What makes a good family day out ? Help needed for National Trust Talk

(104 Posts)
carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 18-Jan-13 12:50:56

I'm speaking at the National Trust's annual conference - "Bringing Places to Life" in a week or so and would love to be able to include some thoughts from mumsnetters on what you are looking for on a family day out

Are you mostly looking for something interesting for the adults to do/ see -but it's good if the children can also be amused/get an ice cream smile so you can enjoy it ? Or is it all about the children - as long as they are happy you're happy - or is it something in between?

What makes you recommend places to other parents ? Amazing activities for adults/ children, nice cafes, good loos, cheap parking, welcoming staff, value for money? Obviously all are good but what's most crucial?

How do you choose where you go as a family and what makes you go back to a place?

Do you tend to have one fave family place and go at different times of the year (and expect different seasonal offerings/ or just enjoy the same thing?) or go to a variety of places?

Any and all thoughts very welcome.



cleanandclothed Fri 18-Jan-13 12:59:17

Basics: nappy change facilities that both sexes can use. Water fountains or jugs. Picnic facilities. Otherwise even the cheapest day out can get very expensive. If it is mainly aimed at adults, then rooms with children's activities or an 'eye spy' trail are good. Season tickets for regular visitors. Have to say the NT is very good at all of this!

Indith Fri 18-Jan-13 14:09:25

Nappy change.
A shelter for picnics. It rains a lot in this country but we can't all afford to add the cost of a cafe lunch on to our day out if we can't have a picnic.
Activities- simple stuff like a trail of things to spot or collect is fine. It doesn't have to be all singing, all dancing, just something to keep the smalls motivated on walks through grounds and parks.

We choose where to go based on cost really. We don't go to the purpose built farm/activity places. We go to parks, free museums etc and hold season passes for things like our Botanic Gardens, Beamish museum and have NT membership. So we visit the same places often but there is always something to do.

firawla Fri 18-Jan-13 14:17:16

I'm more about things the children can enjoy and partcipate in but if its something more interesting to us but they will be happy enough, then thats also good but i do tend to think of them first when thinking of days out. We go to a variety of places rather than keep going back to the same one, mainly because there are loads of things around us we havent been to yet as not lived here for long and only got a car fairly recently. once we have done most of the options we may start repeating the more favourite ones more and more

FeelingHip Fri 18-Jan-13 14:25:03

I would be more driven by stuff for children to do as it makes for a less stressful day for everyone (and it is nice to get the chance to behave like a 'big kid' again!). Definitely more motivated by a great cafe and good, clean loos (that aren't freezing cold!). We have started stopping at NT places rather than motorway services when we are going on a longer distance drive and it works well - better food, nicer environment and a chance for children to run around. We use the NT phone app to find a place just off the motorway and it's great!

Floweryhat Fri 18-Jan-13 14:36:19

The absence of tutting middle aged women.
Homemade cake that does not require you to take out a second mortgage to afford it.
Reasonable entrance fees.

We have just cancelled our NT membership, as just can't afford it any more.

FeelingHip Fri 18-Jan-13 14:39:48

That's funny Flowery...I just logged back on to say the most important thing is the attitude of the staff - someone that makes me feel welcome when I arrive with my well behaved (but still two and a monkey!) child...

ClaraOswinOswald Fri 18-Jan-13 14:43:43

No hidden extras- pay for the attraction/event but not be expected to the fork out more for facepainting, bouncy castle, craft activities etc.

Affordably priced drinks and snacks.

In the current economic climate people are always looking for cheap or free things to do with the children.

Floweryhat Fri 18-Jan-13 14:48:06

Actually, the tutting middle-aged women are the other visitors, not the staff smile, especially in the cafes

<horrid flashback to crying newborn, tantruming hungry toddler, older kids fed-up and me carrying tray of v expensive food & drinks in a room full of sour-faced people all sat one per table waiting for their parties in the queue to actually get some food. I did in fact cry when a table finally became free and as I turned round to pick up the toddler another woman in her 50s sat down with no food or drink and refused to move. The staff were great, however.>

soundevenfruity Fri 18-Jan-13 15:07:07

It does feel as if you are intruding when you turn up with a child. I once went with a baby strapped in babybjorn and it felt like I was carrying a very dangerous object. It's a generational thing mostly as for people over 60s children and adult activities were really separated. There is lovely food in some places that source produce locally and quite inventive with recipes. It is more expensive but we treat it as eating out which we don't do very often anyway.

gazzalw Fri 18-Jan-13 15:07:55

A location/attraction that has a mix for adults and children to enjoy. Preferably incorporating some history, active exercise based playtime, picnic areas and a cafe selling affordable but home-made snacks which will satisfy adults and children (and ice-cream availability in the summer is a must!). A gift shop is always an attraction in its own right...An option on craft activities related to the attraction is always a good idea too...

And a variety of family-friendly entry ticket options. Families seldom seem to come in two adult:two kid options these days, so lots of flexibility that can even incorporate grandparents if appropriate and still be cheaper than buying single tickets for everyone.

PS. I think that most National Trust properties that we've visited do a pretty good job of appealing to families TBQH.

StripeyCircle Fri 18-Jan-13 15:16:01

LOL on the tutting women - although they tend to be, shall we say, slightly more than middle aged.... DS got told off for standing on an old milk churn last week when he was trying to reach something. It wasn't exactly going to break, having survived the last 100 years being clanked around by farmers! hmm
Anyway, moving on, I agree with most of everything above.

Picnic facilities so we don't have to spend a fortune in the cafe.
Access to water so we can fill our water bottles.
Interesting child-focused activites - creative is best
A dedicated play area
And at least one area where they can touch (!!!) some genuine exhibits (not the Rembrandts, obviously wink)

Finally, what I get really annoyed at is the cost of entry. I'm a single mum with 1 child and not much money. It's really unfair that families of 2 adults & 2 kids get the discounts but we don't.

gazzalw Fri 18-Jan-13 15:28:39

We went to a museum in London a couple of years back. The day we went they had a special children-at-Christmas-through-the-ages quiz and other activities for the DCs. Firstly, DS and his friend got told off for leaning on a railing (which they were using to prop up their quiz boards) by the security guard (even though they were not being naughty at all), then a coachful of elderly, well-to-do couples from the Shires arrived and tutted at there being children in the Museum at all...We shall never go there again -GRRRRR.

