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13 Awesome Things You Can Do With Your Kids, In And Around Bristol

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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.

baby 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.

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Ghost hunting in Redcliffe Caves 👻

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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

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).

 

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!

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New Year Menu Twist at Woky Ko

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Woky Ko launch new menu

Nestled in Wapping Wharf on Bristol’s buzzing harbourside, Woky Ko: CARGO swung open its doors in late-October, 2016 – capturing attention with a bold menu of delicate flavours. Talented chef-owner Larkin Cen has recently added to the family with Park St’s Woky Ko: Kauto, and the two combined offer some of the finest Asian cuisine you’ll find anywhere in the South West.

Woky Ko: Kauto

Woky Ko: Kauto has perhaps become the flagship venue, offering a little more space and a stronger restaurant feel than its waterside cousin. Sleek lines, muted tones and a contemporary feel combine to create a warm and welcoming space, with a row of high stools offering hungry diners that intimate ‘kitchen table’ experience.

There’s a strong crossover of influence and flavour between the Cargo and Kauto menus – with dishes like noodles, sharing sides and baos featuring in both. But with a larger kitchen, Kauto offers a fuller range.

Photo credit: Larkin Ken

Ramen recommendations (Ramenations? No…)

On my most recent visit I broke with previous form and tried the Woky Ko ramen; a large bowl of steaming noodles swimming in an umami (look it up) broth based on the saltier shio recipe. Larkin has spent hours perfecting the balances of salt, soy and spices across his dishes, and, with delicate jamon bone and rich roasted garlic, Woky Ko ramen is simply stunning.

But yes, I do have form here. On my first Kauto visit I fell a bit in love with the KFC ramen. This show-stopping blend of Korean spices leaves you slurping from the bottom of the bowl – perhaps not very fitting for a stylish restaurant setting, but it’s all too easy to get carried away… 

Sichuan ox cheek and hot and sour aged tofu complete Kauto’s ramen offerings, complemented by a mouth-watering selection of sides like onglet steak, tiger prawn toast, crispy duck pancakes and tenderstem broccoli that will change the way you look at greens forever.

Photo credit: Paolo Ferla

New Year deals from Monday to Friday

Woky Ko’s new weekday deals started up recently, offering diners a little added value for money from 4.30pm to 6.30pm Monday to Friday.

Down on the harbourside, Woky Ko Cargo is offering either chicken vermicelli noodles or edamame bean and sunflower seed yakisoba noodles plus a Tsingtao beer for £10.

And on Park St, just opposite the Wills Memorial Building, Woky Ko Kauto’s early-evening deal brings you a free beer, glass of wine or soft drink with any of the four ramen dishes.

For an idea of the dishes available, check out Woky Ko’s sample menu. And to read more of @cjcallaghan’s write-ups and reviews, nabber over to his Best of Bristol page and fill your boots.

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Behind the Scenes at Thatchers Cider

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I have a confession to make… I’m a cider snob. I like it dry or medium-dry, and cloudy – with the heady scent of fermented apples still brimming in the glass. The kind of cider that’s been greasing the wheels of agriculture and industry in Somerset for centuries. Not for me, the sugary, sweet, supermarket stuff… I’ll have a pint of real zider, and you can leave the twigs and leaves in, too.

Spanning four generations in the same family, Thatchers is our region’s most famous cider-maker – and their range of produce is broad. Although most of their ciders are slightly over-processed for my liking, they do still make cider the traditional way. I’d say a visit to their orchards at Myrtle Farm in the heart of Somerset’s cider country is a must-do for any cider-lover in Bristol.

Exploring the orchards

Image courtesy of Natacha the Franglaise

My recent visit began in the Thatchers Exhibition Orchard, where manager Chris oversees over 450 different apple varieties. The weather conditions in Somerset offer the perfect conditions for growing apples – with cold winters allowing the trees to lie dormant, and temperate springs promoting bee pollination and blossom-growth. True to form for this time of year, it was pissing with rain as we strolled among the lines of fruit-laden trees – but the apples like a little of that, too.

