Bristol may not be the most famous city in the world, but it has a unique and offbeat charm that is hard to beat. If you’re visiting this family-friendly city, you’ll want to check out our list of 15 brilliant things to do in Bristol with kids for a fantastic day out!
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There’s no need to spend hundreds of pounds to have a good time in Bristol, as many of the most famous attractions are free to visit. This multicultural and creative city has all the characteristics to make it a family-friendly destination, so buckle up as we take you on a whistle-stop tour of some of the best things to do in Bristol for families.
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Things to Do in Bristol for a Fun Day Out
#1. We the Curious
We The Curious is a fantastic day out for all the family to enjoy in the heart of Bristol’s historic Harbourside area, where you can also discover Brunel’s SS Great Britain and a host of cafés, bars and restaurants.
The somewhat quirky named We the Curious (formerly At-Bristol Science Centre) is home to Bristol’s amazing interactive science museum. With over 300 exhibits, We The Curious is a must-see for all ages and takes you on an incredible journey exploring the inner workings of the world around us.
There’s a brilliant section featuring Aardman’s Gromit creations where you can become an animator for the day. Be awed by icy bodies and cosmic rays, walk through a tornado, create your own TV show, or cover yourself from head to toe in a giant bubble! The planetarium is the UK’s first 3D Planetarium, providing an even more stunning immersive experience with full-surround sound and awe-inspiring sights from around the universe!
Plus, there is always something new to discover with the ever-changing programme of special activities covering everything from anatomy and robots, to food and flight! Look out for their toddler takeover days which are completely geared to the under 4s too. There really is so much going on here and it’s somewhere kids will love.
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#2. SS Great Britain
Do not expect a standard look around an old ship here as you step on board the most extraordinary time-machine! Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the world’s first great ocean liner, is Bristol’s number one attraction and one of the UK’s top ten museums.
The SS Great Britain is interactive in every sense (including smell!) and a real treat to look around. Rescued from rust and wreckage in 1970, and lovingly restored since then to her Victorian hey-day, this ship offers a great insight in to what life on this liner would have been like as it crossed the oceans in centuries past.
It’s even possible to climb the masts (if you have a head for heights) for a really fun look down on the ship. Step ‘underwater’ for a unique and magnificent view of the ship below the beautiful glass sea; investigate the Riggers’ Yard and the Great Western Dockyard; test your skills with interactive displays and choose from a selection of fascinating audio companions. With storytelling and games for children to in-depth historical research in Brunel’s Institute, there is something for everybody at Brunel’s SS Great Britain.
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#3. Bristol Zoo
A visit to the world’s oldest provincial zoo at Bristol Zoo Gardens is an adventure into an exciting animal kingdom, all set within 12 acres of beautiful gardens. Visitors will come face to face with over 400 species of exotic, endangered and adorable animals from the four corners of the globe.
Laugh at the antics of the family of gorillas, stroll through the tropical Butterfly Forest or become immersed in the impressive Seal and Penguin Coast. Some other Zoo favourites include Monkey Jungle, Reptile house, Asiatic lions, Bug World, Twilight World, and the Aquarium.
Don’t forget to visit Explorers’ Creek which has three exciting areas. The first is ‘Splash’, a water-play area with streams, dams and the chance to get your toes wet. Next, follow in the footsteps of jungle explorers as you enter ‘Forest of Birds’, before feeding nectar to colourful parrots at the ‘Feed the Lorikeets’ exhibit (small charge applies for nectar).
More adventurous visitors can have a go on the aerial ropes course, ZooRopia, and swing alongside some of the Zoo’s most popular animals – gibbons and gorillas – before flying down the zip wire. If that’s not enough, why not take in one of the daily animal shows, join an expert talk, or pit yourself against the best of the animal world with the popular Zoolympics trail?
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#4. Bristol Museum
Bristol Museum at the top of Park Street is a wonderful place to take children of all ages. There are lots of brilliant hands-on areas for you to discover together. Explore the family-friendly activity areas, including the new under 7s play area, Curiosity.
Journey around the museum with one of their colourful trails, or get arty at one of their hands-on activity days. There are so many exhibits to feast your eyes on, from those on Egyptology to creatures of the past that lived near Bristol. In the dinosaur galleries, meet the Bristol dinosaur and some of his friends, including the best-preserved dinosaurs ever found in Britain, the Scelidosaurus. The museum’s wildlife galleries allow you to take a trip through the animal kingdom and see rare, endangered and extinct wildlife from the UK and around the globe.
