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Things to Do with the Kids in Dorset

There are a huge variety of Things to Do with the kids in Dorset! With so much to offer all ages and interests - and they don't all revolve around the beach (but you will need to pack your beach bags for some of our suggestions!).

To help you make the most of your leisure time with your children, we've created ideas for things to do with the kids in Dorset.

With so many fun activities for kids in Dorset, it can be hard to know what to choose and we hope that by listing a mixed bag of ideas we'll help you make some fantastic memories.

Dorset is a fantastic place for families to visit as there are so many things to see and do! From wildlife parks, and beaches to being able to explore the beautiful coastline and visiting historical landmarks there really is something for everyone.

 

upton house

Upton House Food and Music Festival 2024

About: Upton House Food & Music Festival 2024 is a brilliant family festival that provides the perfect day out full of high quality street food traders that offer various cuisines, divine selection of artisan and local produce from Dorset's best suppliers, and stalls from rum, gin and wine producers that give you the chance to visit some exceptional beer tents, prosecco and cocktail bars.

After grabbing yourself something to eat or drink, enjoy sets from some brilliant tribute acts and local bands! 

Dates: Friday 14th - Sunday 16th June 2024

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Poole Harbour Festival

Poole Harbour Festival 2024

About: Poole Harbour Festival is Poole's annual live music festival extravaganza! The festival offers live entertainment throughout the whole day, and entertainment for the kids.

The 2024 line-up includes incredible bands and tribute acts, including:

  • Razorlight
  • The Coral
  • Reef
  • The South
  • Toploader
  • Tribute Bands for - Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Madness, P!NK, Amy Winehouse and more!

Dates: Friday 26th - Sunday 28th July 2024

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Bournemouth

airjumpx

AirJumpX at BH Live Active Sir David English

Where: BH Live Active Sir David English, East Way, Bournemouth BH8 9PZ

About: AirJumpX is a great option for keeping the kids entertained and having fun! Air Jump is Sir David England's super-sized infoor inflatable obstacle course! As well as enjoying time on the bouncy castle obstacle course, AirJumpX also includes; the slam dunk, a giant side, a jelly mountain, wipe-out balls, and an assault course!

Children do not need to be accompanied onto the course but an adult will need to sit nearby.

Fun Rating: 5/5

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Dorchester

The Shire Hall Museum

The Shire Hall Museum

Where: High W Street, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1UY

About: Shire Hall Museum in Dorchester is the perfect activity for kids, offering a captivating blend of history, interactive exhibits, and engaging storytelling. This family-friendly museum takes young visitors on a thrilling journey through time, with its immersive displays, including fascinating trials from the past and the gripping tales of historic criminals.

Kids can step into the shoes of jurors, judges, or even defendants as they explore the fully restored courtroom.

The museum's hands-on activities, educational workshops, and a range of age-appropriate exhibits make learning about the justice system and local history fun and accessible. Shire Hall Museum not only educates but also entertains, making it an ideal destination for families seeking an enriching and enjoyable experience for their children.

Food & Drink: Enjoy locally sourced brunches, daily-changing lunches, and afternoon tea and cake in their airy mezzanine café. 

Fun Rating: 5/5

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Bournemouth

bh live active

BH Live Active

About: No matter where you are situated within Bournemouth, there is bound to be a BH Live Active centre near you! 

BH Live Active go beyond offering the typical gym and fitness classes, with each centre boasting multiple other amenities and activities for members to make the most of! 

Across the various centres you will find a combination of spas, wellness centres, tennis courts, swimming pools and even soft play centres for your little one to have fun whilst you do the same! 

Venues: BH Live Active Stokewood, BH Live Active Sir David English, BH Live Active Queen's Park, BH Live Active Pelhams, BH Live Active Littledown
 

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Paulton's Park

PAULTONS PARK HOME OF PEPPA PIG WORLD

About: Paultons Park is ony 45 minutes away from Poole and provides a great day out for toddlers and adults! This theme park has a selection of incredibly thrilling rides for all ages. From roller coasters, water rides, to train rides and flat rides, this amusement park provides an unforgettable day out. 

They have an array of themed worlds but one in particular we think your toddler would love is Peppa Pig World. From Peppa's Big Balloon Ride, George's Dinosaur Adventure, to Grampy Rabbit's Sailing Club and Daddy Pig's Car Ride, your little ones will have a blast in this park.

