Grey clouds, lashing rain, or miserable drizzle, it’s not the most unfamiliar sight in the UK. Bristol, with its close location to the coast and Somerset hills, often gets more mizzle than most. If your kids are anything like mine, they need to be out of the house by 10am, otherwise they start going bat shit crazy, and on rainy days it can be a real struggle to keep them entertained and also stay sane!
So what is there to do in Bristol with kids when it’s raining? The answer is – loads! Wet weather attractions with places to take toddlers indoors, everything from arty or exhilarating indoor activities for teens, plus suggestions for where to go with a baby on a rainy day, if you have a child to entertain on a rainy in Bristol, this blog is for you!
Whether you’re visiting Bristol and it’s chucking it down, or you’re a local parent and in need of some wet weather child-friendly fun, read on for my go-to rainy day indoor activities in Bristol for kids.
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Free indoor activities Bristol
This is one of the best rainy days out in Bristol for families. Not only is the museum free to enter, but it is jam-packed with interesting exhibits aimed to spark excitement in children. Downstairs you’ll find displays of local wildlife, Egyptian mummies, a Banksy statue (a remnant of when the Bristol-born artist took over the museum back in 2009) and an interactive play area for younger kids where they can dress up, construct an ancient vase and chill out with books.
Upstairs, there are dinosaur bones and more exotic animals – Alfred the gorilla (previously resident of Bristol Zoo), a giraffe, zebra and even a stuffed dodo (not real…although I will admit I had to check).
The museum regularly runs family events and exhibitions so keep an eye on their What’s On page for up-to-date information. The building itself is really quite beautiful and the aeroplane hanging from the ceiling as you enter makes a big impact. There are drawing areas set up for kids dotted about and there’s a lovely family-friendly cafe with seating under the gigantic Pliosaurus to keep the kids enthralled as you eat.
In terms of practical stuff, you’ll find lockers to store all your offspring-related paraphernalia, a buggy park and lifts to get up and down stairs. Based near The Triangle and Park Street, there is parking (paid) on nearby roads or there are plenty of buses that can drop you nearby.
For somewhere with lots of indoor things to do in Bristol with toddlers, check out another one of the city’s fantastic free museums, M Shed. Based on the Harbourside, it has a real-life old-fashioned double decker bus inside – which you’re welcome to board, an air raid shelter and lots of of interactive exhibits where kids can press buttons.
There’s probably not a whole day’s worth of rainy day indoor entertainment for kids here, but it’s nice for an hour or so in the morning followed by something yummy in one of Cargo’s trendy converted shipping container restaurants (just next door). Make sure to take a trip to the upper floors of the museum for some spectacular views over the water.
Heading to a quiet, peaceful setting of reflection might not strike you as one of the first things to do in Bristol on a rainy day with youngsters, but hear me out. My three kids are a wrecking ball of chaos, but taking them into the hush of a cathedral setting seems to bestow upon them the need to whisper also – it’s a revelation. Bristol Cathedral also has a family trail that you can complete by discovering unusual things around the building – pick one up from a guide near the entrance.
See an art exhibition
For arty, cultural things to do indoors in Bristol, Arnolfini is one of the leading international contemporary arts spaces in Europe, presenting a diverse programme of performance, dance, music, cinema and artistic events throughout the year. It also holds one of the best waterfront positions of all cafes and has a lovely cafe/bar (managed by independent brewery Bristol Beer Factory) where you can shelter from the rain.
Spike Island is an international centre for contemporary art and design based at the southern end of Bristol’s Floating Harbour. A working space for artists, Spike Island showcases art exhibitions all year-round to peruse, and runs a monthly baby art hour for children aged five and under, if you’re looking for interesting indoor places with kids.
The Royal West of England Academy (RWA) has been exhibiting world-class visual art since 1844 in a spectacular Grade II* listed building on Clifton Triangle. One of Bristol’s classiest wet weather attractions, especially after its renovations, hunker down here, out of the rain by checking out their latest exhibition.
The Royal West of England Academy (RWA) also run free, drop-in, monthly Scribble and Sketch mornings for families at RWA (Clifton Triange, 1st Saturday of the month), Hartcliffe Children’s Centre (1st Saturday of the month), Easton Community Centre (2nd Saturday of the month), Faithspace in Redcliffe (3rd Saturday of the month) and Greenway Centre Activity Room, Southmead (4th Saturday of the month).
