Travel: UK: Family: What are we doing today?: February half-term can be a tricky holiday to fill. Joanne O'Connor picks fun activities and events across Britain suitable for all kinds of weather
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Back to nature
If the thought of being cooped up in the house with the kids fills you with dread, take them along to the Epping Forest Field Centre, near Loughton in Essex, which will be running family activity events from pond-dipping to stargazing (18-20 February, activities about pounds 6pp, booking required, 020-8502 8500, field-studies-council.org/centres/eppingforest.aspx).
Down in Surrey, Painshill Park near Cobham is running Wild Woodland Camps Monday to Friday for eight- to 13-year-olds. There will be a different theme for each day, from wild winter art to bushcraft, and children will be able to try their hand at bivouac-building, archery, animal tracking and orienteering (18-22 February, pounds 35 a day, booking required, 01932 868113, painshill.co.uk).
In North Yorkshire, families can follow a bird-themed trail around the beautiful grounds of the ruined 12th-century Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden. But if the February weather's bad, head to Swanley Grange Learning Centre for nature-themed crafts and bird box making (16-24 February, site entrance adult pounds 8.60, child pounds 4.50, family pounds 21.80, 01765 608888, nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey).
For budding scientists
The Brighton Science Festival will be in full swing during half-term with heaps of child-friendly workshops around the city (01273 777628, brightonscience.com). Help solve an imaginary crime using real forensic techniques such as fingerprinting, analysing hair samples under a microscope and identifying tyre tracks at a whodunnit workshop (20 February, pounds 10pp, family ticket pounds 30) or learn about dinosaurs and fossils at the Booth Museum (18-20 and 22 February).
Flight will be the focus this week at Enginuity, one of several great museums to be found at the Ironbridge Gorge industrial heritage centre in Shropshire (16-24 February, adult pounds 8.25, child pounds 6.95, 01952 433424, ironbridge.org.uk). Children can build and launch their own rocket, find out how to generate water from electricity and construct an earthquake-proof tower.
With its collection of anatomy specimens and surgical instruments, the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London (rcseng.ac.uk/museums/hunterian) might not seem an obvious destination for a jolly day out, but the museum is working hard to shake off its fusty image with family-friendly tours of the gallery (free, 21 February) and the chance to meet a 17th-century barber surgeon and his collection of leeches (pounds 2, 20 February).
Exeter will be a hive of creativity with two festivals designed to inspire budding artists and authors. Extreme Imagination is a children's literature festival at venues around the city (16-24 February, artsandcultureexeter.co.uk). Among the highlights are The Wimpy Kid Show at Northcott Theatre which will bring to life Jeff Kinney's best-selling books with activities, quizzes and film clips (18 February, pounds 5), and a dragons, myths and tales event at the Killerton estate, offering children the chance to create stories and follow a detective trail around the grounds (16-24 February, site entrance adult pounds 8.70, child pounds 4.35, family pounds 22, nationaltrust.org.uk).
In the West Midlands, stop-motion animation will be the theme of a workshop for children aged 11 and over at The Public in West Bromwich (21 February, pounds 4pp, 0121-533 7161, thepublic.com). Children will learn how to create a short film using a storyboard, digital camera and animation software.
Visitors to Belsay Hall in Northumberland are invited to enter the magical world of Lewis Carroll by following an Alice in Wonderland Trail around the gardens (16-24 February, site entrance adult pounds 7.70, child pounds 4.60, family pounds 20, english-heritage.org.uk). There are six characters to find along the way and a certificate for all who complete the trail.
Travel in time
The ever-popular Jorvik Viking Festival returns to the streets of York this week attracting some 40,000 visitors with its mix of battle re-enactments, guided walks and family-friendly events (16-24 February, jorvik-viking-festival.com). Visit the Viking encampment (complete with longship) on Coppergate Square, take part in a sword-fighting workshop (pounds 3pp) or test your hand at Viking crafts such as leatherworking, willow weaving and rune stamping.
Young historians will jump at the chance to be an Egyptian curator for the day at the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate. Children six and over can handle ancient Egyptian artefacts, learn how to record and label replica objects, and create a display case (19 February, pounds 2pp, booking required, 01423 556188, harrogate.gov.uk/museums).
Twentieth-century history will come under the spotlight at Nothe Fort in Weymouth, Dorset, which is running Evacuee Experience Family Days (18, 20 & 22 February, pounds 7pp, 01305 766626, nothefort.org.uk). Normally available to school groups only, the experience will be open to families this half-term with lessons in a 1940s schoolroom, air raid drills, and a taste of rationing in a wartime kitchen.
Wannabe 007s can race a James Bond-style Aston Martin on a giant eight-lane Scalextric track at Beaulieu National Motor Museum in Hampshire (16-24 February, adult pounds 20, youth pounds 12, child pounds 9.95, family pounds 52.50, 01590 612345, beaulieu.co.uk). Youngsters aged 16 and under (sorry Dads) can compete for the fastest track time of the day and win Scalextric prizes. If you can tear yourself away from the track, the Bond in Motion exhibition is well worth a visit, with its collection of iconic Bond vehicles, from high-speed bikes to Aston Martins. There's also a half-term quiz trail to test your knowledge of 007.
The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, east London, will be going back to the 1980s this half-term with a New Wave Kids activity week (18-22 February, free, museumofchildhood.org.uk). Join in a creative retelling of Shirley Hughes's popular children's book Alfie Gets in First, design your own Pac-Man badge or Care Bears greeting card and tackle the infamous Rubik's Cube to win a prize.
For something more active, Ropes and Ladders in Llanberis, Gwynedd (01286 872310, ropesandladders.co.uk) offers outdoor activities for kids from four years old. There's an adventure ropes course specially for under-eights, and high ropes activities for bigger ones. All equipment and instruction provided. Low-level course pounds 10 per child, high ropes pounds 20 per child, booking recommended.
Getting out of the house . . . 1 Epping Forest Field Centre 2 Fountains Abbey 3 Beaulieu Motor Museum 4 The Jorvik Viking Festival 5 An Evacuee Experience day in Weymouth 6 Brighton Science Festival 7 Wild Woodland Camps at Painshill Park 8 Care Bears activities at the Museum of Childhood in east London
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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