21 ways to have a happy half term in East Anglia

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Words by Harriet Cooper

It may feel like the kids have only just gone back to school after the summer holidays but in the blink of an eye, October half-term is upon us, which this year falls between 19 and 27 October. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly attractions, interactive activities or fun events, there’s plenty to do with your little darlings across the network. So get planning…

Appliance of science

Norwich Science Festival, from 19 to 26 October, returns with nine days of awe-inspiring shows, fascinating exhibitions and inspirational talks (don’t miss primatologist Dr Jane Goodall) across multiple venues in the city, many of which are free.

Nearest station: Norwich

Jane Goodall appears at the Norwich Science Festival

Storm trooper

Visitors to the ‘May The Toys Be With You’ exhibition at Moyses’ Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds will be privy to one of the UK's finest collections of vintage Star Wars toys and memorabilia.During half-term you can meet Star Wars group Vader’s Raiders and have your photo taken with Stormtroopers, Wookies, Sith lords and R2-D2.

Nearest station: Bury St Edmunds

Moyses Hall Museum is hosting a special Star Wars event

All aboard!

Autumn on the Broads is a magical time. Soak up the sights on a river trip with Broads Tours, which over half-term allows kids to go free. While the skipper will keep little ones entertained with wildlife-spotting, parents can hit the fully-licenced bar.

Nearest station: Hoveton & Wroxham

Boats on the Norfolk Broads

Behind bars

Head for the Tower of London to partake in ‘Fates and fortunes - Women Prisoners at the Tower’ (19 to 27 October). After meeting female captives who’ve been locked up during the reign of Henry VIII and hearing their plights, only you can decide their fate. Will they escape, be excused or even executed?

Nearest station: London Liverpool Street

The Tower of London

On the ball

If you aren’t off to Japan for the Rugby World Cup, fear not. The World Rugby Museum at Twickenham Stadium holds the most extensive collection of rugby football memorabilia in the world. Why not book a tour, too, and visit the Royal Box, players’ tunnel and pitchside.

Nearest station: London Liverpool Street

The World Rugby Museum is at Twickenham Stadium

Rock on

Recently nominated for the Family Friendly Museum Award 2019, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences houses an astonishing two million fossils, minerals and rocks, and a walk through the museum will take you on a 4.5billion year journey through time. There are activity boxes, trails, book trolleys, puzzles and more to keep inquisitive minds busy.

Nearest station: Cambridge, then direct bus

Sleep tight

For the ultimate sleepover, sign up for ‘I Came, I Saw, I Slept Over: Knightzzz At The Museum’ at Colchester Castle. Taking place 26 to 27 October, you’ll visit the vaults with a costumed guide, make a mosaic coaster and play bingo (Roman numerals, of course!) before settling down for the night with a hot chocolate.

Nearest station: Colchester

Colchester Castle is the host for a half term sleepover

Give it a whirl

Explore Thetford Forest on an all-terrain self-balancing Segway with Go Ape. Follow the four purpose-built routes through pretty woodland, and put your Segway skills to the test on twisty bends and inclines, before going full-throttle along the forest straights.

Nearest station: Thetford

Train of thought

The East Anglian Railway Museum is offering half-term Diesel Days, with unlimited rides on a classic diesel train. Leave time to explore the vintage carriages, Goods Shed and the grand old locomotives under restoration - you can even operate the signal box. Choo choo!

Nearest station: Chappel & Wakes Colne

Go along at a Diesel Day at the East Anglian Railway Museum

Garden delights

The mini fringe festival at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew runs from 19 October to 3 November. Listen to plant-based storytelling, get on stage with the School of Comedy, and delve into the world of fungi through interactive sessions and trails.

Nearest station: London Liverpool Street

The mini fringe festival at Kew Gardens

Creatures of the night

Follow the hanging bats at Anglesey Abbey to embark on a journey of discovery in this former priory, its mill and gardens. Pop into the Wildlife Welcome Hub to learn more about the nocturnal flying mammals, before embarking on the bat-tastic activities and crafty fun.