TGt Recommends: If your little one is a massive Peppa Pig fan and you can see yourself spending considerable time at this part of the park then we highly recommend getting the Peppa's Early Play Pass. 

This then gives you the special opportunity to meet Peppa Pig and George personally before the Park opens between 9.00 - 10.00am on selected dates and enjoy 30 minutes early access to the rides in Peppa Pig World from 9.30am, with Peppa's Early Play & Ride Pass.

Address: Ower, Romsey, SO51 6AL

Tel: 023 8081 4442

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Wimborne

Family Fest Dorset 2024

Family Fest Dorset 2024

Where: The Meadows, Julian's Road, Wimborne, Dorset

About: Join Family Fest Dorset on 12 acres of working farmland on Saturday 1st June to Sunday 2nd June 2024! It will be two days of fun-packed live music, children's shows, mascot appearances, beer, gin, fabulous food, a charity dog show, and tons more to start summer in style.

Date: Saturday 1st June to Sunday 2nd June 2024

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Wareham

Farm Park

Farm Park

Where: Farmer Palmer's, Wareham Rd, Organford, Poole, Dorset, BH16 6EU

About: Farmer Palmer's is a great choice if you're looking for things to do with kids, as it's just 6 miles from central Poole and is suitable for children 0-8yrs old.

Kids can not only enjoy seeing, petting and feeding the animals but also can enjoy tractor rides, pedal tractors, waterplay, indoor and outdoor play areas, a bouncy castle, and so much more.

Food & Drink: There's a great cafe with fresh homecooked food on the menu. View their menu here.

Fun Rating: 5/5

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insanity arcade

Insanity Arcade

Where: Insanity Arcade

About: Insanity Arcade in Poole are one of the pioneering pay-per-session free-play arcades in the South of England! With over 60 machines spread across two floors, it offers an unparalleled gaming experience!

This is a great spot for celebrations, rainy days and just fun trips out! And make sure to head over to their in house bar and grill for a great selection of food and drinks! 

Menu: View their House Bar and Grill menu, here.

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Bournemouth

BIC

Bournemouth International Centre

About: The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) is one of Bournemouth's hotspots for live entertainment! Enjoy a range of live music events, comedy shows and performances; there will be a range of different events running for everyone! View their list of events below.

Events: View here.

Address: Bournemouth International Centre, Exeter Rd, Bournemouth BH2 5BH

Telephone: 0300 500 0595

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pavilion

The Pavilion

About: The Pavilion in Bournemouth Town Centre is a great spot for both local and famous talents! Enjoy a range of live music events, comedy shows and theatre; there will be a range of different events running for everyone! View their list of events below.

Events: View here.

Address: Bournemouth Pavilion, Westover Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH1 2BU

Telephone: 0300 500 0595

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Swanage

swanage railway

Swanage Railway

About: Swanage Railway offer a variety of family days out and themed railway trips! Each station along the route tells its own story. The railway features stations at Corfe Castle and Harman’s Cross, along with a halt at Herston on the outskirts of Swanage.

Swanage Railway host a variety of themed events, view here.

Fun Rating: 5/5

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Poole

kid surf poole

Hit the Beach

Where: Sandbanks, Shell Bay and Branksome Chine for the safety, soft golden sands and amenities and Studland for the different scenery and adventure.

About: Poole's Beaches offer so much for the kids to do at all times of the year. In autumn and winter months, just go well wrapped up and the kids will have a blast simply running around the beach, getting messy, building and knocking down sandcastles and just experiencing beach life.

In the summer, you can make a real family day of it on Poole's beaches. You can rent beach huts, barbecues, play beach volleyball or just have a picnic and enjoy the ease of letting the kids run wild on some of the UKs safest and cleanist beaches.

If your children are looking for some adventure, then we recommend you look in to some of the kids watersports activities on offer in Poole. These range from Stand-Up Paddleboarding to surf lessons, sailing and snorkelling. There are many weekend watersports clubs for kids in Poole as well as school holiday clubs.

TGt Favourite:

EasyRiders is a dedicated watersports school that offers the best tuition from beginner to expert in all Kitesports, Stand Up Paddleboarding and Foiling disciplines for novices to intermediates through to instructor courses and high end coaching. 

SUP Safari is a specialist Stand Up Paddleboard and Kayak Centre based in Sandbanks, Poole. They offer all-inclusive SUP club, lessons, rentals, tours and sales.

