If you and your family love children’s books then these book-themed places to visit should be right up your street.
I get so excited when we visit somewhere connected to one of the children’s books we read. As a family, we really enjoy visiting the Forestry Commission’s Julia Donaldson trails (we’ve done The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Stick Man and Superworm trails so far – which I think could well be all of them!), and three years ago we made a special trip to Bradford’s Cartwright Hall Art Gallery for A Squash and a Squeeze: Sharing Stories with Julia Donaldson which was excellent.
I keep coming across other book-based places to so I’m building a list of places to go with the brood which would surely be selfish to keep to myself, so here are some brilliant book-based family days out for you to enjoy with your youngsters…
Gruffalo and Friends – the Art of Axel Scheffler
Mottisfont Abbey, Romsey, Hampshire
15 July to 3 September 2017
If you’re a National Trust member based in the South (or if you’re visiting the area) this is a no-brainer of a day out this summer because it won’t cost you a penny. We’ve visited an exhibition featuring Axel’s work before and it was amazing – there were lots of interactive elements for the kids, and sketches from the books as well as the amazing envelopes he sent to Julia Donaldson decorated with his original artwork. This is a totally child-friendly exhibition, with low-hanging pictures, cosy reading spaces, large scene-setting vinyls and themed rooms and spaces. There’s even a family trail for you all to enjoy, plus additional Gruffalo-themed activities on 1-2 and 29-20 August.
Entry to Mottisfont Abbey is free for National Trust members or costs £34 for a family ticket. Under-5s are free. View all entry prices.
Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle upon Tyne
Seven Stories is the National home of Children’s Books and is open seven days a week during the school holidays.
There are regular story times throughout the day, a story station with toys and props suitable for under-4s, and you can even borrow special Sensory Backpacks packed with props to help you make the most of your visit.
There are a range of events and exhibitions taking place throughout the year. This summer’s exhibitions include Bears! – an interactive exploration of bears in books over the last 100 years, and Comics: Explore and Create Comic Art – a celebration of comic art featuring storyboards, sketches and 3D models (opens 21 July 2017).
On 30 August there’s a special Supertato Show too.
Entry prices vary from £2.50 for a toddler to £7.70 for an adult. Family entry is £23.10
The World of Beatrix Potter
Up in the Lake District, The World of Beatrix Potter features 3D displays of Potter’s most popular tales and there’s a Peter Rabbit garden too that recreates lots of recognisable scenes. You can even book in for breakfast or an afternoon tea with Peter Rabbit himself (for an extra charge)!
And this summer, the Where is Peter Rabbit Show (a musical suitable for ages 3 and above), runs until 3 September.
A family ticket to The World of Beatrix Potter (2 adults and 2 children) is £21 and children aged 2 and under are free. The Where is Peter Rabbit Show costs £33 for a family of 4 – or you can combine the show and the attraction for £48.
The Rainbow Factory is aimed at children aged 10 and under and specialises in storytelling through the creative arts.
During term time they host a variety of storytelling, sing-along and play sessions for 0 to 4 year-olds.
In the school holidays there’s a different theme each week with a whole host of activities for little people to try out (primarily aimed at children 4+ but there are still some activities for 2 to 4 year-olds). The themes for summer 2017 are Horrible Histories, Marvel & Superheroes, Circus, Sci-Fi & Science, Fantasy, Myths & Legends, and Mysteries, Spies & Detectives.
Entry is free, but the Rainbow Factory recommends you book online in advance during the holidays (you get a better rate by doing that too). You need to pay for the activities.
Discover Children’s Story Centre
Discover is a purpose-built Story World and Story Garden for children aged 0-11 and their families. A team of dedicated Story Builders guide visitors though the space and encourage them to create their own stories.
Interactive exhibitions featuring favourite authors change up to twice a year. The Fantastic World of Dr Seuss runs until Sunday 3 September 2017 then A World Inside a Book: Gruffalos, Dragons and Other Creatures opens on Saturday 21 October 2017 and runs until September 2018.
There are also lots of different events taking place throughout the year, from storytelling sessions for 0-3 year olds to drop-in craft activities and interactive exhibits. There’s even a series of meet the author sessions.
Admission is £6.50 per person or £22 for a family of 4. Children under 2 are free.
The Story Museum
The Story Museum has a changing programme of exhibitions and immersive installations across its two floors.
Join a story guide for one of several story sessions during the day, catch a movie in the film den, or pop on a dressing gown, pick up a book, and cosy on down in the Time for Bed installation.
Alternatively, you could tumble down the rabbit hole in the Wonderland space and take your place at the table for a mad tea party.
It looks like there’s so much to see and do at The Story Museum, including special performances, workshops and author/illustrator visits in school holidays. I can’t wait to go.
The museum is open every day in the holidays and closed Mondays during term time.
Entry is £20 for a family of four and under-2s are free.
Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
This award-winning museum is aimed at 6 to 12 year olds, and features three interactive galleries. In them you’ll find a mix of objects and archive material to look at, things to watch and listen to, as well as interactive activities to help you learn more about the stories behind the stories.
Boy gallery looks at Roald Dahl’s school days while Solo gallery is home to his original Writing Hut. The Story Centre puts your imagination centre-stage with fantabulous activities to inspire the writer in you.
There are free drop-in craft activities every day, plus free storytelling at weekends and in the holidays.
In the summer, there are lots of special activities from guided trails and Meet to Mini Beasts to author drop-ins, chocolate workshops, and storytelling walks.
For younger fans, The Chiddlers’ Hour is a weekly session for 0-3 year olds and features songs, storytelling, adventure, free play and crafts based of different Roald Dahl stories. It costs £3 and you don’t need museum entry to attend (but you should book in advance). It takes place on Tuesdays during term time.
The Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays. A family ticket for 2 adults and up to 3 children is £21.
Museum of Childhood
Sudbury Hall, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Sudbury Hall is one of our closer National Trust properties, so we’ve visited a couple of times, and its Museum of Childhood is well worth a visit. There’s lots to keep the children entertained (my boys are particularly happy climbing through the chimney and covering their faces with ‘soot’), but they also enjoy all the other interactive elements, including The Stories and Imagination Gallery.
There’s a great little performance area with fancy dress and a changeable backdrop which kept my brood and their pals entertained for a surprisingly long time. I loved to watch them take turns to tell their stories and act them out.
The Stories and Imagination Gallery is just a small part of what you can see in the Museum of Childhood. Full details on all the galleries are available here.
The museum is open 7 days a week and entry costs £21.90 for a family ticket, or it’s free if you’re a National Trust member.
Forestry Commission England Gruffalo Trails
Our boys are so outdoorsy that we love to visit the Forestry Commission England sites.
You can buy Activity Kits featuring activity and fact cards, a spotters guide, stickers and a special magnifying glass, pencil, ruler and evidence collection bag at participating centres, or you can just follow the trail on your own.
We often choose this as a rainy day activity – because most of the trail is in a deep dark wood, you can keep (relatively!) dry under the cover of the trees.
New this year they’ve introduced a Gruffalo Spotters augmented reality app that brings the characters to life. I can’t wait to try this out.
Entry to the forests is free, but there is a charge for parking.
Have you visited any of these attractions? What did you think? And what bookish places would you add to the list? Do let me know in the comments below.