Nearest station: Cambridge, then direct bus

Apple of your eye

Yes, it’s true – there is a festival entirely devoted to apples and it takes place in Ely on 19 October. Don’t miss the longest apple peeling competition, apple-and-spoon races and apple shy; plus, of course, all the food vendors will have an apple twist from apple teas and cider to pork and apple sausages.

Nearest station: Ely

Animal magic

Set in 100 acres, Africa Alive! is teeming with wild adventures. The centrepiece of the park is Plains of Africa, a re-creation of the African savannah where the animals roam freely. Though there’s plenty else for the family, from the Safari Road Train to the Kingdom of the Lion, plus the chance to hand-feed giraffes.

Nearest station: Lowestoft, then direct bus

Visit Africa Alive! this half term

Park life

Sheringham Park is packed with fun things to do. Follow the Fabulous Fungi Trail (19 to 27 October), go on Spider Safari (21 October), take a Night Hike (21 October) to see what’s stirring in the park as the sun sets or, if you fancy channelling your inner Bear Grylls, sign up for Family Survival School (23 October).

Nearest station: Sheringham

The National Trust's Sheringham Park

Fly high

Earn your wings at IWM Duxford by taking part in its Flight Academy on 21, 23, and 25 October. Kids will get to dress up like real pilots, check their pilot reflex credentials and design the perfect paper plane and parachute, as they learn the principles of flight.

Nearest station: Whittlesford Parkway

Horse play

If you like horses, you’ll love The National Heritage Centre in Newmarket, a five-acre site comprising the National Horseracing Museum, Packard Galleries of British Sporting Art and, possibly the highlight for kids, the chance to meet the racehorses in the flagship home of Retraining Racehorses.

Nearest station: Newmarket

Give it a spin

If you’ve a budding Button or an eager Hamilton in the family, a trip to Anglia Indoor Karting is a must. The karts are easy to drive – with no gears or clutch pedal – and are suitable for 5 years plus, so your little petrol heads can have a taste of life in the fast lane.

Nearest station: Ipswich

Try karting at Anglia Indoor Karting

Go with a bang

Who says fireworks are just for bonfire night? Head to Adventure Island, the UK’s leading free admission fun park, on a Saturday night and you’ll have front row seats to the best fireworks in Southend. Enjoy the rides, warm up with a hot chocolate and marvel at the dazzling display.

Nearest station: Southend Victoria

Enjoy fireworks at Southend's Adventure Island

Big picture

The Cambridge Family Film Festival (25 to 28 October) returns with a bumper programme of short films, family-friendly features and free workshops for all ages, this year exploring the topics of Space, Sustainability and Family. There’s even a Kids’ Repair Café - you bring in your broken toys, and they’ll do their best to fix them.

Nearest station: Cambridge

Turn the tide

A visit to the Woodbridge Tide Mill will give children the opportunity to see all the sights, sounds and drama of a working mill – one of only a handful in the world still producing flour on a regular basis. Discover its fascinating 850-year-old history through a host of interactive displays and activities.

Nearest station: Woodbridge

Woodbridge Tide Mill

Capital creatures

Catch the Museum of London’s ‘Beasts of London’, an immersive tour through the capital’s history, narrated by the animals that once lived here. From the Roman era to the modern day, meet the critters that have shaped the city (we’re not just talking pigeons and rats, but lions and elephants too.

Nearest station: London Liverpool Street

Something fishy

Did you know that the town of Great Yarmouth began as a herring fishing settlement in the 10th century? To mark its heritage, the Time and Tide Museum will be celebrating Herring Day on 21 October in style. Meet the Fisher Girls, venture on the wild side with Suffolk Wildlife Trust and get creative with the family-friendly activities.

Nearest station: Great Yarmouth

Into the wild

Get back to nature on the Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail. It's only accessible by boat, so take the water taxi service – kids go free – and explore this hidden gem. Look out for some of the Broads’ most iconic species including the Norfolk hawker dragonfly, the marsh harrier and, if you’re lucky, an otter or two.

Nearest station: Salhouse

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