Which makes me think that any attractions need to promote inter-generational harmony so you don't get lots of 'tutting' from the older visitors and feelings of discomfort from the younger ones with young children. Not quite sure how that is to be achieved though...

CMOTDibbler Fri 18-Jan-13 15:48:48

Some things are basic needs - decent loos, baby changing, disabled access loos that are more than just a hand rail, a drinking water tap, somewhere dry to eat a packed lunch.

Some though is about attitude - being child friendly is about more than a quiz sheet, its about having child level information about the things of interest there and volunteers who want to engage with children

As CMOT says the basics are important, but for us with children between 8-3 it is about finding things which they will enjoy. They loved the toy boxes at Petworth House, there was something in virtually every room for them to do, which meant we could enjoy the paintings, and as they were doing the children's activities we got tha ahhs rather than the tut tut tuts, there is a fine line though, the staff too were interesting and informative.

<whispers we are actually English Heritage members and we love them, partly because the children are all into castles, but also most of the significant locations have at least one film to put that location into the historical context, they always want to go there first. They also often have a playground next to the cafe, generally themed, so it looks a bit like the house we are visiting. These are more in the houses, the castles just seem intrinsically facinating. We might be willing to consider some sort of joint EH/NT membership if that were possible for a little less than each individually>

We tend to choose places that everyone has something to do, we do go back to favourites, but also like to go to new places too, we might go to the same place a maximum of 3 times a year, unless it was right on our doorstep. Dover Castle is currently our favourite - they have seasonal things, plus actors doing tours/interactive plays, we loved that.

Somewhere children can run about without fear of breaking things.

Goes hand in hand with somewhere parents don't have to constantly scream 'don't touch that!'

41notTrendy Fri 18-Jan-13 17:14:44

Nice cafe
Good shop (with reasonably priced carousel o'tat for dc)
Picnic tables
Decent playground
Hands on touchy feely things for kids
Somewhere to walk/enjoy the view
If its a stately home, then a quick route round or less uptight staff. Just because dc are loud doesn't mean they are about to trash the faberge jewellery cabinet.
Seasonal activities are good, pumpkin trail/easter egg hunt/ Father Christmas arriving /food fairs
In fact, as NT members, our two go to days out are Clumber Park and Belton House which pretty much tick all our boxes for a good day out.

redandwhitesprinkles Fri 18-Jan-13 17:31:16

Staff that like children and don't mind them. The majority of nt places are usually good.

We went to a nt property (near Bognor), they had an activity box in every room which meant the kids could have fun without running and getting under the feet of maybe more elderly people. For the record I don't let mine run around inside!

ByTheWay1 Fri 18-Jan-13 17:35:37

From arrival onwards... Free car park, pedestrian route through car park - not dodge the car with 2 kids....

no queues to get in, toilets accessible from the car park - you can drive a couple of hours to places and NEED the loo before you go in...

Stuff for kids to look at/climb over/touch..... whether a playground or an interactive exhibit.

Picnic area that can be used when it is wet too...

Seasonal stuff that is simple - Easter egg trail that sort of thing...

PickledApples Fri 18-Jan-13 17:36:16

From p.o.v of two under 4's:-

Good (space to get in/out of childseats) and free or cheap parking.
Clean toilets.
Quick (ready to eat or prompt service) food - and an acceptance of own food being eaten (within reason! A box or raisins, baby yoghurt etc not 5-course meal!) with clean facilities i.e. highchairs are not caked in crap food!
Nice, helpful staff.
Space for DC to walk - nothing breakable / not overcrowded / clear paths / not too many steps etc - wheelchair access standard.
A basic park for young ones - small slide, set of toddler swings, small roundabout and a few steeping stones or something makes the world of difference. We paid a fortune to visit a zoo last year - DC spent 80% of the time in the little parks scattered about the grounds hmm
No big hazards e.g. ponds/wells fenced off, barriers next to river/road/drops - (we still have full control of our DC but our anxiety levels would be reduced a little).

We would return again and again to a place that had all the above - and would happily pay ££ for parking or an ice cream / drink to subsidise the place we're visiting. Activities such as face painting, carousel rides or anything to do with music would appeal too smile

A good mix of things to do and see for adults and children both inside/undercover and outside. A nature trail or "See if you can find" signs please most young children.

Clean toilets with hot water for washing hands. Very difficult to get a child cleaned up with just freezing cold water.

Somewhere undercover to sit and eat or just to shelter from the rain.

Reasonably priced cafés. £3.00 for a cup of coffee and almost £4.00 for a tasteless slice of defrosted spongecake is bonkers.

Café/restaurant menus and prices on the website so we can decide in advance whether or not to take our own food.

Good signage! We wandered into an area that charged an additional entrance fee at Polesdon Lacey because a parks vehicle had left a gate open and we had to pay to leave!

BedHog Fri 18-Jan-13 17:55:32

Staff and activities that create a bit of mystery and magic. For example at one farm-type attraction there was a tractor ride to the woods where there was interactive storytelling and then a miniature train ride on the way back, and a trip on a fire engine where the children got to use the hose! Stuff that isn't just looking at exhibits in a set order.

Not too many things where the attraction tries to extort a little bit more money out of you, for animal feed, or ice cream, or plastic tat, or 'would you like to sponsor this anteater for a year for £££££?' Reasonably priced cafes, free parking, clean toilets, lots of seats to have a rest or a quick bite to eat.

Bonsoir Fri 18-Jan-13 17:57:32

A good family day out is where we do something that grabs the attention of everyone and where we also relax and have a laugh.

It never includes a self-service/canteen-style meal angry. A proper restaurant or a picnic in a lovely spot (with tables), perhaps.

HeathRobinson Fri 18-Jan-13 18:24:12

What everyone else said re decent toilets etc.

We went to the museum in Denmark quite a few years ago now.
They had a brilliant section for children, including old-fashioned clothes they could wear and a horse they could touch/sit on.

The piece de resistance was a life size-ish model of a desert type house, iyswim.
It was two-storey, with the top bit being the 'roof' of the house, where you could sit and enjoy the starscape and mood lights that the museum had used.
The kids loved the whole section. And not a grumpy adult in sight!

