve your place.
TIP: Go Ape requires pre-booking. Visit www.goape.co.uk
TIP 2: You can barbecue in the forest by renting one of their freestanding BBQs! Tel: 01420 520212
Alice Holt Forest, Bucks Horn Oak, Farnham, Surrey GU10 4LS http://www.forestry.gov.uk/aliceholt
Ooh, we love Bocketts Farm! There is so much to see and do here, much of it outdoors but wet weather is also catered for with a large indoor play area, small animal area and covered animal barn. For good weather, there is a huge outdoor activity area, picnic benches galore, tractor rides (additional cost but not much) and pig racing. Yes, pig racing. The cafe serves excellent hot and cold food and has a separate play area so you can watch the wee ones muck about whilst you have a break (a key theme I think you’ll be noticing). There are often baby animals to see and there are regular feeding times throughout the day, along with talks about the animals. Check the daily schedule when you arrive. You can buy bags of animal food to feed the sheep, goats and cows in the main shed.
TIP: Lester Piglet is the one to beat in the pig racing.
TIP 2: There are often discount vouchers to print out and bring to Bocketts on their website.
www.bockettsfarm.co.uk Young Street, Leatherhead, KT22 9BS
Hobbledown Children’s Farm
Near Chessington and Epsom, resurrected from Horton Park Farm is Hobbledown. A mysterical (sic) adventure according to the creators. Also described as a unique farm park. Best suited to children between 2 and 13, it is still fun for all the family. There’s a high ropes course (height restrictions apply, pardon the pun and it’s closed if raining), a petting area, indoor play village, Hobnosh restaurant and lots of other fun stuff too with a large calendar of seasonal activities, naturally. Horton Road, Horton, KT19 8PT www.hobbledown.com
Chessington World of Adventures
What used to be Chessington Zoo is now part of the mighty Merlin Group and a full blown theme park. The animals are still there to be visited and there are various feedings and shows scheduled each day. In the theme park there are rides and attractions to suit all ages, although the options for children 0.9m – 1.3m are a bit limited for the steep entry charge. That said, it’s a great day out and everyone will leave hopefully very happy. Leatherhead Road, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2NE www.chessington.com Tel: 0871 663 4477
TIP: Booking in advance can get you great savings, even if it’s only a day before your visit.
TIP 2: Out of season, Chessington is open for Zoo Days, where you can still visit the animals but most of the rides are closed. Its much cheaper and still a really nice day out.
TIP 3: Neighbours of Chessington may qualify for up to 4 free adult passes in each season. Check out http://www.chessington.com/plan-your-trip/local-residents.aspx for eligible post codes, ID requirements and valid dates (there are exclusions during some peak times).
Another member of mighty Merlin, Legoland is on the site of the old Windsor Safari Park in, as you may have guessed, Windsor. It’s one of the best theme parks in the country and keeps improving from season to season, the new DuploLand outdoor activity area and enormous splash park are just two examples of their progress. www.legoland.co.uk Winkfield Road, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 4AY Tel:
TIP: If you are able to visit on a weekday in term time it is likely to be very quiet and you will have the Best. Day. Ever. In the holidays it’s very busy and you may have to invest in a very expensive Q-Bot which allows you to jump queues which may be up to an hour or more long. Pricey but if you can stump up the cash it will make your day a whole lot better.
One for older children and adults, Thorpe Park is part of the….have a guess… Merlin Group! Lots of rides for the thrill seekers amongst you, up to Merlin’s high standards.
Staines Rd, Chertsey, Surrey KT16 8PN www.thorpepark.com Tel: 0871 663 1673.
The Spectrum Centre
A high quality leisure centre on the outskirts of Guildford, near the A3 and about a 10-15 minute drive from Cobham/Oxshott. The Spectrum has loads to keep everyone entertained and should come with an exhaustion guarantee. On offer is swimming – training pool, sensible swimming, deep dive pool and the fun pool with wave machine, slides, shallow areas and Jacuzzi. There’s also bowling, ice skating, Rock Box indoor rock climbing, soft play (with a low key reputation for being a bit grubby…), gym and pit slot car racing (Scalextric without the brand name). Top quality swim teachers offer lessons from tiny tots upwards and are highly recommended. The Spectrum is also home to the Guildford Flames ice hockey team with regular home fixtures. There are lots of catering options including Costa Coffee, The View cafe (which offer great lunch boxes for children) and Wimpy. Parkway, Guildford, Surrey GU1 1UP www.guildfordspectrum.co.uk Tel: 01483 443322
TIP: You will need to pre-book bowling and ice skating at peak times.
