This year, #SummerInBristol is set to be the most exciting and colourful yet. The city’s favourite family events are back and there are new awe-inspiring attractions to capture the attention of youngsters and grown-ups alike. Our pick of summer holiday highlights will help you decide what not to miss…

BIG Summer Send-Off at Bristol Zoo

Bristol Zoo Gardens is hosting a fun-filled interactive BIG Summer Send-Off, ahead of the Clifton site closing its doors on 3 September after 186 years. Be wowed by Wilder, a giant moving gorilla made of sustainable wood that stands taller than the largest giraffe ever recorded. There’s also a ticketed, interactive theatrical Into The Wild experience, which is part silent disco, part storytelling adventure.

Wilder the gorilla sculpture at Bristol Zoo Garden's BIG Summer Send-Off
Image - Bristol Zoo Gardens

Other things to look out for include a Past, Present and Future outdoor exhibition with poems, pictures and memories of the Zoo from visitors, The Wall of Memories interactive display and Live Legacy Art, as well as the 300 species of animals. It’s going to be a send-off to remember – find out more here.

Summer of Rockets at Aerospace Bristol

Aerospace Bristol – home of the last Concorde to fly – is holding daily rocket-themed activities this summer. Join Spotlight Talks all about rockets, build and decorate a giant rocket, launch outdoor water rockets and try to reach the top of the leader board at the firing range.

Dishes of Discovery at Brunel’s SS Great Britain

Take your tastebuds back in time aboard the SS Great Britain this summer with their Dishes of Discovery activity, which is free with admission. With samples of exotic and exciting dishes, you can imagine what it was like to be a Victorian traveller in the 1850s and taste historic recipes from Mumbai, Cape Town and Crimea. 

Mr Brunel tries the Dishes of Discovery on the SS Great Britain
Image - Brunel's SS Great Britain

Bon Voyage! at Bristol Aquarium

Collect a passport to stamp as you journey through Bristol Aquarium’s talks and activities exploring the world’s oceans. The main foyer will be transformed into a port terminal hub and the deli café will become the departure lounge.

We The Curious Summer Events throughout Bristol

Due to a fire that happened on their roof, We The Curious can’t open as usual over summer. So, they’re heading out into Bristol instead, sharing creative and playful science experiences across the city. They’ll be popping up at several larger events and festivals, as well as smaller groups and community centres, with activity subjects ranging from aliens to flowers, pirate treasure to robots.

Parent and child doing activity at We The Curious
Image - We The Curious

Wake The Tiger

Enter the world’s first Amazement Park®, a new fantastical and interactive art experience from the creators of Boomtown Fair. Step into the magical realm of Meridia, a parallel world formed of immersive environments, secret passageways, hidden forests, temples, ice caves and mesmerising wonders. It will fire up your imagination and show the possibility of a brighter future.  

The Ice Cave at Wake The Tiger
Image - Wake The Tiger, credit Andre Pattenden

SEE MONSTER

Another see-it-to-believe-it experience coming this summer is SEE MONSTER. This decommissioned North Sea offshore platform turned public art installation will be situated in Weston-super-Mare’s former art deco lido, the Tropicana, a 30-minute train ride from Bristol. Enter the monster for an immersive, sensory experience, which celebrates the great British weather and explores the concept of re-using inherited structures.

Use your trip to SEE MONSTER as an excuse for more coastal Somerset adventures – we’ve got lots of ideas for making the most of your visit.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (11 – 14 August)

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is back, bringing over 100 hot air balloons together for mass ascents, tethered displays and the magical Night Flow spectacles. Head to Ashton Court Estate for all the festival action, including market stalls, live music, fairground rides and street food stalls, and look up to spot balloons floating over the city all weekend long.

The perfect activity to complement your Balloon Fiesta experience is The Mystery of the Sabotaged Balloon. This self-guided history and puzzle adventure takes you around the city as you crack the case of who sabotaged Archie Russell's Amazing Flying Machine! 

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta at Ashton Court Estate
Image - Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, credit Adam Gasson

Hoo-Ha! Festival at Bristol Beacon (17 – 19 August)

From science experiments to magical storytelling sessions, Bristol Beacon has three days of music, dancing and activities for little ones of all ages and their families. The festival kicks off with a relaxed day for disabled and neurodivergent people or anyone who'd like a gentler environment.

Families playing at Hoo-Ha Festival, Bristol Beacon
Image - Hoo-Ha! Festival, credit ShotAway

Think Global: Act Bristol at M Shed (20 July – 30 October)

M Shed puts a local lens on the climate crisis in its new exhibition, which will leave you more confident in your power to make change. Find out how we reached a climate emergency, Bristol’s role in both creating and solving it, and what a just, green future looks like.

Think Global: Act Bristol exhibits at M Shed
Image - Think Global: Act Bristol at M Shed

BUMP Roller Disco

Go for a spin on the BUMP Roller Disco dancefloor at Redcliffe Wharf. They have adult and kids skates to hire (or bring your own), with DJs, food and drink for good vibes. The team can help if you're wobbly on wheels, or you can leave the kiddos to it while you watch from the outdoor terrace. 