Where to take kids indoors: libraries in Bristol
I love with my local library. Gone are the days when it was obligatory to be silent, these days libraries are free indoor places embracing the joy books bring to kids, where you can read aloud, get excited about the stories and often join in with free baby sing and rhyme sessions. My personal favourites – are Bishopston (mainly because its close and brand new) and Bristol Central Library (which has daily rhyme time and a pirate ship).
Indoor attractions for families
**currently closed following a fire, re-opening 2024**
If you’re pondering what to do in Bristol with children when it’s raining, We The Curious is one of the BEST Bristol attractions for families. A hands-on science centre absolutely bursting with fun stuff for kids to experiment with – it’s a brilliant, full day out that will entertain all ages.
From blowing giant bubbles to experiencing the inside of a womb, posting balls up a suction tube (I need one of these installed in my house for the length of time my two year old spent on this), to space exploration in a 3D planetarium, creating an Aardman animation and sending parachutes soaring up into the air, you really need a good day here to make the most of everything.
If you want some where to take toddlers on a rainy day, We The Curious run Toddler Takeover days at discounted entry prices. They always get fully booked so if you fancy it, get your tickets early (I mean it’s the UK, so there’s a strong chance it might be raining on the pre-booked date!)
You receive a band when you enter which lets you come and go as you please throughout the day, so you can either eat lunch at the onsite cafe, or pop to nearby Pizza Express, Pieminister or Wapping Wharf for some grub before returning for more fun activities to do inside.
For fun rainy days out in Bristol, the city’s aquarium is an exciting underwater world that takes visitors on a journey through exotic marine waters to Britain’s coastline, freshwater creatures, mangroves, rainforest pools and more. My favourite parts of the attraction are the re-creation of Bristol Harbourside and neon jellyfish!
It’s also great if you’re looking for indoor activities for toddlers in Bristol, as they can run free, but safely around the whole attraction. There’s also a cafe with play area for young kids right next to it, so you can even have a coffee while they hang out there!
In school holidays, you can often meet a real-life pirate or mermaid or take part in specially-themed activities.
If you’re stumped for where to take kids when raining in Bristol, the SS Great Britain is a ship/interactive museum (complete with authentic sights, sounds and smells) with plenty of indoor activities to help you dodge the downpours.
As well as being able to go below the ship, under the magic ‘glass sea’ to marvel at the hull and giant propeller, you can learn about the history of the SS Great Britain in the Dockyard Museum, dress up in Victorian garb and explore the ship to see how various classes of passengers would have lived. There’s also an indoor museum, Being Brunel, which offers a glimpse into the life and mind of the genius Victorian engineer, with interactive exhibits.
During the school holidays, thrilling events take place here, often featuring the ‘Ragged Victorians’ who bring the authentic dockyard to life.
What to do in Bristol when it rains? Head indoors to learn up on aviation history, that’s what! Aerospace Bristol is perfect for the plane-mad, engineering enthusiasts or anyone who wants sheltered places to take kids when raining. On display are engines and planes of all kinds from over a century of powered flight. The show-stopping centrepiece however, is Concorde Alpha Foxtrot which fills an entire hangar to herself, complete with plane-blazoned graphics and her own Concorde exhibition.
You can go aboard the legendary plane and get an insight into life on-board for those travelling at the speed of sound. There are lots of inside activities, the odd aeroplane to clamber aboard, an outside play area (should there be a break in the weather) and a nice cafe.
Wake The Tiger
After our first visit to Wake The Tiger, my girls talked non-stop about their time at this experiential art gallery/interactive theme park.
Described as ‘the world’s first amazement park’, it’s hard to put into words just what exactly this place is. A fantastical, immersive realm so convincing my kids were worried we might not make it back to Bristol! Think Harry Potter meets Avatar meets a less-terrifying Stranger Things mixed in with all the weird, surreal and wonderful daydreams you’ve ever had. Secret doors, bookcases disguising hidden rooms, a mystical land discovered through a wardrobe, upside down areas, glowing neon worlds and the chance to touch, interact and press buttons that make things happen…
Places to go on a rainy day: Bristol small museums
Did you know Bristol was named Museum Destination of the Year 2018 in the Luxury Travel guide awards? The city is home to a number of small museums which make great rainy day Bristol activities for families. As an added bonus, many of them are free to enter.
Blaise Castle House Museum on the vast Blaise Estate is located in the mansion house and full of indoor things to do when it’s raining. Check out the dressing up area, fascinating old-fashioned toys and old school room.
There is parking onsite, but you will have to walk a little way to get to the museum and get past the kid’s play area which might be tricky once little ones have clocked it!
