There’s a whiff of Aperol Spritz in the air, UK residents are going giddy for a bit of sunshine and school’s nearly out for summer! So how to entertain the little squirrels? May I present you with the ultimate family-friendly list of summer activities for kids in Bristol.
There’s summer fun at Bristol’s attractions, summer festivals in the city, sporting, outdoorsy and wildlife events, trains, planes and various automobiles to get excited about, arts, crafts, storytelling and theatre.
Summer activities for kids in Bristol 2019
Sleepy Ship at Brunel’s SS Great Britain (16 July)
Ever wondered what it would be like to spend a night on board Brunel’s famous ship? Set up camp in the First Class Dining Saloon for a memorable sleep on board the SS Great Britain. As part of the crew, take part in activities to build your skills up to become a ship shape mate, including an interactive planetarium experience and Captain’s lamplit Tour of the ship. Build a sextant and learn about the constellations.
Summer Spectacular with The Invisible Circus at Brunel’s SS Great Britain (20 July-1 September)
The The Invisible Circus will commandeer Brunel’s SS Great Britain for the whole summer, taking over the iconic ship and dockyard and giving daily heart-stopping performances. Watch spectacular stunts and aerial displays as performers hurl themselves from the rigging and passengers juggle luggage, telling the story of life-changing voyages on board this historic ship.
Victorian House and carriage rides at Tyntesfield (20-21 July)
Travel back in time with Victorian horse and carriage rides at the National Trust’s beautiful Tyntesfield estate.
Summer Rays! at Bristol Aquarium (20 July – 1 Sept)
Learn about summer rays of a different kind at the city’s aquarium during the school holidays. Meet the inquisitive rays, hear fish-tastic talks and feeds, and take part in splashingly-goo hands-on workshops.
Climate action! at We The Curious (24 July – 31 August)
Investigate the challenges facing our planet and explore possible solutions. Create fantastical machines and learn about harnessing energy from the sun, wind and water and join the poet in residence for some family adventures in spoken word (various dates from 3 August).
An Australian Summer at Longleat (20 July-2 September)
Head to Longleat (around an hour’s drive from Bristol) as they celebrate all things Antipodean in honour of their new Koala Creek. From 27 July they’ll be bringing the seaside inside with an indoor red desert sand beach in the Longhouse complete with deckchairs and Aussie-themed games. Check out the gnarly graffiti wall, strike a pose on the wobble boards and watch high tempo dancing, live didgeridoo music and acrobatic breakdancing battles.
Stone Age Summer at Cheddar Gorge & Caves (20 July – 1 September)
Get into the cave man spirit and see where Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest most complete skeleton was discovered in Gough’s Cave. Discover how humans lived over 40,000 years ago in this very spot, and foraging among the great grasslands for food. There’s also prehistoric dress-up and thumb clay pot-making, plus tons more.
Kids go free at Westonbirt Arboretum (26 July – 2 September)
Kids go free all summer long at this enchanting arboretum.
There is so much going on at Berkeley Castle this summer, the venue almost needs its own page! Encounter Tudor royalty Henry VIII, meet his Queen and watch Tudor dancing in the Great Hall (21 July) and step back in time as Thomas Cromwell welcomes court visitors and watch falconry displays (11 August). Kids will love seeing unicorns cantering to the castle on an exciting day of myths and legends (18 August) and see Georgian history in action when British, French and Jacobite forces descend on the castle (25-26 August). Watch magic shows, learn to walk the tightrope and juggle at their Jester Skills event (30 July, 6, 13, 20, 27 August) or allow your imagination to run wild as Cassandra captivates you with magical stories of old (27 July – 19 August). Meet the Castle’s chivalrous knight and learn all about his weapons and armour (31 July, 7, 14, 21, 28 August) or experience first-hand how knights were trained in the 15th century with breathtaking sword fighting shows (1 Sept).
