Family Travel

Family Friendly Bristol

This fall, I had the pleasure of exploring two new-to-me cities in Great Britain: Bath and Bristol. 

Bristol #visitbristol
The Old City in Bristol

It’s about a twelve-minute, scenic train ride between Bath and Bristol, making it one of the easiest dual city experiences I’ve ever had. You’ve barely got time to down your coffee before you’ve arrived.  At a time when travel can mean spending more time in the airport than in your destination, it is nothing short of a miracle.

High above the rooftops of Bath

Plus, the two cities offer a travel experience pairing that borders on perfection. In Bath, the options for long quiet walks, thermal soaks and people watching. In Bristol, big city energy mixes with  intimate community spaces and there is the feeling that as long as you keep moving, you’re bound to stumble on something interesting and exciting.

Bristol with Kids

Both are great options for families, but if I had to choose, I’d take my sons to Bristol first. The city has an energy that is both comfortable and cosmopolitan. There is a youth culture that is vibrant and it felt as if I was constantly bumping into young families pushing strollers or chasing after school kids. It felt like a place I’d enjoy whether I was with my pre-school niece or my teenage sons.

M Shed in Bristol
Bright colours and interactive activities await at MShed in Bristol

How to make your Bristol Family Vacation the best vacation ever

Considering a visit with the kids? Here are a few of my favourite experiences to pack into your itinerary:

  1. Stay in the Old City –  I loved that staying at the hotel Mercure Bristol Grand meant we were in the Old City. The hotel is more than 150 years old but recent refurbishments means it felt fresh and modern. The location put me in  walking distance to great meal options like Pata Negra and steps from the eclectic St. Nicholas Markets at The Corn Exchange building. The architecture  of the area changes in the morning and evening light, and I think families will love that it has less car traffic than most Bristol thoroughfares.
  2. Take a tour : I always love a hop on hop off bus. The Bristol Insight Tour offers open top views and plenty of information as you venture around the city.  Keep kids engaged by getting on and off at the variety of stops and exploring a bit more of the city on foot. (One spot you won’t want to miss:  The Clifton Suspension Bridge that spans the Avon Gorge. )And when you’re done, just hop on the bus again and make your way home.
Where's the Wall Tour in Bristol

3. Banksy and Beyond: This is the home of the famous artist that has been making international headlines with his controversial street art.  The “Where the Wall” Art tour gets you around to see much of it, as well as plenty of equally impressive pieces by artists you may not have hear of.  Kids are bound to get a kick out of the bright, beautiful walls and the impressive art done in places you might not expect – like on a piece of chewed gum! (see photo below) http://www.wherethewall.com/

4. Get on the ship: Brunel’s  S.S. Great Britain stands in all its glory at the Great Western Dockyard where it was built. You can each choose a passenger boarding card inside the Dockyard Museum and then explore the ship to see where that passenger would’ve stayed and what they experienced on board. It’s a fantastic way to hammer home both the grandeur and hardships of travel at the time.  Being on board is fun but the displays and information that surround the ship itself are what will truly wow your family.  (Don’t miss the Dry Dock where you can see the original iron hull and the Victorian dress up room where you can snap some fun photos in period costumes!) Kids will also love the chance to climb the ship’s rigging under the supervision of a guide. Want more? The ship’s sister museum Being Brunel opened earlier this year.

Visit Bristol
The view from underneath the S.S. Great Britain in Bristol.


5. Hit the Free Museums:  I love exposing the kids (and myself) to a bit of culture in new cities, and even better when there isn’t a steep ticket price tag attached. Bristol has a set of free museum that offer options that range from dinosaurs and Egyptian artefacts at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to the weird and wacky objects inside Blaise Castle House Museum. The spot I loved most? M Shed. Set on the Princes Wharf waterfront it offers an interactive look at  Bristol’s most stunning feature – its people.

Looking for more information to plan your trip to the city? VisitBristol.com is a great place to start.

My trip to Bristol was part of a subsidized trip to #STSBelfast. All opinions are my own.

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