Red Lodge Museum looks tiny from the outside, but its little red door conceals an impressive Elizabethan house and knot garden.
Over at The Georgian House Museum you can find out how a plantation owner with a slave would have lived back in the height of the slave trade.
Where to take kids on rainy day: shopping escapes
Ok, I admit I normally avoid shopping centres like the plague, especially with more than one child, but if it’s a quiet rainy weekday (not in December) then there are a few things to keep kids occupied at Cribbs, located just off Junction 17 of the M5.
During holiday time, they often run a miniature train which pootles up and down the mall. You’ll also find a Build-a-Bear shop, where your child can concoct their dream teddy from all sorts of exciting costumes and accessories, before seeing it stuffed before their eyes.
There are all the usual high street shops, so you could pick up some craft supplies before heading home or treat your kiddo to lunch at Yo Sushi – the conveyor belt is always a source of great fascination for youngsters! And Lush allows visitors the chance to try out some of their soaps and bath bombs – which my girls love!
Yes really. B&Q is one of the most exciting indoor places to go with toddlers! I discovered this after I couldn’t drag my daughters away from their giant wall of light switches. Being allowed to press buttons that they can reach blows their tiny minds.
They can flick them and click them over and over and over again, to their little heart’s content on a rainy day! Just don’t go with the intention of actually achieving anything useful while you’re there.
This one is more for locals, as I wouldn’t suggest tourists spend their time visiting the city’s retail parks as a top Bristol indoor adventure for kids. While useful, they’re not particularly pretty and the city certainly has a lot more to offer if you’re only here for a few days.
It first hit me just HOW much my life had changed after having a baby when I visited Eastville Retail Park and had the best time EVER. Having been mildly repulsed by edge-of-town retail parks pre-bubba, the discovery of the free kid friendly indoor activities such a shopping location could offer me, just minutes from my house was a real game-changer. At Eastville Retail Park you’ll find a Pet Shop with real-life bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters and fish, where they often put on pet handling events.
There’s also a George ASDA where you can peruse the toy section, Boots, an M&S food for tasty snacks, a Halfords to test-ride bikes and a humongous 24-hour Tesco superstore just across the road.
The cherry on the cake is IKEA (on a quiet week day – I wouldn’t suggest this as an indoor activity on a rainy weekend, I’m not a psychopath), where little ones can run free, follow the arrows, play pretend in fun bedrooms and try out everything in their children’s department.
Preserve Zero Waste Shop, Bedminster, Bishopston, Redfield
One of my most ingenious rainy day ideas…combine doing good for the planet, getting some of your shopping done AND an indoor family activity on a drizzly day. Take your empties along to this eco-friendly, plastic free shop and fill up your washing liquid, hand soap and washing conditioner, baking supplies or vinegars.
You can also find vegan, plastic-free products such as hard shampoo, bamboo toothbrushes and the like. My kids absolutely LOVE coming here and helping to fill up containers as they get to weigh it, print a ticket and stick it to whatever vessel you’re using. Just be careful they don’t start opening anything while your back is turned and release millions of tiny cous cous onto the floor…I speak from experience!
Things to do in Bristol with toddlers in the rain: soft play
Some people shudder at the thought of them, others love them (do they know something I don’t? Perhaps luxury ones serving Prosecco and gin I wonder?) Either way, they’re an unavoidable right of passage for most child-looker-afterers, and a great way to wear tinies out on a wet weather day. In Bristol, parents are spoilt for choice with kids’ cafes and soft plays (although sadly, many of my faves have closed down since the pandemic) and some of them even serve EXCELLENT coffee.
Jump near Cribbs Causeway is one of the biggest in the country – it’s housed inside gigantic warehouses with masses of space for kids to run wild in (but little natural light). Boing in Lockleaze is a budget favourite.
Energy-burning days out in Bristol for families
It can be a nightmare trying to find things to do with a baby on a rainy day, but Axis Trampoline club ticks a lot of boxes for entertaining tiny ones when the weather is rubbish. Based in an industrial warehouse – which never sounds appealing, but you can let that slide when desperately hunting for things to do in Bristol for children when it’s raining – they run baby to school-age trampolining and gymnastics drop-in sessions during the week and school holidays.
The club has a ton of trampolines, some that your kiddo can just bounce on, a really long one that they can run the entire length of and foam pits to ping into, a soft play environment, plus lots of toys for younger kids and babies to play with.