Crane rides at M Shed (3-4, 10-11, 31 August, 1 September)
Experience a working crane on the dockside with trips inside the electric cranes and the Fairbairn steam crane. Watch the impressive landmarks at work and find out the vital part they played in the working life of Bristol Harbourside.
Gruffalo and Stick Man will be appearing at Cattle Country together. Book your park tickets for the day, then book a time slot that you would like the children to see their favourite characters.
Stars of Time Film & Comic Con at The Tropicana (25-26 August)
Meet stars from Film and TV from the likes of Doctor Who, Marvel and Stars Wars at The Tropicana in Weston-super-Mare.
Bristol Zoo Gardens summer screens (28 Aug – 1 Sept)
Bristol Zoo is hosting five open-air cinema screenings, including Bohemian Rhapsody, Mamma Mia, Jurassic Park, Green Book and Black Panther. Screenings take place on the main lawn and audiences can chill on beanbags and deckchairs while tucking into BBQ food, snacks and refreshments. For ages 5+.
Bristol Pride (1-14 July)
Get all the family dressed up in their brightest, sparkliest togs for Pride in its new venue on The Downs. There’s plenty for kids of all ages during Pride Day (13 July), including Super Pirates who create colourful and wildly fun play areas, run by energetic play workers and trained actors. There’ll also be facepainting, Drag Queen Story Time, kite-making and a youth area for teens. Don’t miss the rainbow-coloured parade through the city or Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Sonique, NINA, Saara Aalto and Melanie C serenading the crowds come evening.
Bristol Shakespeare Festival (1-31 July)
Featuring some of The Bard’s best-loved works, this festival includes spoken word, circus and open-air theatre performances in venues across Bristol. Check their website for details of family-friendly shows in Brandon Hill Park, on Brunel’s SS Great Britain and St George Park.
St Pauls Carnival (6 July)
Celebrate the best of Afro-Carribbean culture at one of Bristol’s most iconic festivals, St Pauls Carnival. This spirited community celebration is free to attend and showcases the area’s creativity, music and arts, with plenty of scrumptious street food to keep you dancing all day long.
Dragonfest 2019 (6 July)
Held in the grounds of Parson Street Primary School on Bedminster Road, this annual community festival will have live music, a fully-licensed bar, crafts, stalls and more to get you in the summer mood.
East Street Summer Fayre (13 July)
Held on the famous East Street in Bedminster and hosted by the Bedminster BID, this summer fayre boasts boinging fun with a bouncy castle, Didi Cars, ice cream, cotton candy, mini bar, music, street food and stalls.
Bath Carnival (13 July)
Join in the carnival festivities with this colourful street parade of fabulous costumes, dancing and live music as Bath is transformed into one big party. Sydney Gardens will also play host to a free family-friendly one-day festival, Party in the Park, with music, workshops, kids’ activities and food and drink stalls.
Whirligig Festival of Outdoor Arts, Weston-super-Mare (13 July)
Get whirly and twirly in Weston at Theatre Orchard’s free family-friendly festival. Featuring an eclectic mix of outdoor entertainment, expect everything from walkabout acts to circus workshops, dancing in the streets and all kinds of weird and wonderful artistic antics. Don’t miss the giant stegosaurus, smoothie bike, crafts and face painters too.
Image credit – Ockham’s Razor Image via Theatre Orchard
Alma Vale Street Fayre (14 July)
Expect the usual host of family-friendly activities including kids entertainers Sharky & George and Quirky Bird theatre workshops, as well as live music, late-night DJs, BBQ, Market stalls from local traders and dog show with prizes for all pooches.
Bristol Harbour Festival (19-21 July)
This annual, free, family-friendly dance, music and arts extravaganza takes place along Bristol’s waterfront, from Underfall Yard all the way to the Cascade Steps, Thekla and Queen Square. As well as live music and entertainment (look out for the baby racing!) there’ll also be comedy, aerial acts, circus acts, a dance village, food markets and general maritime fun.