So an interesting and dedicated children's section where you know they can touch everything and enjoy it.

MirandaWest Fri 18-Jan-13 19:04:27

I like things like treasure hunts for the DC to do.
Covered area for picnics is good
Don't like lots of things where you have to spend extra money
Reasonable priced tat in the gift shop

Sometimes though you are surprised by something that the children love like just having some paper and pencils for them to draw with (this makes it sound as if they don't have them at home - they do grin)

geogteach Fri 18-Jan-13 19:32:45

I agree with most of the stuff already said but would add things aimed at older kids. Maybe an assault course or more challenging playground. Also where there are trails and stuff something aimed at 10+ year olds. My 11 year old is mostly still happy to come out with us and can be quite enthusiastic about some places but objects to being offered stuff to do aimed at younger kids, This summer we went to Kenilworth and they had artefacts and people re - enacting things to do with crime and punishment, he loved that!

StainlessSteelCat Fri 18-Jan-13 19:40:34

For us a good day out involves somewhere to park, space for DC to run around in, something for them to climb (I generally mean a playground but will settle for a tree, wall, rock) and somewhere we can buy a drink or ice cream. ideally we'll be able to push a buggy along a path for a walk, find clean baby change/toilets, have playground that suits toddler upwards and get good coffee.
We do go back to places we like time after time, we also like exploring new places. Which we choose to do depends on mood, budget and weather.
as the DC get older I'm sure we'll change, but the walking outside is what we enjoy.

cakebar Fri 18-Jan-13 19:52:12

I like somewhere outside where the kids can let off steam, something like a maze or a playground. I don't understand why NT don't have more playgrounds, it just encourages kids to run like maniacs round the gardens, climb on walls etc.

I have found their staff to be lovely. They seem to have got better over the last 5 years e.g. instead of telling you off for muddy boots they just ask if you would like shoe covers (yes please), instead of telling you off for getting near the door with a pushchair, they tell you where you can leave it and offer a hip seat thing. It didn't used to be like this so has definitely got better.

Other visitors can be tutty. I think it must be hard for NT to balance the two groups when it is busy.

I like the spot the x in each room that they have as then I can get a chance to look at the room while they look for the item. I like well sign posted walks so I can concentrate on herding kids rather than directions.

Seasonal activities make me return many times, as would playgrounds and ducks. I like the cadbury sponsored easter events.

They do need covered picnic areas. I do like the cafes but the prices are eye watering, especially sandwiches. At the last place we went to DH and I shared a sandwich pack and went a bit hungry as we didn't want to pay for 2.

So, more playgrounds and covered picnic areas please.

cakebar Fri 18-Jan-13 19:52:50

Coffee near the playground is a good plus too.

Portofino Fri 18-Jan-13 20:00:36

My dd loves a quiz, trail, treasure hunt type thing. A4 sheet of paper and a pencil can transform a "boring" castle into a fun activity. Second x 20 a covered picnic area, or at least reasonably priced tea. We went to Wisley at Easter and they did a low priced kids menu thing where they could pick so many items for £4 or something in the cafe. Fruit/sandwich/cake sort of thing.

HeathRobinson Fri 18-Jan-13 20:09:03

Oh yes, the food and drink.
Why so expensive and sometimes served so sloooowly?

You don't mind paying the going rate, but most places are a rip-off.

The best cafe of this sort I've ever been to is the one at Berry Pomeroy Castle.

I know that's English Heritage (we're members), but it was a fantastic cafe, excellent food and brilliant servers.

sleepyhead Fri 18-Jan-13 21:23:57

Being able to buy something to drink for a young child without having to shell out well over £2 for "freshly squeezed" whatever (I'm looking at you, Edinburgh Castle hmm). I know that the cafes are an important source of revenue for these places, but they do take the piss some times.

I've been impressed actually with the National Trust for Scotland places we've visited. Clean toilets, always an activity to keep the children occupied while the adults get to look around properly (the lego minifigures hidden in each room at Culzean Castle is inspired - dh & I got quite competitive about it blush)

I'd be put off by entry fees that took us over £20 for a family, but we're member s of both NTS and Historic Scotland, and the direct debit monthly membership fee is very reasonable given how often we use it.

Other things:
- Good signage so that we can go round at our own pace
- Facilities for us to eat our own food/drink
- Friendly staff (this has been the rule tbh, in most places we've visited over the last few years)

PPT Fri 18-Jan-13 21:33:31

Haven't read others posts so sorry if I'm doubling up:

As a family we tend to go to places with lots of open space that my son can charge about. Also love anywhere that has an activity on... I.e in the summer we went to the botanical gardens in Edinburgh and there was an unexpected story telling event on... In mini-Yurts. A-maz-ing...

Better if places have good parking and a cafe- but even just a picnic bench where we can scoff our sarnies al fresco is a treat.

We go a lot to national trust places
as are members and like to get value for money!

Mintyy Fri 18-Jan-13 22:09:09

For us it is very simple indeed: we want to feel that we have had good value for money and not been taken for a ride.

We are fortunate in that we can afford any day out without having to plan or budget in advance for it. And we would always have the means to eat out rather than have to bring along a picnic.

But there are many family days out that really are NOT worth the money (Legoland, I am looking most emphatically at you)..

And just a few days ago, at a food outlet in the O2 arena, I asked for "2 small cokes" and was served with 2 gigantic things at £3.80 each. Am afraid I asked for 1 of them to be taken off our bill and the other to be split between 2 cups.

Great (paying attractions) days out I have had with my kids include Longleat, HMS Belfast in London, Godstone Farm, Heaver Castle (my all time fave), the Donkey Sanctuary near Sidmouth (actually I think this is free).

I like places to be a bit quirky and not too formulaic and not horrifically overcrowded.

FunnysInLaJardin Fri 18-Jan-13 22:52:06

Essentials? Somewhere for the boys to run around, a big field will do and somewhere to get an ice-cream or a doughnut where they won't be tutted at afterwards. Plus somewhere we can have a good walk while they are running about would be ideal

FunnysInLaJardin Fri 18-Jan-13 22:53:02

oh and I don't want to pay more than £10 for 2 icecreams and 2 coffees thanks!