Hearing how Chris and his team fuse new apple buds to young root stocks to produce varieties like Dabinett and Jonagold was insightful, and his ability to harness the power of nature to produce the finest harvests made for fascinating listening. Our tour continued past the huge apple vats and ancient fermentation tanks to the state-of-the-art canning plant, and it was a joy to hear the various Thatchers team members share their passion for the product.

To the tasting…

Thatchers brought a selection of their lovely cider to Bristol a few months ago, so this was a fortunate second tasting for me. We sampled diverse brews including Redstreak, Old Rascal, Vintage, Haze, Katy, and more – each offering a different balance of scent and flavour to the last. It turns out Old Rascal is the team’s overall favourite Thatchers’ cider – a very fine drop indeed.

Lunch at The Railway Inn

Image courtesy of Bristol Bloggers

The Railway Inn is Thatchers’ local pub, with a broad selection of beers and ciders alongside a full menu of delicious dishes sourced, of course, from in and around Somerset. The pub has been lovingly converted from its original stone structure to a warm and welcoming space – with traditional snug, open bar area and stylish oak-beamed dining room. There’s garden seating for summer visitors, and a seasonal menu that makes the very most of the region’s natural produce.

Take a tour

If all this talk of apples and cider has got your taste buds tingling, you can find details on Thatchers’ guided tours and tastings on their website here. October is Cider and Perry Month, so now’s the ideal time to celebrate and support our local orchards and cider-makers. Harvest season is upon us too, so if you visit Thatchers there’s a good chance you’ll get to see the trucks arriving from across Somerset – their fruity haul ready for pressing.

If you head over, do book a table at The Railway Inn – it makes a good visit great. I can recommend the Thatchers Gold-battered fish and chips, and the sticky toffee pud hits the spot. Cider’s not bad ‘n’ all. Cheers!

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For more of @cjcallaghan’s reviews and write-ups, check out his Best of Bristol author page.

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Pata Negra Revamp Kitchen And Menu

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Pata Negra Steps It Up for the Autumn Season

Bristol’s proud independent streak is well-documented, and we’re lucky to have so many vibrant and exciting bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in this city.

If you enjoy visiting and supporting Bristol’s varied independent venues, it’s likely you’ll have a list of places old and new that you’re just waiting for the right time to tick off.

The Ox on Corn Street had been sitting on my must-visit list for months when I went last month, and I was very, very impressed.

But from the style-savvy team behind The Milk Thistle and Hyde & Co, what else could I have expected?

Also on Corn Street, and also run by the same talented team, Pata Negra is another venue I’d been curious about for a while — but on those occasions when I’d peered in past the door, I’d never felt encouraged in. Despite the great location and classical décor, it somehow just didn’t feel tempting.

Fresh changes at Pata Negra

That’s all changed now. In the latest round of developments at Pata Negra, the kitchen has been brought up from the basement to take pride of place at the forefront of the room — and the difference is striking.

You step through the doorway to skilled chefs preparing delicious dishes in their new open-plan setting, with a fine haunch of cured Ibérico ham hanging from the wall.

Further towards the back of the room, welcoming window seats and banks of plush red-leather benches offer the perfect settings for intimate gatherings of friends.

A menu re-vamp for the autumn season

The engine-room of the restaurant is now fully on show, and a menu re-vamp has changed things up for autumn. Diners can expect seasonal twists on authentic Spanish classics alongside new dishes created to bring the best out of the kitchen’s open grills.

Meanwhile, the wine and sherry list showcases the best of the Iberian Peninsula — the perfect accompaniment to the delicious tapas dishes, fresh seafood and decadent desserts on offer.

For full details on Pata Negra’s refreshed autumn menu, head over to the website here.

For more of @cjcallaghan’s reviews and write-ups, check out his Best of Bristol author page.

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