As #SummerInBristol gets underway, plan how you’ll spend the school holidays with our A-to-Z round-up of things to do.

Find ways to keep your whole brood entertained here, from kid-friendly food and award-winning attractions to rolling green spaces ideal for stretching restless legs.  

A for amazing animals

Go on some excellent animal spotting adventures at the wildlife attractions of Bristol and beyond this summer, where an incredible variety of cool creatures reside. Over at the 185-year-old Bristol Zoo Gardens in Clifton, inhabitants include gorillas, red pandas, flamingos and giant tortoises. Check out Clifton BID’s summer competition to win a family membership to the Zoo too.

Wild Place Project is themed around different habitats, including Bear Wood where you can see four ‘extinct’ British species (bears, wolves, lynxes and wolverines) living side by side. Bristol Aquarium transports you to an underwater world of fascinating marine life, from seahorses to piranhas.

Ringtailed lemurs at Bristol Zoo Gardens

Image - Bristol Zoo Gardens

You can see big zoo animals at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm and Longleat, while Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park and Windmill Hill City Farm are both home to farm animals. There’s also an abundance of birds at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre and don’t miss meeting the alpacas at Wolfridge Alpaca Farm!

Oh, and we should mention two other important animals in Bristol: the Robins (Bristol City Football Club) and Bears (Bristol Bears Rugby) both kick off their new seasons over summer. Get tickets for their home games at Ashton Gate Stadium.  

B for Beauty and the Beast at Bristol Hippodrome

Catch a spellbinding production of Disney’s ‘tale as old as time’ at Bristol Hippodrome this summer, from 25 August to 18 September. Members of the original creative team have reunited on this new production that features all of the music and lyrics of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.

C for Cooking It! classes

Headed up by chef Monica Worsley, this Chandos Road cookery school gets kids cooking, learning about nutrition and having fun. This summer’s classes include katsu curry (26 July), chilli con carne (27 July), baking (29 July) and supper (30 July).

Person in 'Cooking It' apron cracking an egg

Image - Cooking It!

D for Drawing School with the RWA

The Royal West of England Academy is closed to visitors right now but kids can still join in with online Junior Drawing School classes and other crafty activities over the summer holidays. The first is a free workshop on creating your own medal (27 July), followed by a lesson on drawing butterflies (28 July) and another on drawing trees (3 August).

On Saturday 14 August, the gallery is also hosting their monthly free Scribble and Sketch workshop at Easton Community Centre.  

E for Escaping the Everyday

Use the summer holidays to Escape the Everyday as a family and create new memories together. Have a go at Bristol experiences you’ve never tried before or reconnect with favourite places you’ve missed visiting since the pandemic began – we’ve got some inspiration for you here.

F for family-friendly festivals

If you’ve missed the unbeatable atmosphere of Bristol’s festivals, we’re pleased to say some are able to make a return this summer, including a few family-friendly favourites. Dance, eat and drink lakeside at Valley Fest (30 July to 1 August), the best-tasting festival in the South West on the edge of the scenic Chew Valley Lake. Read more about what’s on this year’s programme.

Mother and baby at Valley Fest

Image - Valley Fest, credit Ania Shrimpton

There’s more great food to indulge in at Film & Food Fest Bristol (5 – 8 August) on The Downs, where you’ll also be able to catch outdoor cinema screenings and stand-up comedy.

While Bristol International Balloon Fiesta won’t have its usual festivities on Ashton Court Estate this year, keep your eyes on the sky between 1 and 15 August when Fiesta Flyovers will be taking place, launching from various points across the city.

Volkswagen show and family camping weekend Bristol Volksfest is back from 5 to 8 August too, as is Old Down Country Park Family Festival 2021 (15 – 16 August) where you can enjoy a good old sing-a-long to several tribute acts.  

G for the great outdoors

Burn off any pent-up summer holiday energy with a good stomp around Bristol’s beautiful parks and gardens. As well as expansive leafy spaces within the city like The Downs, Ashton Court Estate and Blaise Castle Estate, there are lovely green attractions a little further afield too. There’s 100 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown parkland to explore at Bowood House and Gardens, over 3000 species of trees to see at Westonbirt and a wildlife haven to discover at RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve, to name a few.