Shaka Surf is one of the best surfing schools in Poole. They provide watersport equipment hire and lessons. They offer brilliant fun for all ages and abilities as well as teaching you the core skills to go out and catch some waves.

Check out our in-depth guide to Poole's best beaches here.

Food and Drink: Take your own picnic or hire a barbecue or stop at one of the many beachside cafes and restaurants in Poole. View our favourite BBQ & picnic spots in Poole here.

Fun Rating: 5/5

Swimming

Swimming

Individually Swimming & Fitness

Where: Individuality Swimming and Fitness, Suite 1 Discovery Court Business Centre, 551 - 553 Wallisdown Road, Poole, Dorset, BH12 5AG

About: Looking for things to do to keep your little ones entertained?

Whether they're off school and needing something to do to keep themselves busy, or they still have lots of energy after finishing school and need an after school activity to make them tired, whatever it is Individuality Swimming and Fitness have an array of swimming clubs and groups that your kids will love.

Individuality Swimming and Fitness offer swimming lessons at local pools for babies, kids & adults in Poole and the surrounding areas. They provide the following lessons:

Fun Rating: 5/5

Discover Swimming

Where: Hamworthy Park Junior School, Poole, Dorset, BH15 4DG

About: Learning to swim and being confident in the water is incredibly important, Discover Swimming help provide tailored swimming lessons to children.

They provide the following services:

  • Adult Swimming Classes
  • Parent-Child Classes
  • Private Lessons

Fun Rating: 5/5

Rockley Watersports Poole

Rockley Watersports

Where: Rockley Point, Poole, Dorset, BH15 4RW

About: Rockley Watersports provides school and group activity trips in the UK and France, holiday camps, birthday parties, RYA courses for all levels and ages and residential holidays, as well as a Level 2 and Level 3 Diploma in Sport and Outdoor Adventure courses.

They host some fantastic kids multi-activity days that are perfect for keeping your kids entertained. Their multi-activity days take place at either Rockley Beach or Poole Park Lake and occur during the school holidays.

Your kids can have fun doing an array of activities, such as:

  • Windsurfing
  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Stand up paddleboarding
  • Raft building
  • Dinghy sailing
  • Crabbing
  • Orienteering...and more

Fun Rating: 5/5

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Itsy Bitsy Dance

Itsy Bitsy Dance

Where: Poole

About: Itsy Bitsy Dance Poole offers classes that provide a magical start to your little ones dance journey. Their classes have been designed to bring out children's imagination, confidence and musicality through the art form of dance.

They offer a number of different classes including toddler street dance, ballet and tap for ages between 18 months - 7 years.

Food & Drink: They serve the tastiest barista style coffee whilst parents/guardians are waiting.

Fun Rating: 4/5

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Centre VR

Centre VR

Where: Richmond Gardens Leisure & Shopping Centre, Old Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH1 1EN

About: Centre VR are Europes largest virtual reality venue. They provide the ultimate day out for your little ones. You can play all the best single and multiplayer games:

  • Crazy Golf
  • Laser Tag
  • Group Adventures
  • Action Adventures
  • Motion Rides
  • Simulations
  • Art
  • Excursions & Educational Titles

You can choose to play solo, against each other or cooperatively.

Food & Drink: They have Papa Johns Pizza and an amazing coffee shop in store.

Fun Rating: 5/5

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Painting Sessions

Painting Sessions

Where: 94A High Street, Poole, Dorset, BH15 1DB

About: Di Venti Boutique presents family-oriented painting sessions, providing a platform for your little ones to unleash their creativity.

They have an ever-expanding range of vases, figurines, decorative plates, 3D puzzles, dominoes, and more for you to paint.

They also have a soft play area for those who are a little too young to paint, and they have a little space to run off some steam.  

Fun Rating: 5/5

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Dance Majic

Dance Majic

Where: 316 Ringwood Road, Poole, Dorset, BH14 0RY

About: Dance Majic offers classes with specialist teachers for each dance genre for beginners to advanced. 

Their classes are created to embrace having fun and learning to fall in love with dancing whatever your age. Dance Majic offers children’s classes in ballet, tap, ballroom/Latin, street/commercial, pop/freestyle, and their mini range to get your toddlers moving for whatever style they grow into.

