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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.



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

StarlightMcKenzie Sat 19-Jan-13 17:35:56

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 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.

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