13 family-friendly half term days out that embrace the wet weather

Unlike the Christmas holidays full of excitement and twinkling lights, February half term can feel like a damp squib – which explains why so many families head to ski resorts or hanker for winter sun.

But if you are staying put in the UK and it’s frosty, wet and cold, there are still ways to enjoy the elements. And if you have children to entertain and amuse over half term, then fresh air is a must. Grab waterproofs and wellies – and hats and gloves – and get outside.

Get little hands dirty

Between 12-and 25 February Dobbies Garden Centres nationwide are offering free gardening workshops to children aged four to 10 as part of its Little Seedlings activities. In connection with National Acts of Kindness Day on 17 February, Little Seedlings can make compost, build a bug hotel or feed birds. dobbies.com/events

Riverside rambles

Wet walks don’t come much damper than beside a river or canal. With 2,000 miles of waterway in England and Wales, you can opt for a footpath or cycling route that’s rural or urban.

Thanks to canal boats, birdlife and locks, there are plenty of diversions to avoid any little voices claiming to be bored, while towpaths mean you don’t have to take wellies if you want to avoid mud.

A handy tool on the Canal & River Trust site means you can find the routes nearest you and whether they are best suited to walking or cycling. canalrivertrust.org.uk

Spring clean the beach

It might not be bucket and spade weather just yet, but there’s plenty of activity on Britain’s beaches. Both Surfers Against Sewage and The Marine Conservation Society offer a directory of beach cleans to pick up litter – examples include the Green Kid Beach Clean on 11 February in Redcar and one in Seaview on the Isle of Wight on 17 February.

If there’s not one near you, consider downloading one of the growing number of beach clean apps (such as BeachClean, Clean Swell and Tidal Revival) that allows you to log what you’re picking up on a DIY clean – some offer discounts at local businesses as a reward. sas.org.uk or mcsuk.org

Help clean up the beach (Photo: Colin McPherson/Corbis/Getty)
Help clean up the beach (Photo: Colin McPherson/Corbis/Getty)

Outdoor art trail

You don’t need to head to a gallery to get an art fix this half term. Fifteen bright yellow sculptures – the SmileyWorld Art Trail – have made their UK debut and you can find them installed across North Tyneside. Families can download or print a map to locate the sculptures. Each one displays an emotion, and the project is free and designed to get people talking about mental health. newcastlegateshead.com/events/smileyworld-art-trail

The SmileyWorld art trail is scattered across North Tyneside town centres and coastline (Photo: Supplied)
The SmileyWorld art trail is scattered across North Tyneside towns and coast (Photo: Supplied)

Wild day out

From 10-18 February, Howlett’s Wild Animal Park in Kent will admit up to three children (age 0 to 15) for free with one paying adult (£25). Spot lemurs, watch elephants and coo at lion cubs in the 90-acre grounds. Tickets must be booked online. aspinallfoundation.org/howletts/whats-on/kids-go-free-at-half-term/

Kids go free at Howletts this half term (Photo: Supplied)
Kids go free at Howletts this half term (Photo: Supplied)

Gruffalo hunting

Take this favourite story outside as The Gruffalo turns 25. To celebrate, Gruffalo trails all over England’s forests are on a birthday party theme. Children can identify missing party items, have a go at bark rubbing and attempt puzzles. The trails are free to access, and there’s an optional party activity pack to buy for £4. forestryengland.uk/gruffalo-party-trails

Cut price palace

Ordinarily, Hampton Court Palace involves a pricier entrance fee, but £1 tickets were recently introduced. Entry includes access to the UK’s oldest hedgerow maze, and the Magic Garden playground re-opens on 10 February. Visitors in receipt of certain benefits (including Universal Credit) can visit with up to six members of their household for £1 each. Tickets must be pre-booked. hrp.org.uk/one-pound-tickets/#gs.4ctgjl

Get lost in Hampton Court's maze for £1 (Photo: Romilly Lockyer/Getty Images)
Get lost in Hampton Court’s maze for £1 (Photo: Romilly Lockyer/Getty Images)

Little gardeners

The Royal Horticultural Society has gardens in Surrey, Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and Devon. While half term differs slightly at each site, there are seasonal exploring trails for children to follow plus the opportunity to plant something, with a windowsill garden and “cup of soup planting” workshops. Membership or entry fees apply, but children under five are free. rhs.org.uk

Snowdrop planting

Wallington Hall in Northumberland is aiming for 900,000 snowdrops this Spring. So, between 1725 February, bring the family (and trowel and gardening gloves) to get involved and enjoy the grounds. No booking is required, and the cost is free, but National Trust membership or an entrance fee is required. Under 5s are free of charge. nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/north-east/wallington

Mud, glorious mud

Pull on wellies and your oldest clothes so you can make the most of the WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) Mud Fest at Slimbridge, Llanelli and Martin Mere. Make your way through the muddy obstacle course, create mud sculptures and use the mud kitchen. There are facts to be revealed and a daily puddle jumping competition. Mud Fest is running from 10-18 February. It’s free to WWT members; entry fees for non-members are £10, children under four are free. wwt.org.uk

Jacks and Jennys on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight’s Donkey Sanctuary is free to visit (although donations are welcome) and is home to more than 100 rescue donkeys and Shetland ponies. Visitors can see donkeys being fed and exercised, plus, for a fee, there’s an option to groom or pamper a donkey or a Shetland pony. iowdonkeysanctuary.org

The Isle of Wight's donkey rescue centre (Photo: Dave Collins/Getty Images)
The Isle of Wight’s donkey rescue centre (Photo: Dave Collins/Getty Images)

Become a bug expert

Between 10-25 February, Chirk Castle in Wrexham is welcoming mini beast fans. Children can grab a checklist and see how many different insects and bugs they can find in the gardens. Free entry for National Trust members and children under five.


Mindful walks

Lean into nature this half term and take the family on a woodland walk to switch off from screens. Forestry England has pinpointed 18 wellbeing trails among its sites. You can also download an introduction to forest bathing for free. Parking charges may apply. forestryengland.uk