PickledApples Fri 18-Jan-13 23:20:45

In regards to pricing, only one of these as a "high" or "inflated" cost is acceptable imo:
1) entry
2) parking
3) food & drink

The other two should be very low or free. This allows for subsistence / profit while still remaining appealing. Two or more at an exaggerated price mean it will be somewhere we are less likely to return to or recommend. Any added "free" goodies can help soften the blow a bit though. smile

CharlotteBronteSaurus Fri 18-Jan-13 23:28:41

on a similar note, i am not tooo outraged by cafes being expensive, as long as the food is of a decent quality. I hate to be asked to pay through the nose for duff, margariney sandwiches and watery coffee.
Accordingly, we visit the Lake District visitor Centre, where the cafe is great, all year round, whereas Tatton Park, with its awful cafe, is saved for picnic weather.

Dragonwoman Sat 19-Jan-13 00:09:06

Can I ask that toilets have at least one low sink for toddler handwashing? There have been many times when I have had to hold a toddler under one arm while trying to wash its hands with the other. Sometimes with a baby strapped to my chest too. Very frustrating!

SavoirFaire Sat 19-Jan-13 00:11:16

Bound to be doubling up but:

We go to National Trust-type places largely because, as parents, grown-ups and people with our own interests, we are interested in the things that are at that place. We can do dozens of things that are fun for the kids. But NT-type places also hold a lovely link to the 'past' for me and DS (a history and a politics graduate, respectively who were members of the NT prior to having children but aren't these days, partly because where we live means it doesn't make sense - but we do still visit occasional properties).

We have very young children, but we want them to become familiar with visiting places that are not like where they ordinarily spend their time. Children's quizzes, somewhere to have a picnic and tour guides who take account of different ages make a difference. Interactive displays do help the children keep interested, but are not essential.

Special events are brilliant, although we don't live near enough to really take advantage of these. So we need things that are entertaining all year round! However, we would travel for events on certain dates (particularly around things like anniversaries or really relevant dates) if publicised in a relevant way.

We are very sad that Flodden is not being properly celebrated this year (so far as we know). Such an amazing historical event to be marked. Particularly for women (it was a women's war, so far as many historian's say). And yet most people will not know that it is 500 years this year. The NT really should be promoting this more heavily. By the way I live about 300 miles from the battle site, but as a great lover of history would definitely be in the area to celebrate were there significantly supported events to participate in!!

For me, the NT should be aiming to make history accessible for children but in a way that keeps parents involved too!

BikeRunSki Sat 19-Jan-13 07:10:43

Poor baby changing and a nasty, expensive cafe can sour a day.

A good playground, nature trail and decent food can make it very memorable.

Idiom Sat 19-Jan-13 09:11:50

For us our family includes our dog. We are really disappointed in the number of NT places where we can take her. Obviously we don't expect to go inside a building but 'parkland only' or worse 'carpark only' doesn't actually help. We may as well go to a field - which we do too!
The best paying attraction is Cotswold Wildlife Park, lots of loos, loads of space and you can picnic where you like, not horribly crowded even in the summer, brilliant views of animals and £13 for an adult. Not something we do all the time but it's always great.

millie0210 Sat 19-Jan-13 09:39:39

We need safe places for children to play, run etc.
Themes that will entertain children and parents
Remember it is the parents day out as well as the childrens.
Plenty of loos
Discounted food and drink
First aid

Growlithe Sat 19-Jan-13 11:54:22

I must say I was very put off NT by visiting one of their attractions and having to endure a 20 minute 'hard sell' of their annual membership and being made to look like idiots when we said we wouldn't get enough use from it in our area to make it worth our while (we wouldn't). Also although it was a family friendly attraction, the cafe wasn't geared up for catering for children at all.

Negative stuff over, I like attractions that are fun and hands on for the children, but where they can learn something too. Two of the best days out of last year for my family were the Black Country Living museum and the Ironbridge Gorge museum - Victorian Town.

Both of these museums were set out as towns, with shops, schools, houses, old fashioned fairgrounds etc. the staff were in costume and in character, and were dotted around giving information and demonstrations. A brilliant idea, and the DCs (and us) learned a lot in a very informal way.

Food was fish and chips from on old fashioned fish and chip shop - perfect. I would love to see more of these types of attractions.

gazzalw Sat 19-Jan-13 12:19:09

Beamish is similar to Ironbridge Gorge Museum too....

I agree with the loos and cafe needing to be good (a must).

We like adventure playgrounds and open spaces and picnic areas, but sometimes it's nice to eat in the cafe.

We like places where the prices reflect what your family can enjoy e.g. we paid half the fee at one stately home type place which covered car park, play area, picnic area, walled gardens, cafe and a couple of exhibits. You could then pay a bit extra if you wanted to look round the main house, which we didn't feel was worth our while with such a young child.

We resent paying full child price for a 3 year old at a theme park - the same as a 12 year old - when she can hardly go on any of the rides!

Our favourite place to go is Eureka the children's science museum in Halifax. It is designed for kids aged 3-8 and even has a "small world" where they can work in the bank, post office, shop etc. They do have a cafe which can get busy but they do those pick 5 items for £4 boxes for the dc which is reasonable. They also have a converted train carriage outside to eat your own picnics (which is the highlight of the visit as far as dd is concerned!) The staff there are by far the best we have encountered anywhere - they go out of their way to help you, show you where to go, get the kids involved etc. Also, once you have paid your entry fee £10 pp, it covers you as an annual pass so you can keep going back!

Growlithe Sat 19-Jan-13 12:56:30

gazz Beamish Museum looks great. One for the list, thanks for that. thanks

EwanHoozami Sat 19-Jan-13 13:14:41

cheap entry one day a week during termtime weekdays with children preschool age and under is a real selling point for me. A couple of attractions local to me do it and turn an otherwise empty Monday afternoon into a busy and fun occasion.

BikeRunSki Sat 19-Jan-13 14:21:52

Our worst day out was DiggerLand. We went to the Castleford one.

We had a gift voucher for 2 adults - so me and DH. On it it said that children under 3 were free. DS was 2 and a half. They said he'd have to pay because he was taller than 90cm - they said it was a new policy, even though our voucher had 4 months left to run.

The PIL came too, although had no intention on going on anything, but were not allowed just to sit and watch from the cafe.

We ended up paying £17 each for mil, fil and DS. DS was not allowed on much as he was under three (despite being over 90 cm), nor could I because I was pg. The cafe was closed and the soft play was cordoned off. There were otger refreshment places, but also closed.

