Summer holiday wow factor - things to do in Norfolk

The summer holidays are here again, so what are you going to do with the children? SIMON PARKIN has some ideas for all interests and ages, in and out of the city. Now getting planning…



Sainsbury Centre, July 22, 12pm-4pm, free admission, 01603 593199,

The Sainsbury Centre's annual family fun day marks the Olympics. It will include games inspired by the peoples and cultures of the world. One of the highlights will be a unique reconstruction of an ancient Mesoamerican ball game (never before attempted in the UK). This is an exciting game, played in a special court by up to seven players a side, where the ball is hit from the hips and the goal is a hoop set in the steep sides of the court. In ancient Mesoamerica the game could be very dangerous and involved human sacrifice. Thankfully it won't be played to those rules but will have a suitable forfeit for the losing team!

There will also be a giant cat's cradle from North America, jump-rope games from China and races with special prizes.

Most Read


Fengate Farm, near Mundford, July 20-22, Fri-Sat 10am-11pm, Sun 10am-5pm, Fri �6 (�5 cons), �2 children, Sat-Sun �8/�7/�4, 01842 810317,

The popular Weeting Steam Engine Rally and Country Show is back for its 43rd staging. As in other years the event will feature trade and craft stalls, working demonstrations, vintage vehicles, miniature steam railway, children's entertainment, restaurant and bars.


Holkham Hall, July 24-25, �18-�10 (�15-�9), �10/�6 children, �50-�30 family, 0844 7201111,

One of Norfolk's best loved big houses provides the back-drop to this spectacular open-air street dance production. The show brings together some of the world's best performers in free running, martial arts, break dancing and capoeira in a display of extreme sports athleticism, agility, acrobatics and grace. Featuring Guinness World Record holder freerunner Sam Parham, the show tells the story of Jake, a homeless teenager who teaches himself Free Running. The show is fully interactive, with audience members becoming part of the production as 'extras' in the filming scenes and at other times able to get close up to the action and see the incredible moves first-hand.


Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth, open daily 11am-9pm, free admission, unlimited ride wristbands �19.50 (�15 ages 4-6),

Yarmouth's Pleasure Beach has rides ranging from family fairground fun to white-knuckle stuff. Its crowning glory is the wooden rollercoaster – complete with a brake-man who rides every train, making each roll of the 83-year-old coaster unique. Some of the rides are the very latest in up-to-the-minute thrills, others have been loved down the generations. The gentle snail ride potters through the foothills of the rollercoaster, a monorail gives fantastic views out to sea and the log flume makes a splash.


Banham, signposted off the A11 near Diss, open daily 9.30am-6pm, �12.95 (�10.95 cons), �8.95 children, under-3s free, 01953 887445,

You can discover a whole wild world at Banham Zoo, which is home to almost 1,000 animals from across the globe. Set amongst 35 acres of parkland and gardens, Banham provides sanctuary for enough animals to fill an ark, from big cats to birds of prey and siamangs to shire horses. In addition to the animals, there are live displays, an indoor soft play centre, Tarzan Towers adventure play area and an interactive activities and education centre. This year there is a new enclosure for endangered lemurs of Madagascar.


West Runton, July 23/August 6, 17, 20/September 4, times vary, �3.50, accompanying adults free,

North Norfolk has a fascinating geology and these walks, back by popular demand, have established a strong following. Once again the Norfolk Wildlife Trust will be rummaging in rock pools in search of life from 3-5pm on Monday. Come along with sturdy shoes, keen eyes and help them carefully investigate the secrets of the seashore. Meet outside the beach caf�.


Thetford Forest, open daily until October 31, �30, under-17s �20,

A 'hire-wire forest adventure' out in the wilds of Thetford Forest – basically a giant obstacle course built through the trees complete with ladders, walkways, bridges, tunnels and a 140m zip-wire (under-18s must be supervised). There are also 30 miles of bike and walking trails.


Ranworth Broad, July 27, 11am-12pm/1.30pm-3.30pm, �2 per child per session, accompanying adults free,

Meet at Ranworth Broad's floating visitor centre before heading out for a Really Wildlife Ranworth morning by exploring the reserve in search of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled explorers who knows what may be lurking in the reeds. Then in the afternoon find out What Lies Beneath when you learn about the wonderful wildlife that can be found in the dykes around Ranworth by dropping in and having a dip at the custom built dipping platform in the afternoon. The experts will be on hand to help you tell your boatman from your beetle larvae.