They have regular special exhibitions and events, such as a brilliant Chinese New Year celebration. This is a free to enter museum with plenty on offer for all ages.
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The MShed, on Bristol’s historic wharf, is another great family-friendly museum in Bristol and tells the story of the city through the ages. The 1950s transit shed, originally called MShed, has been transformed into a museum and is free to the public.
Thought-provoking and fun, MShed challenges the perceptions of what it has meant to live here over the centuries through the recollections of the people who shaped the city.
You can explore the city’s extensive history, heritage and war-time experiences, uncover Bristol’s trading past and its role in the transatlantic slave trade, as well as discover what everything from music and art to technology and industry that Bristol has become famous for.
The diversity of what’s on offer makes this a great place to visit, and you won’t want to miss the interesting and interactive exhibits – particularly the air raid shelter which starts telling you stories of real people during the war as you stand inside it. There are also working exhibits on the harbourside, including steamboats, trains and even talking cranes!
#6. Clifton Suspension Bridge, Observatory & Cave
Clifton Suspension Bridge is a feat of engineering and just beautiful to look at and walk across. Opened in 1864, it is based on a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and is seen as a symbol of the city.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge has a visitor centre by the Leigh Woods toll booth, with lots of information about the history of the Bridge, including how it was built and how it is looked after today. You can also buy activity packs, books, postcards and souvenirs. In the summer at weekends there are free guided tours.
For the best views of the bridge, climb to the Clifton observatory where you can stop for a drink at the top and gaze down on this incredible structure.
The Clifton Observatory stands in front of the bridge (and is a fabulous backdrop for a memorable family photo!). Inside the building there is a Camera Obscura within the tower, one of the last fully original operational models in Britain! Don’t forget to stand on the viewing platform offering stunning views of the bridge, the city and the river Avon.
Adventurers will love the underground feature aptly named the Giant’s Cave. The cave itself is a whopping 100 feet underground, while the tunnel leading to it is 61 metres long and took two years to build! It’s important to note that under 4s will not be permitted to explore the caves, and there may also be an accessibility issue for some as there are 136 steps leading to the cave.
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#7. The Matthew
Climb on board one of the stars of the Bristol area – The Matthew, a replica of a boat which made one of the first trips across the Atlantic to North America in 1497. Sailed by John Cabot and his 18 crew, the boat reached Newfoundland in May that year and successfully returned just four months later.
Stepping onto the replica of The Matthew is wonderfully atmospheric. While you know that this boat is less than twenty years old, you can’t help but be swept along with the hints of what life must have been like on board 500 years ago.
You can have a look over the ship for free when it is tied up outside the MShed (although donations are welcome) or you can take a short sailing trip. The trip around the harbour takes about an hour and during this time you are free to explore above decks. There is no formal presentation or talks from the ship’s crew, but they are on hand to explain more about the boat and the trip that Cabot would have taken, and really bring alive the history of this time of discovery.
#8. The Wild Place Project
Run in association with Bristol Zoo, the Wild Place Project is out of the city and you need a car to get there. Wild Place Project is a fun, family attraction that provides adventure, play and learning with an emphasis on protecting habitats on our doorsteps and around the globe.
It’s a wonderful place to explore, full of animals and fun play areas. The animals are organised according to where in the world they originate. Visitors can discover Madagascar, which is home to several mischievous lemurs; the Edge of Africa, with zebras and eland roaming in the grassland; see okapi and cheeky red river hogs in the Secret Congo; and then pay a visit to the striking grey wolves of Europe.
Families can also take their shoes and socks off and enjoy an array of textures on the Barefoot Trail, climb up the scramble net and slide down the fireman’s pole in the Fun Fort, relax in the Tower Meadow, puzzle over the maize maze, or take a stroll in the protected ancient woodland.
For the ultimate adrenaline adventure, don’t forget the Leap of Faith! Test the nerves of all the family by taking on seven different, exhilarating challenges from the ‘3G Power Swing’ and climbing wall to the Leap of Faith jump…if you’re brave enough!
#9. Blaise Castle
Slightly out of the main city centre, Blaise Castle is a wonderful Estate to visit with kids. Featuring a 19th century mansion, you can enjoy 400 acres of parkland, as well as a vast social history collection. Discover everyday objects from centuries past, including Victorian toilets and baths, kitchen and laundry equipment, model trains, dolls, toys and period costumes in the museum.
