5 of the best UK family city break destinations with coast and countryside nearby
It’s been a tricky summer to plan a family holiday. The ever-changing rules around travelling abroad have put many families off heading overseas but there’s also been limited availability in several regions of the UK.
If you’re looking for a last-minute summer holiday in the UK with your brood, it’s not too late to book. A top tip to find a great place to stay with availability is to consider a city break where you can combine culture-filled city days with day trips to nearby countryside and beaches.
We’ve analysed our data to reveal five city breaks in the UK where there’s still good availability this August and beyond, and suggest some of the fun things you could do on a family mini-break.
What to do in London with kids
London is packed with attractions for all ages. You can all learn something new at educational spots such as the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, take pictures galore at iconic sights such as the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, and have fun at family-friendly attractions such as Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure! London.
Don’t forget to visit some of the capital’s excellent parks with the kids too, such as Richmond Park to see deer and Victoria Park for its boating lake and cafes.
What to do near London
To complement a packed day in the city, plan a trip outside London too on your mini-break. Box Hill in the Surrey Hills is a popular spot to escape to for a family walk with a view. Less than an hour’s train journey from London Waterloo, Boxhill & Westhumble Station, is a mile and a half away from the beauty spot, or it’s around a 25-mile drive away – but avoid driving at peak times.
If you’d like to escape to the sea, the resort of Broadstairs in Kent is around 70 miles from Greenwich (around a 90-minute drive), with seven sandy bays and beaches, fishermen’s cottages and ice-cream parlours.
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What to do in Manchester with kids
From football and musical prowess to fantastic museums and street art, Manchester is an exciting option for a family city break. Explore the city centre, taking part in a penalty shootout in the National Football Museum, learning about what an innovative city Manchester is in the Science and Industry Museum or inspiring children to fight for change in the People’s History Museum, the national museum of democracy.
You can combine this with a trip to Salford Quays and MediaCityUK to immerse yourselves in history in the Imperial War Museum North or discover the area from the water, looking out for colourful Gnome Island on a river cruise.
What to do near Manchester
Sometimes referred to as the gateway to the north, from Manchester, you can be on a walk in the Peak District after an hour’s drive or rail trip, be hunting for Gruffalos in Cheshire’s Delemere Forest after a 50-minute drive and be in the Lake District after around an hour-and-a half’s drive or train journey.
You’re also within easy driving or train journey from seaside resorts ranging from larger-than-life Blackpool and fun-filled Southport, to Crosby Beach where the kids will be fascinated by Antony Gormley’s sculptures of cast-iron men and Formby Sands with dunes to race up and red squirrels to spot.
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What to do in Birmingham with kids
All of the brood can enjoy canal walks, street art and shopping in arcades on a city break in Birmingham. Cadbury World, around five miles south of the city centre, is sure to win even the fussiest of children over too, where you can learn all about chocolate making and even have a go at doodling your name in the sweet stuff.
If older children are fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you could visit some spots that inspired JRR Tolkien too, exploring The Birmingham Tolkien Trail to see where he grew up and Moseley Bog that inspired the ‘Old Forest’. Birmingham also has more green space than most other European cities so make sure you take advantage of the family-friendly spots such as the Botanical Gardens.
What to do near Birmingham
Pretty Stratford-upon-Avon is just 30 miles from Birmingham – around an hour’s drive or 55 minutes by train. As the home of Shakespeare, you can inspire budding writers here with a visit to his family homes or schoolroom, or by booking tickets to a show at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Or, if you’d like a family ramble, head to the Malvern Hills around 48 miles southwest of Birmingham where there are easier access routes available for those with younger children but where you can still enjoy fabulous views across Herefordshire, Worcestershire and more.
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What to do in Bristol with kids
Harbourside attractions, the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, Banksy and excellent museums make Bristol a city that will appeal to families with children of all ages. An attraction that your kids will tell their friends all about is SS Great Britain, a historic steam ship and museum that will transport you all back to the Victorian era with restored cabins, kitchens and a dining room to explore.
You could also visit We The Curious, an attraction that aims to encourage people to enjoy science and ask questions. It describes itself as “a bit like an indoor festival” where touching exhibits and laughing out loud is encouraged. Or head to Bristol Zoo in Clifton to see gorillas, red pandas, penguins and more.
What to do near Bristol with kids
Bristol is an ideal city base if you’d like to visit a beach on your trip as it’s a drive away from both beaches in the south west of England and South Wales. Weston-Super-Mare is around a 40-minute (25-mile) drive away with quieter beaches surrounding it such as Clevedon with England’s only Grade-I listed pier to wander down and rock pooling opportunities. Alternatively, in South Wales, surfing favourite Rest Bay is less than an hour and a half’s drive away (67 miles).
You could also explore a pretty town in the Cotswolds, such as Bourton on the Water, which is around an hour’s drive away (55 miles) and which is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds due to its bridges over the River Windrush. Or head to the Quantock Hills in Somerset to spot horses and deer on a stroll through heathland.
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What to do in Edinburgh with kids
Edinburgh’s castle, child-friendly museums and spooky stories about its past in the underground The Real Mary King’s Close will make children remember a trip to Scotland’s capital for years to come. If your little Muggles are fans of Harry, Hermione and Ron, they’ll also love going on a Harry Potter walking tour with The Potter Trail.
And, there’s green space for you all to burn off some energy too, whether you’d like to climb the ancient volcano, Arthur’s Seat, visit the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh where family events are held regularly, or wander down the Water of Leith.
What to do near Edinburgh with kids
Edinburgh is close to many beaches, so on a trip there, you could plan a family day out by the sea. Portobello Beach is less than four miles away – around a 15-minute drive or bus journey from the centre. Here you can all stroll on the sand or the promenade with an ice-cream in hand.
Alternatively, you could all head to Dalkeith Country Park for a family walk and for your mini adventurers to play in its fantastic Fort Douglas playground.
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