13 things you may not have thought about doing with your kids, in and around Bristol.
There are loads of things you can do in the Bristol vicinity for family fun, so I’ve compiled these activities, missing out the ones everyone already knows about. Have a look through and comment if you can think of any other gems!
*Note: feeding your badly behaved child to the Bristol crocodile doesn’t count, and is considered to be deeply, deeply illegal.
1. Go to a rave.
The next one is on 11th September at the Trinity Centre in Bristol. Run by Big Fish Little Fish Events, this promises craft mixed with dance music (like what I did there?) on a multi-sensory dancefloor with big tunes, glitter cannons, bubbles and even a giant parachute. There’s also a ‘baby chillout space’. I’m intrigued now – is this a safe haven for them to get milk drunk, spaced out and have deep and meaningful gurgle chats?
2. Go and watch the Lawn Mower Grand Prix in Somerset.
On the 27th to 29th August it’s the Mendip Mower Racing and Family Festival down in Cross, Somerset. Expect a classic car show, live music, beer, and of course LAWN MOWERS, yes you read that right, lawn mowers being raced around a track at breakneck speeds. [49 minutes away]
3. Go crabbing.
My source tells me that Portishead Marina is the place to go, but if you know other spots please comment on Facebook! It’s free, and there’s something oddly satisfying about watching a bucket full of crabs racing back towards water. [22 minutes away]
4. Take a tour of Redcliffe Caves.
Not many people know, but underneath Bristol is a network of red sandstone caves full of history and intrigue. They aren’t open to the public, unless you book a guided tour. You wouldn’t exactly want to take a toddler round them, but older kids would love it. It’s eerie wandering around them in the dark, but interesting! This is a great activity to do with friends, and the tour guide is entertaining! More details on the caves, and how to book can be found here.
5. Go to Puxton Park.
This place is MASSIVE and full of surprises. A giant sandpit full of diggers and tip trucks, farm animals everywhere, real boats, motorised tractors, a wooden fort, the list goes on. There’s something to suit all tastes here, and a selection of massive slides in the soft play barn. You haven’t lived until you’ve dropped down the vertical blue side with a toddler clinging to you, but take a clean pair of underwear.
When you walk around it, Puxton Park is the gift that keeps on giving, you could actually spend most of the day there. Plus, it has a farm shop, and loads of nice spots for a picnic. Read the Tripadvisor reviews here, it really has everything. [30 minutes away]
6. Go on a steam train
It's back. TKh No 4015 "Karel" touched down at Bitton this morning. More news to follow soon! pic.twitter.com/O8EPxoAUN8
— Avon Valley Railway (@AVRbitton) August 16, 2016
At Bitton, you can take a steam train ride and even experience the glory days of the railway dining car by booking a three course menu on Sundays. The Avon Valley Railway is run by volunteers, they’ve restored a Victorian train station so you can have a look around that too. [29 minutes away]
7. Go to Brean Theme Park.
Did you know that the UK’s largest free admission theme park is within touching distance of Bristol? It’s an impressive site, with multiple rollercoasters including a surprisingly hairy caterpillar ride you can go on with the younger children. It’s also got plenty for big kids: hellraising rides, a log flume, fast go karts, and a ghost train. Pro tip: there’s a merry-go-round on two levels called ‘Fantasia’ that will keep the most vocal of toddlers quiet, I’ve never seen one like it.
On top of that, there’s a gigantic soft play space and brilliant swimming pool with flumes in the same complex. You’ll be astonished at how good it is, seriously! [58 minutes away]
Side note: if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also have a Wimpy there. I lived to tell this tale!
8. …Then spend the afternoon on the beach at Brean.
It’s easy to spend the whole day at Brean as there’s a beach that stretches for miles when the tide goes out, and looks stunning on a sunny day. You can also go on the beach and walk up on the cliffs at Brean Down, a National Trust site where you can find mountain goats, the remains of an iron age hill fort and more.
