Summer in Bristol is going BIG this year, with giant Gromits unleashed on the streets plus big birthday celebrations for the city’s signature events. Plan your #SummerinBristol now!

Events & activities  | FestivalsBristol museums & exhibitions | Theatre shows | Beyond Bristol | Where to stay 

Events & activities 

Download the app and get sculpture hunting! Gromit has hit the city streets of Bristol, joined by pal Wallace and arch nemesis Feathers McGraw. This exciting new trail features 67 giant sculptures, each designed and decorated by high-profile artists, designers, innovators and local talent. The trail will raise money for Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal – Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity - while introducing a fun way of discovering Bristol. Find out how to make the most of Gromit Unleashed 2 and see as much of the city as possible while seeking sculptures.

Gromit Unleashed 2

Image - Bristol's Own, Queen Square

Visit the zoo after-hours for live music on the lawn, animal talks and face painting. Explore their vibrant award-winning gardens and listen to the roars of the lions as the sun sets.

Embark on an exciting journey through the history of flight. Discover aeroplanes, helicopters, satellites and space rockets, before stepping aboard the museum’s star attraction: the last Concorde ever to fly. You’ll also find ‘Gromjet’ here, part of Gromit Unleashed 2. Once you’ve got your pic, see if you can complete ‘Gromjet's Flight Path’ through more than a century of incredible aviation history.

Image - Gromjet at Aerospace Bristol

Visit ‘the ship that changed the world’ and climb its rigging for an incredible view over Bristol Harbour before exploring new museum, Being Brunel. Grab an engineer’s satchel and become Brunel’s apprentice with activities in the dockyard and engineering problems to solve (23 July – 2 September). Don't forget to look out for special summer events (Bristol International Balloon) ‘Fiesta Sunrise Breakfast’ and Aardman model making workshops.

SS Great Britain summer 2018

  • Sail on The Matthew

Does eating fish and chips (11 July) or a fabulous cream tea (14 July) while sailing around Bristol Harbour sound good to you? Book a trip on historic replica ship, The Matthew to do both! If you can't make either of those dates, it's still possible to climb aboard this splendid vessell (for free) while it's moored outside M Shed.

Enter into the wacky and wonderful world of Andy and the Odd Socks! CBeebies star Andy Day will be joined by Rio on Guitar, Blu on Bass, Moxy hitting the Drums and Cousin Mac on Keys to tell stories and sing.

Experience incredible animal encounters without leaving North Somerset this summer at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm. Hand feed the giraffes (4 to 18 August as part of Africa Fortnight) or cool down emus with a water spray (30 July to 3 August as part of Australia week)! Each week the activities will be helping to support conservation charities.

Little ones can meet their favourite superheroes and princesses while you sip Champers and tuck into some scrumptious treats at Bristol Harbour Hotel.

The National Trust’s stunning Tyntesfield estate, just a few miles from the centre of Bristol, is running day camps for 7-12 year olds during the summer holidays where children can grow and taste food, take part in clay modelling and woodland games. Youngsters will also be able to create their own adventure diaries to give future generations an insight into how we live today. Keep an eye on Tyntesfield's What’s On calendar for more summer family-friendly events.

Dance your socks off at Bristol’s secret crypt! With music from the 1950s to the present day, the whole family are invited to twist, rock out, shimmy and shake in these one-hour sessions designed for children aged 5 years and over.

Head to Bristol Cathedral between 10am and 12pm as they cut, stick, make and create. Children can also borrow an explorer bag and have a go at the Wonderful Windows or Robin Route trails.

Redpoint climbing centre are running daily sessions for kids - Little Monkeys (ages 4-7), Rock Monkeys (ages 7+) and Crazy Climb (ages 6 and over). They are also running a five-day summer holiday programme from 30 July to 13 August for aspiring climbing 7-14 year olds. See their website for more information and to book online.

Festivals

Bristol’s annual celebration of LGBT+ promises cabaret, comedy nights, parties, art exhibitions, gaming events and quizzes across the city, culminating with the Pride Day Parade (14 July) and Pride Day festival weekend (14-15 July). Plan your Pride with help from our festival highlights blog.

Pride parade

Image - Pride Parade

We The Curious’ summer season kicks off with the exciting six day Festival of What If featuring inspirational activities, art, music, comedy, pop-up cafés and special guests. Explore space in new show ‘Solar System Odyssey’ in the 3D Planetarium, and book early for special Aardman clay modelling workshops to learn to make your very own Gromit.

This year’s month-long festival brings you plays by The Bard in a collection of adventurous settings around the city; libraries around Bristol, Arnos Vale’s Anglican Chapel, Windmill Hill City Farm, Brandon Hill Bowling Green and more! We’re also promised Hamlet the Musical, Bard busking and Impromptu Shakespeare! *Click to read Bristol Shakespeare Festival theatre director Ed Viney’s recommendations for eating out in Bristol.

One of the biggest, free public festivals in the country, Bristol Harbour Festival is one of the city’s family-friendly, must-do events. From Underfall Yard on the western edge of the Floating Harbour, all the way to the Cascade Steps and Queen Square, the streets will be alive with entertainment. The festival’s jam-packed programme features maritime activities, music, circus, a new sprint rowing event, displays, food and vintage markets as well as plenty of tall ships and visiting vessels.

Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival launch

Find a fin-tastic festival atmosphere at Bristol Aquarium this summer. Delve beneath the waves to discover the different species that live there and learn about their weird and wonderful ways from daily talks and feeding demonstrations.

Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with artists from all over the world joining Bristol's own to transform the facades of south Bristol buildings. Upfesters will be treated to renowned artist interpretations of The Simpsons and Matt Groening himself has handpicked three Upfest artists to create special Simpsons-inspired pieces. Watch live painting, bop along to live music and tuck into street food at this great family event.

This family festival in the picturesque rolling countryside of the Chew Valley has a big food foodie focus. Discover organic food stars throughout the weekend, with stalls, cookery classes, a gourmet midnight feast and giant communal Sunday picnic. Meet the animals at Hogsnorts Farm Academy, compete in the hobbyhorse gymkhana or stomp your glittery wellies along to the live music.

Valley Fest

Image - Valley Fest

Redfest is a vibrant community festival held in east Bristol. The festival promises an exciting line up with family activities, live music, DJs, art, dance and film.

One of the highlights of Bristol's summer calendar - Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is back for its 40th year. This free four day family-friendly event is the largest of its kind in Europe, with mass ascents scheduled for dawn and teatime each day, nightglow shows, fireworks, rides and fairground entertainment at beautiful Ashton Court Estate. To celebrate its 40 years, the Fiesta will feature 40 of the most cherished and iconic special shapes for a special tethering each day of the festival.

Bristol International balloon fiesta

Image - Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, credit Paul Box

Round up your tribe and join in the ginormous jamboree at Colston Hall. Musical mayhem, games, workshops and silly dancing are part of this fun family festival. This year’s activities include ‘It’s Time to Play’ with CBeebies’ stars Sid and Rebecca, sing-along-show ‘Dizney Rascal’, a junior jungle rave, plus a silent disco storytelling adventure and tons more! Performances also take place at Bristol Folk House on Park Street.

Bristol museums & exhibitions

Bristol has a reputation as a musical juggernaut and M Shed will be telling the story of the city’s remarkable musical heritage in new exhibition, Bristol Music: Seven decades of sound at M Shed (30 September). Visitors will be able to discover new talent and look back over 70 years of the city’s defining musical moments.

Bristol Music

Image - Bristol Music exhibition at M Shed, credit Simon Holliday

Look out for summer holiday workshops on Egypt explorers (8 August), Dinosaur detectives (22 August), and African fabrics at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, alongside their fascinating collections.

Fairytale fans will love pretending to be a Bristol giant striding across Blaise Castle Estate discovering the hidden miniature fairy door trail (19 July – 19 August). Don’t miss the family-friendly Festival ofArchaeology (28 July).

Theatre shows

Chaos and silliness ensue as Captain Cauliflower sets off on an adventure with his faithful sidekick Marvin. Aimed at 3 to 8 year olds, this show of daft costumes, music and clowning about will make everyone giggle. On 28 August, The Wardrobe Theatre hosts ‘Dance of the Violin’ - a story and music show for ages 3 to 10, with puppet-making sessions held ahead of the performances.

Shrek is surely the most well-loved green-skinned hero since Kermit the Frog, and he’s back on stage in Bristol with Shrek the Musical – a family-friendly show of bold, bright costumes, singing, dancing and fairytale fun.

Shrek

Image - Steffan Harri as Shrek, Shrek the Musical UK and Ireland tour 2018, Credit Helen Maybanks

Journey down the rabbit hole with Alice as she enters the fantastical world of Wonderland in an open-air performance of this classic tale. Explore the grounds of Wild Place Project and discover the amazing animals that live here before settling down with your picnic to watch this classic tale. Families seeking an unforgettable summer stay can try Camp Baboon, an overnight adventure in a luxurious cabin at Wild Place Project. Exclusive animal tours, feeding experiences, bushcraft activities and breakfast with a giraffe are all part of the package, as well as free access to Wild Place and Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Beyond Bristol

Venture out from the city centre and you’ll find some beautiful stately homes, countryside attractions and festivals...

Home to an incredible array of wildlife, this summer WWT Slimbridge welcomes an exciting new species to the nature reserve… LEGO® brick animals! Flavia the Flamingo and Lottie the Otter are among the favourites returning to this beautiful wetland centre in Gloucestershire. Expert-led LEGO workshops are taking place too, so children aged 3+ can have a go at building their own creations. Don’t forget to leave time for a splash in Welly Boot Land or book a canoe safari along the water.

Spoonbill

Image - Spoonbill, Giant LEGO animals, WWT Slimbridge

Play make-believe as medieval heroines and heroes of yore at the ancient fortress home of the Berkeley family in Gloucestershire. Grandparents go free and get a free hot drink every Monday throughout July and August (excluding the bank holiday), plus there’s storytelling, jester skills, a circus show, archery and falconry displays on various dates through the summer. For a full family fun day with giant games and bouncy castles. Save Sunday 5 August in your diary.

Children will love exploring beneath the trees at Westonbirt, The National arboretum. Seek out the Gruffalo in the deep dark wood, follow the Highway Rat trail or clamber up to the crow’s nest on the treetop walkway to view the woodland from a bird’s eye view. Family events like ‘Chewing on trees’ mean there’s always something new to discover.

Where to stay

Bristol is packed with accommodation options: luxury, budget and boutique hotels, charming bed and breakfasts, traditional guesthouses, eco-friendly lodgings, stylish serviced apartmentsself-catering hideaways and tip-top campsites. Click here to choose your accommodation in Bristol.

Camp baboon

Image - Camp Baboon, Wild Place Project

Let us know how your #SummerInBristol is going!

Join in the conversation with Visit Bristol on social media (TwitterFacebook and Instagram) and tag your posts, photos and videos of you having fun and soaking up the city this season with #SummerInBristol.

For even more ideas for things to do this summer in Bristol click here, check out Bristol's summer festival line-up, find some al fresco dining spots or enjoy some open air activities.

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