To get to the main rides, we had to run the gamut of attractive coin operated rides. The toilets were awful.

We paid over £60, excluding the voucher value, to watch DH have fun!

This was all on May bank holiday week end - regardless of price, they must have been expecting people - the cafe, toilets could have been sorted!

chimchar Sat 19-Jan-13 16:08:46

We are past the days of having to cater for young kids, but agree with clean loos, good parking, good signposting and adaptable family tickets.

We are in the difficult age now of trying to entertain kids in the pre teen age bracket.

Totally agree with a pp who said about stuff for older kids...a challenging playground (that doesn't mind competitive parents having a Go!) (go ape! type climbing frames but free!!!)

Have just asked d's (12) and he said a dumping ground for big kids to play video games so he doesn't have to walk around with us! Haha!

Stuff that means he doesn't get bored...horrible history style stories or facts, artefacts to pick up, guess what they are etc...
Info that falls in with the national curriculum, so it is relevant to what they already know.

Challenges along the way...Bristol zoo do this nicely with weight i was as heavy as hippo, height (tall as penguin/baby giraffe etc) how fast can you run (fast as a dog/tortoise/cheetah etc...)

Floweryhat Sat 19-Jan-13 16:09:07

When it snows: allow the children to play on the grass and build snowmen, don't strew the entire park with keep off the grass signs! I guess it's a choice between keeping everything pristine so a few can take beautiful photos, or attracting far more people who might actuall have fun confused.

<yes I am staring at you Anglesey Abbey>

Floweryhat Sat 19-Jan-13 16:10:17

Haha just spotted the title. My suggestion re snow would definitely bring an otherwise deserted place alive smile

When I think of National Trust I think two things: 1) Earlyrisers 2) Cold.

Neither of which are attractive to me.

I'd like a place that is good to visit for a large-ish family who can't get out of the house until at least noon, and that has at least one or two warm or indoor options. I go to the Lake District regularly and am quite frankly sick of Rheged, which is where we always end up due to the weather. More options woukd be grand.

walkingonthemoon Sat 19-Jan-13 19:01:40

The National Trust at Allen Bank is our perfect day out. Relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff, a smattering of history for adults and our 8 year old DD but loads of fun, interactive stuff to do. We just love it there!

The kids loved the painting in the big drawing room where we could drink free coffee and read the sunday papers! Then a romp around the woods!

Amazing. If only more NT places could be like that.

mumzy Sat 19-Jan-13 19:02:04

Lots of room for dcs to run around safely, activities/ things for dcs to to,
Reasonably priced food& drinks, water fountain, nice toilets, option to bring a picnic, somewhere which would be interesting to dcs and adults.
Good places for family days out: national trust properties, the science museum, kew gardens, london zoo, chatsworth house,

mumzy Sat 19-Jan-13 19:05:17

When it snows we always head to Knole Park (NT) absolutely free to get into the grounds and perfect for sledging and no signs anywhere

SmallestInTheClass Sat 19-Jan-13 19:53:41

Clean toilets, baby changing that dads can use. Lots of space to run round and climb. Old tractors etc are a great alternative to the playground, if you're allowed to climb on them. Agree with covered picnic areas, as a couple we would eat sarnies in the rain, but it us hard with a baby and toddler. We often use the cafes, don't mind paying if it is good quality, which it usually is. Service is often really slow though, we've given up half way down the queue more than once. Dunham is nice with a kid friendy bit of cafe. We only really use the outside bits as indoors is so pricey and you only usually get 20 mins or so out of it. Buggy friendly paths would be a huge plus at places like Lyme park.

StillSmilingAfterAllTheseYears Sat 19-Jan-13 20:24:03

I like plenty of relaxed things to do, so art activities, play spaces, games to borrow, interactives. Also changing exhibits - we like to revisit things. I also love love love an indoor picnic space and some indoor space where toddlers can be noisy etc.

I also love places where there is an enclosed outdoor area, there is something so restful about being in a safe boundaried grassed space, not thinking 'don't fall in that pond' or 'watch that window' every five seconds.

I like ball games to be confined to a single area, some pushy dad is always getting kids to work on ball skills where everyone else is relaxing.

And no dogs!

I would like to say at some NT properties they do all this and more, so thank you and keep upgrading the rest!

StillSmilingAfterAllTheseYears Sat 19-Jan-13 20:26:45

By no dogs btw I mean I like it when dogs are not allowed.

Meglet Sat 19-Jan-13 21:20:17

Clean, warm toilets with warm (not scalding) water, soap and paper towels. family sized cubicles too.

A decent sized clean cafe so you can get a buggy in.

camgirl Sat 19-Jan-13 22:14:03

For us, its all about the children having a good time. If they're happy, we're happy ... if it's something we'd enjoy but they're bored then no-one has a good time.

We've loved the giant games in the summer at NT houses - giant Connect Four, croquet. Dressing up clothes / historical reinaction even on a small scale indoors all year round. Storytelling, crafts - Wicken Fen have done some really imaginative things over the last couple of years. Activities and toys connected to a historical theme are always fun too!

Would love to get feedback on how your talk goes.

recall Sat 19-Jan-13 22:22:15

If you are talking about bring places to life, kids like people in period costumes who engage with them. I was in Hampton Court, and there was a brilliant Henry VIII, a little red haired girl walked in, and he went over and talked to her, saying she reminded him of his daughter Elizabeth. It was unscripted, and realistic, and got her giggling. He just ambled about the place in character chatting to the visitors, and occasionally getting a bit shouty. Me and Mum were all nervous and jumpy and were scrabbling to get away from him cos he was so Henry VIII ish grin When we talk about Hampton Court, we always talk about him and have a laugh.

recall Sat 19-Jan-13 22:24:14

Oh and a hand wash sink that is low enough for children to use

invicta Sun 20-Jan-13 09:20:49

A loo, view and a brew!

Badvoc Sun 20-Jan-13 09:30:49

Decent toilets.
Child's play area.
More relaxed attitude to children generally...so many tutting oaps in one place makes the rage come on!
We like hardwick hall and calke abbey.
Plan to go to clumber park soon...
I don't honestly know whether we will continue our membership this year...

