50 of the best things to do with kids in Bristol

Last updated on January 12, 2024

I moved to Bristol in 2016 when our kids were but a dream. So my first posts on the city focused more on the grown-up offerings in Bristol. Now that dream’s alive and we have two little boys, I’ve become something of an expert on the best things to do in Bristol with kids.

From fancy soft play cafes to epic playgrounds and family-friendly galleries, Bristol is filled with fun things to do with kids.

Here’s our pick of the best Bristol activities for kids and families.

The best things to do with kids in Bristol

Best museums for kids in Bristol

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Steve has been going to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery since he was a kid and it continues to delight children today. The grand baroque building houses collections of art, nature and history. Our kids love seeing all the taxidermy animals (in spite of their creepiness!) and visiting the gem collection.

There’s also a sweet little play area on the ground floor next to the café, which is a great place to hang out with younger kids.

They hold regular temporary exhibitions too, which have featured the likes of Banksy and  Grayson Perry. It’s one of our favourite places to go with children in Bristol.

M Shed

M Shed is a museum all about Bristol. It’s housed in an old transit shed (the ‘M shed’) on the harbourside, and features stories and exhibitions about the city and its people. Just outside the museum is a collection of old ships, including two tugboats and a fire boat. Plus there are five towering cargo cranes.

If you visit on special weekends, or during the Bristol Harbour Festival, you can see the cranes moving (pictured above). At those special events, the Bristol Harbour Railway also offer train rides along the harbour front on restored steam locomotives.

Aerospace Bristol

Aerospace Bristol is a place to explore full-size planes and learn about a century of achievements in aerospace. One of the highlights is getting to see the last Concorde ever made. You can step aboard and see what it was like to ride the world’s speediest passenger plane.

The museum itself is also super kid-friendly with lots of interactive exhibits and fun displays of huge aeroplane and space parts. Our boys absolutely love it and are always asking to go back.

There’s also a good outdoor play area and they have fun family events throughout the year. It’s definitely one of the most kid-friendly things to do in Bristol.

We the Curious (currently closed)

We the Curious is our favourite museum in Bristol, but it’s sadly currently closed after a fire damaged the building. It’ll hopefully re-open in 2023.

The science centre has all sorts of fun, interactive hands-on exhibits where kids can explore scientific concepts. A highlight is The Studio where you can try your hand at creating your own animations.

There’s also the fantastic ‘Project What If’ exhibition that celebrates and explores curiosity and life’s big questions through science and art. And there’s also a planetarium with regular shows throughout the day.  

I’m also a fan of the gift shop, which has lots of science-themed toys and gifts.

Best galleries for kids in Bristol

Royal West of England Academy (RWA)

This lovely gallery, the RWA, was closed for what felt like forever, but it’s now reopened with a bang and is one of our favourite spots in Bristol for kids. This is largely due to the excellent kid’s playroom downstairs, which is ideal for hanging out with little kids. There’s a book corner, next-level fancy dress costumes (think Yayoi Kusama and Frida Kahlo!), role play toys, and all sorts of arts and crafts supplies to get creative with.

There’s a Spicer and Cole café on the ground floor, so it’s an ideal place to grab a take-away coffee, take it downstairs and sit back while the kids play.

The gallery is also excellent and has lots of great exhibitions (the annual open exhibition is my favourite). It’s one of the best things to do for families in Bristol.

Arnolfini

The Arnolfini is a lovely place to visit with kids. All exhibitions have a family guide to help you explore, and they regularly host family-friendly events and activities. There’s even a free art cart filled with supplies for making your own artworks during your visit.

Maritime and boat activities for kids in Bristol

SS Great Britain

Brunel’s SS Great Britain is an iconic sight on the Bristol Harbour. Visit to learn the history of the world’s first great ocean liner and explore a working shipyard.

Highlights include going beneath the ship to see the original dry dock and having the chance to climb the rigging (available on weekends and often during school holidays).

There’s also a sensory experience where you can catch a whiff of the smells from life onboard a 19th Century ship!

Bristol Ferry Boats

The yellow Bristol Ferry Boats are a classic sight on the harbour. You can catch the ferry as a taxi around the harbour, starting at Temple Meads and going full circle past Wapping Wharf and SS Great Britain.

They also do special shuttle services and events. A great option is the weekend shuttle to Beeses, which takes you on a picturesque one-hour trip along the feeder canal to Beeses, a cute riverside restaurant and café.  

