Are you looking for the best family-friendly summer events taking place this year? With summer nearly upon us and the sun finally peeking out from behind the clouds, our thoughts are turning to the most exciting things to do in the UK over the coming months. While activities for children don’t always translate to fun for the adults, we’ve tracked down the best events to keep the whole family entertained this year, from family festivals to feasts and days out everyone will love.
Here’s our round-up of 21 family-friendly summer events and activities taking place this summer across the UK. Start booking tickets soon though; most of these are so sizzling hot that they are likely to sell-out quickly.
1) Relaunch of Dreamland – Margate KENT
WHEN: From 26th May
WHAT: Retro pleasure dome Dreamland in Margate reopens for the summer with a fresh new look. Expect more vintage rides, art installations, a street food area, pop-up entertainment and a large outdoor stage for live music presented in an updated design that’s bound to be Instagram heaven.
There’s also an all-new area for the little ones, Teddy and Betty Land. The park mascots now have pride of place in their very own area, a specially designated space for young children, complete with live entertainment, rides and the Dreamland Ark – where they can meet racoons, reptiles and more.
COST: Free to enter, wristbands can be purchased to go on rides
2) Funk the Family – Hove Park, Brighton and Hove EAST SUSSEX
WHEN: 18th June
WHAT: Funk the Family is a music and creativity event that takes place in Brighton, meaning your family can kick-off the summer in spectacular style by the seaside. As well as a diverse musical line-up, there’s a wide range of fun, free, family-friendly activities. A one-day event, it’s a perfect festival for those who want to go home to their own beds.
COST: Tickets from £10 for children (babies are free).
3) Alice in Wonderland Day – Oxford City Centre, OXFORDSHIRE
When: 1st July
WHAT: Alice’s Day is an annual celebration of the publication of Lewis Carrol’s much-loved classic, Alice in Wonderland. Alice-themed events inspired by the story will be taking place, including tea-parties, croquet, storytelling and workshops. Venues all across the city of Oxford will attempt to bring the book to life and encourage people of all ages to step into Wonderland.
4) Boogie Monsters Big Bash – Maidstone, KENT
WHEN: 8th July
WHAT: Boogie Monsters, the UK’s award-winning, live, rock and pop band for kids, will be rocking out Hazlitt theatre for not one, but two parties in one day with an acoustic performance of chart hits, action songs and nursery rhymes that will have all members of the family dancing. With bubble blasts, crazy confetti, family photo booth and much more. This is the family party to be seen at.
COST: Tickets are from £11.50
5) Big Fish Little Fish outdoor woodland rave – Groombridge Place near Tunbridge Wells KENT
WHEN: 8th July
WHAT: If you’ve not yet been to a Big Fish Little Fish event then make sure you get on down this summer. Billed as *the* event for 2-4 hour party people, BFLF parties combine old-school rave music and dancing with the freedom and excitement of a mini-festival, with crafting, activities and glitter galore.
Events take place throughout the year in quirky and interesting venues, but over the summer there’s an outdoor woodland rave at Groombridge Place near Tunbridge Wells on 8th July. Watch out for the Big Fish Little Fish crew over the next few months as they will be popping up at everywhere from the family area of LGBT Pride to Citadel Festival as well as Glastonbury and Camp Bestival.
COST: Tickets cost £7 for children and £10 for adults
6) Family area at LGBT Pride – Golden Square, LONDON
WHEN: 8th July
WHAT: 40,000 people joined the Pride in London parade last year and over a million people took to the streets in a joyful celebration to make their voices heard. If you’re celebrating as a family, there’s a quieter creative space in Soho’s Golden Square. Expect singing, dancing and storytelling and a special family dance spectacular from Big Fish Little Fish (see above)
7) Henley Festival’s Family Sunday – Henley-on-Thames, OXFORDSHIRE
WHEN: 9th July
WHAT: A vast array of performers, entertainers, musicians, comedians and storytellers will be at Henley Festival’s Family Sunday this year, with performances, workshops, immersive storytelling and quizzes by the riverside. Children will be able to learn choreography from Matthew Bourne’s ballets, play over 100 African drums and even help a musical superhero save the day.