ChiefOwl Sun 20-Jan-13 10:00:46

We go to to lots of EH / NT places, the castles are always good as the kids love exploring.

I find it's often the houses that need more. It's great to have people in period costume, gardens to let off steam, and exhibits the children can touch. They also love being abe to try on costumes.

My ds got told off last year when he sat down on a chair as we were looking round a house. It wasn't roped off, nor did it have a sign on it (he knows not to climb/sit on furniture in these places etc) no it was just a regular chair for the member of staff looking after that room hmm, the lady came over and boomed 'do not sit on that chair'!

My other bugbear is the overpriced cafe's...

Sabriel Sun 20-Jan-13 10:39:42

We have EH and NT membership. Only joined the NT this year because in the area we've moved to there are lots of NT places nearby. Been very impressed with them so far and never experienced any tutting, despite having a very loud 5 yo. In fact the staff/ volunteers at NT seem very child-focused (more so than EH staff). Everywhere we've been they always try to engage DD and tell her where to look for the kittens/ bugs/ tiles/ whatever is on the quiz sheet.

I like to go to places with special events - Easter Egg trails etc - but I don't want to pay twice as much to do the extra activity. In the main we tend to go somewhere I'd like to see, and it's a bonus if there is extra stuff laid on for DD. I tend to buy annual tickets for somewhere we like (we have Longleat passports ATM) so that we can go back again and again. Then you don't feel conned if you don't get to do everything, or get there a bit late.

I agree with the family ticket thing. More often than not it's either just me & DD, or the two of us with grandma, and sometimes me, DD, DH and grandma. Even places where the OAP & child price are exactly the same they will not let you have a 2+2 "family" ticket for 2 adults one child and an OAP. Why not? We are a family!

Also agree on the cafe issue. I don't want "freshly squeezed" anything for DD. She is 5, she just wants a small cup of squash/ juice/ milk. Same with the cakes - I really don't want to pay £2+ for an enormous piece of spongecake that she won't finish. A small iced bun would be plenty.

Evilwater Sun 20-Jan-13 11:16:37

I go to saltram. It's a really good place as its suitable for pushing the pram around, and to take the dog. The parking is good but we need more of them.
There is clean toilets, which is heaven as many other places to not have any, or are filthy.

I havnt been to the house for a very long time, but I hope to go when N is older.

Evilwater Sun 20-Jan-13 11:19:54

Could do with a brew, in winter.

LeeCoakley Sun 20-Jan-13 11:50:21

I agree with others about good toilets, free letting-off-steam places, and somewhere to sit with a decent cuppa while watching the children play in a secure area. Love huge sandpits and adventure playgrounds that are good for all ages and stimulate the imagination. Hate gift shops but accept they are a necessity.

I'm lucky enough to live near NT Hatfield Forest. You pay to park and then you are free to run, walk, climb until it's dark. There is a main car-park and ice-cream place near the lake but what makes it special for us is there is huge glades all over the forest where groups of families can park, spread out with picnics then have games of rounders, cricket etc without feeling crowded by others. The less commercialised the better for us and the perfect day when the children were smaller. I have fond memories of them learning to ride their bikes without stabilisers over there so perhaps I'm biased!

Startail Sun 20-Jan-13 13:11:42

Places that recognise that 14-16 and very soon 14-18 year olds are CHILDREN they are still at school.

IF you offer a child/family reduction they should still qualify for it.

OK if there is food involved or you are a theme park going on height, but otherwise they are no different to their 11 yo little sisters.

Yes a few have jobs, that money doesn't cover the huge hike in clothes and shoe prices and the odd cinema ticket.

I can't think of any parent who would say we're going to X beautiful house now give me your pocket money.

MrsKwazii Sun 20-Jan-13 16:48:39

The NT's Wimpole Hall is very good at being family friendly - mainly I think because it has a working farm so they are used to families and children of all ages visiting. When you go around the Hall, each room has little farm animal figures hidden under furniture and on shelves around the room, giving younger children something to search for while you have a good look around the room too and chat to the room guides.

They also have buckets on each table of the cafe filled with crayons, pencils and little farm animal figures to play with - a nice touch. Plus children's lunches and sandwiches at realistic prices and portions. They've put thought into it.

In general though, I agree with what lots of other posters have said - a welcoming attitude, reasonably priced cafes (with staff who will help you to your table if you have your hands full already) and clean, easily-accessible loos. Family toilets would be good, where you can take a toilet trained toddler but also take your pram in if you have a baby. Baby changing station should also have enough hooks on the walls for you to be able to hang handbag, changebag and any coats/snowsuits. I hate having to put them on the floor if you've not brought the pram in, hate it.

Also, if you can't take your buggy or pram in a house/cafe, a shelter where you can park them, with bike locks available, would also be good. I've had to leave a buggy out in the rain before which wasn't great, even with the raincover on. No other choice as the house was a fair walk from the carpark.

And if there are stretches of walking between each part of a site, like there are at Wimpole, it's great to have an estimated walking time sign on display as you can judge whether you need to take a buggy or your little one will be able to walk there and back. I rather <3 Wimpole Hall grin

TunipTheVegedude Sun 20-Jan-13 16:54:41

I agree with Sabriel. Good room stewards can make all the difference and lots of NT properties have excellent ones. When dd was small the 'different granny in every room' was a highlight for her.
The ones in Beatrix Potter's house are lovely (not surprisingly).

MrsKwazii Sun 20-Jan-13 16:56:06

Should also have said, on a day out, I'm looking for somewhere that offers a bit of something for everyone. And has enough places to drink tea. And a bit of space for the children to wear themselves out a bit so that they fall asleep in the car on the way home grin

JassyRadlett Sun 20-Jan-13 17:41:35

A thousand times yes to changing rooms accessible to both sexes. I remember a visit to Hampton Court Palace vividly. Worn out after a long walk round the grounds and I'd just finished feeding my 7-week old while everyone else enjoyed their afternoon tea. I nearly cried when DH came back from a recce to tell me that there were only changing facilities in the ladies'.

