With summer seeming almost a distant memory, it's easy to feel that there's nothing to do at weekends but to cuddle up at home and entertain the children with craft and games. There are, however, plenty of attractions and days out that remain open throughout the year, and visiting such places on a fine autumn or winter day can be very rewarding. Tourist numbers are undoubtedly down, so you can gain a richer experience visiting attractions that remain open. Smaller crowds also mean it's less frantic with your baby and young children. If you don't have children of a school age, then you'll find that the weekends outside of school holidays and half terms are quietest of all.
Attractions with animals invariably remain open all year round because even though the crowds may be small, the animals require just as much as care and attention as they do on a busy summer day! Animal attractions include zoos and farms, also animal sanctuaries and wildlife parks.
Whilst the majority of National Trust and English Heritage properties close over the winter months, many privately owned country houses, stately homes and castles remain open. These can offer a wonderful place just to 'get away' and enjoy lovely outdoor walks. Many such properties offer garden and grounds only tickets which often suit younger children who may not endure a traipse around a stuffy home!
Lots of towns and cities have local museums that also remain open throughout the year. If you are looking for something different to do in your area, try to discover a new museum that you perhaps didn't know existed before! Use the internet to search for attractions new to you nearby.
Wherever you live, you're never far away from some 'great outdoors', perhaps a National Park, a country estate, a local park, the coast, a wildlife sanctuary, reservoir or industrial space such as docks. All of these can make for a fun place to walk and explore no matter how young your children.
Exposing your children to interesting places from an early age will impart a curiosity for interesting places and learning in later life. Just because the traditional tourist season is over, don't write off the idea of great days out in the autumn and winter!
Nothing beats a family day out especially as Easter arrives and attractions start opening for the 2010 season; leading family attractions can be very expensive, but with a little thought, you can have really good alternative days out for very little cost. Here are some ideas to get out on the cheap!
Look for open spaces where you can walk, run around and explore. Many National Trust properties offer free admission to grounds; rivers and disused railways can often be explored at no cost; local parks and commons rarely charge for access other than sometimes for parking. Play exploring games, make obstacle courses or create a treasure hunt!
Museums and Heritage
While many museums charge admission fees, lots of museums and art galleries are free. Use the internet to find museums and galleries close to you that offer free admission. Just because a museum is free doesn't mean it has nothing interesting to show - many are run by local councils or were perhaps gifted by wealthy philanthropists. Many also hold special events aimed at children and families which again may allow you to participate at no cost. If there aren't games laid on for little ones, make up your own games - have them find certain artefacts on display.
Towns and cities don't just mean shopping and spending! There are usually open spaces that you can explore, parks for little ones, there may be sculptures and other street art to view, and famous landmark buildings that you can admire from the street. Plan a route through a town or city near you, note interesting features along the way, and take the children exploring!
Reservoirs are sited around the country, and many allow free access to explore. Reservoirs are great for watching birds and see other wildlife. You may be closer to a National Park or other accessible landscape than you realise, such as the Peak District, New Forest or the National Forest. Those living in the South may be near the South Downs National Park which came into existence on 1st April 2010. These offer great opportunities both to spot animals in the wild, but also to explore and find signs of animals, such as tracks, nests, holes, droppings and so on. Take a pad and pencils and have them draw the different animals, birds and plants that you spot. For younger children, have them draw the different colours that they see.
If you're going to be out for a whole day, you'll want to eat cheaply. Prepare your own picnic before you go, or for cheap restaurant eating, look for low cost chain restaurants or even supermarket restaurants - these often have special deals on food.
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