Freelance Mum Micro Business Retreat, Somerset Levels (19-21 July)
The Vassall Centre Summer Fayre (24 July)
Exciting new additions to this year’s summer fayre include Daleks, Tai Chi and Yoga classes and a treasure hunt!
WOMAD Festival (25-28 July)
A global fiesta of music, food, dance and art which takes place in the picturesque Charlton Park in Wiltshire. Ziggy Marley, Orbital, Salif Keita and Anna Calvi headline this year’s festival. aking , the festival brings together artistic performances from all over the world, across seven separate stages. Hear the likes of Ziggy Marley, Macy Gray, Orbital and Robert Plant, listen to fascinating talks, inspirational authors and debate, let kids run free in the space-themed childrens’ area (expect space unicorns, spiders from Mars and the like), feel revitalised in the World of Wellbeing or unwind in the spa, plus so much more!
HERE Fest, Bath Road (28 July)
A fun family fete on the Bath Road with free circus workshops, face painting & games to keep the kids entertained. Plus, artisan stalls, music and food & drink.
AfroFest, Trinity Centre (3 August)
This family fun day showcases the best of African Culture through music, art, fashion and dance. With live performances by Afro B, African Ngwasuma and top DJs from around Bristol and London, a BBQ, bouncy castle, face-painting and henna tattoos.
Valley Fest (2-4 August)
Dig out your neaon and pull on your dancing wellies for this family-friendly foodie festival which takes place overlooking Chew Valley Lake. As well as tons of activities for kids – veg picking, kids yoga, a farm academy, mini raves, storytelling and a childrens’ parade – there’s some big musical headliners this year, including Basement Jaxx, Razorlight, Tom Odell and a DJ set from Leftfield. Expect demonstrations from local chefs, producers and farmers, plus gourmet feasts.
Redfest is a fantastic community festival held in East Bristol and draws artists and performers of all kinds from across the local area and further afield.
This country fair is full of animal and country-inspired entertainment. Main events include local musical groups and solo artists, a BMX arena, a classic car show and shooting.
Friends of Southey Park Family Festival (3 August)
Colston Hall’s Hoo-Ha! Festival, Bristol (1-8 August)
Music, merry-making and messiness are the order of the day at Colston Hall’s annual family festival. For the first time ever, Bristol Old Vic will be joining in the shenanigans, presenting Robin Hood from 1-3 August, before three, free jam-packed days of mayhem, games, workshops and splendiferous silliness in Colston Hall foyer.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (8-11 August)
One of the highlights of the summer calendar, this free four-day family-friendly event is the largest of its kind in Europe, with mass ascents of over 100 hot air balloons scheduled for early morning and teatime each day, plus nightglow shows and fireworks. Visitors can look forward to fairground rides, entertainment, live music and awe-inspiring aerial displays, all set in the beautiful grounds of Ashton Court Estate.
Family Festival Fun Day, Creative Workspace (10 August)
A day of festival-themed activities including face-painting, no-sew festival costumes and crafts, live music and a family ukulele workshop! They also have an onsite community cafe The Cog Cafe serving affordable lunches, snacks, drinks and home-made cakes.
The Downs Festival (31 August)
Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones, Loyle Garner, IDLES and Neneh Cherry make up the sizzling line-up of acts announced for this highly-anticipated concert on Clifton Downs, beside the dramatic Avon Gorge. The Information Stage will host panel discussions and debates on the burning issues of the day to inform and inspire discussions.
Watch Wimbledon on the Big Screen, Cabot Circus (1-14 July)
If you can’t get to SW19 this summer fear not, stay right here in the SW and you’ll be able to watch all your favourite tennis stars in action on the big screens in Cabot Circus – there will be one outside House of Fraser and one in Quakers Friars.
Toddler trails, Dyrham Park (Tuesdays)
Toddler trails at the National Trust’s Dyrham Park take place on Tuesdays from 10.45-11.30am. They’ll learn about shape, colour and numbers while exploring nature, sing some songs, do some crafts and play games outside.