I'm still at the toddler stage so can't say about older kids. For mine, kid friendly food and lots of outdoor space is a must. Blickling Hall in Norfolk was fab - really helpful about where to leave the pushchair, how accessible various parts were, and the offer of a baby carrier. Really thoughtful approach, and brilliant, enthusiastic room stewards.

breward Sun 20-Jan-13 17:52:55

The room stewards make or break your day. Ones that engage with the children... "Come and have a look at this. What do you think it was used for?" Turn children into history lovers not Stately Home haters. A quiz or a treasure trail always goes down well. Treasure trails that combine a nature walk around the grounds would be one way to get the families out the house and into the fresh air with a purpose and not "Do we have to walk any further?"

I have found the adventure play areas at NT places great. An inside picnic area would be a real bonus.

I remember going to Arlington Court years ago. It had a beautiful roped off grand piano with some sheet music on top. The steward asked, as we walked into the room, "Does anyone play?" and actively encouraged pianists to have a play. It was wonderful, just like a personal concert and the piano players felt so privilaged to be allowed to play a beautiful instrument to a small audience.

I love the below the stairs tours. Audley End often have a cook and kitchen maid baking authentic recipes from the past. The children are encouraged to ask questions and try the cakes.

These are the days out that we all love and remember.

chocolatecheesecake Sun 20-Jan-13 18:36:28

Not much to add to previous posters except that it would be great if children's food could be served from 11am not midday as toddlers tend not to be able to wait. At one NT place it was guided tour only and the timing meant having lunch at 11.30 or 2pm - the latter wasn't an option but we couldnt even get a sandwich at 11.30.

Also to break down the kids lunch bags - my 3yo couldn't eat everything in the bag so it would be great to be able to buy just a sandwich and a fairy cake/yogurt not the whole thing.

makemineapinot Sun 20-Jan-13 22:06:24

A bit of common sense at times. I have single parent family membership which covers me and my 2 DCs and my parents have their membership. They took my 2 DCs to the Rabbie Burns museum (NT) and were told they would have to pay for my DCs despite having both membership cards with them - as I wasn't there they couldn't use the single parent family card which costs £56 a year!!! Wouldn't have thought that grandparents asking the grandchildren out for a day would be such a rare occurrence - as they were told! They refused to pay and went to Culzean (NT) where they were quite happy to let them in!!!

williaminajetfighter Sun 20-Jan-13 22:55:00

Fewer smuggles.

BoffinMum Sun 20-Jan-13 23:56:14

It would be great to see queues in cafes minimised. They can be a big problem for those of us with disabilities and/or young children.

BoffinMum Sun 20-Jan-13 23:58:49

Teens get massively bored at NT houses and complain quite rightly that nothing at all seems to be aimed at their age group, unlike e Tetons else. I think you need a youth panel to advise you.

BoffinMum Sun 20-Jan-13 23:59:34

Should have said 'unlike everyone else'

chimchar Mon 21-Jan-13 06:27:09

I totally agree with you boffin on the teen panel.

ShatnersBassoon Mon 21-Jan-13 12:26:15

Value for money is the most important thing for us, and I don't mean cheap/free days only as I'll happily spend a lot if it's a day out we will all enjoy. I hate coming home from an attraction wondering what I could have better spent the money on. Jorvik, I'm looking with slitty eyes in your direction...

Family days out for us are usually aimed at neither the children nor the adults, but we hope there'll be something for everyone. A 'don't touch' house is manageable if the children know they can go in a playground afterwards. I can handle a transport museum if I know there's a reasonable cafe I can escape to.

We very rarely visit the same stately home more than once, because nothing changes inside them, and the extras such as playgrounds tend to be so-so. Chatsworth is the exception to our rule, especially with the children's attractions in the farmyard and adventure playground which are really brilliant and good value for money.

gazzalw Mon 21-Jan-13 13:21:54

I was going to suggest that a rolling programme of activities themed to the time-of-the-year/any historical events related to the house/estate etc.... I generally think the NT does this very well but always worth flagging up. It's also a way of encouraging visitors to revisit somewhere they've been to before....

BeaWheesht Mon 21-Jan-13 13:22:41

I have a 6 year old and a 2 year old - we generally go for places that do reasonable annual membership, have places for picnics (preferably undercover), parking nearby and decent baby changing facilities. Home made food always a bonus I'm not precious about food but refuse to pay £6 for a saucer of chicken nuggets and reheated chips. Usually do take a picnic tbh but often go for a cake grin

Kids like touching and experiencing things - at zoos they like animal encounters but often these are out of our price range, museums with bits to lift etc and places like national museum of Scotland are brilliant at this - special rooms for kids plus bits all the way round.

whattodoo Mon 21-Jan-13 13:51:48

something interactive like a treasure trail or quiz.
Affordable snacks (including healthy children's meals) and plenty of picnic benches (including shaded ones).
Space in the gift shop to avoid children knocking anything over (those places terrify me!)
Pitched somewhere between adult and child, but suitable for both (IYSWIM).
lockers etc for when groups visit.
specialist talks to coincide with particular events/anniversaries (makes me re-visit a second time)

haggisaggis Mon 21-Jan-13 13:52:46

Just echoing everyone else - friendly guides please. We had a great tour of Glamis castle (not NT) where th guide was fantastic and included the kids - giving them clues to find the hidden objects. One guy on the tour had to go back to his car to switch teh lights off - noproblem for another guide to be contacted to escort him out and back. Contrast with Drum Castle - no bags of any srt allwoed (they provide you with a wee locker to leave them). Gudied tour - but noone allowed to leave once tour started - so if you need the loo, tough. Kids activity to find a little toy in every room - tour guide spent most of the time tutting if either child stepped within a foot of any precious object. When dd leant closer to look into a closed room to find the hidden toy the burgalr alarm went off - not her fault at all but guide very snippy (until she discovered alarm was faulty.) Woudl certainly not revisit.

MerryMarigold Mon 21-Jan-13 17:37:13

Knebworth is great. It has stuff for everyone.

I think a family day out has to have fun for everyone. Maybe National Trust could appeal to me in a few years but with kids under 7 I would avoid it like a barge pole! You need some stuff to 'warm it up' - activities, crafts, puppet shows, dance shows etc. like the museums do. The smaller London museums are very good at this stuff - Museum of London Docklands, Museum of Childhood and the Horniman are all great at feeling welcoming to kids. I think of National Trust places as really fuddy duddy!

MerryMarigold Mon 21-Jan-13 17:41:46

oops mixed metaphors. I would avoid it like the plague and not touch it with a bargepole!

