There’s a great mixture of things to do in Bedfordshire. Whether you are looking for a family day out, somewhere to go with friends, or you want to cultivate a new hobby or learn more about a specific interest, there are options for every situation.
Zoos & Safari Parks
You can’t really go wrong with a Zoo or a Safari Park. Popular with all ages and suitable for different sized groups, they make a memorable day out whether you want to take your partner, the family, or a group of friends. Bedfordshire has two excellent options, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, and Woburn Safari Park.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
Red pandas, penguins, bears, rhinos, and lemurs are among the residents at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
If you have a favourite animal, it is worth checking the website before your visit as there are usually feeding events and talks throughout the day that you can attend for free. You wouldn’t want to be late for the Lemur Breakfast, would you? That would just be rude.
If there are toddlers in your group, you may want to hire a push along micro trike so that they don’t get too tired from walking around.
Sometimes adults get tired too. If this happens, you can visit one of the many cafés and restaurants, all of which serve caffeine.
Note: We can confirm that unfortunately, adults are just too big to ride micro trikes. Your knees will get in the way and the wheels won’t move properly, no matter how hard you try.
As well as the main Zoo, there are several other attractions on site. At Hullabazoo Farm, you can meet the farm animals, including miniature donkeys, ferrets, and pygmy goats, and even get hands on and help to groom the ponies.
Adventure Play is an outdoor play area kitted out with everything from monkey bars and a zip wire, to cargo nets, balance beams, and climbing frames. If the weather is less than ideal, head to the Indoor Play Area. Suitable for children up to 10 years, it is designed to look like different animal habitats. Don’t be surprised if your children start making various animal noises as they play here. This is normal.
Woburn Safari Park
Woburn Safari Park boasts black bears, timber wolves, wallabies, white rhinos, and some of the most incredibly colourful macaws.
There are daily Keeper Talks and demonstrations, and if the children still have energy after you have made your way around the Safari, there are several places where they can blow off some steam.
The Giraffe Trail High Ropes course is suitable for children between the ages of 5 and 12 years (subject to height restrictions). Places fill up quickly each day, so get in early and book your slot at the gift shop when you arrive.
The Mammoth Play Ark is a soft play adventure area with a ball pool for under 5s, a rainbow slide for juniors, and red and blue slides for older children.
For adults and children over 10 years, Go Ape is a daring treetop course involving Tarzan swings, zip wires, and rope bridges. It is a lot of fun, but it does take around 2-3 hours – so if you want to give it a go then you’ll need to plan your day accordingly.
Remember to save some pocket money for the Junglies Gift Shop, because at least one person in your group (and it may be you) is bound to find something in there that they love and can’t live without.
Art Galleries & Museums
Named after Richard Shuttleworth, who had a passion for racing and aviation, Shuttleworth Collection is now a Living Museum.
Shuttleworth enjoyed restoring historic vehicles and aircraft, believing that they should be used rather than kept on display. Today, the aircraft are restored on-site in the Engineering Workshop. Almost all the planes in the collection are flyable, and many are flown regularly in displays.
Regular airshows provide a chance to see the aircraft in action, and the ticket price includes admission to the Main Collection, as well as entry to the Grade II listed Shuttleworth Family House and the Swiss Garden, where you might just see one of the beautiful peacocks.
The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum
The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum brings together art and historical items. It covers a huge range of subjects, so most people will be able to find something of interest.
If you are interested in the history of the local area, visit the Somewhere in England Gallery, which explores local history and how it has changed through time, or spend some time in the Great Bedfordians Gallery, which celebrates the work of people who have a connection with Bedford.
For an insight into the Higgins family, The Higgins House showcases their personal items such as fine jewellery, and you can learn more about traditional Georgian tea drinking rituals from the collection of teacups on display.
The Settlement exhibition examines the journey of humans through time, from very early history up to the middle ages, looking at how people lived their daily lives.
Art fans will enjoy the William Burges Gallery, which displays metalwork, ceramics, and stained glass, or the Edward Bawden Gallery, which contains a collection of his illustrations, murals, prints, textures, and wallpapers.
For those who are interested in Design, head straight to the Design Gallery, which explores different movements such as Rococo, Gothic Revival, and Neo-Classical design.
With so many things to see, it is not difficult to spend an entire day at the Higgins Art Gallery & Museum. But if you can, save time to enjoy a meal or a drink on the terrace at the Higgins Pantry Café.
Soft Play Areas
Soft play centres always go down a treat with kids (why don’t they make them for adults?!) and Bedfordshire has a few to choose from. Here are our favourites.
Kids World Soft Play Centre
Kids World in Bedford is a multi-level soft play area, including slides, ball pits, and steps to climb. The play frame is in a central location to allow for 360-degree viewing, and the café is open for breakfast and lunch, so you can stop for a snack or a meal whenever it suits you.
Jungle Jim’s Playland
Suitable for children of different ages, Jungle Jim’s Playland in Sandy has two different play areas. Jungle Juniors is a jungle themed multi-level play area, filled with giant bouncy balls, tunnels, and look out pods. For younger children (Jungle Cubs), there is a separate play area with a double slide and plenty of places to climb.
Jungle Cubs also provides free daily activities, including Jungle Sing-Alongs, Jungle Arts & Crafts, and a Safari Treasure Hunt. For adults, the Jungle Shack Café gives you space to sit down and relax whilst the children play. There are tables near to the play areas, so you can keep an eye on the kids whilst you sip a tea or coffee.
Leighton Buzzard Railway
Locomotive fans will not want to miss a trip to Leighton Buzzard Railway. If you’re not satisfied with just being a passenger, you can book a VIP Experience Package for a tour and a chance to drive the train yourself.
See the working scale model locomotives in the Miniature Model Railway, and when it’s time for a break, relax at the 1940s themed Buzzrail Café – where you can buy hot or cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes, cream teas, or ice creams.
Don’t forget to visit the Craft Shop or the Souvenir Shop to find a new project or something to remember your day by.