BUMP Roller Disco in Bristol
Image - BUMP Roller Disco

Selfie Rooms at Cabot Circus (28 July – 5 September)

Discover a host of fun selfie rooms and photo walls where you can pose for snaps at Cabot Circus. Kids go free! 

Elephant Parade® at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm (1 July – 31 August)

A herd of 26 hand-painted elephant sculptures has arrived at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm for the summer. This fun trail combines art, conservation, education and sustainability and is led by the funky Zebra Beats elephant, covered in rainbow zebra stripes. 

Elephant Parade at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm
Image - Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

My Slimbridge Summer at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre (22 July – 1 September)

There are eight new exciting exhibits to explore at WWT Slimbridge this summer, with the chance for experiences like meeting the world’s rarest goose, finding a friendly otter and going on a canoe safari.

Parent and child looking at flamingos at WWT Slimbridge
Image - WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre

Arboretum Apprentice: Children's Summer Learning Series at Westonbirt (30 July – 25 August)

Kids go free at Westonbirt this summer, both to wander around the arboretum and take part in the activities on offer. These include Arboretum Apprentice sessions where nature-loving youngsters can learn about jobs to do with trees and woodland management, like being an arborist or a woodland ecologist.

From 27 to 29 August, Westonbirt is also hosting its first ever Wild Wonder Children’s Book Festival, dedicated to nature, animals and the outdoors. Hear from authors like Michael Morpurgo and young naturalist Dara McAnulty and join in with workshops, performances and activities with trails, book signings and craft sessions set amongst the trees.

Bristol Light Festival presents: Luminarium (4 – 14 August)

Ever wondered what it would be like inside a stained-glass window? Find out through sensational sensory experience Luminarium, which is coming to College Green for 11 days in August. A luminarium is a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes where natural forms and light meld into an inspiring mix of design and engineering. Walk through the paths to see the beauty of light and colour in a whole new way in the structure.

DAEDALUM structure for Luminarium, Bristol Light Festival
Image - Luminarium, credit Alan Parkinson

The World Reimagined (13 August – 31 October)  

Large globe sculptures will appear around the city for this ground-breaking arts trail, designed to bring to life the reality and impact of the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans. Made by artists like Godfried Donkor, Oshii and Michele Curtis, the trail will also invite you to engage with topics around making racial justice a reality.

The Reality of Being Enslaved globe by Godfried Donkor for The World Reimagined
Image - The World Reimagined globe by Godfried Donkor

Valley Fest (4 – 7 August)

Food and feasts, a first-time Valley Fest appearance for the Arcadia experience, fancy dress and lazy lakeside lushness are in store at this family-friendly shindig. See why this is the best-tasting festival in the South West.

Kids sat in wheelbarrow by parents at Valley Fest
Image - Valley Fest, credit Adam Gasson

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience (Ends 4 September)

Encounter the brilliance of one of history’s greatest artists in 360 degrees at Propyard. Step inside a 20,000 square foot light and sound spectacular featuring two-story projections of Van Gogh’s most compelling works, after walking through galleries chronicling his life, technique and influence. End with the ‘A day in the life of the artist’ virtual reality experience.

Van Gogh projection at the Immersive Experience
Image - Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Bristol Shakespeare Festival (14 July – 21 August)

Bristol Shakespeare Festival returns with its popular mix of indoor and outdoor performances as well as workshops for children and adults and unusual interpretations of The Bard’s famous plays.

Parker’s Adventure with Bristol Animal Rescue (27 June – 31 August)

Bristol Animal Rescue Centre have helped home vulnerable animals for 135 years and to celebrate, they’ve created an interactive trail across Bristol. Follow Parker, the fluffy four-legged hero, around the city, meeting weird and wonderful animal characters along the way.

Cool off in the water

On hot days, there’s no better place to be than on the water. You could have a paddleboarding or canoeing adventure on the harbour, take a dip at local outdoor swimming spots or play on the giant inflatable aqua course at the recently reopened West Country Water Park. Read our deep dive into water-based activities in Bristol for more inspiration.

Paddleboarding on Bristol harbour
Image - Paddleboarding on the harbour, credit Paul Box

Getting to Bristol

It's easy to get to Bristol by public transport, with rail one of the most convenient and green options. Temple Meads Station the largest rail hub in the west of England, with direct services from London, Scotland, Wales, Manchester and Birmingham.

Or arrive by bus and make the most of 1/3 off a West of England FirstDay Group Ticket from 23 July to 4 September. Up to 5 people (of any age) travelling together can go on unlimited journeys for one day across Bristol, Bath, Weston-super-Mare and Wells for £10.

Alternatively, hop on a coach service from National Express, Megabus, FlixBus and Falcon. If you're thinking of bringing the car, consider using the Park & Ride services for day trips.

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