Well the Big Sheep is just a few miles outside Bideford - has a website. Ideal for your age dc.
There's a Morrisons in Bideford itself, which is where I shop, so has everything you need food-wise.
Just on outskirts of Bideford is Atlantic Village, outlet stores. OK for a bit of a browse but not marvellous. Another play area here too.
Barnstaple is about 20 minutes away, better for shopping and a few nice restaurants.
Bideford isn't fab for shopping itself, a few little boutique-y type shops but has been hit quite hard by credit crunch.
Westward Ho! (about 5-10 mins from Bideford) is typical tacky seaside town - lots of fish & chip & tat shops. But the beach is fab. FOr a quieter time, go down to the other end - Northam Burrows. Plenty of rock-pooling, sandcastle building and body-board/surfing opportunites.
I used to live in North Devon. Bideford to be honest isn't much of a town, however you are well placed to go to lots of pretty areas.
Milky Way is a small theme park which is really good, plus the Big Sheep is a good laugh. Both of those are about a 10 minute drive.
You are not a million miles away from Bude, which is a nice beach. Avoid Westward Ho like the plague. You are not too far from Woolacombe, Saunton (which is the other end of the beach from Westward Ho and a thousand times nicer) and Croyde which are the best beaches in Devon - it shoukd take about 45mins to get to those.
There is another cracking theme park in Kilkhampton (about 15 mins from Bideford) but I can't remember for the life of me what it's called. Oh, when I say theme park I mean Devon theme parks so they are small, family run and actually really nice for little kids.
Barnstaple is the best town for shopping, but that's not saying much. But there is a cinema, ten pin bowling, soft play etc for when if it rains.
Oh and also Combe Martin Wildlife Park and Exmoor Zoolofical gardens are excellent - a bit of a trek from Bideford but very nice.
And if you like riding bikes there is the Tarka Trail cycle way, it's flat and you can hire bikes with kids seats/trailers from Bideford town centre - google Bideford Cycle Hire. It's a lovely bike ride (and I say that as someone who hates riding bikes in general).
We stayed in Combe Martin last year and I echo everyone else, The Big Sheep is fab! We used our Tesco Clubcard vouchers which made it super cheap, Croyde is a fab beach, The Coombe Martin Dinosaur Park is still mentioned by our boys, they loved it. We had a wonderful holiday in North Devon, really fab, hope you do too!
we went to Devon last April (it was freezing) and also enjoyed the Big Sheep. We really liked the beach and cliffs at Bude too. And we did a couple of bits of the bike trail. From a nice old station pub near the RHS Rosemoor gardens up to Bideford and back. Rosemoor gardens were nice too- we're RHS members so they were free.
I am hopeing not to go to near any cliffs, i went on holiday with my parents when i was 5 and wandered off on the cliffs the police/air rescue/coast guard were out in force to find me and my mum had to be sedated as she was a bit hysterical when the policeman told her ot to panic but they were going to take a look OVER the Cliff. It turns out i had gone back to the car and was asleep next to it when they found me.
Anyway i will check out the Big Sheep place, and the boys really want to visit the Dinosaur place so will have to go there even if its a bit of a way.
I don't do beaches - i am allergic to sand! Im not to interested in shopping only for food and a few souveneres (sp?) for the boys. We usually go to Cornwall to Looe but thought we would have a chang this year.