Top 5 Things to do for Families in Bristol

London Calling

Bristol is an incredibly family-friendly city, with plenty of activities and sites suitable for children. Have a look through our selection – not only will you find experiences that the little ones will love, but you might even surprise yourself as well!

Ride on a steam train!

An adventure for the whole family, this heritage railway runs from M Shed all the way along the harbour front, past the SS Great Britain and to the Create Centre in Cumberland Basin. Originally built in the 1870s as a goods railway, the route is now operated as a working exhibit by M Shed, with open-air passenger wagons pulled by one of two Bristol-built steam engines, Portbury and Henbury. A ride on the railway will only set you back a few pounds so there’s no excuse not to jump aboard for a memorable ride. The railway only tends to operate at weekends and between July and October, but if you’re in town you’re sure to spot the clouds of white smoke as it makes its way along the harbour.

The Bristol Harbour Railway takes around twenty minutes, and you buy your tickets on the day. The easiest place to start is outside M Shed. Find out more about running dates.


Since the millennium At-Bristol has been wowing children and adults with its vast array of hands on science experiments and displays. Exhibitions are split into themed areas, with displays dealing with forces, flight, the brain, sound, light, giant bubbles and a dedicated under-8s area to name a few. Particular highlights include an interactive TV Studio complete with green screen, and an Aardman Animations exhibit (the Bristol-based creators of Wallace and Gromit). Don’t miss the UK’s only 3D Planetarium – step inside the mirror-clad sphere to explore the wonders of the universe. Tickets are reasonably priced and there are plenty of baby-changing facilities, buggy-parks and picnic spaces. You won’t be able to drag them away!

At-Bristol is on Anchor Road, Harbourside, BS1 5DB.

Bristol Zoo

No self-respecting city is complete without a decent Zoo, and Bristol is certainly no exception. Backing onto the Downs in Clifton, it houses around 300 mammals from 50 species, including seals, penguins, Asiatic lions, and red pandas, as well as an insect and reptile house and aquarium. The Zoo now boasts a high ropes course that winds its way amongst the gorillas, gibbons and lemurs: ZooRopia includes hanging logs and tyres, a net ramp, and even a zip wire and is suitable for anyone aged 5 and up. They’re also developing ‘Wild Place Project’, a separate site in the north of the city with a growing array of larger animals. Well worth a visit.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is in Clifton, BS8 3HA. Find out more about tickets.

Paint some pottery at Flying Saucers

Get creative at this pottery-painting café. There are over 100 items to choose from and a great array of paint colours, so pop in and let the kids’ creativity run wild. Once they’ve been fired and glazed the pieces are fully usable, so it might also be a good opportunity to restock your crockery supply! They’re very welcoming of babies with a changing table and hot water jugs to warm food, and snacks, and drinks are on sale in the café. Make sure you’re able to go back a week later to collect your finished pottery.

Flying Saucers is at 9 Byron Pl, BS8 1JT. You pay per person painting and also for the items you paint, and it’s best to call in advance to check availability: 0117 927 3666

The Matthew

If you fancy a bit of history that the whole family will love, head down to the Floating Harbour to explore a full-sized, working replica of The Matthew, the ship that carried John Cabot on his famous voyage to North America in 1497. On the 500th anniversary of Cabot’s journey, an 18-man crew recreated the voyage in this replica, arriving in Newfoundland, Canada on 24th June 1997. These days, the ship is mostly found moored in the harbour close to M Shed, but it’s also regularly taken out for cruises both around the harbour and on a longer three to four hour journey up the Avon Gorge. Both are very reasonably priced.

Find out more about visiting the Matthew or booking in for a voyage.

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