The school summer holidays are upon us. A minimum of 6(ish) weeks when most Parents are probably thinking “how am I going to entertain my children?”, followed by “without spending a small mortgage (is there such a thing as a small mortgage nowadays?)”. Here are a handful of purse-kind ideas for family-friendly summer holiday fun in and around Norwich.
1. Get a Norfolk Museums Pass.
Excellent value, from less than £20 for a young person (4-16 yrs), this pass offers unlimited year-round access to museums across the County, including Norwich Castle Museum and Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse. Both great places to visit for families, The Castle is an excellent activity for wet weather days, while Gressenhall boasts an outdoor woodland play area that alone is good for a couple of hours energy-expenditure. And if you have the Pass, you won’t mind visiting for just an odd couple of hours or a morning or afternoon.
2. Take advantage of our green spaces.
Norwich has some marvellous parks. Our favourites are Waterloo Park (so clean and well maintained with a fabulous paddling pool water-play feature), Heigham Park (smaller, but a nice play area and good for a stroll) and Eaton Park (bigger, so plenty of space to run and great kids play area. The Cafe is nice too – does great Banana Bread). Chapelfield Gardens is also nice in the summer, with a newly revamped play area (including equipment intended for ‘older kids’ and a bargainous cafe-snack-hut that offers hot food such as burgers and chips for only a few quid.
Throughout the summer holidays, there are a series of free outdoor theatre events for children at Waterloo and Heigham Park, while other green spaces and parks have free ‘Play days’, intended for people who live around the parks. See the City Council website for exact dates and further information, or download their 2012 events guide.
Whitlingham Country Park (in Trowse) is another fantastic natural resource. Stroll around the large broad and then relax with a drink in the cafe, or make your way up towards the ‘Prehistoric Park‘, full of woodland tracks, and an outdoor adventure playground and wooden climbing boat for youngsters.
3. Visit the Sainsbury Centre.
Good for at least one outing over the summer, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is a modern public art museum that is largely free (except for the odd temporary exhibition) and increasingly trying to appeal to families.
The newly refurbished on-site Modern Life Cafe is great value and offers delicious snacks and meals.
Set within the grounds of the University of East Anglia, you can visit the Sainsbury Centre and then go for an amble around the UEA lake (weather-permitting – it can get a bit muddy after a few days of rain).
One word of advice though – parking for the Sainsbury Centre isn’t great. Our recommendation – walk, bike or bus (numbers 25 and 35 buses get very close).
4. Check out the Malls & Department Stores
The Mall (the Castle Mall), Chapelfield, John Lewis Norwich and Jarrold the store often have events for youngsters, which are usually free. Keep an eye on their websites or when you go shopping to see what’s on and when.
5. Indoor Play Areas
Ideal with the rainy weather we’ve been having, indoor play centres offer a safe, covered environment for kids to run about and expire some energy. The good ones will have an area where you can sit with a coffee and relax while they do precisely the opposite. Our favourite ‘local’ indoor play areas are actually outside Norwich, but worth the journey. Planet Zoom in Dereham and Stompers in North Walsham are excellent – big, clean and relatively inexpensive. Monsters in Diss is also great. Our Little Man once played for about 5 hours with his friends in Planet Zoom for the entry price of £3.50 and a spot of lunch. Not bad.
6. Visit our Libraries
The Milllennium Library in the Forum is said to be the most popular in the UK. And with good reason. The Children’s Library section, for example, is absolutely excellent. Bright and engaging with all the latest reads for youngsters from tots to teens, computer terminals (offering free access to the Internet) and regular events (workshops, story-telling, sing-a-longs and author visits), if you’ve never visited with your children, we’d urge you to do so immediately. Perfect in any weather, and accessible and central, you can spend time in the library and then borrow a heap of books for further reading activities once you get home. Brilliant.
If you can’t get into the City centre, there are ‘satellite’ libraries all around our fine City. We often frequent the Earlham Library (or the ‘Little Library’ as its known in our household). Smaller in size alone, it always has tons of new books and DVDs for us and the kids.
7. The Forum
Sticking with the forum, in addition to the library, this landmark Norwich building hosts plenty of its own happenings. Keep an eye on their website for family-friendly, summer events or see their events guide for July and August.
8. Gymboree (Riverside, Norwich)
Designed especially for pre-schoolers (birth to 5), Gymboree is opening up summer-sessions to non-members, meaning you can try this fun activity without having to commit beyond the summer. In term-time, Gymboree offers a free trial session to everyone so you can see if it’s for you. Perfect for babies and tots, Gymboree is a fun way to stimulate tiny minds while giving those tiny limbs a good workout. See the summer 2012 timetable.
9. Catch a (cut price) movie
Most Norwich Cinemas, including Cinema City and Vue in The Mall offer special kids screenings at discounted prices. These family-friendly showings of new and classic films for children are held in the morning. Again, a perfect activity if its raining.
New events and happenings are added and publicised all the time.