Wonders of the walled garden: family workshops at Tyntesfield (23, 25, 30 July, & various dates in August)
Tyntesfield are drawing inspiration from their beautiful walled garden by offering family gardening workshops. Take a tour, make something tasty with produce from the gardens and have a go at planting. Suited to children aged 5-12.
Bowood Summer garden party (27 July)
This year they will be welcoming Tricky Micky’s Punch and Judy show and Calne Silver Band for an afternoon of entertainment, alongside a BBQ in the Adventure Playground, Face Painting, Flower Pot Planting, Bouncy Castles and much more!
Trains, planes and various automobiles
Mini trains at Ashton Court Railway (14, 21 July & 4, 18, 25, 26 August, 8 September)
Based in the top part of Ashton Court Estate, this fun mini railway run by Bristol Model Engineers is a firm favourite with families. Featuring a selection of real steam, electric and petrol driven trains (£1.50 per ride, or 5 for £6.50), it’s brilliant, cheap fun. Take a picnic and make a day of it!
Known as the South West’s premier model air show, this event will showcases displays by highly-skilled international show pilots, flying single and multi-engine aircraft models from 10am to 5pm each day. The show is complimented by static displays and trade marquees.
Sci-Fi Fun at the Avon Valley Railway (20-21 July)
Board the time-travelling train to see your favourite characters at Avon Valley Railway’s first Sci-Fi weekend.
For nee-naw lovers, this family fun day is a chance to get up close with a wide range of emergency services. There’ll also be a BBQ, bouncy castle, wipeout challenge, balloon modelling, facepainting, charity stalls and more.
150th Anniversary weekend at Avon Valley Railway (3-4 August)
Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of Avon Valley’s railway line, discover a selection of vintage vehicles, shire horses and Morris dancers (Saturday only). Visitors can wander around trade stands, see displays from local museums, take a vintage bus shuttle ride to Warmley signal box or take a Brake Van ride on Fry’s Sentinel locomotive.
Create your own swashbuckling pirate ship, princess carriage or castle out of cardboard, enter the dressing-up competition, bust a pirate jig or royal groove in a dance off and meet Princesses and Pirates throughout the day! Look out for Pirates vs Princesses at Avon Valley Wildlife & Adventure Park at the park too on the first Friday of each month.
Summer holidays at Puxton Park (from 24 July)
Just a 30-minute drive from Bristol, Puxton Park makes a great family day out whatever the weather. This summer, alongside all the usual rides, playground entertainment, soft play and animal encounters, they’ll also be running discos, arts and crafts, bubble parties (6 July), magic shows and more!
Bear Wood at Wild Place Project (end of July)
Wild Place Project’s much-anticipated Bear Wood exhibit tells the amazing story of the British woodlands from 8,000 BC to the present day. Discover four incredible ‘extinct’ British species – bears, wolves, lynx and wolverines in this unique, immersive experience.
Read my review of The Big Bear Sculpture Trail here (on until 1 September).
Be a ‘Trainee Zookeeper’ with Wallace & Gromit, Bristol Zoo (20 July – 13 October)
This summer, Wallace and Gromit are returning to the city and visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens for A Grand Day Out! Take on the cracking ‘Trainee Zookeeper’ trail starring Aardman’s beloved duo, join a model-making workshop, plus lots more.
Be sure to keep your peepers peeled for Gromit, Feathers and Shaun the Sheep model-making workshops: July 29, August 5, 16, 27, September 28 and October 13. Additional charges apply – advance booking is recommended.
Bears go to town, Bristol Shopping Quarter (22 July-31 August)
If you go down to the shops from 22 July, you’ll find a FREE family trail around Bristol Shopping Quarter in celebration of Wild Place Project’s Bear Wood exhibit opening. That’s Broadmead, The Arcade, The Galleries, and Cabot Circus, featuring more than 20 beautifully decorated 2D bears, each a metre tall. Join Bristol Zoo’s outreach team in Cabot Circus on 14 August for a day of free fun including decorating a ‘bare bear’, a touch table, and learning activities.
