Fun family activities to enjoy in autumn - rain or shine
PUBLISHED: 11:31 29 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:56 29 September 2019
Are you looking for ways to keep the family entertained this autumn... whatever the weather? Here is a selection of fun indoor activities and attractions in Suffolk or within an hour's drive, and some outdoor ones for fine days.
Check the attractions' websites for full details of opening/session times, charges and any planned closures before making a special trip.
Get in the swim - pools with extra attractions
Instead of just going to your nearest pool, you could try travelling a little further afield. Here is a selection of pools with added fun attractions, as an alternative to lane swimming. Timings are taken from current term-time timetables on the centres' websites, but are subject to change.
Colchester Leisure World: The leisure pool here boasts 13-metre flumes, as well as the fast-flowing Rapids, a Crazy River, slides, waves and shipwreck water cannons. You can also enjoy bubbles and jets in the Castaway Spa Pool. The leisure pool is normally open at the weekends from 10am to 6pm during term time, with the flumes open between 10.30am and 5.30pm, with the rapids active between 12.30pm and 4.30pm. A band system operates at busy times.
Felixstowe Leisure Centre: As well as the main pool, there are flumes, with weekend fun splash sessions for families. Times can vary, so check their website. A band system may operate at busy times. The complex also includes a toddler pool, fun pool and a soft play area.
Kingfisher Leisure Centre, Sudbury: This centre offers fun sessions with wave machines, flumes, floats and inflatables. At weekends both flumes are open, with the wave machine running between noon and 4pm, and inflatables also out between 2 and 4pm on Saturdays. Away from the water, the Little Kingfishers play centre offers varied soft play equipment.
Breckland Leisure Centre & Waterworld, Thetford: As well as the main 25m pool, this complex includes a leisure pool with a range of inflatables, toys and floats, plus a twisting water slide for the more adventurous types. The leisure pool is usually open from 10am to 4pm at weekends in term time.
Abbeycroft Leisure Centre, Bury St Edmunds: The pool has a pirate pool with flumes, slides and various other activities, as well as a main pool and teaching pool. On their current term time timetable, there are floats, fun and flume sessions from 11am to 1pm at weekends, and floats and fun sessions from 10am to 1pm and 1pm to 4pm.
Haverhill Leisure Centre: This pool offers public and lane swimming sessions and also has two flume slides. It operates floats, fun and flumes sessions from 11am to 1pm on Saturdays and 10.30am to 1.30pm on Sundays.
Indoor play - from inflatables and trampolines to lasers
Play2Day inflatable park, Martlesham Heath: Inflatable parks are a new idea which is gaining in popularity. This centre has a large arena, nearly 4,000 sq ft, with a giant inflatable slide, suitable for all ages, climbing wall, bouncing balls and assault course. You need to book in advance online, and sessions are available for under-fours right up to ages 12-17. The centre also includes a soft play centre for under-11s and Lazer-tag.
Bounce indoor trampoline park, Ipswich: Indoor trampoline parks have proved hugely popular in the US and are now also becoming increasingly established in the UK. Youngsters can bounce from one trampoline to the next.
As well as the main arena, the Bounce centre in Anglia Retail Park has seven different courts including a dodgeball court, slam dunk arena, gladiator pit, touch walls and tumble tracks. It's possible to buy a joint pass for Bounce and the soft play centre on the same site, Billy Beez.
Billy Beez, Ipswich: The soft play here includes a "ballistics arena" with soft foam balls and cannons to fire them, plus various slides and an enclosed sports zone.
Jump Street, Colchester and Chelmsford: The large trampoline park in the Cowdray Centre, Colchester, includes an Open Jump arena, with more than 50 inter-connected trampolines, as well as other special acitivies including the first Wall trampoline introduced in the UK, and a Slam Dunk basketball-themed section. There is also a sister centre in Chelmsford, which includes a large climbing space and soft play centre in addition to a trampoline park.
Planet Laser Bury: This centre in Western Way includes a large multi-storey laser arena which is one of the largest in the UK, and there are also mini bowling and arcade games. Booking is always advised, and bookings are currently being taken for the October half term.
Superbowl UK Ipswich: This popular centre has 12 Tenpin bowling lanes and also a soft play area and Ninja Tag Active assault course games arena.
