The school shoes hopefully made it until the end of term and you delight that there will be no Sunday late-night emergency ironing of shirts and packed lunch making, as it’s time to embark on the 6-7 week break from school.
Whether you are local or just visiting, you can be sure to find something to entertain all the family in and around Bedford this summer.
No school holiday would be complete with the Summer Reading Challenge that takes place in all the Borough libraries. 50 years ago Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon and this year the theme for the Summer Reading Challenge is Space Chase…..learn all about it here.
It’s a fantastic way to encourage children to read over the summer holidays. For reading the first six books children receive stickers to solve the mystery of the moon library and the missing books, and a certificate, twelve books they get a wristband and for reading eighteen books, they get a gold medal!
Also keep an eye on their Facebook page as they also host lots of free activities during the holidays.
The Higgins, Bedford
24th July – 30th August
Enjoy creative workshops and activities this Summer based on the exhibitions and collections in the galleries. Aimed at accompanied children aged 5-11 (not suitable for children under 3 years old). Free entry for accompanying adults.
Places are limited for all workshops and can be booked in advance by buying a ticket at The Higgins Bedford reception desk. Spare tickets can be purchased at the desk on the day. They are currently unable to take bookings online or over the phone.
Stories from the Wynding Wixam Tree
Every Wednesday 24th July – 28th August
Workshops at 11am and 2pm, £5 Per Child
Use your imagination, get crafty and transform yourself into a magical garden visitor, then gather at the Wynding Wixam Tree for spectacular stories performed by Theatre of Widdershins. Different stories are performed each week, featuring a host of fantastical characters including Granny Dumpling, The King with Stinky Feet, Bears, Pigs and more.
Horrible Higgins Histories
Every Friday 26th July – 30th August
Workshops at 11am, 12:30pm and 2pm, £3 Per Child
Travel through time with Kevin the Platypus, explore the collections at The Higgins and get creative in horribly historical family workshops.
Friday 26th July: Surprising Stone Age
Friday 2nd August: Remarkable Romans
Friday 9th August: Impressive Invaders
Friday 16th August: Medicinal Medieval
Friday 23rd August: Vain Victorians
Friday 30th August: Spectacular Space Age – with Little Science Labs
John Bunyan Museum
For those who live or work in Bedford, the forbidding walls of its prison are a familiar sight. Few of us pause to think, as we pass by, of the lives and stories of those who are imprisoned within. Even fewer, perhaps, make the connection with HMP Bedford today and the historical figures of John Bunyan and John Howard. The writer of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, John Bunyan, was held in Bedford gaol for twelve years in the 17th century; and the great prison reformer and local man, John Howard, was first made aware of the appalling state of 18th century prison when appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1773.
John Bunyan Museum’s Summer Exhibition will be ‘Gaol! Banged-up in Bedford’ and this will run from Tuesday 2nd July to Saturday 27th October. The exhibition looks at crime and punishment from 17th century to the present day. Find out more about what life was like in prison for famous author and prisoner of conscience John Bunyan. Learn about the terrible conditions John Howard saw when he was Bedford’s High Sheriff and the reforms he made. Discover what life is like today for people in modern prisons like Bedford Prison.
Open between 11.00am and 4.00pm and free to enter.
Look on their website for information about these exhibitions and associated talks & trails, all on the theme of ‘Gaol!’
There are also lots of fun workshops to enjoy with Crafty Thursdays
‘Paper Prison Mice’
Thursday 1st & 8th August – 11.00am – 3.30pm drop in
Have a go at making our paper prison mice.
Thursday 15th August – 11.00am – 3.30pm drop in
Make your own card version of John Bunyan’s flute.
‘Prison Cell boxes’
Thursday 22nd August – 11.00am – 3.30pm drop in
Design a prison cell for John Bunyan
‘Clay prison jugs”
Thursday 29th August – 11.00am – 3.30pm drop in
Have a go at creating a clay jug like John Bunyan’s
All workshops are £2 per child, suitable for age 4+, accompanied
John Bunyan Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 11.00am – 4.00pm and admission is free.
Whilst you are in the area, a visit wouldn’t be complete with popping into The Panacea Museum. See all about an interesting and unique religious community that once existed in Bedford and ‘Joanna Southcott’s Box’ – a curious cultural icon of inter-war Britain. Check the website for opening times.