Children running at Westonbirt Arboretum

Image - Westonbirt Arboretum, credit Johnny Hathaway

H for historic houses and museums

Time travel via the collections at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, M Shed and the city’s smaller museums, or by stepping inside some of the historic houses and castles in the area. You can even Meet the Tudors at Berkeley Castle on 8 August or join The New Room for Back in Time Days in August, where arts and crafts activities will be linked to different periods of history.    

There's also a new interactive, outdoor history trail to follow in Old Market. Look Up, Look Down highlights architectural treasures as you wander the area's streets and alleyways, looking out for clues and murals along with QR codes revealing hidden history. 

I for ice cream and sweet treats

Whether you need to cool off with an ice cream or are just in the mood for a sugary snack, bookmark our guide to sweet treats in Bristol so you’re ready to scout them out whenever the craving calls. 

J for jumping for joy at AirHop Bristol

Ideal for entertaining restless kids on a rainy day, bounce between 140 interconnected trampolines at AirHop Bristol. There are also more activities like an obstacle course, AR trampolines, dodgeball, foam pit and slam dunk, as well as MiniHoppers Takeovers for the tiny jumping tots in your brood.

AirHop Bristol

Image - AirHop

K for kid-friendly restaurants

Enjoy dining out at the family-friendly restaurants of Bristol, which cover everything from burgers and milkshakes to globe-spanning all-you-can-eat buffets. Take a peek at what special offers on food for families are running before you book.

L for learning to spray paint

Join Where The Wall for one of their 'Introducing Stencil Art' Spray Sessions during the summer. These are suitable for all ages and give you a chance to get your hands on the cans and create your very own artwork to take home, as well as filling you in on the history of stencil art.

M for marvelling at the moon

The travelling Museum of the Moon exhibition by Luke Jerram is landing at Bristol Cathedral between 11 August and 30 August. The seven-metre diameter moon installation is a fusion of NASA lunar imagery, moonlight and surround sound composition. A programme of activities and events will also be held at the Cathedral while it’s on the display, including Aardman model making days for kids. 

Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon

Image - Museum of the Moon

As if one awe-inspiring celestial sighting wasn’t exciting enough, Luke Jerram’s Mars is also on show in the Great Hall at University of Bristol this summer. See the red planet’s valleys, craters, volcanoes and mountains in perfect detail between 27 July and 1 August.

N for nice (and new) places to stay

With so much summer fun to be had, you’d best find somewhere comfortable to catch some Zs at night. Luckily there's lots of family-friendly accommodation in Bristol – from central hotels like Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel and Novotel Bristol Centre to the brand-new Mollie's Motel & Diner, a stone’s throw from The Mall at Cribbs Causeway, Wild Place Project and The Wave.

Mollie's Motel & Diner Bristol exterior

Image - Mollie's Motel & Diner

O for outdoor theatre

Shakespeare, modern twists on fairy tales and classic kids’ stories are all on the line-up of outdoor theatre this summer in Bristol. We’ve rounded up some of the best al fresco productions coming up as well as outdoor cinema and music events too.

P for Project What If at We The Curious

Ever wondered why rainbows make people happy, how you become invisible or whether there’s another you in the universe? These are some of the questions explored in Project What If, the new experience inspired by real-life people’s curiosity.

The science museum also has a whole load of new activities to enjoy this summer themed around ‘A Better World Is Possible’, including Robot Revolution, COVID-19 Diaries in The Box and Summer Stargazing in the Planetarium.

Project What If exhibits at We The Curious

Image - We The Curious, credit Lisa Whiting

Q for Queen Square picnics

This pretty Georgian square is the ideal picnic spot on sunny days, in easy reach of excellent takeaways if you don’t feel like packing your own sarnies. And there are plenty of other top picnicking hangouts around the city – check out our guide to some of the best here.

R for riddles and puzzles

Work together as a family and test out your clue-cracking skills with games like Sherlock: The Official Outdoor Game, a detective challenge featuring animated videos, voicemail and text messaging from the cast of the BBC show.

