This year is going to be all about UK staycations for us. We’ll hopefully be getting out to the coast and exploring some of the beautiful British countryside. I’ll also be throwing some city breaks in the mix and hope to convince you to visit some of the lesser know destinations in the Country. Bristol is a brilliant place to start. The city is relaxed, creative and very family friendly. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Bristol with kids.
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What is there to do indoors in Bristol?
SS Great Britain and the Brunel Museum
I’m cheating a little on this one because its definitely an indoor/outdoor attraction. But I had to include as the SS Great Britain is THE number one thing to do in Bristol with kids. A visit here gives you the unique opportunity to board one of the most famous boats in the country. And learn more about the Engineer behind its design, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The areas to explore inside the ship where you’ll learn what life was like on board and the Brunel museum are all indoors. Make sure you read my full review of the SS Great Britain, Bristol before you visit.
The Bristol Aquarium is a great place to visit on a rainy day in Bristol. They are the only aquarium in the UK to feature an Urban Jungle which is a huge botanical house. Home to some fascinating plants and creature. It has a brilliant underwater tunnel and features over 40 themed displays. They’re big on conservation work so it’s a great place to teach kids the importance of protecting our oceans.
Located in the harbour area of Bristol near the SS Great Britain, M Shed is a unique type of museum. It takes you through the history of the city in a fun and engaging way. It houses art and artefacts showcasing over 2,000 years of Bristols history.
This spills out into the harbourside with trains, cranes and a delightful cafe. M Shed is totally free to visit so well worth popping in to learn a bit of local history.
We The Curious Science Museum
We are huge fans of science museums and the more interactive the better. That’s why we absolutely love We The Curious in Bristol. Kids will love getting hands on and will be learning loads without even realising it. There’s also a lovely planetarium which as daytime shows. Curiosity rules here so the museum aims to get the kids asking questions, discovering new passions and getting involved in all aspects of science.
Flip Out Bristol
Active kids will love a session at Flip out Bristol trampoline park. It has loads of bouncy obstacle courses, ball pits, ninja tag and an onsite cafe. Bounce sessions are around £12.50 per child which include grip socks. Flip out Bristol is located in Longwell Green and is closed on Thursdays.
Outdoor activities in Bristol for kids
This is one of my favourite sporting activities in Bristol with kids. The city is home to a highly engaged surfing community which is why The Wave is such a popular place to visit. You can book in for a session on the waves or take part in an organised lesson. Here you’ll learn the basics of catching a wave, how to stay safe in the water and have a chance to ride some waves to shore. They provide everything you and the kids will need for a full session in the water. Read my full review of the wave Bristol with kids for more info.
Bristol Zoo has animal welfare and conservation at the heart of everything it does. Making it a wonderful place to visit for little animal lovers. The zoo is the fifth oldest in the world and opened in 1836! Amongst the many fascinating creatures who call the zoo home you’ll see a red panda, gorillas, penguins and a wonderful aquarium. Our favourites, as always are the cute meerkats.
Banksy street art hunt
World famous artist Banksy grew up on the streets of Bristol and his route can be followed around the city streets. I absolutely love his street art, pieces are now selling for hundreds of thousands of pounds but can be seen on buildings around Bristol for free! Whilst Piper didn’t fully understand all the pieces she did enjoy the fact that are walking trail was a lot like a scavenger hunt. I recommend spending an afternoon following the trail, taking breaks at the lovely cafes and bars dotted around the city centre. Visit Bristol has a brilliant Banksy walking trail you can follow.
Parks and playgrounds
Bristol is home to many parks and open spaces, ideal for letting the kids run free whilst you soak up some sun or enjoy a picnic. Brandon Hill is one of the best and is located right in the city centre. This park is home to Cabots Tower, one of Bristols most famous land marks. There is a sweet little playground at the bottom of the park. A lovely treat for the kids after a busy day exploring.
Windmill Hill City Farm
Located just a 20 minute walk from the city centre is Windmill Hill City farm. A 4.5 acre open space with farm animals, playgrounds, fabulous farm shop and cafe and community gardens. It’s a wonderful place to bring the kids for a day out in Bristol. Entrance to the farm is free but they do encourage donations.
What can you do for free in Bristol
Clifton Suspension Bridge
A walk across the Clifton Suspension Bridge is free for pedestrians and it really is quite a special experience. It’s just £1 to cross by car but I think it’s far more fun to walk.The views across the Avon Gorge are absolutely stunning and the history fascinating. You can learn more about it at the visitor centre. The bridge dates back to 1754 and was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and took him 33 years to complete! It truly is a wonderful feat of engineering.
Explore the University grounds
My Dad went to Bristol University to study Architecture so spotting some of the schools he attended was a highlight of our visit. Some of the old university buildings were stunning, taking us through leafy side streets and student filled squares. It may not interest all kids but keep an eye out for beautiful historic building as you go.
Set on top of beautiful Brandon Hill Cabot Tower was built in 1897. It is 105 ft red sandstone tower which commemorates John Cabot’s journey from Bristol to North America. You can climb the very narrow spiral staircase to the top for some amazing views of the city and surrounding countryside.
A visit to Peros bridge won’t take you long but it is still a fun activity. This footbridge spans Bristol’s floating harbour and can be recognised by its distinctive horn sculptures at the end. These act as counter weights for the lifting mechanism. It makes for a pretty good engineering lesson food kids and is really cool to watch it rise. There are also lots of pretty Love Locks all along the bridge.