The Talking Statues is another way to have fun whilst in the town. You need a smartphone to swipe on the plaque by the statues to hear their stories – you can download a map here. Wander into town to pick up some shopping including in one of our many independent shops (Bedford has higher than the national average for indies), plus you can keep the kids happy with a visit to Rogan’s Books, Rollback World, Close Encounters, Beales have a great toy section on the top floor, Gallones for a wonderful selection of ice cream and of course no visit would be complete with a bag of retro sweet from Arcadia (for the grown ups too!)
The Longholme Cafe and Boat Hire
Hire one of the iconic Viking boats and get the kids out on the water for 30/60 minutes boat hire this summer. The boats are open from April – October generally subject to fair weather conditions, there is no need to book just come along on the day. If the weather is a looking off please call in advance to check the service is running 01234 954913.
The lake itself is shallow, set on 5.8 acres and built as a labour project. Donated to the town in 1923 as a result of the generosity of the Rotary Club and its members, in association with the Wells and Co brewery now managed by Bedford Borough council & volunteers. In recent years the lake has bloomed with wildlife and is home to a wide range of birds, fish and wild animals – including otters (collect your Otter Spotter sticker when you see one)! When you hire your boat, row across the waterway and lose yourselves on an adventure that really could place you anywhere.
For the most up to date information please visit www.thelongholme.com
Box End Park
Their Kids Multi Activity Days include four water-based activities: a chance to try kneeboarding on the cable tow system, a brilliant session on the giant Aqua Park, a go at Stand Up Paddle boarding and a session on the Lake Ninja course, with all equipment provided.
Multi Activity Days run every day during the summer holidays – places are limited so book online now here
It’s also a great place to visit for all the family, whether you’re feeling adventurous or you prefer to sit (there’s a new beach area) with a glass of something chilled and enjoy the view!
Forest of Marston Vale
The Forest Centre & Millennium Country Park is a great place to spend a few hours in the great outdoors, just outside of Bedford. Walk the dog, have a picnic, enjoy the views across the Wetlands Nature Reserve from the Tower Hide and Woodland Walkway or just stroll around Stewartby Lake. The Lakeside Café serves a range of meals and snacks, and you can grab an ice cream, toy or gift at the gift shop. Parking charges apply. Gates are open until 8pm in summer, and the Centre closes at 5pm.
If you become a Friend of the Forest you get many benefits including free parking.
Pond Dipping and Bog Books
July 23rd and/Mon 19th August, Sessions at 9.45am, 11.30am and 1.45pm
£4.50 per child – Learn about the hidden underwater world of the Country Park see what different creatures are hiding in the bog pond before creating your own booklet of pond pages! Suitable for 4 – 10.
Fri 9th August, Sessions at 9.45am, 11.30am and 1.45pm
£4.50 per child – Join us on a bug hunt in the Country Park – we’ll be looking in the long grass, in trees, bushes and under logs to discover what tiny creatures make their homes here, followed by a game of bug bingo. Suitable for 4 – 10
Pixie Door Trail
Mon 19th – Fri 23rd August, 10am-3pm
£3 per child – Help Fairy Flora and Pixie Pippin by joining our Pixie Door Trail around the Wetlands Nature Reserve. Find all of the pixie doors and hidden letters to spell out the magic word to stop Evil Edna casting a spell over the Forest. Suitable for 3+
Family Fun Day
Saturday 31st August, 10am-4pm
£3 children and £2 adults
The biggest event of the year with loads of family fun, dog show and stalls plus Chase and Skye from Paw Patrol.
The Shuttleworth Collection
The Shuttleworth Collection is two miles west of the A1 near Biggleswade, a short drive outside of Bedford. It’s home to a collection of vintage aircraft vehicles and The Swiss Gardens, which is a beautiful landscaped garden with sculptures, woodland sculpture trail and a resident peacock. There is also a play area for the little people.
Teddy Bears Picnic, Saturday 27 July 2019, 11am-4.30pm
It’s time for the Teddy Bears Picnic again! Aimed at younger visitors, enjoy crafts, a children’s entertainer, outdoor games, face-painter, a teddy bear trail and other activities in the lovely Swiss Garden. Find Henley, the garden’s very own bear, who is very tame and would love to say hello and find new beary friends to play with. Don’t forget your teddies, and your picnic!
Please note: The Swiss Garden will be closed before 11:00.
