Let’s be honest, holidays change after you have kids.
Forget lazy lie-ins and leisurely strolls to the pub for a long lunch. Welcome to being woken up at 6am by someone battering you over the head with a fire engine and scraping Weetabix off your jumper.
But here’s the thing: it’s totally worth it, as we discovered on a recent weekend away to Kent. It’s great to escape from the everyday, to somewhere with no mess to clean up and no piles of laundry to feel guilty about.
There are so many things to do in Kent for both kids and grown-ups alike - beaches, woodland, castles, safari parks, stately homes, lots of green space, and hundreds of brilliant pubs…What’s not to like?
We were big fans of the Garden of England before our weekend away, but we love it even more now. Here are our top picks and tips for things to do in Kent.
Please note: There are varying restrictions in place across England to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. Please be sure to check our Know before you go page as well as individual attractions’ websites before travelling.
Go Ape in the treetops
Go Ape Leeds Castle
We had an absolutely brilliant time at Go Ape, in the grounds of Leeds Castle. Everyone loved navigating the zipwires and treetop walkways, from the five year-old to the 12 year-old to the 43 year-olds. The staff were so friendly and made us feel super safe, both in terms of securing our harnesses and social distancing. And when our littlest one was a bit nervous about doing his first jump, they gently and patiently encouraged him to take the leap. After that there was no stopping him! This really is an activity all ages can enjoy, and we had a blast.
Top tip: Don’t wear your best clothes, as Ellie discovered when she made an elegant bottom-first landing into a pile of damp woodchips. And take a spare adult to film all the zipwire videos.
The Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks is one of our favourite places to perform. They have loads of great shows on, and films too. The staff are lovely and they have an excellent selection of snacks to keep the little ones quiet. We love exploring the little lanes around town, and we always pop into The Giggling Squid for a pre-show meal of fantastic Thai food.
Top tip: The Stag has super-safe social distancing and hygiene measures in place, but that means reduced capacity - so make sure you book in advance.
Lions, tigers and beers, oh my! Port Lympne has huge grounds and an amazing collection of wild animals to visit. We especially enjoyed the feeding time sessions. Speaking of which, we’re big fans of the Baby Dolls restaurant, which serves delicious pizzas, tasty desserts, and a nice selection of drinks for both kids and grown-ups. It was a perfect day out, apart from that moment when one of our nine year-olds stepped in a pond. Why do they do these things?
One of our favourite spots in Kent is the lovely coastal town of Deal. We spent a fun girls’ weekend there in the summer, but it’s also an ideal place for a family break, and easy to get to by train if you don’t drive. The beach is of course a highlight, but there’s also Walmer Castle, plus tons of gorgeous cafes, restaurants, bars and shops to explore.
Top Tip: Check out The Zetland Arms, which serves cold beers and tasty burgers on the beach.
Our kids love kicking up leaves, building dens and - let’s be honest - hitting each other with sticks. But Ellie also had a fabulous time on our weekend away to Kent going for a run through the forest, all on her own, with no one asking for a biscuit or a bottom-wiping. It felt great to be outside, and the scenery was nearly as breathtaking as the actual running. Certainly makes a change from avoiding the dog poo in our local park.
Top tip: Ellie forgot to pack her headphones, but actually it was lovely to run without music for a change, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside.
So there you have it - our top tips for visiting Kent! It’s a great place to take the family, no matter how old the kids are, what kind of activities you enjoy, and whether you’re a yummy mummy, or scummy like us.
For a gorgeous day out that combines beautiful gardens, a fancy building to explore, and a fabulous gift shop filled with swords and sweets, look no further than Leeds Castle. We loved roaming the grounds and walking round the moat. When we went into the castle the kids were given an activity sheet, and we had a right laugh trying to find all the little Henry VIII toys hidden around the castle. Apologies to the other visitors who had to hear us all shouting, “LOOK! He’s in the chandelier!” every two minutes. Buckets of fun and we even managed to learn a bit of history, so the smug parent factor is high.
Top tip: Get there early and tire the kids out till they are ready to collapse, then pop back to your accommodation for an afternoon nap. You’re welcome.