Waterloo Park, Norwich, July 27-August 26, free admission,

Norwich City Council's excellent programme of free outdoors theatre is a real treat for families and it's again a diverse programme, beginning on July 27 with The Tales of Robin Hood, a swashbuckling tale in which youngsters can take the parts of Robin, Maid Marian and the Merry Men. The programme then takes in The Wizard of the Magic Castle (August 3), The Dragon Seekers Quest (August 10), Wind In The Willows (August 17) and Pied Piper (August 24), all in Waterloo Park from 3pm. There are also special Sunday stories for kids events with the Yarnsmith of Norwich in Heighham Park on July 29 and August 5, 12, 19 and 26, all starting at 11am. Full details on the website.


Norwich, July 23-August 23, free admission,

Play Days organised by Norwich City Council are a chance to chance for families to join their neighbours in their local park for children's activities, music, Punch & Judy, crafts and much more. The events run throughout the summer at many parks and community spaces across the city. They are always hugely popular and are free, but they are designed for people living nearby. Full details online.


Millennium Plain, Norwich, July 23-August 3, 12pm-2pm,

Pack in some lunchtime entertainment. The summer serving of top street theatre, now in its sixth year, again comes to the Millennium Plain, outside the Forum, every weekday lunchtime. The free alfresco fun features daredevil stunts, music, dance, slapstick and more. It begins on Monday with Big Balls Gandini Juggling, spectacularly choreographed juggling of the biggest balls you've ever seen, and continues with something different every day before culminating on August 3 with Titan, an 8ft interactive robot.


Central Beach, Great Yarmouth, July 25-August 29, free admission, 01493 846346,

Watch the summer night skies light up above Yarmouth's golden mile with this free weekly firework display that draw families from across the region every Wednesday. Music and fun kicks off the evening from 8pm and seafront attractions stay open until 10pm, so you can play crazy golf in the moonlight, wander round the illuminated Merrivale Model Village. The firework blue touch paper is lit at 10pm. Expect plenty of oohs and aahs.


Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft/Cromer

Ever since Victorian holidaymakers rushed to the seaside to don knotted hankies, the postcard image of children riding donkeys has been inextricably linked to British summer holidays. And despite the slow trudge of changing fashions and the periodic protests of animal rights campaigners, a trip along the beach on the back of a donkey is still popular.


Adam and Eve, Bishopsgate, Mon/Tues/Thurs, 7.30pm, �6 (�4 cons), 07831 189985,

Experience the shadowy recesses of a forgotten Norwich, disturbing the sleep of the long departed, and stirring the City of the Dead once more into ghostly, ethereal life. Experience these highly acclaimed tours on foot as you are guided by The Man in Black. The walks have been thrilling visitors since 1997 with the real-life stories of macabre goings-on, hauntings and the tragic events of yesteryear.


Strumpshaw Fen, July 21-28, 10am-3pm, free admission, 01603 715191,

A week-long series of wildlife events linked to a wildlife survey of Strumpshaw Fen. Experts will be carrying out surveys throughout the week to explore beetles, bugs, spiders, plants, lichens, pond life, and a whole host of hidden creatures in the reedbeds, pools and woodlands. There will be beginners events, workshops and guided walks run throughout the week, and children can take part in bug hunts, pond-dipping and other hands-on activities. There is a different wildlife theme each day.


Corton, off the A12 between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, open daily 10am-5pm (6pm summer season), �18 (�13 cons), �16 children, under-3s free, 01502 586000,

For many families the summer holidays aren't complete with a trip to the land of rollercoasters, rides and fun for all the family. The Pleasurewood Hills theme park, just north of Lowestoft, has been a firm favourite for 25 years. The park was sold last year and the new French owners have set about rejuvenating the park. This year, new attractions include The Jolly Roger a white knuckle vertical drop ride and Laser Labyrinth.


Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, August 25-27, �9.75 (�8 cons), �6.25 children, 01328 851465,

The Mediaeval Spectacular is back in 2012 with a chance to take a step back in time and experience life as it really was. Fire breathing, witch's hovel, story tellers, minstrels and a traders row where you can take home your own piece of Mediaeval history, plus a jousting tournament.


South Quay, Great Yarmouth, September 1-2, free admission, 01493 332200,

The Maritime Festival is always a riot of colour with tall ships and supply vessels flying colourful bunting from their masts. In 2012 they will be welcoming two tall ships, the Dutch vessel Mercedes and the Tres Hombres. As ever there will be music, food, exhibitions, demonstrations and all manner of fun activities for landlubbers. See you there mi hearties!