The folly castle, as featured in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, is opened by volunteers on some summer Sundays. Just look out for the flag flying on top of the castle and enjoy panoramic views of the area from the castle roof. Not only can you often go in to the property for a look around, which is free of charge, but there are also the grounds to explore. Best of all are the playgrounds outside with zip wires and climbing frames galore. It’s the perfect place to blow off some steam while you relax in the café.
#10. Bristol Aquarium
Bristol Aquarium in Bristol’s historic Harbourside area takes you and your family on a spectacular undersea safari. It’s not the largest of aquariums, but it is a great place to spend an hour or two down by the harbour front.
Embark on a fascinating journey from the British coast through warmer waters to exotic tropical seas. Highlights include a life-size recreation of a sunken ship, a Bristol harbour scene, a walk-in seahorse display and a wooden footbridge. From the hidden world of UK waters, take a trip to the underwater gardens of the Mediterranean and the stunning beauty of tropical waters, which are home to everything from fox faced rabbitfish and puffer fish to living corals and clownfish!
The centrepiece of the aquarium is the coral seas display, where visitors can enjoy the closest of undersea encounters in an underwater walk-through tunnel through the reef, from inside a glass cavern and via bubble window viewing points.
#11. Aerospace Bristol
There’s loads to discover at Aerospace Bristol, starting from the earliest days of powered flight, through to today’s cutting-edge aerospace technology. Aviation enthusiasts will be thrilled by extensive collections of aeroplanes, helicopters, missiles, satellites, engines, and plenty of interactive exhibitions for all ages.
Aerospace Bristol tells the amazing story of Bristol’s world-class aerospace industry and gives you and your family the chance to step aboard a British icon, Concorde Alpha Foxtrot. Designed, built and tested in Bristol, she was the final Concorde to be built and the last to fly. Your journey will even look into the exciting future and discovering how the next generation of engineers are pushing aerospace technology to new heights and reaching for the stars.
#12. Cabot Tower Codebreaking Walk
Explore Bristol on a fun, puzzle-solving adventure with the Tramble App’s Cabot Tower Codebreaking Walk. Climb to the top of the famous Cabot Tower for amazing views of the city, and search for some of Bristol’s finest street art – including a Banksy piece. You’ll have to gather the family and put your heads together to find clues and answer questions, in order to complete the trail.
The game is easy to play – just download the Tramble App on your smartphone and get going! Fancy a challenge? Answer all 10 questions as fast as you can and earn your spot on the Tramble leaderboard. If you would rather take it slow, you can make it into a proper family day out. Why not make a stop at the Aquarium or enjoy a relaxing picnic in College Green by the Bristol Cathedral?
Bring out your inner sleuth and learn fascinating facts about Bristol – it’s a firm family favourite!
#13. Pirate Pete’s Walking Tour
Arrrrh me hearties! Shiver your timbers with a pleasant walk around the quays, discovering Bristol’s turbulent history at the harborside haunts of the pirates and swashbucklers of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Pirate Pete’s Walking Tour is fun, interesting and educational – dressing up is encouraged and you will need a camera to capture the pirate fun! The walk is on the flat and has wheelchair and buggy access.
Tours start at 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year (depending on weather conditions).
#14. Immotion VR
If you are looking for something for older children (9+) on a rainy day, why not journey to infinity and beyond at ImmotionVR Bristol? An experience for tech loving teens and tweens, where Jurassic worlds and outer space are theirs to explore – with a helping hand from some rather nifty technology.
Virtual Reality (VR) means that you can bend your reality into all sorts of crazy shapes within a digitally created world. State-of-the-art equipment follows your movements and translates them into your field of vision, while whichever tale you choose appears in front of your very eyes. There are a variety of immersive worlds to dip into, including a dino-sized adventure where you can explore an ancient landscape where full-size, prehistoric monsters are free to roam!
#15. Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf
The Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf comprises two full 18-hole courses for swingtastic fun for all the family. Each course features an exciting array of adventurous holes, including the live volcano cave, spooky temple ruins and a secret swamp. The jungle setting is complete with tropical plants, rocky obstacles, tribal huts and other wonderfully detailed Aztec surroundings. There are sound and light effects occurring throughout too, helping turn a simple game into a proper adventurer’s treat!
Attempt the full 36 holes if you’re up for an epic level family tournament! As an added bonus, and a chance to redeem yourself if you have lost at golf, you can challenge the kids to the Monkey Wall and experience the new indoor climbing experience as part of a fantastic day out too!
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What are your favourite things to do in Bristol as a family? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!