9. Go to Clip ‘n Climb in Bristol.
It’s a colourful theme park of climbing walls suitable for kids over four years old. Your overzealous offspring get harnessed up and can tire themselves out on the walls while you drink coffee in the on-site café wondering how your life turned out like this.
10. Take a day trip to Glastonbury Tor (and Clarks Village).
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Rebalance your chakras in Glastonbury village, every parent needs it sometimes. Then walk up the Tor, have a picnic and admire the amazing views of the Somerset Levels. Or your child screaming and spoiling it for everyone. After that life affirming moment, Clarks Village in Street is 5 minutes up the road so why not embrace your inner capitalist pig and go get some affordable jumpers from Jaeger. God, when I analyse myself I sound like a right tit sometimes. The designer outlet village offers over 90 shops and bargains to be had.
11. Cycle the Strawberry Line.
The Strawberry Line in Somerset is an old train line that’s now a cycle track. It stretches all the way from Clevedon to Shepton Mallet and beyond. Here’s a pro tip if you can’t transport your bikes down: catch a train from Bristol to Yatton and then do the 10 mile cycle to Cheddar. You’ll pass through wetlands, where you might see otters. Then Thatchers’ cider orchards, an eerie train tunnel, the small medieval town of Axbridge and, finally, Cheddar Reservoir. If you’re in Cheddar you may as well go to the gorge too, one of the natural wonders of England!
If you catch all this on a sunny day you’re in for a treat but make sure you pack lights for the tunnel or your kids will probably be haunted for life. It’s a fun experience though – the Shute Shelve tunnel is a whopping 165m long. [34 minutes away]
12. Go to Lacock Abbey (this one’s for the Harry Potter fans).
Lacock Abbey is steeped in history, but the main reason I’ve included this is you can explore a grand old country house, and also the ruins of the Abbey. During springtime it’s great for chilling out with a picnic and watching the lambs milling about. Plus, if anyone’s a Harry Potter fan, kids will think they are running around Hogwarts because parts of The Chamber of Secrets were filmed there. National Trust members get in for free.[46 minutes away]
13. Visit Chepstow Castle.
I know, I know, enough of these places that aren’t in Bristol, but what kid doesn’t love being in a castle and firing arrows through the slits at imaginary attackers. It’s one of the best castles in the area unless you’re going further west in Wales. With the castle looming over it, Chepstow is a nice town to spend the afternoon in. The antique shops usually have some pretty cool furniture for sale. [34 minutes away]
This is by no means an exhaustive list so please comment on the Best of Bristol Facebook page with any other gems you can think of, and subscribe to Dad’s Diary if you enjoyed reading!
The Time I Beat Bristol’s Scariest Escape Room
I’m put in many a tricky situation exploring the very ‘Best of Bristol’.
Usually up high, scaling buildings and cranes (#antimitchclimbs), but I didn’t think it would result in being locked in a prison cell with a psycho killer called Pig Face (pictured above). Welcome to Hell in a Cell, ay?
Now for some of you reading, Hell in the Cell will make you think of wrestling but I can promise you this is scarier than when Shane McMahon jumps off the top of that cell.
Hidden beneath the old Crown Courts on Bridewell Street, within the cells, this has been dubbed “Bristol’s scariest attraction”. And so in the interest of research I took on Pig Face, and lived to tell the tale!
I can’t actually give away too much of the game, because this is an escape room and that just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?
What I can reveal though, should give you a taste of what to expect.
Like any escape room, Hell in a Cell Bristol sets players challenges that they have to complete. Perhaps the first challenge is not backing out after you’re handcuffed with a sack placed over your head.
It’s then trying not to cack yourself as you’re led into the pitch black cells, where you know you’re not alone, but you can’t quite tell what’s there.
It’s that lovely fucker by the name of Pig Face.
Pig Face is reasonably fair at this point and allows you an hour to make your escape. It’s go time!
Oh, and all your belongings have been taken off you, so you can’t use your phone torch or ask Siri for help.
