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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.



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.

CorduroyAngel Mon 21-Jan-13 22:11:38

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!)

Doilooklikeatourist Tue 22-Jan-13 07:55:59

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.)

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