And at Christmastime, they do a Sail with Santa event. See more Bristol Christmas events here.

The Matthew

Our son Otis is obsessed by The Matthew, a massive caravel ship that sits on Bristol harbour beside Wapping Wharf. It’s an impressive sight and it’s free of charge to hop on board and have an explore of the decks and chat to the crew. It’s one of the best free things to do for kids in Bristol.

Best of all, you can even go on a boat ride aboard the ship. It’s always a sight to behold seeing the historic ship floating down the River Avon. Book boat ride tickets here.

Packet Boat Rides

Another option for a boat trip in Bristol is the Bristol Packet Boats. Go for a cruise around the Avon Gorge, take a tour of the dock, or travel down the river to a country pub. Like Bristol Ferry Boats, they also go to Beeses. And there’s even the option for a cream tea cruise.

Best playgrounds for kids in Bristol

Bristol has lots of great playgrounds for kids of all ages – you’ll find an option in every neighbourhood. Some of our favourites are:

  • St.Andrew’s Park with its paddling pool, big sand pit, nature area and cute tea van
  • Horfield Common for its community centre, café, nature area, playhouse and playground.
  • Blaise Castle Estate – the best place for mega slides, plus a good place for a walk too.
  • Oldbury Court and Snuff Mills for lush riverside walks and an epic playground
  • Canford Park – the perfect place to learn to ride a bike (it’s all flat and has a path around the perimeter)
  • St Paul’s Adventure Playground – a one-of-a-kind playground in the city that also functions as a community centre. It’s only open from Thursday-Saturday and you have to register to play here.
  • Clifton Downs playground – this playground near the suspension bridge and observatory is a lovely stop while exploring Clifton. As well as the play equipment, there are also some natural rock slides, which have been a hit with kids since Steve was little!

Best places to go for a walk with kids in Bristol

Bristol is filled with lush places to go for a walk or bike ride. Some of our favourite options are…

Leigh Woods

Cross the suspension bridge and you’ll soon find yourself in this beautiful forest beside the city. A lovely place for a woodland walk or bike ride.

Wapping Wharf/Harbourside

Walk along the harbourside before stopping for some food at Wapping Wharf. It’s particularly good if you all fancy something different as you can get individual takeaways from your pick of the many restaurants and then eat them together on the riverside.

We tend to sit next to the train tracks as the kids love playing there (but be aware that, while these are mostly out of use, on special occasions there is an old steam train that operates there!).

Ashton Court Estate

Things to do in Bristol -Walking in Ashton Court

One of the nearest places to the city centre where you can get that countryside feeling. With sweeping views of the southwest and a mixture of formal gardens, parkland and woods, it’s a beautiful place for a walk or bike ride.

The Downs

To me, The Downs is one of the best things about Bristol. The sweeping expanse of grass with views over the gorge creates spaciousness in the city. It’s a lovely place for a walk or picnic. We often set up camp near the Downs Café, which sometimes serves pizza on summer evenings.

Watersports for kids in Bristol

The Wave

Fancy surfing but don’t want to drive all the way to Wales? The Wave, just outside Bristol, is an incredible in-land surfing destination where you can surf on made-made waves in a beautiful outdoor pool. They offer lessons and open surf sessions for all abilities.

Plus it’s a pretty stunning place, so worth a visit even if you don’t want to surf. There’s a restaurant and spectator area, so kids can be inspired by the surfers. And they also have a programme of kids activities, including crafts, a nature trail and storytime.

West Country Water Park

The West Country Water Park is another place to go for watersports near Bristol. Just 17 minutes from the city centre, the lake has loads of fun activities, including paddleboarding, waterskiing, windsurfing and kayaking.

Particularly popular with kids is the aqua park, an inflatable obstacle course on the water! Children aged six and over who can swim 25m by themselves are allowed to use the aqua park, and those aged under 11 must be accompanied by an adult.

They also have fun remote-controlled boats – another popular option with kids.

Best animal attractions for kids in Bristol

Wild Place

Now that the original Bristol Zoo has closed, Wild Place is the number one place to see animals in Bristol. It’s run by the same people and the focus is on hosting animals that are immersed in their natural environment. Currently you can see bears, giraffes, zebra, cheetahs, lemurs, geladas and more.

One of the highlights is Bear Wood, which you explore via a series of raised walkways, passing bears, wolves, lynxes and wolverines along the way.