There is also a special pub quiz for kids hosted by stand-up comedian Patrick Monahan and Baby Loves Disco, the family dance party, will be hosting an event.
COST: From £5 for under 16s, and under 3s are free
8) Ascot Family Race Day – Ascot, BERKSHIRE
WHEN: 15th July
WHAT: Ascot’s Summer Mile Race Day is a great opportunity for families to enjoy a relaxed, summer day out at the races. Everyone can watch the horses, picnic on the field and parents can pay a visit to the Champagne bars.
For children there’s a teddy bears picnic where young racegoers can meet furry friends such as Paddington Bear, Cheer Bear and Scott the Ascot Bear. There is also story time, magicians, balloon modelling, face painting, jugglers, soft play and free fairground rides.
COST: Children are free. Adult tickets start from £24 in advance
9) Vintage on the Dock – Albert Docks, Liverpool MERSEYSIDE
WHEN: 9th – 10th July
WHAT: Vintage on the Dock is a weekend that celebrates all that’s cool about 20th Century vintage. Originally developed in 2010 by Wayne Hemingway, the event reunites music and fashion in a family-friendly way that looks and feels fantastic.
Visitors can browse the vintage marketplace, with everything from vintage clothes and accessories to homewares, watch pop up performances or dance along with the professionals to moves from times gone by including the Charleston. Vintage DJs will keep crowds on their feet all day.
10) Citadel Festival -Victoria Park, Hackney, LONDON
WHEN: 16th July
WHAT: Billed as the ‘ultimate summer Sunday’, the Citadel Festival is the newer kid on the London music festival block – but one that welcomes families, too. As well as family yoga sessions there’s also the yellow Hackney play bus and a family rave thanks to Big Fish Little Fish. Dalston’s Arcola Theatre will host sports and games activities for children (and parents) including space hopper races, sack races, skipping races, pogo stick races and there’s even a swing ball tournament.
COST: 0-5s are free, £5 for a junior ticket, £55 for adults
11) The Wiggles Big Show – various locations across the UK
WHEN: 26th July – 6th August
WHAT: Did you know The Wiggles have been entertaining children across the world for over 26 years and that their most recent album entered the Australian charts above Ed Sheeran and Adele? This summer, children – and parents – across the UK are in for a treat with the first tour in five years, with dance, songs and some familiar wiggly friends. Led by founder Anthony Field (blue Wiggle), the group now contains the first ever female Wiggle, Emma, who was a big Wiggles fan growing up.
COST: Check local booking sites for details
12) Camp Bestival – Lulworth Castle, DORSET
When: 27th – 30th July
WHAT: Now entering its 10th year, Camp Bestival is considered by many as the jewel in the crown of family-friendly summer festivals. With good reason – as well as a huge range of child-friendly activities, the festival is fantastic for mum and dads, too; this year’s sparkling musical line-up includes Madness, Mark Ronson and Leftfield.
If pitching a tent isn’t your thing then there is a vast array of camping options from yurts to pods and even Hotel Belltent, a range of luxury tents that come with beds, bedding and even a pamper tent for hair washing.
This year there’s a rock and pop star theme, so make sure you take fancy dress for the whole family and as much glitter as you can carry. Book quickly though, as it’s likely to be a sell-out.
COST: Adult weekend ticket, £197.50 with children’s tickets ranging from £125 to £15 depending on age. Babies are free.
13) Upfest – Bedminster and Southville, B3 area, BRISTOL
WHEN: 29th – 31st July
WHAT: Upfest is Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival, attracting over 35,000 visitors to watch over 300 artists paint 35 venues throughout Bedminster & Southville, Bristol. Artists travel from all over the world to paint live on 30,000 sq ft of surfaces around the city.
Families should head to the Nacoa Children’s art area at South Street Park where kids can take part in everything from badge making and biscuit decorating to creating giant paintings, as well as a graffiti academy. There’s also an affordable art sale, music stages and art workshops.
14) Bristol International Balloon Fiesta – Ashton Court Estate, BRISTOL
WHEN: 10th – 13th August
WHAT: Did you know the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is Europe’s largest annual meeting of hot air balloons, with over 150 hot air balloons from across the globe?