Ihatecobwebs Mon 21-Jan-13 19:18:27

Free parking if we're paying for entry.
Decent loos, with cubicle large enough for me & DS and somewhere to hang my bag. Basin, taps etc that DS(5) can reach. Vv quiet handrier or handtowels, or at least a bin so I can throw wet tissue away.
Covered picnic area.
Cheap cup of tea I can drink in picnic area.
Water fountain/tap.
Cafe which will sell a cup of milk for DS without it being the biggest problem of the year involving 2 cashiers and a manager!
Small icecream for children, so it doesn't cost a fortune for some of it to be thrown away when he's full.
Child friendly activities, indoors and out, quiz, interactive, trail etc, with a clipboard for writing activities.
Outdoor adventure area, play area, adventure trail etc where DS can let off steam without disturbing people.
Flexible family pricing, for those of us with non-standard families.
Ability to leave without going through shop of expensive tat.
Warning beforehand, ie in carpark if rucksack/bag etc is not allowed, so I can sort it out before we go in.

DS & I loved Brownsea Island last summer. Child activities, places for us to sit, space, and a ferry ride.

We love places where the kids can learn something whilst they enjoy themselves, but they do tend to be expensive. Absolutely LOVE staying in YHAs as they are intrinsically child-friendly, usually wonderfully old mansions with a history, and the kids can muck in with the cooking in the big, shared kitchen. Then they have the chance to run wild in the fields outside and mix with other kids and usually come back inside for some family games before bedtime (pool, foozball, table tennis...). If I was very wealthy I would still choose to stay in a YHA on a bunk bed because the experience cannot be beaten. Ok, advert over ;o)

AChickenCalledKorma Mon 21-Jan-13 22:28:13

Nice, straightforward food - e.g. sandwiches/soup/cake/juice in flavours that a child will recognise and not regard as suspicious.

Somewhere to be active - which might be an outdoors space to run and climb freely, or might be something to engage the brain indoors.

The dressing up in some NT places is fabulous. My kids love doing the quizzes/treasure trails in NT houses and I love the fact that it slows them down long enough that I get the chance to find out something about the place as well.

Staff that don't patronise the children or assume that they will cause trouble simply because they are young. (In fact, may I take the opportunity to praise the elderly gentleman volunteer in our local NT house, who was playing the rather historic Steinway in the grand hall. DD1 went over to listen and was clearly paying close attention. When he got to the end of the piece, he asked if she played any instruments and, upon learning that she plays the piano, stood up and invited her to have a go. She's only grade 2 and it was a very valuable instrument ... and I was so pleased that he had the imagination to realise that it would be a lovely thing for her to do!)

Free parking

Picnic tables ( possibly undercover )

Nice cafe for coffee and cakes ( absolutely agree about no no no to the self service canteen )

Something to appeal to older children , young teens . Not everyone has a baby or toddler ( and they do grow up and not need warm bottles and soft play )

If a NT place with lovely garden , have plants with names on them so I can copy your planting scheme

harrietspy Tue 22-Jan-13 07:59:13

Rooms where the dc are encouraged to touch and explore.
Big outdoor spaces where it's ok for children to run. (Packwood House is one of our absolutely favourite places. I've never been without seeing children and adults playing huge games of hide and seek in the topiary. We haven't been in the house itself).
Dry places to eat packed lunches.
Accessible walking routes in gardens (or access to all-terrain wheelchairs!)
Quizzes that you don't have to pay extra for. (We were given our membership as a gift and can't afford extras).
Not having to exit through gift shop.
Access to water.

Ragwort Tue 22-Jan-13 08:19:33

I think the idea of a 'teen panel' is great, all the suggestions are fantastic for young children but our DS is 12 and trying to encourage him to come on 'family days out' is becoming a nightmare challenging. In fact the best thing DH & I do is go to NT/EH places midweek whenever we get the opportunity grin - uncrowded - great.

Things like geocaching/tracking/adventure trails/fire lighting grin might be an idea - or how about linking up with Scouting for some joint activities?

MaryBS Tue 22-Jan-13 09:58:52

Some sort of indication that they have awareness of special needs, particularly hidden disabilities such as autism.

Leo35 Tue 22-Jan-13 10:50:11

Picnic areas - under cover even better
A Junior trail around the historic house does make it a better experience for us all (DSs aged 3 and 7), sometimes curious omissions - why not one at Upton House (NT property) it's stuffed full of art so would lend itself to one easily
Child sized portion of adult meals at a cheaper price - we are finding that the lunchbox options often don't provide a big enough sandwich
If you are not doing so already then share best practice among the staff in your organisation: there are some fantastic projects/activities etc being done already. Hence my surprise at the Upton House art trail not being there! BTW the staff were lovely there.

mrs2cats Tue 22-Jan-13 11:02:06

Definitely plenty of free parking as most of these places aren't easily accessible via public transport.
Covered picnic area
Reasonably priced tea/coffee/soft drinks/ice cream.

My chn are now 12 and 10 but many of the trails are aimed at younger children. We need a sort of adventure trail for older ones.

Stewards that engage chn., show them things and let them touch

Hate being forced to leave places via the gift shop too. It's all very expensive and there's not much room. Talking about gift shops, it would be nice to have real pocket money toys i.e. around £1 that were nice and relevant to the place.

AChickenCalledKorma Tue 22-Jan-13 19:25:02

I agree with Ragwort that a partnership between the National Trust and Scouting would be a marriage made in heaven for children that are growing out of the "treasure hunt and craft activities" stage. The NT has the woods and wide open spaces ... the Scouts have a firm grip on the type of wholesome activities that get a 10-16 yo's blood racing (normally involving fire or sharp implements grin.)

BoffinMum Tue 22-Jan-13 19:46:06

Yes, fires and penknives and a bit of risk is what teens seem to love.

gazzalw Wed 23-Jan-13 07:57:58

Maybe there's a place for having teens as volunteer rangers or something? Something which will give them good skills, use some of their time usefully and give something back in the hope that it will also give them an allegiance for life with the National Trust?

MaryBS Wed 23-Jan-13 14:20:45

Love the idea of teens being volunteer rangers. My dd would love that!

AChickenCalledKorma Fri 25-Jan-13 19:12:32

So would mine!

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