Summer is on the way so it’s time to start planning some exciting days out, here’s our guide to the best family attractions in Wales.
Zoo, fairground, adventure play area – Folly Farm is several different days out rolled into one. With 750 animals, 17 vintage rides, and eight playgrounds, your biggest problem will be fitting everything in. The don’t-miss activity is getting up close with the animals – feed penguins and giraffes out of your hands, or go behind the scenes with the park’s rhinos.
Royal Mint Experience
Rhondda Cynon Taff
Everyone loves making money, and at the Royal Mint Experience, you get to see it happening first-hand. This goldmine can press up to five billion coins a year, and your guided tour will take you step-by-step through how it does – and you can even strike your own £2 coin. Unsurprisingly, security is tight, so don’t go getting any ideas.
Neath Port Talbot
An aerial assault course high up in the canopy, Go Ape nails that tricky balance between being scary enough to get the blood pumping, but not so scary that it stops being fun. Strap on your harness – you’ll be tottering across rope bridges, zooming down ziplines, and surrendering to gravity on the UK’s largest Tarzan swing.
National Showcaves Wales
One of the largest cave formations in Europe and a benchmark for Welsh natural beauty, it’s surprising that these undulating cave networks aren’t more widely known. 16km of subterranean splendour, the caves are atmospherically lit and punctuated by immense, spiky rock formations that bathe entire walls in shadow. The walks between caves are guarded by large model dinosaurs – a sure-fire hit with the kids.
Llanelli Wetlands Centre
Ever seen a Welsh flamingo? Nope, nor had we, but that’s because we hadn’t visited the Llanelli Wetlands Centre, a haven for wildfowl that will have even first-time birders reaching for the binoculars. Elusive breeds like bittern, lapwing and short-eared owl frequent the muddy marshland, while the canoe safaris, play areas and feeding sessions should engage anyone missing a screen. The preening flamingos are well aware they’re the headline act, and their bright pink plumage makes them impossible to miss.
Boasting some of the finest walks in Wales, the trails of Cwmcarn range from a 20-minute stroll through the bluebells to a lung-busting hike to an Iron Age hill fort. Dedicated ramblers can stay on-site in the luxurious glamping pods, and adventurous souls can traverse the forest by mountain bike. The children’s explorer trail should take care of younger visitors, too.
Llancaiach Fawr Manor
A shining example of the military mansions that proliferated during the turbulent time of the Tudors, Llancaiach is a fortified manor house that was as defensible as it was liveable. It remained in use for centuries, and today has been restored to look exactly as it did when it saw service during the English Civil War. Supposedly haunted, book onto a ghost tour to hear timorous tales of paranormal episodes, surrounded by stone staircases, flickering candles and creaking floorboards.
You might not immediately associate Swansea with Ancient Egypt but head to the Egypt Centre at Swansea University to see an amazing collection of 5,000 ancient Egyptian atefacts. Gods with hippo-heads, model eyes wrought from obsidian, and rows of miniature sarcophagi – it’s a fount of educational inspiration and a fascinating attraction for the whole family to visit during the summer months
Zip World Bounce Below
Not satisfied with their ‘fastest zipline in the world’, Zip World have launched Bounce Below, a subterranean adventure playground in the labyrinthine Slate Caverns. If your kids enjoy the local playground, imagine what they’ll think of an underground network of trampolines. Boing!
Welsh Mining Experience
Rhondda Cynon Taff
A lot of places claim to straddle the line between education and enjoyment, but few do so as effectively as the Rhondda Heritage Park. Visitors can enjoy an informative and kid-friendly tour of the disused Rhondda Valley mining facilities, hosted entirely by retired miners.
Quite literally the castle capital of the world, Wales has comfortably enough castles to fill the entire summer holidays. The finest fortress on the Gower peninsula, this 12th century citadel offers up stunning views over Swansea Bay, as well as 14th century graffiti and a 30ft-high glass bridge.
The biggest theme park in all of Wales, this pride of Pembrokeshire offers big rides and bigger thrills. Adrenaline junkies can leave their stomachs in the sky with the beyond-vertical drops of roller coaster Speed, while those with more laid-back tastes can spin themselves senseless on Dizzy Disks, or cruise through the canopy on Treetops.
Roman fort, Norman stronghold, Victorian pleasure palace – this capital castle has been through more incarnations than David Bowie. With wartime tunnels in the basement and opulent apartments in the towers, the castle offers everything from film tours and comedy nights, to a functioning, full-size replica of a medieval trebuchet.
St Fagans National Museum of History
Step back in time at this unique open-air museum to explore the history of Wales through 40 historic buildings. You can also get hands on in three new galleries where you’ll uncover the lives of our ancestors, from a 230,000-year old Neanderthal child to the present day, discover how the people of Wales lived, worked and spent their leisure time through the ages. You can visit Llys Llywelyn, a medieval prince’s hall, see the Victorian school and pick up some Welsh food from 1920s Gwalia Stores. There’s also animals on Llwyn-yr-eos Farm and see the craftspeople at work in the smithy, the clogmaker’s workshop and the corn and woollen mills. At Wales’ most popular heritage attraction history is truly brought to life and a great day out for the whole family is guaranteed.
Rhondda Cynon Taff
There’s perhaps no better way to spend a summer Saturday than a family trip to the pool, and at Lido Ponty, it’s like taking a swim through history. Opened in 1927, the venue has a visitor centre exploring its aquatic heritage, and today’s modern building retains the old wooden turnstiles and cubicles. With a range of inflatables, aqua jets and a dedicated splash pool for the little ones, this might be the most family-friendly water in Wales.
Neath Port Talbot
A Grade I-listed castle at the heart of some beautifully landscaped gardens, Margam Park is a tour de force of natural and architectural heritage. The farm trail features – and we’re not making these up – Badger Face sheep and Buff Orpington hens, while deer, kingfishers and kestrels patrol the grounds at will. The park is a perfect companion to the summer sun, while visitors can tour the manor house if the heat gets too much.
The Miami Boulevard of the Welsh capital, this formerly derelict dockland has undergone a huge – and massively successful – regeneration project. Now the area throngs with tourists and locals alike, enjoying a classic urban blend of entertainment, technology and retail. Shop ‘til you drop at Mermaid Quay, test your mettle at the white water rafting centre, or visit the UK’s longest established science centre, Techniquest.
Swansea Waterfront Museum
With more than 300 years of Welsh industrial history contained within its glass displays, Swansea’s National Waterfront Museum is a must-see for culture vultures and techno-nerds alike. With interactive workstations, changing exhibitions and even in-house yoga sessions, it’s always full of surprises and well worth a visit for a fun family day out at Swansea Marina.
Brecon Mountain Railway
Everyone loves a train journey – especially one with steam – and for some years, the Brecon Mountain Railway has been quietly chugging along one of the most scenic routes in the land. A timeless voyage through the foothills of the Beacons, there’s something strangely cathartic about a charming steam locomotive, grand mountain vistas, and rickety compartments. Sit back and relax while you climb to 1,300 feet without even catching your breath.
Reconnect with nature this summer at Aberglasney – an outdoor Eden Project likely to enchant even the most reluctant gardener. The themed gardens showcase a range of unusual flora – sub-topical and Asiatic blooms, dwarf-plants and classic British shrubberies. Expect rare magnolias, ponds a-plenty, and to go home feeling thoroughly refreshed.