The Fiesta is held over four days in August and alongside the huge visual spectacle of the hot air balloons there are food stands, fairground rides and entertainment. Top tip: let the children stay up late on the evenings of 10th and 12th August when the Nightglows take place after dark, with illuminated balloons and fireworks.
15) The Just-So Festival – Rode Hall Estate, CHESHIRE
WHEN: 18th – 20th August
WHAT: The Just So Festival is a camping festival for families with music and literature at its heart, held in a magical forest setting with a different creative theme in each clearing. Now in its 8th year, Just So combines literature, arts, theatre, dance, music, comedy and creative activities in a weekend-long festival that is underpinned by the Tribal Tournament, an event people of all ages can get involved in. New for 2017 is the Weleda Peekaboo Garden, an outdoor sensory and entertainment hub designed specifically for under 4s.
COST: Adult tickets cost £140 and children’s tickets cost £50
16) The Big Festival – Alex James’ Farm, THE COTSWOLDS
WHEN: 25th – 27th August
WHAT: One for all the food-loving families, the Big Feastival takes place at the former Blur bassist’s farm In The Cotswolds. It’s not just about fun and indulgence; you can watch cookery demos and even take a class from some of the country’s top chefs including Rick Stein, Gizzi Erkstein and Candace from GBBO 2017. Children can get involved too, by taking classes at the Little Kitchen, where they learn to cook with fresh produce they’ve picked beforehand from the festival garden. Music isn’t an afterthought, either, with sets this year from Madness, Olly Murs and The Cribs. But we’ll definitely be making a beeline for the dedicated cheese and cocktail bar.
COST: Adult tickets are £189 and tickets for children start at £47. Day tickets are free for under 12s
17) Family Day at the Notting Hill Carnival – Notting Hill, LONDON
WHEN: 27th August
WHAT: The Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s biggest street festival, a vibrant and colourful celebration taking place around the streets of west London. Sunday is the family day of the famous carnival, where you can expect a more relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere. There’s steel bands, soundstages and a lot of food. Dress up and head on down; we dare you not to dance along.
18) Gir Lion Lodge, ZSL London Zoo -Camden, LONDON
WHEN: Various dates available until December, booking required
WHAT: Did you know you can sleepover at London Zoo this summer? The Gir Lion Lodges are hidden away in London Zoo’s Land of the Lions development, a mere Lion’s whisker from the animals themselves. Guests can stay overnight in individually decorated lodges inspired by local hotels in the lion’s native Gir Forest home in India. A night’s stay also includes exclusive after-hours tours of the Zoo, as well as dinner and breakfast.
COST: From £488 per lodge per night (based on two adults and one child sharing)
19) Southbank Centre’s Summertime – The Southbank, LONDON
WHEN: Taking place across the summerSummertime at London’s Southbank Centre is set to be spectacular again this season, with a varied programme of events, many of which are free to enjoy.
WHAT: Learn Swedish songs and listen to live music from bands and DJs beside the Thames. There’s a large-scale wooden sculpture Gnome King, which visitors are invited to view inside a shed-like hideaway. You can also watch The Wind and the Sun, an exciting and two person outdoor circus theatre show.
As well as a programme of music and dance events, families will once again be transported to more exotic climes with Southbank Centre Beach. Fingers crossed for good weather to enjoy it.
COST: Most activities are free, check the website for ticketed events
20) Harry Potter walking tour – starts at M&M World Leicester Square, LONDON
WHEN: Daily, starting at 15.30
WHAT: Calling all Harry Potter fans (and their children). Did you know London is packed with Potter-related attractions, from the Ministry of Magic to The Leaky Cauldron via Knockturn Alley? You may have walked past them without even realising it.
Adults and children can join this free Harry Potter walking tour to see some of the most iconic buildings, streets and neighbourhoods which inspired author JK Rowling and appeared in the Harry Potter series of films.
21) Urban beaches, various locations around the UK
WHEN: Taking place across the summer
WHAT: If you’re spending a summer in the city, never fear – you and your children can still experience the blissful feeling of sand between your toes. Urban beaches (where the beach experience is recreated in the city) are popping up across the UK this summer, everywhere from Cardiff Bay, Nottingham and Guilford (as well as Camden, the Southbank and the Olympic Park in London). Bring your buckets and spades along on the bus.
For more information: Check local listings