For a while, everything in medieval England revolved around Hampshire, especially Winchester, the former capitol. Thanks in part to Henry VIII, the surrounding areas flourished when the ruler went a bit mad building castles and fortifications to save England from invasion. Henry hunted in the New Forest and his 3rd wife was from the county.
Now Hampshire is the largest county in the South East and home to some of the best places for families to explore. From Southsea to South Downs to Downton’s Highclere Castle, Hampshire offers a nice weekend away or day out.
We visited, courtesy of Hampshire’s Top Attractions, a collective of places to visit in the area (it includes the Isle of Wight too). Make sure to check out their voucher page where you can get all kinds of discounts and special offers, including 2-for-1 tickets.
You’ll not be stuck for ideas for things to do! With our tweens and teen, we went to Marwell Zoo and Paultons Family Theme Park to satisfy our animal lovers and thrill seekers.
Lions and tigers and meerkats, oh my! Mention Marwell Zoo, and many will tell you its their favourite. Many of the inhabitants of this global conservation charity have been rescued and they help endangered species prosper.
The 140-acre zoo is built around Marwell Manor, the ancestral home of Jane Seymour, the 3rd (and most beloved) wife of Henry VIII. It’s rumoured that the royal couple were married in the Manor, not long after Anne Boleyn was beheaded.
We had a good workout just walking around the massive grounds. On the way we hung out with the Penguins, meerkats, giraffes and more. There’s an impressive number of animals, especially some you rarely see in the UK, like the red panda. It’s a nice day out and even nicer knowing that the charity plays a part in helping to save animals.
My 10-year-old’s perspective
We went to Marwell Zoo and it was fantastic! They had tigers, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, rhinos, snow leopards, meerkats, penguins, flamingos and many more. My favourite was the red panda – he climbed up a tree and was REALLY cute. The penguins are really friendly. All the animals were really cool and it was a fun place to go.
Paultons Family Theme Park
I had not really considered taking my tween and teenage girls to Paultons Family Theme Park, succumbing to the thought that the theme park, known for Peppa Pig World, was more for toddlers. I of course was not aware that tween idol Zoella loves it there, vlogging a birthday celebration right from the park. Paultons Park has a good mix of entertainment for the whole family. We spent an entire day exploring 140 acre park that has more than 60 rides, many of which were perfect for my girls who like a bit of an adrenaline challenge (they have ziplined and white water rafted around the world) but aren’t really fans of upside down stomach wrenching roller coasters.
Their favourite was the Cobra, and on the morning of their opening day of the season, they rode again and again. The also liked the Edge, a giant disc that is propelled on a 90-metre track, giving you a floating feeling. You WILL get wet on the Raging River Log Fume, but there are giant air dryers to help warm you up again. They also went on the hand-decorated Sky Swinger several times.
Peppa Pig World is a haven for toddlers, but my girls had fun hanging out with pint-sized kids all charged up by the Peppa Pig theme song, which is ubiquitous in the park.
There’s also a 4-D cinema, themed gardens, Humboldt Penguins, African Meerkats and pink Flamingos. The new Lost Kingdom, with 2 new thrill rides, opens in May 2016.
We had a great time and whole family was snorting the Peppa Pig theme song long after we left! Oink, oink!
My 13-year-old’s perspective
Being 13, I was worried that I wouldn’t find anything fun to do at Paultons Park – but I was wrong! The first ride that we went on was the Sky Swinger, and it was a favourite. After going on that a few times (there wasn’t a queue) we went to the Cobra. At first it looked a bit intimidating, and I was scared to go on it, but as soon as we went on it all of my fears vanished. This was my favourite ride because it was exhilarating and had lots of unexpected turns and bumps. We went on this ride 5 times in a row! We also went on the Edge which was very fun. In Peppa Pig World we played in Mr Potato’s Playground and had an ice cream. Next time we go I want to go on the Wave – it looks like a blast!
Where we ate: The Stable
Where we stayed: Best Western Chilworth Manor
IF YOU GO:
Best Western Chilworth Manor Chilworth, Southampton, Hampshire SO16 7PT +44 0844 387 6287 bw-chilworthmanor.co.uk
Paultons Park, Ower, Romsey, Hampshire SO51 6AL +44 023 8081 4442 paultonspark.co.uk
Marwell Zoo Thompson’s Ln, Colden Common, Winchester SO21 1JY +44 01962 777407 marwell.org.uk/zoo/
Stable Pizza The StableUnit 6Above Bar StreetSouthamptonSO14 7DU stablepizza.com/locations/southampton/
National Motor Museum, Beaulieu John Montagu Bldg, Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Hampshire SO42 7ZN beaulieu.co.uk
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens Jermyns Ln, Ampfield, Romsey, Hampshire SO51 0QA +44 01794 368407 hants.gov.uk/hilliergardens
We were guests of Hampshire’s Top Attractions for the purpose of this review. As always, my views and the views of my stroppy teen and tweens, are entirely our own.