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Embrace balloons, boats and 'bots in Bristol this summer


Categories: Official press releases

Many holiday-makers looking for budget breaks this summer can relax with a visit to laid-back Bristol which has an action-packed programme of major events and activities, many of which are free.

Bristol’s rich maritime heritage, cosmopolitan outlook and West Country location make it an ideal base from which to explore the Cotswolds, cider-loving Somerset, elegant Bath and the bucket and spade towns of Burnham-on-Sea and Weston-super-Mare.


New to Bristol this summer is BIG Green Week, the UK’s first festival of sustainable development, taking place from 9th to 17th June. The programme will feature a daily stream of events with speakers including Vivienne Westwood, Kevin McCloud and the Eden Project’s Tim Smit. 

During the week-long event, Wildlife lovers will have the chance to see some of BBC's Natural History Unit's greatest films, with daily showings at the Watershed media centre.  The event will also host the first-ever Atmosphere Electric Bike World Championship on Sunday 10th June as part of a family day of sustainable fun on the first weekend of the festival. The week culminates with the Festival of Nature, the biggest event of its kind in the UK which gives wildlife enthusiasts of all ages the opportunity to explore, enjoy and get close to the natural world – all free of charge.

For the second year running this summer, music and dance from around the globe will be showcased at Bristol Zoo on Saturday 30th June as it partners with world-renowned music festival, WOMAD. Visitors to WOMAD at the zoo will enjoy two stages offering some of the best in world music, as well as children’s workshops, stalls, and entertainment. Some of the zoo’s animal houses will be kept open late, giving visitors even more to enjoy during the event. Advanced family tickets start at £45.

Bristol Zoo Gardens will also be home to dinosaurs over the summer. For three months, 12 huge and incredibly life-like animatronic dinosaurs will be placed around the zoo. The new residents will include some of the world’s most popular dinosaur species, such as the tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops and the long-necked brachiosaurus, all of which will be brought to life using mechanical technology and animatronics. The exhibition, called DinoZoo, will be open every day from Friday 25 May until Sunday September 2 2012, and is free with zoo admission


Bristol Pride returns to the city on 14th July with thousands expected to celebrate at a free event on College Green. A week later, Bristol Harbour Festival will grip the city with a full line-up of circus, dance, music and theatre in the Harbourside from 20th to 22nd July. This free event is a hugely popular fixture in the city’s summer calendar.

During the summer holidays, families can visit a new exhibition at interactive science centre, At-Bristol.  ‘Our World – No More Waste’ investigates how life is made from volcanoes, ancient seas and dinosaurs, and how nothing in the natural world goes to waste. Visitors can track up-to-date hurricane patterns on the interactive globe, present a weather forecast in the future, blast balls of air to see air currents and change the way water moves. The exhibition opens on 20th July.

For outdoor entertainment, visitors can get close to nature at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum which is home to one of the finest collections of temperate trees and shrubs in the world. The 600 acre arboretum features 3,000 different species of trees, over 16,000 individual specimens, and during July it is transformed into an open-air concert with headline acts including The Wanted and Steps. Ticket information is available via

The Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare will host a spectacular two-day air show on 23rd and 24th July featuring the famous RAF Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, who will be joined by a selection of world-class air display teams.


Street art is set to take Bristol by storm again this August when a new project will transform the Temple Meads area of the city. Last year, popular street art project ‘See No Evil’ took over Nelson Street in the city centre when artists from Bristol and across the globe painted the facades of ten multi-storey buildings. It became the most ambitious permanent street art project ever to take place in the UK, and this summer’s project is set to be significantly bigger.

New artwork will be painted onto buildings around Temple Meads station and other items will be brought in, such as aeroplane wings, railway carriages and container units. The four day event from 16th – 19th August will form part of a summer-long cultural festival to accompany the London 2012 Games.

Another anticipated event on the city’s summer calendar is the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. Taking place from 9th to 12th August in the Ashton Court Estate, this free world-class hot air ballooning festival is recognised as one of the UK’s top five outdoor events.

Founded in 1978, the fiesta has become an icon for Bristol, and is just as synonymous with the city as Brunel’s famous Suspension Bridge. Visitors can expect an incredible spectacle of over 100 balloons of all shapes and sizes taking to the sky in mass ascents each morning and evening from Friday to Sunday, as well as the fiesta’s famous night glows, firework displays and family entertainment.

Hot on the heels of London 2012, Bristol will play host to the world's most advanced autonomous robots, who will compete against each other along with the expertise of their creators from 20th to 25th August.  A collaboration between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, The FIRA Robot World Cup is the first event at which roboticists internationally gather and challenge each other to test their latest technology. Through the competition, teams are encouraged to develop systems and build on their scientific and engineering skills.

John Hallett, Managing Director of Destination Bristol, said: “As Bristol is conveniently located within two hours of London and is the gateway into the popular West Country, we’re expecting to see an increase in visitors to the city this summer.

“There is a fantastic programme of events and activities taking place in Bristol, making it an ideal place in which to enjoy a day out or short break during the 2012 Games.”

Throughout July and August, the 2012 Games will be screened outside on Bristol’s Big Screen on Millennium Square. Meanwhile M Shed, the city’s new museum, will be showcasing the Bristol Urban Sport exhibition until 9th September, which will uncover the more unusual sporting activities that have taken place in the city over the years.

For a full list of activities and more information about visiting Bristol, log on to Visitors can also contact Bristol’s tourist information centre by emailing or contacting 0906 711 2191 (call charged at 50 pence per minute plus network extras).

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