Wild Place a work in progress, and more animals will be added over the coming years, including the gorillas from the old Bristol Zoo.

They also have a cool Leap of Faith aerial adventure and indoor and outdoor play areas.

Bristol Aquarium

Right in the city centre is the Bristol Aquarium, one of the best Bristol attractions for families. It’s home to thousands of aquatic animals, including sharks, rays, piranhas and octopi.

It’s a fairly modest aquarium, but has two big, impressive tanks, one filled with cold-water fish and the other with tropical­ – both of which can be viewed from above as well as alongside. It’s also a fun environment to explore, with a botanical house and a sunken-ship-themed area.

Windmill Hill City Farm

Windmill Hill City Farm is one of the cutest days out in Bristol for kids and one that younger children will love. The city farm has lots of farmyard animals, as well as lovely gardens and play areas spread out over 4.5-acres of green space.

The onsite café is popular and it overlooks a fun gravel pit with toy diggers that will keep the kids entertained. The food has a sustainability focus and caters well for kids too.

Our boys love visiting the farm, rollicking around the grounds and visiting the animals. It’d definitely one of the best days out for little kids in Bristol. I made a little reel of a morning there that captures some of the vibe.

St Werburgh’s City Farm

St Werburgh’s City Farm is another cute farm in the city. It’s smaller than Windmill Hill, but there’s a sweet small-holding to explore with pigs, goats, chickens and more. And it’s also next to the lovely City Farm Café, housed in a cool hobbit-esque building, and a little adventure playground.

Noah’s Ark

Noah’s Ark is another zoo near Bristol (about 30 minutes from the city centre in Wraxall). It’s a family-run zoo with an impressive collection of over 100 species of animal, including elephants, lions, rhinos, crocodiles, gibbons and more. And there are also some excellent indoor and outdoor play areas, including an impressive soft play.

The zoo is run by creationists, hence the name, which can be off-putting for some. The website emphasises that the zoo doesn’t push this view, and it’s perfectly possible to visit without being aware of the creationist influence.

Slimbridge

Slimbridge Wetlands Centre is about 30 minutes’ from the city centre and is a serene place to spend the day, exploring the wildlife and soaking in the natural environments. As well as rare and exotic birds, it also houses the UK’s largest collection of amphibians, including frogs, toads and salamanders.

There are some fun kids’ activities, including play areas and a ‘welly boot land’ where kids can jump in puddles to their heart’s content.

Cinema and theatre for kids in Bristol

Cinemas for kids in Bristol

Bristol has some great cinemas to choose from. There are the classic megaplex style options like the Vue in Cribbs Causeway. And then there’s the indie Watershed, Cube Microplex and Scott Cinema (previously the Orpheus).

But my favourite is the Everyman where you can enjoy a film while lounging on a plush velvet sofa and enjoying table-service food and drinks – it’s pure luxury!

Theatres for kids in Bristol

Bristol has a good theatre scene, putting on both homegrown productions as well as hosting national and international shows. There are lots of family-friendly productions, from Julia Donaldson favourites to big musicals like the Lion King and Matilda.

The big musicals are normally at the Hippodrome, and other travelling shows often come to the Bristol Old Vic or Bristol Beacon. Other places to keep an eye on are the smaller Tobacco Factory Theatres and Redgrave Theatre.

Wake the Tiger

It’s hard to describe this incredible ‘amazement park’ in Bristol. Built by the people behind Boomtown Festival, Wake the Tiger is an interactive journey through a series of trippy environments in a converted warehouse.

Expect a fantastical world of neon mushrooms, futuristic landscapes, hidden passages and dystopian towns. It’s a bit like being on a sci-fi movie set. Otis and Arlo had the time of their lives, running around all the different rooms and discovering all the hidden corners – there’s even a slide!

Indoor sports and play areas for kids in Bristol

Laser tag

I still remember the excitement of doing laser tag when I was a kid! There are three places to do it in Bristol: Laser Fusion in Broadmead, Laser Combat (a multi-level arena) in Avonmouth, and Ten Pin where you can also bowl, play table tennis and do an escape room.

All have the classic atmospheric sound, lighting and swirling fog that I remember from childhood.

Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf

A nice way to break up a shopping trip to Cabot Circus is to stop in at Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf where you can choose between two 18-hole adventure mini golf courses.