Millennium Square fountains
If you’re visiting Bristol with kids on a gloriously hot summers day then head to Millennium Square to cool down. Popular with locals this is a great place to let the kids loose and have a splash in the fountains and paddle pools.
Bristol Cathedral is a stunning Medieval Church right in the heart of the city. Built in 1100’s various wings have been added and updated over the centuries. The decorative stained glass windows are alone worth a visit! Bristol Cathedral is located on college green, another beautiful open space in the city.
Where to Stay in Bristol with kids
Aztec Hotel and Spa
During our trip to Bristol we stayed at the Aztec Hotel and Spa. It’s a bit out of the city, located near the M5 motorway which was perfect for us. It has a lovely pool and plenty of family friendly features. It does mean you will need a car to get you too and from the city centre but I loved having a base slightly further away from the action.
Ibis Bristol Centre
For a contemporary and great value stay, I really like the look of the Ibis Bristol. It’s located in Harbourside so very close to the city centre. We’ve stayed in many Ibis hotels around the world and love the functionality of them. You get exactly what you need for a brilliant city break. Plus the beds are always super comfy and the design super funky!
For something a bit more swanky, you could try The Bristol. Located right next to Peros bridge it’s in a brilliant location to explore the city. The luxurious bedrooms are fresh and modern and it has a fabulous restaurant and bar.
Family friendly dining in Bristol
For me the best place to eat in Bristol with kids is at Millennium Square. This area is home to many family friendly chain restaurants and places to park yourselves for a picnic. It is even home to some vegetable beds run by Edible Bristol with fragrant herbs, apple trees and lavender. The atmosphere here is relaxed with a slightly festival vibe. It has some shallow pools where kids can splash in the summer and even places to charge your phones.
We ate at Prezzo but there’s also a Las Iguanas, Miller and Carter, Bella Italia and Browns all close by.
For a more independent style of dining head across the floating harbour to the area around the Mshed. You’ll find some lovely cafes around here.
Days out near Bristol with kids
If your hankering after some beach action on a visit to Bristol, you wont have to go far. Weston-Super-Mare is just a 45 minute drive away. A popular seaside town since Victorian Times, Weston is home to some gorgeous sandy beaches. It can get extremely busy at times and doesn’t exactly make for a relaxing beach break. But the kids are guaranteed to love it. For quieter stretches of coastline you’ll have to drive a little further from Weston.
It takes less than an hour to drive from Bristol to the Cotswolds. And most of that drive is delightful! Home to delightful villages, miles of woodland and steeped in history. This has to be one of the best days out in the area. Head to the Cotswold Country Park Lake and discover it’s lovely inland beach. Or to Arlington Row in Bibury which is one of the most photographed streets in Britain.
Bath is another fantastic historic city to visit and is just 35 minutes drive from Bristol. You could easily tick two items off your UK bucket list in one weekend! Home to the archaeological wonder that is the Roman Baths this city will fascinate any Horrible Histories fans. Wander the curved Georgian terraced streets and marvel at the Pultney bridge. Bath really is a magical place for a day out.
Another city with a fantastic shipping centre. Gloucester will take less than an hour to get to from Bristol. It is often overlooked as a UK city break but head to the Docks area and you’ll see why I love it so. Gloucester Cathedral is the burial place of King Edward II and hosted the coronation of King Henry III who was only 9 at the time! Gloucester is absolutely full of surprises.
Tyntesfield National Trust
One of my absolutely favourite National Trust properties in Tyntesfield. It’s around twenty minutes from Bristol set in gorgeous Somerset countryside. It’s a Victorian Gothic stately home, All ornate turrets, curved towers and intricate iron work. The grounds are a lovely place to explore. And there’s a sweet cafe in the old farm buildings plus a woodland Play Area and sculpture trail to keep the little ones happy.
When to visit Bristol
Bristol is a great city to visit at any time of year. Over the summer months all that green open space gets well used with picnics and play dates. Whilst out door cafes and bars spill tables out onto the streets, perfect for people watching.
For winter visits there’s the Bristol Christmas market and Santas Grotto and the gorgeous Bristol Christmas lights.
As with much of the UK, there’s no guarantee of good or bad weather but luckily in Bristol there’s plenty to entertain the kids indoors and out.
How to get to Bristol
Bristol is super easy to get to being just off the M5 motorway if you’re traveling by car. It’s around 3 hours from London and less than two hours from Birmingham.
Bristol Temple Meads Station is the largest railway hub in this part of the UK. Making Bristol super accessible by train. There are direct services from all major UK cities.
Bristol Airport has direct flights to over 125 destinations around Europe. Airlines serviced by Bristol include KLM, Easyjet, Ryanair and Wizz Air. You can often find some great value flights to Bristol. There are plenty of bus routes which will take you from the airport directly into the city.
Getting around Bristol with kids
For me, Bristol is a very walkable city. I love strolling the streets and spotting things we would have missed had we been on a bus or taxi. We tend to park down near the SS Great Britain and explore from there. There are plenty of carparks dotted all over the city.
In summary, Bristol really is a fabulous city to visit with kids. There’s heaps to do and a welcoming and creative vibe that kids will just thrive on. Make sure you add it to your UK city break bucket list.
Pin for later for planning your next visit to Bristol with kids.