What I will say is that you bond pretty bastard quickly when you’re scrambling to find light and remove your handcuffs. I was with my good friend Colin Moody, but with three other people I did not know, and we came out of it with an unwavering sense of camaraderie.
That probably explains why this Bristol escape room has proven so popular with corporate clients in the city. Hell, it’s proven pretty popular with all but one reviewer on a popular site that rhymes with whip chastiser. That person claimed it wasn’t very scary. Ooooooo sorry ‘ard.
The game itself was challenging, terrifying and fun (if you like being scared). It will most certainly fill you with adrenaline and leave you in need of a celebratory drink if you do make it out.
This is NOT for the faint hearted. I don’t scare easy, and if you’re like me you won’t feel a sense of fear, but you’ll definitely be made to jump. Nobody is immune to that.
If you do scare easily, go to the bathroom beforehand. Or don’t, these are real holding cells so you could always have a pee in there..
Tag us in your psycho selfies on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook if you take on Pig Face
Sampling The Lesser Known Ciders From Thatchers
Despite the recent rain, bbq season is upon us, and no camping trip or garden gathering is complete without a few ciders to sweeten the deal.
With honey notes and a golden colour, the medium-dry Thatchers Gold is the flagship cider from one of Somerset’s oldest cider makers – and it’s a great go-to cider on any occasion – but Thatchers Cider have been producing and pressing apples in the Somerset village of Sandford since 1905, and their selection these days is broad.
An introduction to Thatchers Cider and Pasture
To showcase the full range of their cider offerings, the Thatchers Cider team descended on Pasture – the stylish new bar and restaurant near St Mary Redcliffe – last week.
With butcher Sam’s enthusiasm for local produce and Thatchers’ chief cider-maker Richard Johnson on hand, it was the perfect pairing.
Richard introduced us to the Thatchers Cider story – starting over 100 years ago with farmer William Thatcher making cider to help pay his workers, and ending with William’s great grandson Martin (the current managing director) overseeing Thatchers Cider distribution throughout the UK. In between tastings, Pasture’s Sam talked us through the menu selections he’d made to bring out the best in the ciders chosen.
Food and cider pairings
The Thatchers team opened with Katy, a light and softly sparkling cider made from Katy apples, and with it came Pasture’s scallop ceviche with pickled gooseberry and lime – the delicate seafood working beautifully with the light, bubbly cider. There followed five further mini-courses, each paired with a different Thatchers’ cider.
The meaty steak tartare with oyster mayonnaise met its match in Thatchers’ Old Rascal – a peppery 4.5% cider made with Tremlette and Somerset Redstreak apples for a bittersweet flavour. And Pasture’s short rib croquettes with delicate gochujang aioli balanced nicely with the bold and beautiful Thatchers’ Vintage – an oak-matured 7.4% cider with fruity aroma and crisp flavour.
It was a great chance to try lesser-known Thatchers ciders you don’t regularly see in the big supermarkets, and clear to see the thought Sam had put into the food pairings he chose.
If you’d like to give a few of Thatchers’ lesser-known ciders a try, take a look at the full range and buy online here. And for more details on the flame-grilled offerings over at Pasture, check out their website here.
Bristol’s Biggest Food Festival Is Back
Bristol Food Connections 2018 is nearly here, so it’s time to plan your festival!
Bristol Food Connections is one the highlights of Bristol’s food calendar, with a ridiculous amount of events (130 at the last count!) taking place across the city from 11-17th June.
It’s a fairly huge festival, covering everything from growing your own food to huge gala dinners and talks on sustainability. We’ve decided to break down what’s happening and pick out a few of our favourites from this year’s programme.
Booze it up
There are plenty of ways to hit the hard stuff (and find out more about it too)…
- A Journey Through Gin on Brunel’s SS Great Britain (Thu 14th, £22)
A tutored tasting of the full range of Bramley & Gage’s gins (inc. 6 O’Clock Gin) and liquers aboard Bristol’s historic ship.
