5 Reasons To Take Your Kids To Wales This Year
Here’s even more information about Wales.
Imagine a nation that can boast the world’s fastest zip line, 641 castles and ties to Charlie Bucket, The BFG and Dr. Who. It’s a good bet that country can serve up activities for just about any family who visits. That country is Wales. While this nation within the United Kingdom is a perennially worthwhile family destination, this is a particularly good year to visit.
Wales has declared 2016 to be its Year of Adventure to celebrate the accolades it’s been receiving for its wealth of outdoor activities. It’s also the 100th anniversary of Welsh children’s author (and genius) Roald Dahl, and the many events around that are absolutely gloriumptious (as a certain friendly giant, above, would say).
Here are five reasons Wales is an appealing destination for families. (And if we may say so, we think they’re whoopsey-splunkers.)
1. Wales is a manageable size
While there is a lot to do and see in Wales, the whole country is about 180 miles long and 60 miles wide; traveling north to south takes about four-and-a-half hours (and its capital, Cardiff is only a two-and-a-half hour train ride from London). This means you can cover the country at a relaxed pace in a week or so, and without subjecting your kids to more than a few hours of travel at a time. Less driving and more doing is definitely family friendly!
2. Wales will get your kids’ ya-yas out
You can’t declare a national Year of Adventure if you don’t have at least a few activities to get visitors’ hearts racing. And Wales has more than a few.
The most unique activity is probably Bounce Below, which is just what it sounds like. Kids from the ages of 7 to 16 can climb, bounce and jump on a series of bouncy nets installed in a former mine cave about the size of a cathedral. Junior Bounce Below is a new, milder experience they’ve added for 3 to 6YOs.
Bounce Below, located in Central Wales, is owned by Zip World, which offers zip line experiences at former mines and quarries around the country. At it’s Bethesda location, further north, adults and kids 10 and up can get their adrenaline pumping with “Velocity.” The fastest zip line in the world and the longest in Europe, it sends you flying headfirst over a former slate quarry and the Welsh countryside.
3. Wales has pop culture fun for every age
Kids light up when an unfamiliar place has ties to something they know and love. Wales has something for kids of every age.
Thomas the Tank Engine was conceived in Wales and the inspiration for him and his friends will be apparent if you ride any of ten steam trains called the Great Little Trains of Wales.
These narrow gauge railways have been beautifully restored and can be found throughout the country. The Talyllyn Railway is the one that inspired the Thomas books. It travels from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol in Mid-Wales. Kids will be enthralled with the train itself while parents will appreciate scenery like the Dolgoch Falls. You can also get off and take an easy walk in the forest at Nant Gwernol.
If you really want to give your toddler a thrill book a Day Out with Thomas at the Llangollen Railway, a standard gauge heritage railway in North Wales. The day includes rides on a real steam engine, face painting and the chance to meet characters like The Fat Controller and Thomas himself.
For School-Age Kids
Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff, but there will be events all over the country this year to celebrate his life and his many well-loved books, including Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
One of the biggest events will be “Cardiff: City of the Unexpected,” a citywide celebration of the author in September 2016. Events will include site-specific theatre, large-scale spectacles, small theatrical productions and art commissions from Welsh artists; all inspired by Dahl’s imaginative stories.
For Teens (and their sci-fi loving parents)
The long-running cult TV show Dr. Who is filmed in Wales. Fans will want to make their way to Cardiff Bay in South Wales for The Dr. Who Experience, which houses the biggest collection anywhere of “Time Lord” artifacts and props from the show.
Play Doctor-inspired games (watch out for Daleks!) and enjoy interactive exhibits that will make you feel like a Tardis has placed you right inside the doctor’s world.
Tip: Seasonal walking tours highlight the Cardiff that you see in the show. Naturally it’s a fun way for fans to tour the city, but there’s enough to engage their non-fan family members as well.
4. Wales has castles (a lot of them)
Wales has more castles than any other country in Europe. Castles appeal to romantics, history buffs, fairy tale fans and lovers of King Arthur and his ilk. In short, they are a good bet for pleasing everyone in your group.
Castles that are particularly family friendly include Castell Henllys, a prehistoric promontory fort in Pembrokeshire National Park. Built around 600 B.C. it evokes the age of the ancient Celts. Costumed Celtic guides who will show you how the ancient Welsh lived with their families. Try grinding your own flour in recreated roundhouses.
There are also the Castles of Edward I, Beaumaris, Conwy Caernarfon and Harlech, all UNESCO World Heritage sites. Built by Edward I’s military architect these are the kinds of castles that live in children’s imaginations forever. Climb up turrets, clamber down to dungeons, cross moats and even dress up like a knight in shining armor, a king or a queen in certain castles’ kid-friendly interpretive centers.
Tip: A Cadw pass is handy for castle hopping. It includes admission to more than two-dozen castles and historic sites. You can buy a three- or seven- day pass, and neither has to be used on consecutive days.
5. Wales has unique ways to explore history
For a unique museum experience that’s likely to engage kids and adults consider venturing underground via the Big Pit National Coal Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site in South Wales. Don miners’ clothes and lighted pit helmets before following a tour guide into the underground world that has played a huge role in the culture, economy and history of Wales.
Back above ground, interactive exhibits help put the miners’ lives into context. Science-loving kids should check out the exhibits that explain the history and formation of the rocks and caves where the mines were dug.
Should you visit Wales with your family in 2016, be sure to come back and share your adventure!