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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.



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....

TheHappyCamper Sat 19-Jan-13 12:22:37

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...)

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