The Best Things to Do With Kids in Norfolk
Take the kids to East Anglia's northern rump.
So, the locals are known as Norfolk Dumplings, which sound pejorative, but actually comes from the flour dumplings that were eaten here in bygone times. In any case, we don’t recommend you run around calling everyone a dumpling, because that may be taken the wrong way. (If there even is a right way to take being called a dumpling). In any case, the kids will probably love the name as much as the zoos and amusement parks of this bucolic promontory that juts out of the eastern edge of Great Britain.
It is packed with historical attractions and cultural landmarks, with the cities of Norwich and Great Yarmouth at its core. But, the aforementioned theme parks and animal parks will steal the hearts and minds of the young creatures that seem to keep following you around. Well, they’re here already, so we might as well make it a holiday to remember for your little ones. We’ve put our heads together at the Plum Guide, with our expert travel knowledge, and come up with the ultimate list of things to do with kids in Norfolk.
You can’t beat an amusement park for a family day out, so jumping on a ride or two should definitely top your list of things to do with kids in Norfolk. It’s free to enter the Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, which has around 20 rides and a crazy golf course, as well as water rides and sections for the smaller children. Head to Horning for the BeWILDerwood, and scream WILD at the top of your lungs as you navigate the rope bridges, zip wires and mazes in the woods. It has all kinds of weird characters and obstacle courses for the little ones. Make sure you pick a comfortable, roomy home to rest your feet after all those activities – might we recommend The Steward's Hideaway?
Somebody told me it’s all happening at the zoo
Excuse the Simon & Garfunkel lyrics (you didn’t even realise, did you?), but it’s time for a trip to the zoo. I do believe it, I do believe it’s true. Check out the fearsome tigers and primates in Thrigby Hall, just outside Great Yarmouth. Be careful of the crocodiles and alligators in the swamp area.
For a more traditional zoo experience, head to the Banham Zoo, which claims it has 1,000 animals. Included among the thousand are birds of prey, massive scary felines and siamangs. What do you mean, you don’t know what a siamang is? It’s obviously an arboreal black-furred gibbon native to the forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and if you think we took that from Wikipedia… what do you mean you don’t know what a gibbon is? OK, enough of that – it’s a monkey thing with a particularly weird howl. Study the Eurasian cranes and lapwings among the captive birds in the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.
Under the sea
Simon & Garfunkel didn’t have a song about aquariums (we checked), so we went with the Disney classic. Still, Norfolk is great for fish-related things. The Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth is huge and has a scary shark tank with a tunnel that makes you feel like you’re walking or swimming among them. For some reason, there’s also the wreckage of a World War II aircraft there, as if they couldn’t be bothered to move it. Pretty cool, though. Let your kids gawp at the creepy eels and weird stingrays.
Similarly named but geographically different (as in, it’s not the same place), the Sea Life Sanctuary in Hunstanton is a rescue centre that rehabilitates injured little sea creatures found in the Wash or the North Sea.
It’s family theatre time
Norfolk has all manner of family-fun entertainment, with the theatre at its core. You can’t go wrong with the Norwich Puppet Theatre (‘Oh, yes you can’ – for non-Brits, that was a bit of pantomime for you there). One of the more unique things to do with kids in Norfolk, it has workshops, a gallery, a shop and even a licensed bar, which is all a bit unexpected and brilliant for a puppet theatre. Oh, and it’s housed in the medieval Church of Saint James the Less, no less.
Sheringham Little Theatre puts on musicals and music shows, while the Gorleston Pavilion has everything from plays and concerts to musicals and pantomimes. On the coast in Great Yarmouth, you’ll find the iconic Britannia Pier Theatre, which has an eclectic roster of comic acts, including those aimed at children (you can purchase ear plugs at a nearby chemist). Visit Cromer for the Pavilion Theatre at the end of the Cromer Pier, and check out its schedule. If nothing appeals to you, at least you’ve got some nice views of the water. And hey, this is where that dramatic ending to Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa was filmed.
Really, we know you want to just lie on the sand, so let’s talk beaches. Stroll alongside the colourful cliffs of the Norfolk Coast Path and delve into the idyllic scenery of the Broads National Park. Bathe in the rock pools of the Hunstanton Beach and pick up fish and chips and ice cream at the rear of the strand. Go crabbing in the Wells-next-the-Sea Beach (whose middle part seems a little redundant, as beaches are by definition next to the sea). This cottage near the coast is the perfect option for beach bums.