Happy Times in Hertfordshire

Five of the Best Family Days Out in Hertfordshire

Hampshire travel
Hampshire travel

The county of Hertfordshire is a delightful mixture of open agricultural landscape and natural woodlands, picturesque and historic market towns and vibrant cities. A former Roman settlement, the county is steeped in history with remnants of the Roman occupation preserved for visitors, alongside a stunning selection of some of Britain’s finest stately homes and gardens. With no shortage of fascinating museums, wildlife parks, outdoor activity centres, woodlands and grassland areas to explore and much more to see and do it’s tricky to pick favourites from all that Hertfordshire has to offer. If you don’t have time for anything else though, here are five of the best family days out to enjoy in Hertfordshire.

  1. Paradise Wildlife Park, nr Broxbourne – Paradise Park really is ‘where the wild things are’ in Hertfordshire! If you’ve ever wanted to come face-to-face with a white lion, meet a meerkats or take tea with a tiger then Paradise Park can make it happen. There are oodles of animals to meet and you can even feed them with the park’s specially prepared feeding bags. Kids will love playing in any or all of the park’s five adventure playgrounds, the Tumble Jungle or Paradise Lagoon. Tigers of a different kind will enjoy the ‘On Safari Adventure Golf’ – eighteen holes of animal-themed crazy golf. Aside from the exotic animals you can do some real wildlife spotting of your own; Paradise Park’s extensive ancient woodland is home to deer, beaver, owls, foxes, hedgehogs and butterflies as well as a host of interesting plants and flowers. And when you need a break from the excitement you can always get a snack or a drink in the Safari Suite or Tiger Treetops café.
  2. Knebworth House and Park, Knebworth, Stevenage – A stately home with dinosaurs?! It’s true. Not only is Knebworth House a magnificent example of a Tudor-Gothic mansion house and a fabulous place to spend a day’s exploration in its own right, but the house sits in 250 acres of rolling wooded parkland. Knebworth House is immediately surrounded by twenty-five acres of immaculately tended gardens, but beware the Dinosaur Trail. Follow this path and you’ll bump into seventy-two scarily realistic dinosaurs lurking amidst the shrubbery. Don’t be too shocked when you find a mammoth in the marigolds or a brontosaurus beneath the beech trees. If that all sounds a bit much, mums and dads can send the kids into Knebworth’s maze and lose them for a while, giving parents the chance to browse the kitchen garden and the herb garden or grab a cuppa from the Terrace Garden Room. In Knebworth Park, besides the rolling acres of picnic-perfect greenery there’s a miniature railway and an adventure playground.
  3. The Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead – Whether you’re a first timer on the slopes or a pro when it comes to snow, the emphasis is on family fun at the Snow Centre. Giving ‘chilling out’ a whole new meaning. With the main 160 metre slope constantly refreshed by state-of-the-art snow cannons, as well as a slope for learners the choice of method by which you get from the top to the bottom is yours. Show-offs will want to ski or snowboard, but for pure fun and an enjoyably thrilling ride you can jump on one of Snow Centre’s nifty lightweight sledges, skim your way down on an inflatable Airboard or just crazily spin, slide and bounce to the bottom on a rubber ring. Do it once and you’ll be hooked, so it’s a good job there are lifts to save you the effort of trudging all the way up to the top of the slope again. When you feel like defrosting and watching others have fun on the slopes, the Edge café is the perfect spot for that warming après-ski refreshment.
  4. Willows Farm Village, St Albans – Willows Farm Village packs in a lot of fun for the whole family; where else can you try your hand a driving a mini JCB digger, indulge in a spot of sheep racing or jump aboard Tristan the Runaway Tractor? Willows farm has amusements for kids (and big kids) of all ages, from funfair rides to falconry displays and from ferret fun to Frisbee golf. Under-fives have their own indoor and outdoor play areas and there’s a pets corner of farmyard favourites, with lambs and chicks adding to the ‘aaah! – factor’. Elsewhere there are friendly wallabies and reindeer to meet; you can go panning for gold or go for a bounce in the Bouncy Haystack or on the trampolines. With so much to see and do it’s a good job that Willows Farm Village offers plenty of options for refuelling, from ice-creams to barbecued burgers. And if you happen to overdo lunch in the Farmhouse Restaurant, there’s always the option to walk it off with a stroll around the lake.
  5. River Lee Country Park, Broxbourne – Ah, the great outdoors. There’s nothing more enjoyable than a family day out in a great British Park. Few come greater than the award-winning River Lee Country Park which covers a thousand acres and stretches from Broxbourne, Hertfordshire to Waltham Abbey in neighbouring Essex. The park provides a network of paths that link numerous lakes, waterways and open spaces, so there are many different ways to explore the park. Wildlife is abundant, so those with a keen eye may spot Muntjac deer, barn owls, mink, grass snakes, water voles, kingfishers and more. Activities-wise, the park offers opportunities for white water rafting at the new Waltham Cross White Water Centre, whilst gentler boating pursuits can be found at the Lee Valley Boat Centre in Broxbourne. Bicycles can be hired from the Old Mill in Broxbourne, and those keen on fishing can obtain day permits to try their luck in the River Lee. The park is also home to one of Hertfordshire’s most historically significant buildings: the Rye House Gatehouse. One of the first brick buildings in Britain, Rye House is also one of the finest examples of a medieval moated site in Hertfordshire.

Like so many of Hertfordshire’s attractions, River Lee Country Park contains enough variety, surprises and activities for all of the family that you’ll find it provides not one great family fun day out in Hertfordshire, but many.

This was a guest post by John for Luton Hoo Hotel and spa Hertfordshire