The jungle adventure theme makes for a fun environment and all ages are welcome. Even our two-year-old loves crazy golf!

Skyboat

Skyboat is a soft play in Bristol that is as much for the adults as the kids – it’s a world away from the noisy soft plays you find in shopping centres, and is instead a little place decorated in soothing pastel tones and with a top notch café at the front. You can have coffee and cake delivered to the play area, and enjoy them while the kids play.

Numbers are limited so it never feels too busy. And it’s also a great party venue for kids in Bristol (we’ve held Otis’ birthday there before). It’s best suited for children under 5.

Soft plays in Bristol

If you’re looking for a more classic soft play, there’s the following:

Trampoline parks

Ah I’d have loved going to a trampoline park when I was little – aren’t they amazing?! Bristol has two options – Airhop and Freedog.

As well as trampolines, Freedog also has a soft play, foam pits, and Ninja Course, plus special sessions just for toddlers. And Airhop does a mini hopper session for kids under 6, as well as open session for all ages

Bump Roller Disco

Live your roller disco dreams at Bump Roller Disco on Redcliffe Wharf. They do kids lessons as well as open skate sessions. Kids are allowed on the rink until 7pm, and outdoors until 9:30pm.

Bowling

Our family all love bowling, even Arlo at 2 years old (with bumpers and a little ramp of course)! Bristol has a few options to choose from, ranging from classic mega bowling centres to bars with bowling lanes too. Here are a few to choose from:

  • Roxy Ball Room – a bar with all sorts of ball games, including bowling, shuffleboard, pool, basket ball and ice-free curling. Kids are allowed up until 5pm.
  • The Lanes – a cool bar-style bowling venue. Kids are allowed until 8pm.
  • Lane 7 – a huge games bar near Millennium Square with bowling lanes at the front and back. They often do special offers for kids during the school holidays.
  • Hollywood Bowl – a huge hi-tech centre in Cribbs Causeway perfect for families. There’s a big amusement arcade at the front that Otis is always just as excited about as the bowling.

Get crafty

There are some fun places to do arts and crafts in Bristol, and lots of venues hold regular workshops. Try Kiln, Flying Saucers or Mini Potters for pottery painting and ceramics. Or look at what’s on at Creative Space, Creation Station, Arnolfini and Bristol Beacon.

The Beacon often does great workshops during the school holidays (and there’s the added bonus of being next to the Bristol Loaf, one of Bristol’s best cafes).

Also have a look at Yuup, which has loads of family-friendly workshops, including arts and crafts.

Things to do near Bristol with kids

I’m going to write another post soon with ideas for family day trips from Bristol. But here are a few quick ideas:

Old Down Country Park

We love Old Down Country Park, a country estate with plenty of family activities, including a huge outdoor adventure playground, complete with a bouncy cushion. There’s also a lovely walled garden with lots of play equipment for younger kids, and a cute barnyard with farm animals. It’s a perfect day out for kids in Bristol.

Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park

Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park is an amazing family day out near Bristol. There are rides, animals, indoor and outdoor play areas, and they hold seasonal events throughout the year. It’s particularly popular during Christmastime in Bristol.

Westonbirt Arboretum

We love going to Westonbirt Arboretum, about 30 minutes from Bristol. There are lovely trails, a raised treetop walkway, and it becomes truly spectacular in the autumn. It’s a beautiful Bristol family day out.

Avon Valley Railway

If your kids are into trains, then the Avon Valley Railway is a fun family day out near Bristol. The restored Victorian railway station at Bitton is an attraction in itself, but the main event is taking a ride on an old steam train.

Check the timetable for the current schedule, but they often run on the weekends. And at Christmas, there’s a special Santa train where you cam visit the big man himself.

Longleat

About an hour from Bristol is Longleat Safari Park where you can do a drive-through safari, passing tigers, lions, and more. You’ll often hear tales of stolen windscreen wipers and hub cabs during the monkey drive-through – although we’ve never had an issue when we’ve done it (you can bypass this section if you don’t want to take the risk).

They also have a zoo you can walk around, and their Christmas event is amazing. It’s become part of our annual UK Christmas breaks.

Go to the coast

Weston-Super-Mare is a classic seaside town with donkey rides and a pleasure pier with an amusement arcade. Or Clevedon has a natural swimming pool beside the sea.

More things to do in Bristol with kids?

Let me know if you have anything else you think I should add to the list!

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