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20 family-friendly activities for May half term

Fun things to do with the kids, from tots to teens, around Coventry and Warwickshire.

Mr Stink & The Great Gatsby, Heartbreak Productions open-air theatre, Leamington Spa

Returning for their 30th year of touring Leamington-based touring open-air theatre company Heartbreak will be hitting more than 100 UK and Ireland venues with 250 performances with the four shows they were planning to do last year: The Great Gatsby, Wonder With Grimm, Mr Stink and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

Ahead of their national tour all four shows will be performing in Leamington Spa, with two over half term: The Great Gatsby at Jephson Gardens on June 2 & 3 (7:30pm); and Mr Stink at Leamington Rugby Club, June 4 (6.30pm) & 5 (2pm and 6:30pm).

Just after half-term you can book to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jephson Gardens – June 8 & 9 (7:30pm); and Wonder with Grimm, Jephson Gardens – June 11 (6:30pm) & June 12 (2pm & 6:30pm).  For tour dates and ticket information see here.

The Wave waterpark, Coventry, reopens Fri May 21

It’s almost the start of the school holidays and – whoop whoop – Coventry’s award-winning waterpark The Wave with its lazy river, wave pool and exhilarating slides is reopening just in time for the Whitsun break on Fri May 21.  May half term bookings are now available here.

Stratford Butterfly Farm

This popular Stratford-upon-Avon attraction reopened on May 17, just in time for half-term! During lockdown, the team have been busy making improvements. Clive Farrell, owner of the Farm, has been breeding tropical butterflies, which have now been released into the flight area, the outdoor and tropical garden have been replanted and Minibeast Metropolis has a stunning new look featuring a 1,000-litre tropical Aquarium. The walkways within the Flight Area have been edged with Cotswold stone and hand-crafted wooden pergolas have replaced the metal archways, plus listen out for sounds of the rainforest on the newly installed sound system.

Tickets must be booked in advance using the online booking system, face coverings are mandatory inside for all non-exempt persons aged 11 and over.  Daily capacity limits in place to ensure social distancing. Book here

UK City of Culture launch, Coventry Moves, to be viewed at home, Sat June 5 & a year of cool street art now underway

Coventry’s first Street Art Strategy installation working with London-based artist David Speed.  His work HOPE, to link in with the City of Culture timeline can be seen on Coventry University’s Bishopsgate student accommodation.

Taking a leaf out of Bristol’s book, some of the UK’s top street artists, including David Speed, have been adding a splash of colour to the streets of Coventry for its year as UK City of Culture in the vibrant In Paint we Trust project. Kids and teens will love it!

Coventry Moves the first big event takes place on Saturday June 5. This day-long family-friendly celebration will feature six local celebrities and public figures with different ‘energies’: Paralympian Kare Adenegan (resilience), charity chief executive Sue Bent, (social justice), poet and rapper John Bernard (youthfulness), singer and 2Tone legend Pauline Black (sustainability), singer-songwriter Navin Kundra (people power), and artist Daniel Lismore (innovation), who grew up in Fillongley and Coventry.

Coventry’s 2Tone icon Pauline Black. Photo by Dean Chalkley
Daniel Lismore represents the spirit of innovation. Photo by Colin Douglas Gray

It will tell the story of the city’s pioneering past, present and future from 8.30am and throughout the day in partnership with the BBC. During the event the artists will perform in live segments for digital content that will be broadcast throughout the day, with The Selecter’s lead singer Pauline Black opening the event with a new song written especially.

Family bike ride or walk up Stratford Greenway with stop off at Bobby’s converted train carriage-turned-café

If you’re fancying a cycle with the kids Stratford Greenway is traffic free and part of the National Cycle Network, forming a five mile section of the West Midlands Cycle Route. A brilliant, unusual place to stop for refreshments, lunch or tea is Bobby’s an Independent Cafe, Deli & Wine Bar set in a converted train carriage. All aboard!

Lucky Tails Alpaca Farm, Atherstone

Meet alpacas, meerkats and donkeys at this small family-run farm.

Compton Verney

Younger children will love exploring the 120 acres of Grade II-listed Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown parkland, outdoor sculptures, woodland adventure play area, willow tunnels and searching for wacky welly creations. There are surprises around virtually every corner, as the team have hidden animals made from upcycled wellingtons.

Inside the gallery teens into art can check out two thought-provoking exhibitions inspired by the natural world: Mary Newcomb: Nature’s Canvas and Rebecca Louise Law: Seasons, literally filling the largest gallery space with thousands of preserved seasonal foliage and flowers collected by the artist and suspended on copper wires.

Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum, reopens from Sat May 29

Photo by Andy-Stammers

Tickets are now on sale for the award-winning museum which reopens just in time for the half-term holiday. A brand new gallery, Our Changing Planet, investigates how pollution, habitat destruction, species extinction and climate change are radically altering landscapes and lives all over the world. Other highlights include steam engines, interactive displays, Planetarium shows and the child-sized world of MiniBrum, plus a new shop and new entrance.

Open every day in half term 10am–5pm until Sun June 7 June , when it will open Wed – Sun, 10am- 5pm. birminghammuseums.org.uk/thinktank

Free family treasure trail, Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum, now open

This brand-new free one-hour Haddie’s Treasure Trail takes families through the Jephson and Pump Room Gardens, drawing attention to things you may not have noticed before, alongside activities, and interactive features, all beautifully illustrated in an easy to follow booklet. Collect a printed colour copy from the Royal Pump Rooms Visitors Information Desk Mon-Sun, 10am – 3pm, or download a copy at home, here.

Summer Screens pop-up cinema, Rugby School, June 3 and 4

Celebrating its 10th year Summer Screens outdoor cinema returns to the Midlands with a stellar line-up of films at fantastic locations including Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Coventry Cathedral Ruins, starting off with Rugby School during half term. See Top Gun (June 3), La La Land (June 4) and Dirty Dancing (June 5). To book tickets and for more information go here.

Family Kayak or Stand Up Paddleboard Experience, Leam Boat Centre, Leamington Spa

Instructors at Leam Boat Centre in Jephson Gardens, will give you a fun introduction to either watersport, or help you to up-skill if you’re already handy with paddles and boards – maybe don’t try the yoga poses to begin with!

MAD Museum, Stratford-upon-Avon

The UK’s only permanent venue for mechanical art is packed with gizmos and beautifully crafted automata from around the world. Promoting STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, maths) plus art and design, MAD is totally absorbing, interactive, eccentric and entertaining: from marble machines and flying mechanical birds to sand pictures and 3D faces. Press the buttons and unleash your inner inventor. Pre-booking advisable from May 31 – June 4).

Henley ice-cream parlour, Henley-in-Arden

Fancy a treat? Housed in a 16th-century parlour, they’ve been serving traditional local farm-made ice-cream here since 1934. Will you have strawberry, clotted cream, raspberry ripple, blackberry & apple crumble, or blackcurrant sorbet? There are some 50 flavours including sorbets, and ‘free-from’ options too.

Warwick Castle

Fun half term attractions at one of the UK’s best medieval castles include the newly-landed Zog and the Quest for the Golden Star trail based on Julia Donaldson’s children’s book, the return of The Return of The Falconer’s Quest, the UK’s largest birds of prey show and medieval glamping in the Knight’s Village. There’s lots more to see in the 64 acres of beautiful grounds and gardens, including Pageant Field, the Peacock Garden, Conservatory Tea House and the River Island featuring the magnificent Trebuchet. Open 10am-5pm daily.

Hatton Adventure World & Hatton Drive-in Cinema & Diner, near Warwick

Wonderful Whitsun (May 29-June 6) over half term includes Spring Weekends the farm’s own Spring Arrivals Marquee full of baby animals. Wait patiently and you might even witness a birth! Outside there’s falconry shows, sheep racing, a fun fair, bouncy castles, springtime nature trail as well as magic and puppet shows. Check the full programme here.

You can also catch a movie at the 50s themed Hatton Drive-in cinema & diner with Despicable Me showing on Sat May 29 at 6pm and Beauty and the Beast on Fri June 4 at 6pm or stretch your legs walk along the Grand Union Canal, pausing to watch the locks open and close on The Stairway to Heaven – 21 locks.

Young driver classic experiences, British Motor Museum, Gaydon, available to book from May 22

A young driver at the wheels of a 1934 Austin 7 Ulster Replica

Have a child whose desperate to get behind the wheel? Here’s their chance! Motoring expert and TV presenter Quentin Willson launched the museum’s new classic car driving experience for 10 to 17-year-olds on May 22. They will get the chance to drive one of three iconic British-made classic cars – a Vauxhall VX490, Morris Minor or Austin 7 – with a fully qualified driving instructor from the UK’s largest pre-17 driving school, Young Driver. The driving experiences last 15-minutes and includes discounted entry into the museum. The Museum is now open seven days a week, 10am–5pm, with limited numbers per day and pre-booking essential.  

Cost per lesson is £25. For more info and to book a lesson visit here.

