The top 10 places to go when the weather is rough outside.
With more than 330 shops as well as three leisure villages, Bluewater is Kent’s top place for a spot of retail therapy. Its architecture and triangular design sets it apart from other shopping centres and its location inside an old chalk quarry salutes both Kent’s industry and landscape. The towering 50 metre high cliffs also give it a secluded feel, dotted with tranquil lakes, parkland and trees. There are also 40 cafes, bars and restaurants to tempt you after shopping hours have finished, plus a 13-screen cinema.
There is an immense amount of history to be found in Kent’s most famous building, starting with its first Archbishop St Augustine. He was sent by Pope Gregory the Great and arrived in 597AD as a missionary, establishing his seat – or Cathedra – in Canterbury. In 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral and ever since, it has attracted thousands of pilgrims. The cathedral houses a Romanesque crypt dating back to the 11th century, a 12th century early Gothic quire and a 14th century perpendicular nave. The beautiful medieval stained glass windows depict the miracles and stories associated with St Thomas.
The sights, smells and sounds of the 14th century are recreated at The Canterbury Tales. Step into medieval Canterbury and accompany Geoffrey Chaucer’s characters on their pilgrimage from London to the shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Along the way, their stories of love, romance, jealousy and trickery are recreated with life-size scenes and actors. This is Canterbury’s most family-friendly way to learn about the father of English literature’s great narrative.
Dickens World, Chatham
Not just a tribute to the greatest author of the Victorian era, Dickens World is a fun way for families to find out about the streets and people of the 19th century. Dickens was a great social commentator and his writing is reflected in the make up of this attraction on Chatham Maritime. It features the Great Expectations boat ride, the Haunted Man from the Dickens novella and Dotheboys Hall school room with touch screen technology. There is a 4D cinema show in Peggotty’s Boathouse and the animatronic stage show in the Britannia Theatre, introducing visitors to some of Dickens’ characters. For the little ones there is the soft play area known as Fagin’s Den.
Built in the 11th century, Dover Castle still stands defiantly against invaders from the continent. It held off a siege from the French in 1216 and had its secret wartime tunnels turned into a military command centre for British forces during the Second World War. Today, families can watch a royal court in action in the newly developed Great Tower and enjoy a Hidden Dover Castle tour. The secret wartime tunnels can be explored deep beneath the famous White Cliffs.
Hornby Visitor Centre, Margate
Toys are a delight at the age of four or 44 and the Hornby Visitor Centre takes people on a journey through the history of Britain’s best-loved play items. It features rare products from the famous Hornby, Airfix and Corgi archives. It also includes a vertical spiral Scalextric track as seen on BBC TV series James May’s Toy Stories.
Lullingstone Roman Villa
With its well preserved mosaics and rare wall paintings, Lullingstone is among the most outstanding Roman villa survivals in Britain. The villa was begun in about AD 100, and developed to suit the tastes and beliefs of successive wealthy owners, reaching its peak of luxury in the mid-4th century. Still inside are a heated bath-suite and a house-church. A light show brings the villa to life and galleries display Lullingstone’s collection of Roman artefacts. Children can try on Roman costumes and play traditional games from the period.
Silver Blades Ice Rink, Gillingham
The South East’s premier ice rink includes a full-size ice pad with seating for more than 1,000 people within the arena. There are skating sessions timed to suit everyone’s diary including daytime, afternoon, evening, junior disco, evening disco and after school. Lessons are also available. Café Blu and Bar Blu will relieve anyone who has worked up an appetite on the ice. It’s also the place to grab a warm drink while watching the children on the ice.
Sitting in the comfort of the warm restaurant or on the betting floor, there is nothing like the thrill of a good night at the dogs. Children and grown ups alike can enjoy the racing around the 443m track at Central Park Stadium, built in 1995 at a cost of £6 million. There is always a good atmosphere on race nights which take place on Wednesdays through to Sundays. Give it a go - it’s a great family night out.
Tiny Town, Larkfield
Ask a child what they want to do when they grow up and the answer is invariably something like astronaut or firemen. Tiny Town has taken note of this and created soft play areas for children so they can act out their dreams with their friends. Zones include a castle area, space area, fire station, army area and supermarket. Children can also slide down a waterfall, climb ladders and jump on an adventure bus. Tiny Town also has 3G astro-turf football pitches, changing rooms and bespoke party log cabins. For grown-ups, there’s free wireless internet, newspapers, large TV screens, food and coffee.