There’s also Treasure Hunt Bristol, which takes you on a beautiful route around the city as you follow treasure maps, search for clues and learn Bristol facts. Or see if you can work out how to free yourselves from one of Locked in a Room’s themed escape rooms.

S for a supersonic day out at Aerospace Bristol

What do you know about Bristol’s aviation achievements? Discover all there is to know at Aerospace Bristol, which tells the story from the earliest days of powered flight, through to today’s cutting-edge aerospace technology. You can even step aboard the last Concorde ever to fly!

Two children looking at guide at Aerospace Bristol

Image - Aerospace Bristol

T for train rides at Avon Valley Railway

Have a day out at the Avon Valley Railway, where you can see the beautifully restored Victorian station, take a ride in a heritage carriage behind a steam or diesel locomotive (check their website for the timetable), enjoy lunch or afternoon tea and pick up a railway-themed souvenir in the gift shop.

You could also take a trip on the historic and scenic Severn Beach line, which runs from Bristol Temple Meads, through Bristol’s suburbs, alongside the River Avon and on to the coast at Severn Beach.

U for Upfest mural spotting

Although Upfest – Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival – is on hold for 2021, a stellar line-up of artists has been working on 75 murals in 75 days in Bedminster. Find time to explore the new colour and creativity on the streets of BS3, including a 3D painting by Insane51 at iconic Upfest location on the Tobacco Factory (where Jody’s Greta Thunberg mural was previously).

V for Victorian Bristol

Uncover Bristol’s 19th century history, starting at Brunel's SS Great Britain. As well as finding out all about the Victorian engineering giant here, a new enhanced sensory experience means you can actually smell what it was like to be a passenger on the ship in the 1800s. It wasn’t always pleasant: the smells include vomit in the cabin of a seasick stewardess and urine from a communal toilet! This summer will also be the first time in 50 years that the sights, sounds and movement of a living sea will surround the ship’s hull.

Being Brunel museum at SS Great Britain

Image - The Being Brunel museum at Brunel's SS Great Britain

Over at Tyntesfield, you can walk around a Victorian gothic revival house and even play games from the era on certain dates during the summer, such as Quoits, hula-hoops, skipping, OXO, snakes and ladders and croquet.

Find out about the pioneering Victorian who cared for and educated over 10,000 orphans at The George Müller Museum. You’ll also learn about what day-to-day life was like for the children living in the Müller orphan homes, as well as his legacy today.

Fit in a walk over the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge too, an iconic piece of Victorian architecture designed by Brunel. 

W for water sports

Whether you fancy surfing at The Wave, a paddleboarding tour with SUP Bristol, canoeing with the Adventurous Activity Company or a spot of wild swimming – there are plenty of ways you can take to the water in Bristol.

X for X marks the spot on pirate-themed walks

Discover Bristol’s connections to Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel on the Treasure Island Trail, a family-friendly walk and app that guides you around the Harbourside and delves into the city’s maritime heritage too.

You can also book onto a private Treasure Island Story Walk with local theatre company Show of Strength or brave their Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers tour (suitable for kids over 12), which promises to change your view of pirates forever.

Actors in pirate costume for Show of Strength's Treasure Island Story Walk

Image - Treasure Island Story Walk, credit Jon Chamberlain

Y for Yuup experiences

Experience curators Yuup can introduce you to original, inspiring and rewarding activities to try this summer. Mindful meditation, Shaun the Sheep model-making, beehive workshops, baking and graffiti are among the family-friendly experiences you might find on their online marketplace.

Z for Zog at Bristol Old Vic

Zog is a roar-some adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s story about an eager-to-please dragon who bumps, burns and roars his way through Madam Dragon’s school. Book a ticket quick before the show ends on 31 July.

Bristol Old Vic is also hosting a Family Day on 7 August where there’ll be free drop-in craft activities, interactive storytelling sessions and an interactive Wildest Show in Town trail around the theatre.

Let us know how your #SummerInBristol is going over on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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