Hire an electric launch, Stratford-upon-Avon 

Looking for something fun to do with older kids and teens? How about a short outing on the River Avon heading upstream from Stratford – full operating instructions given plus a map of the river.

Like There’s No Tomorrow, The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, view online from Wed May 19 – Sat June 13

The Belgrade has kicked off its City of Culture programme with this engaging online film about climate-change co-created by 13-26-year-olds from their Young Company in 2020 and now available to stream online performed by Belgrade Youth Theatre. It’s part of the National Theatre’s Connections Programme. Free but any donations to support the Belgrade and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust are gratefully welcomed. Book online at belgrade.co.uk

Kenilworth Castle

On the May bank holiday weekend step back in time for Medieval Kenilworth Castle (May 29-31) where you’ll bump into characters from the past in the armoury, see the craftsmen at work and listen to medieval musicians, Trouvere, bringing the sounds of the middle ages to life at 11am, 1pm, 3pm. Then it’s Kid’s Rule at Half Term (Tues June 1-6) – meet the castle’s travelling knight and princess, take a look at medieval weaponry and enjoy stories from the middle ages.

Disc Golf, Quarry Park Disc Golf Course, nr Royal Leamington Spa.

Similar in concept to traditional ball golf, the game involves trying to get a Frisbee into a basket in as few shots as possible – time to brush-up your arm action.

UnNatural History, The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, May 28-Aug 22

Raqs Media Collective’s However Incongruous 2011. Photo by JontyWilde

One of the first exhibitions for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 in The Herbert’s newly refurbished contemporary galleries features more than 20 works by international naturalists and artists exploring natural history and climate change. It includes Raqs Media Collective’s life-sized rhino sculpture However Incongruous, a contemporary reinterpretation of Albrecht Dürer’s Rhinoceros from 1515 reimagined as an out-of-place carousel animal.

Elsewhere artists Dubmorphology have created multimedia installation, Colony, an observation lab of time-travelling researchers from the future trying to understand an imminent environmental disaster through the colonies of ants and bees. Four newly-commissioned works also respond to the Herbert’s own Natural Science Collection – which includes more than 180,000 objects and specimens.

Check out more things to do on local tourism guide Visit Warwickshire here.

5 MORE THINGS TO DO WITHIN AN HOUR’S JOURNEY

Drayton Manor Park, near Tamworth, May 29-June 6

Home to Europe’s only Thomas Land, Drayton Manor recently reopened its 100+ rides and attractions, including popular family favourites rides such as Bounty Pirate Ship, Accelerator and the ultimate water ride – Stormforce 10, which has just had a facelift for the new season. Families can also visit a variety of endangered animals at Drayton Manor Park’s conservation Zoo, home to over 500 animals of all shapes and sizes from around the world, including spider monkeys, meerkats and red pandas.

Covid safety measures in place include social distancing, hand sanitiser stations, and regular routine cleaning of rides.

Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Slimbridge

This Best Family Attraction Muddy finalist over in Glos boasts some wonderful watery trails where you can spot dragonflies, kingfishers and water voles to name but a few. And don’t miss the super cute otters who will melt your heart when they come out to feed. The playground is brilliant and has been recently revamped with a tower and wobbly bridge and there’s also an indoor soft play area.

Project Astronaut, National Space Centre, May 29 – June 6

Start your half term mission at the National Space Centre and enjoy some serious science-related fun or join the Space Cadets Club (2 June) – an online kids club for ages 7-11. The theme for this session is human spaceflight. 

Eastnor Steam and Vintage Fair, Eastnor Castle, May 30 – 31

Big machines with steam! Promising two days of nostalgic family fun Eastnor Steam Weekend brings you everything from classic cars to steam engines all with the backdrop of grand Eastnor Castle which you can explore with your ticket. Located a short hop over the border into Herefordshire the kids will also love the zip wires and obstacle course, and Eastnor’s resident entertainer who’ll be popping up around the grounds. Refuel on hot dogs and nachos which will all be available from a gazebo in the courtyard.

The Hooley, Sudeley Castle & Blenheim Palace, May 27 – June 7

Roll up, roll up! Postponed from last year’s cancelled show, The Hooley will be the biggest celebration of circus you’ve ever seen. Touring all over the Cotswolds and Glos from Stroud and Chippenham to Sudeley Castle and Blenheim Palace, it’s going to a riot of soul-lifting laughter. And now with new socially distanced seating too. Children under 11 don’t have to wear masks. And you won’t be plucked from the audience to do anything embarrassing this year either! (Covid rules).

Find more ideas here

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