Mammal detectives, Bristol Zoo and Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project (25 July &1 August)
Join Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project on a quest to discover which furry animals live on The Downs by following the clues they leave behind. In the afternoon kids can print their own animal footprint T-shirt (25 July).
Or visit the Avon Gorge’s hairiest residents and have fun playing the gobbling goats game, before making a fabulous felt goat mask (1 August). Events for 8 – 12 year olds
Venemous Snakes of the World Show at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm (27 July – 7 August)
Pete Blake returns to present his UK exclusive Venomous Snake Shows with a couple of extra friends…
To celebrate World Lion Day a pride of African dancers will be stalking their way through Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm.The carnival will feature acrobats, African dancers, drummers and a range of giant African carnival animals.
Summer Fun Day, Hartcliffe Community Farm (25 August)
Meet the animals, the fire brigade and police, boing on the bouncy castle, get you face painted, listen to music, check out the stalls and much more!
Summer arts, crafts, storytelling and learning
Pop along with your tiny adventurers for some ‘Around The World’-themed tunes with destinations in their titles and lyrics.
Aardman: Animating Early Man at M Shed (6 July – 3 November)
Developed with Aardman – the brilliant minds behind Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep – this exhibition at M Shed takes you behind the scenes to show the making of the movie which starred Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston and Maisie Williams.
An afternoon of free science demonstrations and debates with scientists taking to Bristol’s streets, sharing their research and answering the public’s burning questions! Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists.
TYNTEtots: Jack and the Beanstalk at Tyntesfield (17-18 July)
Storytelling, crafts and games for 2-5 year-olds and their families inspired by the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk at the National Trust’s Tyntesfield.
Baby Art Hour at Spike Island (19 July)
Head to Spike Island with your little’un to play with colour, shape, texture and learn easy ways to create, using simple methods and materials. Suitable for under 5s.
Join artist educator Victoria Willmott for a series of fun and informal creative activities that explore the current exhibition or special themes.
School holiday storytelling Fun at Bristol Old Vic (Tuesdays, 11am 23 July- 27 August)
Bring your little ones to 1766 Bar & Kitchen at Bristol Old Vic at 11am to enjoy a magical and free story telling session.
Make a Moon workshop, Filwood Library (24 July)
Let your kid’s imagination run free by creating their own lunar landscape. Booking is advised.
Bonnets and Bicorns, No.1 Royal Crescent, Bath (24 July – 30 August)
Make a Georgian bonnet or bicorn hat and give yourself an instant Georgian makeover with your elegant headwear. Will you be inspired by Jane Austen or Napoleon? A drop-in activity all day in the Servants’ Hall, free with normal admission.
Harry Potter Potion Making Class, Yate (28 July)
This ticketed event at Stanshawes Court gives kids a fully immersive experience into the world of Harry Potter. Youngsters will get to make two magical potions, one to drink and one to eat! Children are welcome to dress up and bring their wands! For the responsible adults there’s a Sunday Carvery available downstairs for £8.95 (mention when booking ticket if you would like this).
Play & Stay Water Fun (30 July)
Get kids exploring the woods and collecting sticks for the campfire this summer. Get wet, get muddy, play with pots and pans, make mud pies and tree boggarts, go on an animal hunt and look for insects on the way, before toasting marshmallows on the fire!
Animals, dinos, Egyptians and masks at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (31 July, 21 August, 28 August)
Get creative with artist Christine Allison and her intriguing mixed-up animals (31 July), let budding palaeontologists find out about dinosaurs in a hands-on roar-some Dinosaur detectives workshop (21 August) and saildown the Nile and discover ancient Egyptian culture with Egypt Explorers on 28 August. Handle marvellous masks from around the world (14 August), explore the museum’s collections looking for inspiration for your own mask, and then make one of your own to take home.