Fun Rating: 5/5

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Dorset

Head to a safari park

Head to a safari park

Where: Longleat Safari Park, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 7NW

About: Renowned for being the first Drive Through Safari Park outside of Africa, Longleat invites you to wind up the windows and hide all the sandwiches because… you’re going on an adventure that’s wilder, furrier and growlier than you ever dared imagine. Count cheetah spots, wave at wolves and have a giraffe. Just watch out for the monkeys!

And don’t forget to put your walking shoes on to meet furry, scaly and feathery friends on foot. From snoozing Southern koalas to snapping Cuban crocodiles, see how many animals you can spot on the Walking Safari.

Food & drink: Longleat Safari Park have an abundance of places to eat, from their Watering Hole Cafe, the Chameleon Tree and Coffee House, Pizza Piazza, seasonal kiosks and Afternoon Tea in the Orangery.

Fun rating: 5/5

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Poole

Oceanarium

Animals Parks

Where: Monkey World, Putlake Adventure Farm, Liberty's Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre, Oceanarium

About: There's a good mix of animal days out in Poole and you can't go wrong with a trip to see the animals; it's always a popular option with kids of all ages (adults too!).

Monkey World is home to over 20 different primate species, it's a fun and educational day out and the Great Ape Play area is the largest adventure play area in the South so will be a huge hit with the kids, there's a good choice of cafes and many picnic areas too. Check out what Total Guide to got up to when we visited Monkey World.

Putlake Adventure Farm is aimed at children from 0 to 10 years. It's a real working farm with animals, tractor rides, an outdoor play area and very popular large indoor soft play area. Located in Swanage, it's a little further out than our other suggestions but you can really make a full day of it by experiencing the rest of Swanage.

Liberty's Owl, Rapture and Reptile Centre is in Ringwood and approx 18 miles from central Poole but another one worth the short travel.  There's a large selection of Birds Of Prey, including Owls, Hawks, Falcons along with a collection of Reptiles.  There are daily Flying Demonstrations so you'll be able to see the beauty.of these birds in action.

Although based in Bournemouth, the extremely popular Oceanarium is just a few miles from Poole and we find it's always a good go-to when it's raining and it's all indoor.  Kids will be excited to see sharks, turtles, stingrays, a crocodile, jellyfish, clownfish, otters and penguins.  There are regular feeding talks, a gift shop and good cafe on-site.

Food and Drink:  Cafes on site in most parks and numerous picnic areas.

Fun Rating: 4/5

Poole Park swings

Parks and Playgrounds

Where:  Our pick of the best parks and play areas in Poole include; Poole Park, Hamworthy Park, Harbourside Park and Upton Country Park.

About: These are just a small selection of the parks and playgrounds in Poole. The link below will take you to the full list but, in our opinion, these deserve a special mention.

Poole Park, with it's central location, lake, crazy golf, two play areas, tennis courts, and not to mention, The Ark - home to a cafe, soft play area and indoor ice rink, is a firm favourite. You'll be able to spend hours here.

You can even move on to Harbourside Park if you've got some energy left! It's just next to Poole Park before you reach Poole Harbour. As it's explosed, it's a good spot for flying kites and windy walks! There's a skate park and fitness station for the active members of the family. There are two car parks.

Hamworthy Park boasts gorgeous views as it is situated on Hamworthy Beach. There's two large play area, fitness stations and large paddling pool open in the summer months and being on the beach, there are lots of options for watersports activities. 

Upton Country Park is a really popular destination and can be enjoyed by all the family. It's home to a Grade II listed Georgian Mansion Hous surruounded by a beautiful botanical walled garden, and adventure play areas for the kids to enjoy. Keep an eye on their website for updates on there seasonal events too; there's always a reason to keep returning! It's free entry but there is a charge for parking.

Food and Drink:  Cafes on site in most parks and numerous picnic areas.

Fun Rating: 4/5

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Leisure Centre Fun

Leisure Centre Fun

Where: David Lloyd

About: David Lloyd Poole is one of Dorset's premier fitness clubs and is the perfect destination for the whole family to have some fun. They offer an array of fantastic kids clubs that your little ones will love! 

Their sports facilities are endless with an array of indoor and outdoor tennis courts, badminton courts, squash courts and 3 swimming pools. 

So next time you're looking for something to keep your kids entertained and away from the tv why not take them to David Lloyd for some fun indoor and outdoor sports activities!

Food & Drink: They have a clubroom which provides an array of freshly made food and drinks menus that have been created by nutritionists and fitness experts. 

