Family-friendly festivals in Bristol: what’s on in 2023?

The best kind of festival with kids for me, isn’t too big, is fairly local, has tons of activities for youngsters during the day and plenty of good vibes. And the good news is, there are tons of festivals in Bristol, and festivals near Bristol that have exactly that.

If you’re hoping for some family festival action this year, take a gander at the Bristol summer events calendar and there’s pretty much a festival for everything. Music festivals, balloons, food, chocolate, film – you name it! As an added bonus, many of Bristol’s, and the festivals nearby, are kid friendly festivals, often free, and take place all year round – not just in summer.

So prepare to dust off your dancing shoes, deck yourself out in neon and shimmy your cares away (with one eye on the children, of course), with my round up of the best Bristol family festivals 2023.

Family Festivals Bristol 2023

Family festivals in Bristol

February family friendly festivals 2023

Bristol Light Festival

  • When? 3-12 February

Sick of the dark wintry nights? Head into the city centre! For 10 days in February, Bristol will be illuminated by vibrant and playful light installations created by renowned artists from across the UK and beyond.

The Light Festival will take visitors along several different routes from Cabot Circus to Park Street, showcasing different installations along the way and Bristol at its best. 

Slapstick Festival 2023, Bristol

  • When? 14-19 February

Celebrating silent and classic screen comedy, Slapstick 2023 launches with a family-friendly screening of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The former Bristol Imax Cinema, Bristol Aquarium (14 February, 2pm). Watch the movie, then take a look at their copy GEN11 – the most expensive stage prop ever used.

The original Mary Poppins follows on 15 February (10.30am) in the same venue.

>>More things to do this February half term in Bristol 2023<<

GLOW Festival 2023, Weston-super-Mare

  • When? 15-18 February

GLOW (Glorious Lights of Weston) Festival will light up the town with a dazzling array of illuminated artworks, stunning light displays, interactive activities and sensory experiences from nationally-acclaimed spectacles, new showcase commissions and local creative talent.

The festival will take place over four evenings in Grove Park and additional town centre locations.

April festivals for families

Lyra Festival 2023

  • When? 21-30 April

The hybrid Bristol literary festival will feature a range of in-person and online events including family activities, readings, performances, workshops, panel discussions, a lecture, a walking tour, an open mic, poetry slams and a film screening. 

May festivals 2023 Bristol

Bristol Walk Fest 2023

  • When? 1-31 May

As we discovered in lockdown, there is so much to discover in our local area than we ever appreciated, and I guarantee there is still more to discover on foot in Bristol! For this month-long festival of walking, Bristol Walk Fest will include tours, talks, workshops, family events and taster sessions around themes of art, education, food, sport, history, architecture, wildlife and nature, or anything else a walk could cover! 

Watch this space for news of the 2023 event which promises to be even bigger and better

Ashton Court Estate walk
Ashton Court Estate

Foodies Festival Bristol 2023, The Downs

  • When? 12-14 May

Watch Great British Bake Off Winners, MasterChef Champions and top local chefs baking live and sharing top culinary tips.

Feast in the Street Food Avenue, learn how to make show-stopping cakes at the Cake and Bake Theatre, buy goodies from local artisan producers and get the children involved with this fun festival at the Kids Cookery School Theatre.

There’s also a fairground, live music stage and family-friendly areas with activities for children.

Weekends of Wonder! Bristol

  • When? 13 & 14 / 20 & 21 / 27 & 28 May, 3 & 4 June

The Invisible Circus will be bringing the WOW! factor to Broadmead with an outdoor street performance festival spanning four weekends this May and June – the first of its kind in the city.

WOW! Bristol street theatre and circus festival will feature local, international artists and veteran performers alongside cutting edge new talent to create vibrant, theatrical ‘Covent Garden style’ performances in circle shows and interactive walkabout acts.

Acts will begin to be announced in March, with the full programme being released in April.

Street performer Merlin at Wow Plymouth
Street performer Merlin at Wow Plymouth

June festivals for kids Bristol 2023

Bristol Festival of Nature 2023

  • When? 9-18 June

Bristol Nature Festival, the UK’s largest free festival celebrating the natural world is marking its 20th anniversary in 2023!

It’s a crucial year for taking action for the natural world and the team are planning the biggest nature events in Bristol this summer the festival has ever seen.

Expect a mix of wildlife workshops, walks talks digital, hybrid, and in-person activities across the city.

Upfest Bristol

  • *Upfest 2023 dates – UPFEST WILL NOT BE TAKING PLACE IN 2023*

Europe’s largest street art festival, Upfest, will move to a biannual model, taking a break in 2023, following the rise in infrastructure costs. Upfest organisers are planning ahead for another stellar line-up of artists in 2024.

South Bristol will miss having its streets painted with vibrant new imagery and colossal murals, but we’re looking forward to Upfest 2024!

Upfest festival in Bristol
Image source – Upfest

Volksfest Bristol 2023 (9-11 June)

If you’re lucky enough to be the owner of a VDubya, or are just a serious fan, this action-packed summer festival and camping weekend celebrates all things VW! 