Become an archaeologist for the day and explore objects and displays from some of Bristol’s most recent archaeological sites at Blaise Museum. There will be chances to meet Anglo Saxon re-enactors, have a go at archery, learn some survival skills, find out about the work of local societies and see a mini exhibition of paintings showing Roman Sea Mills. Younger archaeologists can have a go at our ‘mini-excavation’, dress up, get an Iron Age face painting, join an archaeological feast, craft sessions and much more.
How to be a Roman at M Shed (6 August)
Learn about the Romans in Bristol, taste Roman food, dress up in Roman clothes, play Roman games, make crafts and handle real artefacts in this hands-on workshop.
What a Knight! at M Shed (20 August)
Take part in a merry medley of Medieval-themed activities.Children will learn about heraldry, make Apostle badges, try brass rubbing, handle real and replica objects, taste Medieval food and make a stained glass window decoration.
Head over to Brunel’s SS Great Britain with your pre-schoolers for maritime tales. Sarah Mooney captivates imaginations with original stories and new twists on classic legends of whales, angel fish, pirate treasure and stormy seas.
Summer Storytelling, The Rising Sun (6 August)
Love a tall tale? Check out the outdoor-inspired, interactive storytelling sessions at The Rising Sun Community Pub. Start with some crafting – all materials freshly-sourced from The Great Outdoors – and then gather around the fire to enjoy a story accompanied by sounds and sensations that bring the characters and their adventures truly to life! Age guidance 18 months – 10 years but all ages welcome.
TYNTEfest 2019: Beatrix Potter tales at Tyntesfield (7-8 August)
A day for 2-5 year-olds and their families to celebrate National Playday at Tyntesfield, this year inspired by the tales of Beatrix Potter.
Sing along to ‘Shallow’ from ‘A Star Is Born’ and other great film music tracks. This event is open to men, women and children over age 7 to enjoy 90 minutes of singing.
Kids can breakfast with their favourite superhero or princess in Farrington’s Cowtastic Playbarn. Join them from 8.30-9.30am for brekkie, a meet and greet plus a photo opportunity. Feel free to go dressed up too!
Dream and Make at Spike Island (10 August)
This Dream and Make workshop is inspired by the current exhibitions and explores themes around memories and imagined narratives.
Bristol summer theatre
Luna at The Wardrobe Theatre (20 July)
50 years to the day since man first walked on the moon, Roustabout present a glorious celebration of humankind’s relationship with its closest cosmic companion. A rich adventure of storytelling, puppetry, music, history and science, Luna explores our earliest attempts to explain the moon’s ever-changing presence, to Neil Armstrong taking that one small step. For audiences aged 7 years and over.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Bristol Old Vic (26 – 28 July)
We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one…you know how it goes! See the smash-hit production based on the much-loved childrens’ book, direct from the West End and set to Benji Bower’s lively score. Expect catchy songs, interactive scenes, plenty of adventure and a few surprises along the way. For families with children aged 3 and up.
Captain Barnacle’s Pirate Panto on The Matthew (31 July, 2 & 6 August)
A one hour cruise around the Harbour which includes a swashbuckling performance by Captain Barnacle himself. This pirate pantomime features oodles of pirate props, puppets, comedy and lashings of audience participation.
The Bird Show at The Wardrobe Theatre (4 August)
A flap-tastic fact-filled family comedy by The Last Baguette, suitable for the whole brood including fledglings from 4+. With frolics and foraging, flitting, flying and two unusual feathery friends, this is a madcap and touching show about birds facing changes to their habitat. The Bird Show uses live music, puppetry and lots more silly bird puns in this heart- fluttering physical comedy about conservation, migration and imagination.
Prepare yourselves for a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of this classic story with slapstick humour, fast-paced multi-rolling, and a smattering of playful innuendo for the grown-ups,
Tyntesfield and Immersion Theatre invite you to join them on the Croquet Lawn for Lewis Carroll’s classic story of Alice in Wonderland.
Wild Words presents a magical storytelling, theatre and dance show for ages 5-10 preceded by a drama and dance playshop.
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