TIP 2: There are special Toddler Splash sessions in the main fun pool for tinies who want to splash about without the risk of a hulking great teenager landing on them at a key moment. See website for times and prices.
TIP 3: Get yourself an ‘Active’ card to collect points whenever you buy tickets, sometimes get discounts off ticket prices or use your points to pay for entry.
You may or may not know that you are living close to an important part of speed history. Brooklands racetrack was one of the most high profile racing tracks in the early days of the motor vehicle. It was also an airfield and is now a museum steeped in history, showcasing a huge number of wheeled vehicles from the turn of the century right up to the racing cars of today. There are many interactive aspects to the museum and a good tea shop/cafe. It is also the final resting place of one of the Concorde planes which you can climb aboard for an extra charge and experience a part of history which we won’t experience again for a long time. Brooklands Drive, Weybridge, KT13 OSL (for satnavs) www.brooklandsmuseum.co.uk Tel: 01932 857381
TIP: If you are a member of Painshill Park, you can get discounted entry to Brooklands Museum.
Now you’ll never have seen anything like this in your life. Ever. Well, probably not. The concept is that if you see Mercedes-Benz as a lifestyle choice and have fun at a M-B destination where all the family feel included, then the next time you buy a car, M-B will be top of mind. Great concept, great place. It really does have something for all the family – a multi-level car showroom, shop selling Mercedes-Benz retail and F1 merchandise, cafe, simulators, Little Learners battery cars, driving experiences, posh restaurant, car museum, the lot. It’s next to the Brooklands Museum and must be seen to be believed. Brooklands Drive, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 0SL
http://www2.mercedes-benz.co.uk/content/unitedkingdom/mpc/mpc_unitedkingdom_website/en/home_mpc/mercedes-benzworld.html Tel: 0870 400 4000
TIP: There is a simulator which allows you to drive around the Top Gear racetrack (in a reasonably priced car, of course) on the first floor.
TIP 2: Little Learners is great fun and runs all weekend. You need to book at the main reception and wait for your allocated time. During the week, even though there aren’t scheduled times, if the area isn’t being used for a function, an orange-tied member of the MB team will happily supervise a driving session. Call in advance to make sure it’s running.
Bushy Park, the second largest Royal Park is just fab and right on your doorstep, pretty much. Opposite Hampton Court Palace, the 445 hectares of Bushy Park have a wonderful array of things to do and spaces to explore. There is a large playground right by the entrance, the Pheasantry Cafe with grassy areas and parking nearby and if you’re really lucky, you may spot a deer or two. The Upper Lodge Water Gardens are a spectacular collection of cascades, pools, basins and a canal and well worth a visit. Hampton Court, London, TW11 0EQ http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/bushy-park Tel: 020 8979 1586
TIP: The Royal Parks website has a number of guided tours available, either to print out and follow or you can download podcasts to listen to on your smart phone. Did you know there was an enormous US Airforce Base in Bushy Park during WW2? Well, go to the Heritage Audio Trails page and listen to the podcast to learn more!
Safari Mini Golf
Opened in August 2015 at Hersham Village Golf Club, this mini golf course is top quality, in excellent condition and brilliant fun. The largest age range we’ve had in a group was 6-85yrs and everyone loved it. There’s also a good quality cafe serving hot and cold drinks, snacks and hot food. Open 9am-9pm every day. www.safariadventuregolf.com
Denbies Wine Estate
265 acres of vineyards makes Denbies three times larger than any other English wine producer. Set on the North Downs just outside Dorking, award-winning wine producer Denbies may not be the obvious choice for family fun, but there’s a lot more to do than just taste wine here (although if you don’t and you’re over 18 and have a designated driver, you’re missing the point a bit). As well as the many wine experience tours on offer, there’s a calendar of events for the non-drinkers which includes birds of prey exhibitions, theatre company visits, Halloween disco and loads of others. The Conservatory Restaurant offers quality, informal, self service meals in a sunlit atrium with a central fountain and pool complete with goldfish. The formal Gallery Restaurant offers a la carte dining on the third floor of the main house, giving wonderful views of the Estate – booking recommended. London Road, Dorking Surrey RH5 6AA www.denbies.co.uk Tel: 01306 876616
TIP: If you know you want to do a tour, it’s worth booking online to avoid disappointment.