As well as petrol and diesel powered rides, traders, VW parts and conversion specialists the VW Fest Bristol will feature some amazing live music, Dj’s, entertainers, workshops and a kids area, with festivities culminating in the Show & Shine event.

Keep an eye on their website for the Bristol Volksfest 2023 lineup.

Weston Air Festival 

Sadly the Weston super Mare festival of air will not be taking place in 2023 due to rising costs.

July child friendly festivals

Bristol Pride 2023 (26 June-9 July) 

One of the most colourful, fabulous festivals around Bristol, Pride’s fortnight-long celebration features fun events such as theatre shows, comedy performances and the Queer Vision Film Festival.

The festivities culminate in a rainbow-coloured Pride march through Bristol, followed by live music, Big Top, Youth Area, Family Zone and Community Area on The Downs on Pride Day (8 July). Watch this space for news on the Bristol Pride line-up 2023.

Unicornfest (until 3 Sept)

Bristol’s had gorillas and Gromits, but this summer a giant herd of unicorns (or ‘blessing’ as they’re known) will descend upon the streets of the city. Join the colourful arts trail of decorated mythical unicorns with Unicornfest 2023 in celebration of Bristol’s 650th anniversary. How many can you find?

Unicornfest Bristol
Unicornfest Bristol

St Pauls Carnival Bristol 2023 

  • When? Fringe events from 22 June – Carnival Day on 1 July.

St Pauls Carnival is a vibrant, eye-popping celebration of diversity and Afro-Caribbean culture and heritage featuring a procession, sound systems, costumes, food, musicians, dancers and more. After a three year hiatus caused by the pandemic, Carnival will finally return to its full flamboyant self, with a series of fringe events kicking off on the 22 June, until Carnival Day on 1 July.

This year’s theme will be ‘Learning from Legends’ – honouring legends from the past, present and future.

2023 will be particularly poignant as it marks 60 years since the Bristol Bus Boycott, and the 75th anniversary of HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain. The programme of fringe events will be celebrating Windrush 75 and the Elders who have paved the way.

Bath Carnival 2023 (8 July)

If you’re looking for free family festivals in the area, head over to Bath to celebrate carnival culture with this vibrant street procession of fabulous costumes, dynamic dance moves and live music.

A really easy and informal way for families to take part in the carnival procession is to register with their Buggy Bloc. So get into the spirit by dressing up as your favourite mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, or amphibians!

Starting at The Bath Recreation Ground, the carnival will make its way through the city, ending in Sydney Gardens with live bands, DJs, food and drink stalls, drumming and dance workshops, a super pirates kids’ zone and lots more! The theme is Mother Earth – Natural Habitats.

Bath Carnival 2022

Bristol Harbour Festival 2023

  • Bristol Harbour Festival 2023 dates: 15-16 July

For a free, family friendly live music, dance, and arts extravaganza, check out the Bristol Harbour Festival programme. Packed with live music performances, comedy, aerial acts, circus performers, markets and maritime fun, it’s one of the best summer festivals in Bristol.

The festival stretches all the way along the Harbourside, from Underfall Yard to Cascade Steps to Thekla and Queen Square.

You’ll find the Children’s Area in Queen Square, where world-famous Bristol circus company Cirque Bijou present the Circus Playground, with a family friendly programme of circus, street theatre, comedy, walkabout and things to play, make and do.

Click here to see the Bristol Harbour Festival line up 2023 at the Amphitheatre.

Bristol Harbourside
Bristol Harbourside
Bristol Harbour - Underfall Yard
Bristol Harbour, Underfall Yard

Fantasy Forest Festival 2023, Sudeley Castle

  • When? 14-16 July

The fairytale-esque Sudeley Castle near Cheltenham (just over an hour away from Bristol) will be welcoming festival-goers to camp in its beautiful grounds for a weekend of sci-fi fantasy-themed entertainment and activities.

Take part in Ork Boot Camp, Witcher School, wand making, enchanted theatre and firelighting workshops, watch medieval weapon displays, willow weaving and attend a spell writing workshop! There’s also face painting, lightsabre workshops, walkabout entertainment, live bands and tons more.

Womad, Malmesbury 2023

  • When? 27-30 July

WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) brings together artistic performances from all over the world, across seven separate stages, in Wiltshire’s beautiful Charlton Park (40 minutes from Bristol). 

As a festival for kids, it’s brilliant – a dedicated ‘World of Children’ programme runs from 9am to 7pm each day and almost all of the activities are free. It also caters for ‘WOMAD Weenies’ (under 5s) – who have their own space for fun activities, and there’s a teen tent for older ones. 

Farmfest Bruton 2023

  • When? 3-5 August

Farmfest is a small festival in a dreamy Somerset field which favours electronic, indie, folk and world music. Previous artists on the 70 act-strong line-up include Elder Island, Gentleman’s Dub Club and DJ Joy Orbison. Farmfest Somerset is popular with families, thanks to its Kids’ Kingdom which offers arts and crafts activities for toddlers to tweens.

The Farmfest 2023 lineup is yet to be announced, watch this space.

August family festivals

Valley Fest Bristol 2023, Chew Magna

  • When? 3-5 August
  • Where? Valley Fest location: Denny Ln, Chew Magna, Bristol BS40 8SZ

This preposterously scenic, food-tastic family festival takes place on an organic farm, 9 miles from Bristol and Bath. In its perch above the lake, this Chew Valley festival is as much a kids festival as it is for adults, with veg picking, mini raves, crafting, circus games, face painting, ride-on tractors and the new Alchemist’s Playground – a new Valley Fest Arcadia collaboration!

By day, kids can build the playground of their dreams from reclaimed materials, by night, the Afterburner stage fires up and the adults get a look-in!

Food is very much on the festival agenda – best to arrive with a good appetite to make the most of the street food and delicious sit-down feasts cooked by excellent local chefs, all washed down with your favourite West Country tipple.

So far, the Valley Fest line up stars Bananarama and The Kooks, with more to be announced soon! Valley Fest tickets are available now – go, go go!

Watch a video of our time at Valley Fest 2019

Valley Fest tractor, Chew Magna
Valley Fest
Valley Fest Bristol
Valley Fest

Weston Shanty and Folk Festival 2023, Weston-super-Mare

  • When? 4-6 August
  • Where? Multiple venues across WSM

The Weston super Mare Sea Shanty Festival is organised by Weston’s own shanty band, The Steepholmers. It’s all about folk music and pirates (fancy dress encouraged)!

Over 40 bands will play across bars and venues in the town centre, with a centre stage at the Italian Gardens – check the website for a full list of performers.

Entry to all venues is free (except for The Grand Pier) although donations to the charity buckets (raising for RNLI and The Lions Club) are appreciated.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2023, Ashton Court

  • Bristol Balloon Fiesta 2023 dates? 10-13 August

One of the most famous and beloved summer events in Bristol, this free four-day, child friendly festival is the largest of its kind in Europe. Mass ascents of over 100 hot air balloons are scheduled to take place at dawn and late afternoon each day, wind permitting.

Day festival visitors can look forward to fairground rides, live music, kid-friendly activities (including a family foam party!) and awe-inspiring aerial displays, all set in the picturesque grounds of Ashton Court Estate. 

Spectacular nightglow shows (taking place at 9pm on 10 & 11 August) – when 20 balloons illuminate their burners to a soundtrack provided by BBC Radio Bristol – ending in a firework finale.

>>Where to take cracking photos of hot air balloons in Bristol<<

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
Hot air balloons over Bristol

Bristol festivals September

Longleat Sky Safari 2023

  • *Waiting for more information on Longleat Balloon festival 2023*

If Bristol’s summer of balloons leaves you desperate to see more inflatable marvels floating above your head, you’re in luck! 40-minutes drive away from the city, Longleat Safari Park hosts one of the biggest annual hot air balloon festivals in Europe. 

Over the course of the festival, the skies above this magnificent estate will come to life with hundreds of hot air balloons, followed by a sensational night glow set to music on Friday and Saturday evening.

Longleat Estate
Longleat Mansion House

FORWARDS, The Downs 

  • *Dates to be announced*

This fairly new music festival in Bristol on The Downs blends a cutting-edge lineup with a platform for social purpose and timely debate. Last year’s headliners Jamie XX and The Chemical Brothers were joined by big names like Little Simz, Róisín Murphy, Khruangbin and Caribou, as well as emerging and local performers.

Bristol Sea Shanty Festival 2023

  • When? 22 & 23 September

The Sea Shanty Festival Bristol is a celebration of the city through songs of the sea.

Kicking off around midday, the maritime music celebration will take place in Bristol Harbourside venues – hear salty singing talent at Brunel’s SS Great Britain dockyard, Underfall Yard cafe, the main stage in Brunel Square, The Matthew, Brunel’s Buttery and Arnolfini Harbour stage.

All performing shanty groups give their time for free to raise money for several charitable organisations.

Bath Children’s Literature Festival 2023

  • When? 29 September-8 October

If you’re looking for some of the best festivals for children, Europe’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival is a treat. The nine-day event offers talks and activities for kids to inspire and fuel young imaginations.

Young book lovers are given a chance to meet the creators of their literary heroes – past authors have included Harry Hill, Cressida Cowell, Dougie Poynter, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. 

Weston-super-Mare Pride 2023

  • When? 30 September

Festivals in Weston super Mare are just a short drive or train ride away from Bristol. Join the celebrations at the biggest Pride event in the UK over Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd July 2023 on the Beach Lawns in Weston-super-Mare!

More information to be announced shortly.

November festivals in Bristol

Afrika Eye Festival 

  • 7-17 November

Afrika Eye Festival is the biggest celebration of African cinema and culture in the South West. Last year’s theme was Untold Stories, and while most of the events are more geared towards an older crowd, there was a pop-up event for families at Felix Road Adventure Playground with a movie and storytelling. Watch this space for more details on family events in Bristol organised by Afrika Eye Festival…

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