Bristol is blessed with a gigantic trampoline park – AirHop. I could be jealous of the resources the youth of today have access to, which didn’t exist when I was little, but places like these are also immensely fun for adults (pelvic floor withstanding of course).
Airhop is one of the funnest places to go on a rainy day with family – inside there’s a dodgeball area, basketball court, foam pit and wall to wall trampolines, plus a Gladiators-style Battlebeam.
AirHop run baby and toddler friendly indoor activities, called ‘MiniHoppers sessions’, where pre-schoolers (aged 6 months to 6 years) can take over the place from 10am-12pm Monday and Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10am-12pm and school holidays 9-10am. There are also additional toys, ride-ons, mini football goals and basket ball hoops.
As family-friendly thrilling wet weather activities go, this is way up there! Located near Bristol Temple Meads, Freedog Bristol indoor activities include a gigantic trampoline park, ninja course, foam pits, dodgeball courts, toddler play sessions and soft play! There’s also a cafe onsite, so you don’t even have to venture out and get wet.
If you’ve got a climbing ninja in your brood and there over 4 years old, Clip n’Climb is one of our favourite days out when its raining. The climbing centre offers kids the chance to scale thrilling, vibrant coloured walls of all shapes, nooks and surfaces. Once they’ve watched the safety video, just clip ’em into a harness and off they go. There are also bouldering walls to scamper across and delicious nutritious snacks at the onsite cafe.
There’s another one with different types of walls and vertical drop at Weston-super-Mare too.
Hawks Gymnastics, Easton
Fun places to go in the rain that will burn off cooped-up kiddo energy are Hawks Gymnastics in Easton (where Olympian Claudia Fragapane trained). They run weekday drop-in sessions for ages 18 months to 5 years old, along with their parents, to go and clamber, climb, slide, ping, balance, rope swing, dangle, leap and have a taste of acrobatics at a well-equipped gym.
The sessions are 45-minutes and, under the supervision of an instructor, kids are free to explore at their own leisure, and brought together for a song in the middle and at the end along with some stretches.
City of Bristol Gymnastics Centre, Hartcliffe
The City of Bristol Gymnastics Centre seems like it’s in an entirely random location, but inside, there’s a whole universe of fun of things to do with toddlers when its raining. This includes a bouncy castle, spring floor, rocking things, sliding things, tunnels, soft play equipment, tunnels and lots of baby-friendly fun. Sessions are run on a drop-in basis for 10-months-4 years Mon, Tues, Weds, Fri 10am-12pm and Sat 9.30am-11.30am (£4 a session).
Ninja Warrior UK Bristol
Do you have what it takes to be a Ninja Warrior? This indoor adventure park, inspired by ITV’s hit show is opening in the Cribbs Causeway area of Bristol on 20 December.
Adults and children aged 4+ can tackle the fun-packed courses and Mount Sasuke climbing tower and slide. For mini ninjas (0-3), there’s a soft play with several zones, including a slide.
Junble Rumble Adventure Golf
Jungle Rumble Bristol is an indoor, adventure-filled mini golf experience on the top floor of Cabot Circus Shopping Centre in the city centre. Choose between two themed 18-hole golf courses, ‘Jungle’ (which includes a walk-through volcano cave!) or, the more challenging, ‘Swamp’
Where to go with a baby on a rainy day
Happy Hands and Twinkly Toes
Happy Hands and Twinkly Toes drop-in classes are great indoor things to do with babies or pre-school age children. The fun sessions involve singing children’s favourites with lots of interactive elements – parachutes, bubbles, cuddly toys etc. Bristol classes take place at The Crafty Cow on Gloucester Road – a lovely family-friendly pub with outdoor space.
Indoor kids activities Bristol: Cinema
Independent cinema Watershed offer Cinebabies, Showcase Cinemas run baby-friendly films (Mondays and Thursdays) and The Orpheus in Henleaze is my all-time favourite cinema for its intimate size, well-stocked bar and general toddler-friendliness. By that I mean, it’s not too loud, they offer booster seats for little ones and great snacks.
Indoor things to do Bristol: See a show
Bristol is brilliant for family theatre and there are always lots of kid-friendly shows taking place at the city’s various cultural venues. You’ll find awe-inspiring West End and Broadway productions at Bristol Hippodrome.
Liked this post on places to go on a rainy day with kids? Let me know if I’m missing out on some epic indoor activities for kids Bristol in the comments below…
Read more things to do in Bristol for families:
- 25 Bristol attractions to see with kids
- Just off the motorway: family-friendly M5 stop offs near Bristol
- Free things to do in Bristol with kids