For anyone who has ever spent time in Britain, you’ll know that having an alternative in mind should the weather take a turn for the worse, is practically essential.
The good news is that there is always a plenty of choice should we need to venture indoors that can help keep the whole family entertained come rain or shine.
The following places are ten of the best museums, galleries and theatres that are on hand to offer shelter from the inevitable storm this autumn and winter.
Pitched just outside Dartmouth, the Woodlands theme park (01803 712 598; woodlandspark.com) also keeps its offerings out of rain’s way. And it offers a lot – its “Empire of the Sea Dragon” attraction is the largest indoor play zone in the UK. The 50ft drop of its “Trauma Tower” is aimed at older visitors; the “Ice Palace”, with its cartoon penguins and slides, is for a younger age-group (family tickets from £36).
Eureka, West Yorkshire
How to take a walk in the woods without getting damp on a grey day? Based in Halifax, Eureka, the National Children’s Museum (01422 330 069; eureka.org.uk; £13.95), has the answer. Its current showpiece “Arboreal” (until November 30) is a “digital forest” where visitors can play interactive games and a giant pinball machine, wander through a cloud of virtual fireflies, and – obviously – be chased across the floor by electronic glow-worms.
On the Welsh capital’s waterfront, Techniquest (029 2047 5475; techniquest.org; £10.95) will give children a gentle helping of education this autumn with Energy Unleashed – a science show that dissects how food, the human body and the world around us functions. Smaller visitors are also welcome – via specific “Toddler Days” that run throughout the year.
Lego mania, Windsor, Birmingham and Manchester
The Legoland Resort in Windsor (0300 332 1421; legoland.co.uk; from £29) unveiled a new area in May 2021 – the fantastical “Mythica”, where the main ride, “Flight Of The Sky Lion” is under cover. Of course, much of the park isn’t – so if you want little plastic bricks without having to wear a waterproof jacket, it may be better to try the Legoland Discovery Centres in Birmingham (0121 794 2386; legolanddiscoverycentre.com; from £20.65) or Manchester (0161 749 2870).
Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire
The National Trust is allowing visitor access to a whole host of interiors including the 17th-century stately home of Dyrham Park (0117 937 2501; nationaltrust.org.uk; £13 for adults, £6.50 for children). Eight miles from Bath, it has appeared on screen in the BBC’s The Pursuit Of Love – its Gilt Leather Parlour and Great Hall hosting two of the Mitford sisters’ grandiose balls.
The British Museum, London
The British Museum (020 7323 8000; britishmuseum.org) is currently running a range of exhibitions for visitors to enjoy this autumn and winter. “Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything” (£9 admission) is hosting a collection of rare drawings by Katsushika Hokusai – one of Japan’s most celebrated artists. “Peru: a journey in time” (£25 admission) explores how people have thrived for millennia in one of the most complex and challenging environments on the planet. Both run until 2022.
Chester Cathedral, Cheshire
Largely 13th and 14th century in structure, Chester Cathedral (01244 324 756; chestercathedral.com), welcomes visitors into its nave. It is currently hosting a landmark exhibition of over 40 artworks “to challenge our perceptions as to how Jesus Christ and other people of faith are depicted by people of different ethnicity, race and colour”.
Trips for fun
Culzean Castle, Ayrshire
Part of the National Trust for Scotland stable, Culzean Castle (01655 884 455; nts.org.uk; £18.50 adult, £10.50 child) takes a dramatic approach to a story that started with Robert Adam. This iconic Scottish architect constructed an 18th century wonder that overlooks the Firth of Clyde from a high cliff, and comes complete with a grand oval staircase, a “drum” tower for sea views, and (reputedly) seven ghosts. Its adventure playgrounds keep younger guests busy.
York Dungeon, North Yorkshire
You don’t have to look quite as hard for ghoulish entities at this enjoyable purveyor of shock and gore just above the River Ouse. York Dungeon (01904 632 599; thedungeons.com; from £17.50) offers tall tales of dastardly jesters, vengeful Vikings, plague outbreaks, maverick torturers, and accused witches.
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Snowdonia
One of the recurring issues with adventure playgrounds is that they tend to be exposed to the elements. Not so the inventive Zipworld (01248 601 444; zipworld.co.uk) in Snowdonia – which buries its fun and games underground in a former slate mine. Bounce Below (from £20) is a series of trampolines and jump-nets; the Caverns (from £65) has rope bridges and zip-lines crossing a space where miners once toiled. Rain, rain, go away.
The V&A Dundee (01382 411 611; vam.ac.uk), which had been open for barely a year when Covid struck, is doing its bit to keep dance floors filled. Night Fever (from £6; until January 9) assesses “the relationship between club culture and design” from the 1960s onwards, with virtual stops in Berlin, Paris, New York and Beirut.
The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Tyne and Wear
A converted flour mill on the south bank of the River Tyne in Gateshead, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (0191 478 1810; baltic.art) is about as sturdy a brick umbrella as you could demand. It is continuing its exhibition of works by Sutapa Biswas which spans the artist’s extensive career. Biswas was a vital contributor to the Black Arts Movement in Britain and to shifting understanding of post-war British art.
Dog Days, Tower Bridge, London
No-one loves the smell of wet pooch. Which is why Tower Bridge (020 7403 3761; towerbridge.org.uk; £10.60) has been fast to market itself as “London’s only major dog-friendly attraction.” In other words, if your hound is fascinated by one of the true feats of Victorian engineering – including the glass walkway which gazes down onto the Thames – then there is no need for them to miss out.