The iconic colleges of the University of Cambridge are spread across the centre of the city, appearing to radiate braininess and prestige. As you wander through the cobbled lanes of this old-world city, you’ll probably find yourself in the midst of student activities, protests and ceremonies, day-dreaming briefly about losing your family and hanging out with the cap-and-gown brigade of youth. But where to get the whole outfit? It’ll never work; best to stick it out with the kids for now.
And fortunately, Cambridge is packed with all sorts of family-fun activities. You’ll of course want to show them around the university as a not-so-subtle way of pushing them towards an academic future. That goes without saying. But what of the other activities that are actually fun and entertaining? There are gardens, riverside walks, fascinating museums and play areas. Just take a punt… out on the river. The boat thing that’s a bit like in Venice. You know what we mean, right? It’s a Cambridge tradition, and here at Plum Guide we would never let you miss out on a tradition. Using our expert travel knowledge, we've put together this guide so that you can make the most out of your trip to Cambridge, so without further ado, here are the best things to do in Cambridge with kids.
Visit the family-friendly Cambridge Science Centre
Silhouette of people taking photos in a yellow room at the Cambridge Science Centre, England, UK
Once you've checked into your Plum Guide home in Cambridge, it's time to explore the city's many cultural institutions. Away from the grimaces of the Cambridge students worrying about handing in their next essay lies the Cambridge Science Centre. It’s not quite as strenuous as the exams being sat by the students, but will help your children to learn about the physical world around them. It has all sorts of games that have an educational purpose, so your kids can unwittingly learn stuff without realising they’re doing anything other than innocently playing. Watch their minds explode with information from the displays about everything from the human body to prehistoric fossils. Then head to the University Museum of Zoology to see exhibits of well-preserved animals and skeletons. Among the highlights are a box of beetles collected by Charles Darwin and an enormous whale fin that is the weight of eight double decker buses. So… pretty big. See the enormous Goliath beetle and the komodo dragon skeleton among other unforgettable sights.
Hang out at Parker's Piece
Tall grey stone sculpture on green grass around trees and plants at Parker's Piece, Cambridge, England, UK
Watch a game of cricket, football or croquet on the immaculate lawn of Parker’s Piece. This leafy square is surrounded by trees, and often hosts important events and fairs, making it a great option for things to do in Cambridge with kids. Chat to some of the dog walkers and students hanging about in this central green hub to get a sense of the local culture. For something a little more rural, head out to the city’s south-eastern peripheries for the Wandlebury Country Park and Nature Reserve. Put together a picnic to enjoy in the shade of the trees and hike up and down the grassy mounds. Grab a bite to eat or a hot beverage from the pop-up cafés. Spot pheasants and highland cattle among the wildlife in this serene and scenic spot outside Cambridge. On the northern side of the city lies the Milton Country Park, with its children’s playground and vast lake. Quack at the ducks and swans and embark on one of the circuits that lead around the edge of the water. If you can't get enough greenery, book your stay in Cambridge at our vetted home Solstice, which overlooks the Common and is moments away from the River Cam.
Admire the Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Punting along a river by the Mathematical Bridge, close to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Cambridge, England, UK
A garden is like a posh park. Those are the kinds of pearls of wisdom (not) you get from us. In any case, the upscale and elegant university and its surrounding city centre are replete with gardens the whole family can enjoy. Try the Cambridge University Botanic Garden and walk along its elevated walkway. Hang out in the scented garden to hide your own body odour amid the lovely smelling floral displays. Admire the intricate designs of the glasshouses and snap photos of the colourful rose beds. Then, walk through the centre of the city along the banks of the River Cam. Take a punt trip with a guide, who’ll use a long stick to propel you along the water. It’s quite a Cambridge tradition and the kids will love it. It’s a little like a gondola, but not, and it’ll kind of remind you of Venice, but not. Just don’t fall in.
See the famous Cambridge University
Bridge of Sighs standing over a canal, St John's College in Cambridge University, England, UK
Come on, you’ve done all the parks and gardens and things, and you’ve come all this way from wherever you live. It’s time to follow in the footsteps of some of Britain’s most established and pre-eminent thinkers, with a trip around Cambridge University. Seeing the impressive Bridge of Sighs and watch people punting below is definitely one of the best things to do in Cambridge with kids. The Corpus Christi College is pretty prestigious - well, all the colleges here are - but this one contains the Corpus Clock. It’s painted pure gold and is super complicated, so we won’t go into all the details, but just know that we know…
Enjoy the Cambridge Treasure Hunt Trail
A bridge behind a green field and some trees around the River Cam, Cambridge, England, UK
We’ve just spoken about the University, so now it’s time to get the kids’ brains working hard in preparation for their future enrolment. The Cambridge Treasure Hunt Trail is designed so children as young as 6 can enthusiastically get involved and play their part in the fun, and can easily be an activity planned at the last minute. Embark on a two mile trail around the northern parts of Cambridge’s city centre, discovering answers to clues on various buildings and signs around areas such as the River Cam and Jesus Green. You can start the trail whenever you like (although daytime is definitely recommended), so a missed alarm or an early meal reservation isn't going to get in the way of everyone’s fun. Watch your own mini Sherlock Holmes lose themselves in the joy of it, and wonder whether you’ll remember all of this in a few years when you all inevitably return.
Take a trip to Lockhouse Escape Games
Close up view of dark grey keys hanging from a brown wooden wall at Lockhouse Escape Games, Cambridge, England, UK
Head down to Lockhouse Escape Games for a chance to really get your adrenaline rush, in a time-restricted mission to work together and find your way out of the mind-boggling escape room. There are a number of different experiences to choose from, from a secret agent theme to an end-of-earth Armageddon theme (so you’re responsible for all of our lives… no pressure), and can provide fun for all the family. Kids as young as 9 are encouraged to come along and help decipher clues in what is certainly one of our favourite family things to do in Cambridge. It’s not just for the kids though - you may even enjoy it more than them. You simply can’t go wrong with a cooperative, potentially competitive activity like this, so head here for some seriously memorable moments.
Face your fears with The Haunted Cambridge Tour
A house in a street in Cambridge at night that is visited on ghost tours, Cambridge, England, UK
Finally on our list of the greatest family things to do in Cambridge, we have the spookiest suggestion yet - The Haunted Cambridge Tour with Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours. This one may be a little bit scary for the younger ones (and you?), but the older kids are going to love it, so muster up the bravery to accompany them. Explore the most haunted parts of the famous city, checking out different spots and buildings that are sure to keep you on your toes. Try your hand at some ghost hunting too, and wonder whether your current career is even half as enjoyable as this (hint: it isn’t). You can also embark on two other tours of Cambridge, choosing between a trail of witches and magic or a tale of vampires and murders. This isn’t for the light-hearted, but for those of you who consider yourselves to be one of the braver families, this is not one to miss out on.