- Traditional Cider Making, Orchard Tour & Tasting (Sun 17th, £10)
Enjoy a guided tour of this orchard in North Somerset & taste several ciders.
- Whisky and the Senses (Tue 12th, £8)
Find out why whisky tastes the way it does, and why you like some but not others.
- Cider vs Beer (Tue 12th, £25)
Taste your way through a selection of great beers & ciders and find out their similarities and differences!
- Portuguese wine dinner (Sat 16th, £45)
A three-course Portuguese dinner complimented with a paired wine flight.
- A Celebration of Bread & Beer (Fri 15th, Free)
Left Handed Giant and Assembly Bakery join forces for this street food party in Finzels Reach.
- Avery’s Summer of Wine (Sat 16th, £25)
Avery’s annual wine fiesta takes over Colston Hall, with over 100 wines for you to try!
See more of Bristol
With events dotted in every far flung corner of Bristol, now is the time to get out and explore!
- World Food Passport (All week, £8)
Taste your way around the food businesses of Gloucester Road, collecting stamps as you go (or you can also do a guided food tour of Gloucester Road that week too).
- Behind the Scenes of a Gin Distillery (Sat 16th, £25)
Head out to Thornbury for this special tour of 6 O’clock Gin’s distillery to find out more about how their delectable spirit is made (with plenty of tasters along the way, obv).
- Shroomshop (Sun 17th, £30)
Get some hands-on tips about mushroom cultivation at this workshop in St Werbs.
- Thyme Trail (Fri 15th, £15)
Visit various vendors in Wapping Wharf, hearing the stories behind the businesses and getting tasters as you go.
- TimeZone: Eat Your Way Around the World (Sat 16th, £4)
Try a range of international cuisine in Easton, including Jamican, Indonesian and Spanish.
- Eco day at Hartcliffe City Farm (Sun 17th, Free)
Try your hand at pond dipping, searching for bugs and other activities.
It’s not just about filling your face with food, there’s plenty of opportunity to learn a new skill or hear some interesting perspectives on the food we eat too:
- In Our Hands Screening (Thu 14th, £5, or £12 with a two-course meal)
Head to City Hall to see this thought-provoking documentary about Britain’s food system.
- Transforming the Education System Through Food (Tues 12th, £8)
Can schools transform learning through diet? Head along to this talk to find out.
- Philosophy Breakfast: The Ethics of Global Food Production (Sun 17th, £14)
Is it possible to eat ethically? Join the debate (breakfast included)
- Startup Stories (Tue 12th, £10)
Hear from several Bristol food businesses how they started out, and how to build a successful independent business.
- The Secret Life of Cows (Sun 17th, £8)
How do cows naturally behave, and what issues does this raise around farming?
- Fermentation Collaboration (Thu 14th, £25)
The Pickled Brisket & Bristol Cider Shop explain the process of fermentation, followed by a cider tasting and one of Pickled Brisket’s mega sandwiches.
Some seriously special dinner events from well-known chefs and local producers…
- FUTURE: FEAST (Mon 11th, £25)
Star Trek meets Come Dine With Me in an ‘immersive dining experience’.
- A Summer’s Feast (Fri 15th & Sat 16th, £30)
The next generation of Bristol chefs serve up a seasonal feast.
- It’s a Bristol Ting! (Sun 17th, Free)
Celebrate Bristol’s Jamaican community with rum & jerk chicken at Lakota.
- Chocolate Gala Dinner (Mon 11th, £35)
A special dinner to kick-off festival week, with all 3 courses featuring chocolate.
- Summer Dine & Vine Feast (Thu 14th, £30)
A three-course tasting menu paired with bio-dynamic wines.
- Homegrown Collective Supper Club (Fri 15th, £35)
Three-courses of local, seasonal food accompanied by music.
There are also loads of free talks and demos at the Festival Hub (next to Watershed) throughout the week, so it’s worth stopping by to see what’s on!
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