Every day my family and I consider ourselves lucky to be living in one of the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Cotswolds.
People come to The Cotswolds from all over the UK and World to experience this picture perfect haven. And it really is picture perfect, but it's also much, much more. I live here with my husband and our two 5-year-olds, Matthew and Noelle and we've spent so many fantastic and fun-filled hours exploring what The Cotswolds has to offer visitors who come here with children.
We share these experiences on The Cotswolds Concierge, an online resource dedicated to sharing the many tourist attractions, restaurants, shops, hotels and events in The Cotswolds with locals, visitors and tourists alike.
These are seven of our favourites:
Cotswold Wildlife Park
A fantastic day out for all the family, including the dog! Stroll around the park and watch rhinos graze on the lawns in front of the Gothic Manor House. Get up close and personal with farm animals in the Children's Farmyard. Walk up the Giraffe Walkway and get eye-to-eye with these amazing creatures, or explore the Walled Garden's Tropical House with free roaming sloth, birds and bats. Watch the penguins being fed and then get up close with the lemurs in their free-roaming Madagascar Exhibit.
When you go to Cotswold Wildlife Park, expect to spend the better part of the day there, as there is just so much to see and so many activities to take part in with the animals. The park is also home to a great cafe, a picnic area, a train and a huge playground - the kids will love it for sure!
Whenever we go to Cotswold Wildlife Park, we always start by going on the Narrow-Gauge Railway. This little train named Bella, takes you through most of the park, and from it, you get to see everything on offer. Especially for "first timers", the train is an excellent idea.
Stratford Garden Centre
A wonderful gem of a garden centre just outside Stratford-upon-Avon with a great selection of products. Home wares, design, garden furniture, pools, plants, BBQ's, fine foods, fresh produce, but more importantly for the little ones, a fantastic toy shop which sets itself apart from other toy shops in the way kids are actively encouraged to play with the toys set up and laid out in several little play areas.
A favourite with my kids is the amazing aquatics section run by Maidenhead Aquatics. In here you can spend a long time just watching the aquariums and marvelling at the beauty of the many different fish and sea creatures... it's like a little mini zoo, and free to wander around in, of course.
And outside, among the wonderful plants and garden ornaments, is a fun playground where the kids can play.
Stratford Garden Centre also has a brilliant and very child-friendly restaurant where you can enjoy a nice breakfast, lunch, coffee & cake or drink inside in their cafe or restaurant or outside on the patio on a warm day, so your trip to Stratford-upon-Avon on the border of The Cotswolds, should definitely include Stratford Garden Centre.
Chipping Campden Playground
A 5 minute walk from the High Street in Chipping Campden, is a wonderful playground that you simply must go visit if you are in the area with children.
The beautifully kept lawn is the size of a couple of football fields, with an area for ball games on one end and playground on the other. The playground is well laid out, maintained very nicely and made with different activities grouped together, so children of various ages will be drawn to areas with equipment
they can master.
The grounds are perfect for a family picnic or simply for sharing a snack and a drink on a blanket while the kids are running to and from and having a whale of a time.
Toti and Nell Gifford started Giffords Circus in 2000. Their vision was of a miniature village green circus, packed, rowdy, glamorous - birds and horses and motorbikes bursting from a fluttering white tent - a show for rural families, farmers and film stars. And Giffords Circus is all that and more!
If you're in The Cotswolds when they have a show on, don't miss out on the best circus experience you will ever have. "Circus de Luxe" is really is the best way we can describe the wonderful Giffords Circus... because it is just that. A circus with a luxurious, stylish, posh feel to it, unlike any other you've ever seen.
Giffords Circus is not just for children... it's for people of all ages, families, business outings and friends. But the star of the show for the children in the audience is the brilliant Tweedy Clown. Not a traditional clown, though, if you're looking for a label to put on him, we could say Tweedy is a contemporary vaudeville style clown, but really he is a comic genius that leaves children as well as adults in stitches with his well-timed routines. I invite you to take a look at this clip of our 5-year-old, Matthew, watching Tweedy Clown... just watching him will make you laugh too for sure.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary
The Redwings Horse Sanctuary in Oxhill is home to adoption equines Major, Rumpel, Dylan, and dinky pony Wensley, along with more than 50 rescued horses, ponies and donkeys. Among the residents there is a very cute group of miniature Shetlands Pony and a delightful herd of donkeys who would just love to make your acquaintance.
The centre also has a café, gift shop and information centre on site, as well as an excellent little playground for the younger children, so interaction with animals, learning about why they are there, fun play outside and a snack in the café is a brilliant way too spend a few hours.
I spent a rainy but warm day at with my husband and our two (then) 4-year-olds last year, and it was fantastic, for the whole family, not just the kids.
The beautiful and natural setting that houses Birdland in Bourton-on-the-Water, is inhabited by over 500 birds. Parrots, flamingos, pelicans, penguins, cranes, storks, finches, cassowary, waterfowl and many, many more can be seen on various aspects of the natural water habitat.
There are over 50 aviaries featuring parrots, falcons, pheasants, hornbills, touracos, pigeons, ibis and many more. The Desert House is home to the more delicate species, whilst the indoor Discovery Zone features egg laying creatures including fish, amphibians and reptiles.
We were very surprised to see parrots flying around within the park area out of cages. Bird handlers would walk around with the big parrots on their shoulders. At one point we were talking to our son, Matthew, while sitting underneath a tree where the most handsome, pink cockatoo was sitting. We swear we then heard him say "Hello Matthew" to our son. Did he really? Maybe he did, maybe he didn't... it made our day either way :)
I can almost guarantee that you have never seen a playground quite like the one we have in Broadway... it is spectacular and a must if you're anywhere near there with kids.
A mind blowing £300,000 was spent on this playground and set amongst beautiful Cotswolds hills and old trees, the playground is made of sections with equipment appropriate for various age groups - there's something for every single age there, even for adults.
There are designated picnic areas, tables and even nice, clean rest rooms, so there's every opportunity to spend a good few hours on a nice day out with your kids.