Boredom-induced whining, siblings waging war for de facto ownership of the remote control, impatient demands even the most schooled negotiator would fail to meet: brace yourself, folks, the Easter holidays are just around the corner – and hot on the heels, a potentially torturous summer break is but a mere soggy spring away. To the kids, this means two months of freedom from school and an inevitable sense of expectation. To the parents – ah, not so much!
Don’t get me wrong, dear reader: any mother or father relishes the opportunity to spend more time with their apple-cheeked little darlings. On the other hand, keeping them amused for the duration of any extended time-off is a feat of Atlas-like proportions.
However, there’s no need to despair! These days, the oft-uttered phrase “there’s nothing to do” should be all but expunged from our collective vocabulary. The wealth of activities on offer throughout the country assures that it’s easy – in theory at least – to alleviate any form of tedium that may set in over the holidays. From most outposts of the British Isles, you’re never more than a short journey away from all manner of family-orientated ventures. Alas, if you’re a long journey away from theme parks, beaches and zip-wired forests, I suggest you keep the Sky remote on your hip – and protect it with your life!
As ever, the weather will factor into any choice of fun-filled day out. Let’s channel some immanent optimism, firstly, and assume that the lesser-seen sun rears its head this spring. No sniggering at the back, please. Outdoorsy sorts will cherish an opportunity to get on their bike and explore some of the country’s most beautiful surroundings, not least the mystical Sherwood Forest in the East Midlands. Children will doubtless be so fascinated to whiz around the one-time manor of Robin Hood, they may not notice they’re exercising until it’s too late! Sherwood Pine Cycles are the best company to hire from, pricing up at only £8 per hour, or £24 for the entire day for adults.
Sticking with the wonder of Mother Nature, an increasingly popular outlet in the past couple of years is the marvellously monikered Go Ape. Boasting 29 locations in England, Scotland and Wales, the facilities allow kids – and adults – the opportunity to unleash their inner Tarzan as they swing, climb and otherwise… well… go ape amidst the treetops and forestry! Depending on your fitness levels, the course takes in the region of three hours to conquer, including a short but important safety briefing.
If your kids are intrigued by anything macabre (there’s a pun to be made here about little ghouls but fear not: we won’t go down that road), they’ll savour a ghost tour, by far the greatest of which can be found in Edinburgh and York. The former supposedly has more dead than living residents roaming the streets if the legends are to be believed, but even the most sceptical participants will feel a chill in their spine in the claustrophobic confines of Mary King’s Close. The York tour is equally unsettling, consisting of a 75 minute or so walk around the most haunted locations for a surprisingly modest £5.
Of course, there are the more obvious candidates. Although there’s probably nothing particularly original to be said about them, the likes of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Lego Land are uniformly popular for a reason. Yes, you’ll spend an inordinate percentage of your day queuing. Of course you’ll scratch your head and wonder how you managed to spend so much on food. When all’s said and done, though, a 90-second spin on Nemesis renders it all worthwhile – and by proxy makes you a frontrunner for Parent of the Year; hey, it’s only till the next bout of boredom kicks in, so you best bask in the adulation.
You may be reading this and saying to yourself “Not a problem, we’re going abroad this year.” Because when you whisk them off overseas, nothing can possibly dampen the kids’ enthusiasm, right? Wrong! While lazing on a beach sampling lungfuls of seasonal tranquility is all fine and well for mum and dad, it’s not quite so simple to arrest the short attention span of the heir – or heiress – apparent.
Again, you needn’t worry as long as you know where to look. Let’s say you head to one of the usual fashionable haunts in pursuit of sun and sand: Costa Dorada, for example. Aside from the goliath Universal Studios-owned Port Aventura theme park, you can also throw on your swimwear and go wild at Aquapolis water park in nearby La Pineda. Please note, Speedos are not obligatory – on the contrary, they’re generally discouraged and rarely acceptable. Further inland, in the capital Madrid, a trip to the breathtaking Faunia is always unique; the intricately-crafted detail of the biodiverse mini climates within is enough to make even the most iPad-obsessed stripling drop his jaws in wonderment!
North of the border – providing you manage to convince them that Euro Disney isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – the little ones will be just as fascinated as you to visit the ancient Lascaux Cave paintings in the Dordogne region of France. In saying this, Disney usually wins out in the end; so if you do end up in Paris, you can still drive home the cultural element with a visit to Notre Dame, a browse in the Louvre and a leisurely stroll through the underground catacombs.
If city breaks are more your style, it may be of interest to note that Berlin is amongst the finest in Europe in terms of family-friendly activities. The German capital is steeped in history, which should of course be explored, but it’s also hard to go wrong where sheer fun is concerned. For the very young, the splendid Kollwitz Platz playpark is an absolute paradise, sure to soak up some of that youthful energy for a few hours. The city zoo is also a favourite, proud of its claim to the largest collection of species in the world. The chance to witness hippos both above and below water, in the custom built aquarium, is a rarity not to be missed. Enjoy your city break from a Berlin holiday home.
Easter or summer, home or abroad – there’s nothing quite like planning ahead to pre-empt the holiday blues. Do it for the kids, do it for the love – good lord, do it for your sanity. Spring’s on its way: don’t let it pass you by.