Oliver Hayward Playbarn, Bridge Farm, Wickham Market: This play barn for under-sevens is open daily from 9.30am to 1.30pm, except on Sundays. It is a small and intimate setting, with up to 15 children allowed at one time, and activities include a ball pit, slide and disco room, as well as an enclosed area with play shapes for tiny ones. There is also a play area outside.
CurveMotion, Bury St Edmunds: Get your skates on and head for the purpose-built rink, which offers sessions including roller disco and skating lessons. The centre, in Lark Valley Business Park, also includes what's described as the "biggest soft play area in East Anglia", with a mighty drop slide and interactive area, including a climbing wall and ball cannon battle zone. There are separate under-five and baby zones.
Rollerworld and Quasar Colchester: This popular roller-skating rink regularly holds a wide range of skating sessions, including family weekend sessions from 12 noon to 5pm, after-school sessions on Thursdays from 4 to 6pm and a family night on Sunday from 7 to 10pm.
There are also roller discos and other activities. As well as roller skating, the centre includes the laser tag game Quasar, suitable for ages six and over, although under-12s need to be accompanied by a paying adult.
Karting and climbing
Anglia Indoor Karting, Ipswich: If your children are feeling adventurous, they can get behind the wheel of their own go-kart at this karting centre in Ipswich. See their website for a range of activities aimed at children aged eight and over. The centre, on Farthing Road Industrial Estate, also has kids' activity days during school holidays.
Clip 'n Climb, Ipswich: Opened this summer, this is the biggest Clip 'n Climb centre in the world! The climbing centre in Ransomes Europark offers 42 challenges and Europe's highest dropslide. You don't need any climbing expereience, but it's advisable to book your slot via the website before visiting. The centre also includes a virtual reality room. There are also Clip 'n Climb centres in Chelmsford and Cambridge.
Pennikkity Pots, Ipswich: Budding artists can paint mugs, bowls, plates and various other items, including seasonal goodies, at this town-centre ceramics cafe in Crown & Anchor Mews. Staff will help youngsters through the process, and the items will be hand-glazed and fired for collection once they are completed.
Wild Raspberry Creative Station, Jimmy's Farm: Children can paint their own pottery at the studio at Jimmy's Farm, Wherstead, which has a wide range of items to paint. Other artistic activities on offer include decopatch (painting paper mâché animals), mosaic making and textile painting. You can book ahead or drop in.
Needham Lake: On a fine autumn day, it's great to get outdoors, and Needham Lakes has plenty for children to do. There is a small den building area where youngsters can build their own shelters, as well as play and picnic areas. You can walk around the surfaced lakeside path.
Rendlesham Forest: The forest is open all year, and has circular walking trails and family cycle trails where children can practise riding. There are also large play areas near the car park, with a range of adventurous activities including a tube slide, obstacle course, swings and a zip-line.
Thetford Forest: This forest is also open every day from dawn to dusk, with adventure play areas including a great nature play area at High Lodge, where children can range from the den building area to a helter-skelter tunnel slide and waymarked trails. There are also adventurous activity trails to explore.
Museums with child-friendly activities
Museums may not always be a child's first choice, but they will often have lots of fun when they get inside. Many have all kinds of hands-on activities to enjoy, especially during school holidays, and some offer free admission.
Ipswich Museum: Meet the famous woolly mammoth at Ipswich Museum, in High Street. Here you can learn all about the town's history, from the Iron Age to the Romans and Saxons and explore the Victorian natural history gallery. Various special activities are held where children can handle objects and take part in play and science activities. The museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays and admission is free.
Moyse's Hall, Bury St Edmunds: This museum is a past winner of Suffolk's Family-friendly Museum of the Year award. In a beautiful medieval building looking out over the marketplace, it has several interactive activities including a dressing up station, quizzes and trails, and there are also family-friendly activities over the year. May the Toys Be With You is the name of an exhibition running until December, with one of the UK's finest collections of vintage Star Wars toys and memorabilia on display. There are admission charges to this museum. The museum is open daily.
Hollytrees Museum, Colchester: Admission is free to this museum, in a Georgian house within Castle Park. The collections include art, costumes and a collection of clocks made in the town, in the Bernard Mason Clock Gallery. The toy collection includes an amazing dolls' house. Discover what family life and housework were like in years gone by - children can dress up as a servant and be transported back to the days before washing machines, trying out a dolly peg. The museum is open from Monday to Saturday, with free admission.