Need some inspiration on the things to do with your kids in New Forest? The New Forest is blessed with acres of beautiful countryside to explore, but what will you do with the kids when it rains? Luckily, there are plenty of family-friendly activities for a wet day, from historic country houses to indoor play barns and interesting museums. The New Forest is certainly one of the UK’s most idyllic National Parks. Famous for its roaming wild ponies, quaint villages and several luxury hotels and spas. Spanning the two counties of Hampshire and Wiltshire, it is popular with walkers and cyclists. In addition, there are endless opportunities for active families here.
Allow us to help you to find the best things to do with kids in The New Forest.
1. The Regal Cinema
At first, the Regal Cinema in Fordingbridge is a beautiful Art Deco building that has been transformed to its former 1930’s glory, for a really unique experience. The 30 seater auditorium is intimate and elegant, and there’s a swish bar for refreshments too.
Furthermore, the not-for-profit community cinema shows a variety of classic and modern films, including a wide range of family friendly screenings.
2. National Motor Museum
The village of Beaulieu is most famous for its National Motor Museum, which has one of the finest collections of cars, motorcycles and motoring memorabilia in the world. From legendary F1 cars and land speed record breakers, to iconic examples of engineering and design, there’s much to see and admire.
During the school holidays there are lots of family focused activities and events including dressing up, craft workshops and seeing the vehicles in action.
Opening Hours: Open daily 10am – 5pm / 6pm (winter / summer)
3. Longdown Activity Farm
A farm may not be your first thought for a rainy day activity, but this one in Ashurst has loads of indoor fun, so makes for the perfect day out. There’s a soft play area, a straw den and trampoline barn and a sand pit. In addition, you can find an infant’s playroom, as well as an animal encounter barn where kids can handle ducklings, rabbits, guinea pigs and more.
The kids will also love the daily bottle feeding of calves and goats, which is undercover too.
Opening Hours: Open daily 10am – 4:30pm / 5 pm (winter / summer)
4. Beaulieu Palace House
Once the gatehouse of the medieval Beaulieu Abbey, Palace House has been the Montagu family home since 1538. Remodelled and extended in the 1800’s, it is now a stunning example of Victorian architecture, in a stunning setting overlooking Beaulieu River. Visitors can explore the characterful property’s ornate rooms, family treasures and memorabilia, as well as the beautiful grounds.
The Victorian Kitchen has been newly restored. Kids will love finding out what the Victorian’s ate and how they cooked. There are numerous seasonal events for families at Palace House, such as an Easter Egg Hunt and Christmas Fair. If the weather brightens up, you can also explore the atmospheric Abbey ruins and gardens.
Opening Hours: Open daily 10am -6pm
5. New Forest Heritage Centre
Finally, the New Forest Heritage Centre is a free museum and gallery dedicated to sharing the history and traditions of this beautiful National Park. For families there are plenty of hands on exhibitions – lift the flaps of the family fun tree to see what creepy crawlies lurk beneath. Or have fun and walk through the giant trunk and match the animals with their tracks.
Family-friendly Discovery Days include exciting craft activities, quizzes and museum trails to help you learn all about the New Forest’s wildlife, landscape and history.
Opening Hours: Open daily 10am – 5pm
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6. Walking or Cycling
Most importantly, the New Forest had more than 140 miles of cycling tracks and footpaths, covering ancient woodland, beautiful heathland, pretty villages and coastline. Moreover, there are thousands of free-roaming ponies, donkeys, cattle and deer to spot on your adventures. Popular starting points for walks include Burley, Beaulieu and Lyndhurst.
Families could for instance take a 2 mile stroll along the beautiful Beaulieu River, before heading to south to the old shipping village of Buckler’s Hard. Or, take the 1.8 mile Radnor trail towards Bratley Water (a popular picnic spot) and the Bolderwood deer viewing platform. In addition, you might spot them being fed by local rangers.
7. Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway
These spectacular gardens span 200 acres and are famous for their Rothschild Collection of colourful plants. Including rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. A beautiful place to visit on a sunny day, with plenty of space for the children to run about. Hop on the miniature Steam Railway for a 20 minute ride through beautiful scenery, then head to the adventure play area for even more fun. After that experience, finish the day at Mr Eddy’s Tea Rooms with a well deserved ice cream!
Address: Exbury, Southampton SO45 1AZ
Opening Hours: Gardens open March – November, 10am – 5.30pm. Railway open 12pm – 3.30pm .
8. Paulton’s Park
A family-focused theme park on the edge of the New Forest, Paulton’s Park offers over 70 rides and attractions, including Peppa Pig World. The latest additions to the park are the dinosaur-themed Lost Kingdom, and a safari area called Little Africa. Best suited to younger children, Paulton’s Park has won numerous awards including the coveted Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice Award for 2018.
Opening Hours: Open daily 10am – 5:30pm
9. Horse Riding
The New Forest is synonymous with horses, with over 3,000 wild ponies roaming the beautiful landscape. Seeing all these horses is bound to get the kids asking you about lessons. And luckily there are lots of riding schools in the area, including in Burley, Brockenhurst and Fordingbridge . This activity is not just for the kids though, there are a wide range of experiences on offer at most riding schools, whether you are a complete beginner or a confident rider. Seeing the beautiful forest on horseback is certainly a spectacular experience, so why not try it out?
10. New Forest Wildlife Park
This fantastic wildlife park lets you get up close to an amazing array of animals in their natural habitat. For example, follow the woodland trails to spot otters, deer, wild boar, bison, grey wolves and wildcats. There’s also a tropical butterfly house open during the summer months (April – October.)
After seeing the animals, make your way to the amazing adventure playgrounds. Go Wild has a zip wire, log jumble, climbing ropes, and spider nets. However younger visitors (under 6 yrs) can enjoy sand pits, diggers, slides, climbing frames and swings at Mini Wild.
Address: Deerleap Ln, Southampton SO40 4UH
Opening Hours: Open daily 10am – 4:30 / 5:30pm (winter / summer)
So if you are looking to be inspired to visit The New Forest for your next family weekend, just visit our different New Forest pages to find what this destination has to offer. And why not booking a 2 nights weekend break in Brockenhurst easily accessible by train or car. Your kids will love seeing horses, poneys and cows totally free to wander about.
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