Fun Rating: 5/5

 

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Train Experiences

Train Experiences

Where: Swanage Railway

About: Situated in the Isle of Purbeck, the rebuilt Swanage Railway is the ideal place to enjoy a great family day out on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. This railway attraction operates full-size steam and diesel passenger trains along the five and a half miles of line from Norden to Corfe Castle and down to the Victoria seaside town of Swanage.

The line has stations at Corfe Castle and Harman’s Cross as well as a halt at Herston, on the outskirts of Swanage. 

Food & Drink: There are refreshment buffets at Norden and Swanage stations with picnic tables at most of the stations so you can soak up the atmosphere while enjoying a picnic. If you want something a little special they offer on train dining experiences which you can view here.

Fun Rating: 3/5

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Day Trip to Brownsea Island

Day Trip to Brownsea Island

Where: Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, BH13 7EE

About: Providing sensational views across the Purbeck Hills, it's one of Poole's most popular harbours. The island is a sanctury for wildlife; with a plentiful selection of birds such as kingfishers, oystercatchers and lots more.

The island is accessible by boat, and ferry charges apply (separate to NT fees). There are plenty of trails around the island, so it’s the perfect day out for all the family! 

Food & Drink: The Villano Café serves a range of hot and cold drinks, hot and cold snacks and light meals. 

Fun Rating: 4/5

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Museum

Museum

Where: Poole Museum

About: Poole Museum gives you the chance to explore the interesting history of the lives of people who lived in Poole thousands of years ago. It's an adventurous and educational day out that the whole family are bound to love. If you'd prefer to explore the museum with an educational tour guide so you can understand in-depth detail about Poole then you can click here.

Food & Drink: The Poole Cafe and Terrace is situated on the third floor of the museum and serves an array of lite bites, snacks, hot and cold beverages and sweet treats.

Fun Rating: 4/5

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Soft Play Fun

Soft Play Fun

Where: Let our indoor and soft play area guide show you some of our favourite hot spots.

About: Poole plays host to an array of indoor and soft play areas that provide the space for your young ones to run around and play in a safe and friendly environment. It gives them the chance to meet new people and learn to play with new children as well as having fun playing with all the incredible sensory activities. 

Food & Drink: Most of Poole's soft play areas provide a comfortable and relaxing space where parents can watch their kids whilst sipping on a coffee. Plus, if your kids get a little hot and bothered in the play area they can come down and cool off whilst enjoying some light bites.

Comfortable seating and area for parents with a small cafe serving food and drink.

Fun Rating: 4/5

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Pottery

Pottery

Where: Studio Poole, Unit D2 to D5, Dolphin quays, Poole, Dorset, BH15 1HU

About: Studio Poole are the largest Poole pottery outlet in the world and have a working studio that allows you and your kids to have fun getting messy with paint. It can be tricky finding unique ideas and activities for your kids to do, but Studio Poole really do provide the perfect activity that suits any age and lets them have fun whilst also being able to use their creative side. 

Their Have-A-Go experience is the ideal family-friendly activity which allows you to paint your own ceramic masterpiece from their wide selection of bisque animals and fantasy creatures, as well as seasonal exclusive options.

Food & Drink: Located near popular local restaurants so you can always grab a bite to eat after your fun arts and crafts adventure.

Fun Rating: 5/5

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Tower Park

Splashdown Poole

Splashdown Poole

Where:  Tower Park, Poole BH12 4NY

About: Splashdown Poole is a large waterpark situated just 4 miles from central Poole in Tower Park. It was built in 1990 and has been a firm favourite with families ever since; it attracts a whopping 180,000 visitors every year.

There are 13 indoor and outdoor flume rides, and for the little kids, there are three under 5s splash zones. Toddlers will love swimming in Ricky’s Reef and Buccaneers’ SplashZone is a watery, interactive playground for under 8s.

Children must be at least 1m tall to ride the rides and 1.2m for Infinity.  We also have areas specifically for smaller children and they may find that more to their liking.  The waterpark also has trained staff and lifeguards.

Check Splashdown's website for their Family Combo Ticket options to make sure you get the best deal.

Food and Drink: There is a cafe but with limited seating. We recommend you take your own food and drink.

Fun Rating: 4/5

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Studio Poole (Animated Ad)
Individuality Swimming & Fitness (Animated Ad)
Poole Harbour Festival 2024 (Animated Ad)
Swanage Railway (Animated Ad)
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