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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

3birthdaybunnies Fri 18-Jan-13 16:15:45

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.

JammySplodger Fri 18-Jan-13 16:57:43

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

OldBagWantsNewBag Fri 18-Jan-13 17:43:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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)

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