Great Yarmouth, September 4-9, free admission,

The Out There Festival extravaganza of street art and circus entertainment returns to the streets of Yarmouth for the fifth time promising to be bigger and better. Produced by SeaChange Arts, Out There blends major international acts and local artists with the opportunity for everyone to try their hand in a range of crazy activities. This year's festival will showcase acts from all over Europe and as far afield as South America with stunning acrobatics, light shows, music, pyrotechnics and bizarre antics.



The Garage, Chapelfield North, Norwich, July 24-27, 9am-2.30pm, �30 full day/�100 full week, 01603 283382,

The first of two 'summer camp' weeks at Norwich's youth arts venue, this week-long programme of events is a chance to try out urban music, dance and arts. It takes in street dance workshops (July 24), DIY junk percussion (July 25), urban beats with Garage Slam favourite MC Sub-Minor (July 26) and graffiti workshops (July 27). Places daily or join all week.


Bridewell Museum, Bridewell Alley, Norwich, until August 28, �4.40 (�3.30 cons), 01603 629127,

After its superb refurbishment the Bridewell Museum tomorrow launches its busy summer of activities. Every Saturday there'll be craft sessions Perfect Patterns; on Tuesdays it's On Your Bike – make a rosette inspired by the racing thrills of the Norwich speedway bike; and Wednesdays make Bridewell bunting in 'Jubilicious' sessions; On July 26 and August 16 get a taste of the city's darkest wartime days in Norwich Under Fire, and on August 8 and 23 you can explore 1960s style. Then on Fridays, Go Crackers! gives you the chance to colour in your own vintage Caley's cracker advert. Normal admission applies for these drop-in activities.


Norwich Castle Museum, until September 5, 11am-12.30pm/1.30pm-3.30pm, normal admission prices, 01603 495987,

Find out what it was like to live in the castle 900 years ago with these summer holiday activities on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Meet a costumed character, get your hands on real museum objects and make something to take home. On Wednesdays, pop along to the 'Knight Class' and learn how to be a medieval knight.


Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth, Wed 4pm-7pm/Sat 11am-4pm/Sun 11am-2pm, �4.50, �2.50 children (2-4), under-2s free, �14 family, 01493 854349,

Yarmouth has a long and proud history of roller skating and has apparently produced more national champions per head of population than anywhere else in the country. At Retroskate, on the seafront, the whole family can get their skates on. Public sessions Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sunday. If you really want to strut your stuff roller discos on Fridays and Saturday 7pm-10pm.


Sainsbury Centre, July 24-September 2, 11am-4pm, free admission, 01603 593199,

During the school holidays the Sainsbury Centre offers free activities for families to do together. Enjoy treasure hunts and creative activities inspired by objects in our collections, and a booklet packed with fun facts, drawing and trails for you to do in the galleries and when you get home. There will also be a chance to have a go at some indoor games or head outside to play in the parkland around the centre with an outdoor explorer bag.


Marine Parade, Yarmouth, Mon-Fri 10am-4pm/Sat-Sun 10am-5pm, online family saver tickets from �25.80, 01493 330631,

Norfolk boasts two Sea Life Centres, one in Yarmouth and another in Hunstanton, home to England's biggest colony of common seals. Highlights in Yarmouth include the rays, seahorses, the Finding Nemo tank and the octopus who enjoys playing with an oversized hamster ball. Staff enthuse about the incredible aquatic life on display and encourage children to learn fun facts like where a starfish's bum is.


Sainsbury Centre, until August 12, Tues-Sun 10am-5pm, free admission, 01603 593199,

A celebration the growing interest in Japanese sub-cultures such as manga and anime. This vibrant exhibition offers the chance to encounter characters from television, computer games and comics. Many have become much loved household names around the world including Pokamon and Hello Kitty.


The Garage, Chapelfield North, Norwich, July 31-August 3, 9am-2.30pm, �30 full day/�100 full week, 01603 283382,

The second 'summer camp' at The Garage has a very American feel. It takes in cheerleading workshops (July 31), Hollywood make-up skills, from glamour to horror (August 1), Oscar-worthy acting skill workshops (August 2) and a special Garage Glee Club (August 3). Again places daily or all week.


Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Thursdays until August 30, 10am-5pm, normal admission prices, 01362 869251,

Can you learn the skills you will need to get out of the workhouse? Make a disguise, help with the workhouse washing, find out how to set the dining table and lend Mrs. Clackett a hand down on the farm. Have fun playing Victorian games.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter