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Hampshire for Kids

Hampshire for kids and adults alike makes the perfect destination for a family outing, a weekend away or a longer stay.

The county’s huge diversity of family oriented attractions, child-friendly accommodation and family-style eating places, takes the hassle out of pleasing the younger people in our midst. A great day out in Hampshire for kids and the whole family is guaranteed.

Keeping the kids entertained, particularly mixed age groups, is what it’s all about; happy kids means happy adults. But this basically sound strategy usually comes at a price when planning a family getaway or even a great day out – and that price tends to be compromise. No need to compromise, though, where taking the kids out and about in Hampshire is concerned.

Come rain or shine, there’s plenty in Hampshire for kids to do, both indoors and outdoors. Whether it's looking for a football team to join, checking out what's on at the cinema or what kids’ activities are available locally, your local museum and library will probably have an all-year-round programme of events, as well as information about special activities for the school holidays.

Hampshire Kids’ Attractions

 Marwell Activity Centre, Hurst Lane, Owslebury, Winchester, SO21 1EZ; Tel: +44 (0)8709 917218, website: www.marwellactivitycentre.co.uk; email: info@marwellactivitycentre.co.uk; wide range of activities and outdoor pursuits including camping, canoeing, shooting, archery, ropes’ courses, climbing, dune buggies, paintball and quad bikes; specialises in fun weekly day camps for children aged between 8-15 years; summer activity club supervised by qualified instructors.

 Paultons Park, Ower, Romsey, SO51 6AL; Tel: +44 (0)2380 814442; website: www.paultonspark.co.uk; conveniently located just off Exit 2 of the M27 and on the edge of the New Forest; over fifty different attractions and activities, rides, shows, play areas, etc, with something to suit kids of all ages.

 Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Visitor Centre, Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, PO1 3LJ; Tel: +44 (0)2392 83 9766; website: www.historicdockyard.co.uk; explore the Mary Rose, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860, The Royal Naval Museum (kids will love ‘InterAction’, an interactive exhibition demonstrating the modern technologies used by today’s Royal Navy).

 Longdown Activity Farm, Longdown, Ashurst, Nr. Southampton, SO40 7EH; Tel: +44 (0)2380 292837; website: www.longdownfarm.co.uk; hands-on activities and fun for all the family; indoor play areas suitable for very young children, straw barn with bales for climbing, swings, chute, tunnel, play areas, pedal tractors, go-karts, motorised coin-operated vehicles.

 Blue Reef Aquarium, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, Portsmouth, PO5 3PB; Tel: +44 (0)2392 875222; website: www.bluereefaquarium.co.uk; hands-on, wildlife attraction designed to help younger people understand and appreciate the natural world, oceans and sea creatures; take an ‘undersea tour’; underwater walkthrough tunnel; marvel at the amazing sea-life; view giant crabs, lobsters, seahorses, tropical sharks.

 Liberty’s Raptor and Reptile Centre, Crow Lane, Crow, Ringwood, BH24 3EA; Tel +44 (0)1425 476487; website: www.libertyscentre.co.uk; view birds of prey - eagles, owls and vultures, close up; fascinating reptiles - snakes, lizards, snails, tortoises, etc; breath-taking displays.

 Go Ape, Moors Valley Country Park, Horton Road, Ashley Heath, Ringwood, BH24 2ET; Tel: +44 (0)8704 445562; website: www.goape.co.uk; award-winning high-wire forest adventure course; rope bridges, Tarzan tree swings, slides, etc; close supervision, climbing harnesses provided; participants minimum age 10 years, minimum height 1.4 metres (4ft 7ins).

Child-friendly Accommodation in Hampshire

Hampshire has no shortage of kid-friendly places to stay, ranging from budget youth hostels (see UK Youth Hostel Association website: www.yha.org.uk), campsites (see article ‘Camping in Hampshire’ for more detailed information), self-catering cottages, farm holidays, great value guest houses and B&Bs, to luxury hotel style accommodation. The family accommodation market in Hampshire is competitive. In addition, several hotel chains regularly offer competitive packages and deals for families, with children’s menus, baby-sitting, baby-listening, cots and high chairs as standard. Hotel chains that have a policy of welcoming families include: Novotel, Holiday Inn, Premier Lodge and Travelodge.

The following are just a few suggestions of child-friendly places to stay in Hampshire:

 Burley Youth Hostel, Cott Lane, Burley, Ringwood, BH24 4BB; Tel: +44 (0)1425 403233; open all year round; in the heart of the New Forest, this family-friendly youth hostel is ideally situated for a cycling, pony trekking or water sport family holiday.

 Watersplash Hotel, The Rise, Brockenhurst, SO42 7ZP; Tel: +44 (0)1590 622344; central New Forest location, large family rooms, baby-listening service, cots and highchairs available on request; noted for its ‘child-friendly attitude’ and to quote the owner ‘families are particularly welcome, and children are as important as any of our grown-up guests’.

 Burgate Manor Farm Holidays, Burgate, Fordingbridge, SP6 1LX; Tel: +44 (0) 1425 653908; website: www.newforestcottages.com; self-catering cottages situated in a farmyard on the edge of the New Forest, a mile away from Fordingbridge.

Eating out in Hampshire with Kids

Hampshire is awash with child-friendly eateries where the emphasis is not only on keeping the kids happy, but also on providing a relaxing (and suitably civilised!) dining environment where adults can unwind and enjoy themselves. From local village pubs to chain restaurants, the county of Hampshire certainly knows how to cater for kids and pander to their generally discerning palates.

Chain restaurants that really know how to pull out the stops for kids include Brewers Fayre, www.brewersfayre.co.uk; TGI Friday’s, www.tgif.co.uk; and Beefeater restaurants, www.beefeater.co.uk . Particularly recommended for their relaxed family ambience are: Clarence Pier Brewers Fayre, Long Curtain Wall, Southsea, located, as it happens, next to an amusement park on Long Curtain Road; Southampton TGI Friday's, West Quay Retail Park, West Quay Road, Esplanade, Southampton (incredibly cheap kids’ meals with a kids’ activity pack thrown in for free); and The Hut Beefeater, Bournemouth Road, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh.

Pubs that cater for kids are plentiful throughout Hampshire. A couple of possibilities include the Kings Head, Hursley, Winchester, which welcomes families and provides quality pub grub to suit all tastes (also serves a bargain children's Sunday lunch, plus ice cream and free use of skittle alley); and Holbury Inn, 63 Long Lane, Holbury, Southampton; large beer garden, children’s play area; serves good pub grub.

Hampshire for Kids
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