£10 per adult, £3 per child and £24 for a family ticket. Don’t forget under 3’s are FREE! Groups of 10 or more can receive a 10% discount, to book please call 01767 627933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Swiss Garden, Old Warden Park, SG18 9EP
Event page here
Shuttleworth Family Airshow, Sunday 4 August 2019
As part of Shuttleworth’s August programme of family fun, this event is packed full of activities to keep everyone entertained, from grandparents to grandtots! The air display includes many visiting aircraft who will deliver thrilling aerobatics.
Follow the Richard Shuttleworth trail (download the app), enjoy live music, explore the activities in our children’s discovery zone, take a free ride on vintage buses, explore the Swiss Garden and The House, make a free aircraft model with Airfix & IPMS Brampton ‘Make & Paint’, and be sure try out the Bofors gun! Don’t miss to our vintage vehicle parade, The Wings Parachute Display Team and a whole host of aerobatic and vintage aircraft displays that will entertain the whole family.
£25 per Adult (until 29 July then £30) and up to four children are free per paying customer.
Gate Price – £35 per adult and up to four children are free per paying customer.
Event page here
Chapterhouse Theatre Company Presents ‘The Secret Garden’, Thursday 22 August 2019
The most enchanting story, loved by children and adults alike, is presented here at the Swiss Garden, the perfect setting for fantasy and fairytales. Join young Mary Lennox on her journey of discovery as she travels to her uncle’s house deep in the Yorkshire countryside, where unexpected friends and very magical creatures help her unlock the mystery of the secret garden. Alive with music and song and an array of specially designed puppet creatures.
Picnic with family and friends in the picturesque surroundings of the Swiss Garden. Bring a low-backed chair, and wrap up warm – even summer evenings get chilly!
£16 per adult, £11 per child and £46 per family (2 adults & 2 children). Children under the age of 5 are FREE!
Coming with friends? Groups of 10 or more will receive a 10% discount. Please call 01767 627933 or email email@example.com to book your group’s place.
Event page here
Vintage Airshow, Sunday 1 September 2019
New for 2019, our vintage airshow celebrates the best in lovely old aircraft, artisan crafts, and steam punk/vintage outfits. Our airshows aren’t about just what’s in the air, we have plenty happening on the ground to keep all the family entertained. This year we have the BGA gliding simulator from UK Junior Gliding, Make and paint with IPMS Brampton and Airfix, Pedal Planes from Joystick Club and so much more!
Online Booking: £25 per adult (until 26 August then £30), and children are free.
Gate Price: £35 per adult and children are free.
Event page here
For a cultural fix, Bedfringe is hosting suitable family shows and events. Also book the babysitter as there is lots of grown up entertainment too.
Bedfringe is on from 15 – 27 July and highlights for the younger audiences include Splash Test Dummies
Saturday, 20 July at 2pm. Splash Test Dummies are here, ready to roll out their beach towels and spring into a brand new hour of circus-filled hilarity for the whole family. See a brilliant array of catch-your-breath stunt work, acrobatics, juggling and the side-splitting, slapstick comedy, for which the Dummies are famous.
The HandleBards: The Tempest – Friday 19 July at 6:30 pm. (Outdoor production). The world’s first cycling theatre company, The HandleBards, pedal from venue to venue with all the set, props and costume necessary to perform environmentally sustainable Shakespeare across the globe. Join their all-female troupe at Bedfringe for a bicycle-powered production of Shakespeare’s ’The Tempest’ like none other. In usual HandleBards style, expect riotous amounts of energy, a fair old whack of chaos, and a great deal of laughter.
To see all the shows and to book – click here.
The Place Theatre will again host a day dedicated to games and gaming, Gameplay on Sunday 4 August at 10am. The foyer will be filled with old computer games consoles, allowing parents to engage in some healthy rivalry with the kids on their favourite consoles from their youth. Ghost Valley RC will be back in the theatre with their live action remote-controlled car Mario Kart track, featuring timed races and a full leaderboard.
Bedford Board Gamers will be filling the rooms upstairs with a chance to get involved with a whole day playing some of the best and most exciting tabletop games for players from 6-60+ yrs old. Tickets here.
As usual, Pavilion at the Park is gearing up for a summer full of open air theatre, concerts and holiday fun.
Make sure you keep an eye on their Facebook to keep up to date with the very latest activities and events for all the family. Oddsocks Productions return for Shakespeare at the Park on Tuesday 16th July with A Midsummer Night’s Dream – tickets here. On Saturday 3rd August, Folksy Theatre presents Shakespeare’s classic tale of mistaken identities, The Comedy of Errors. Tickets here
Imagination runs wild and logic is abandoned in this fantastical, larger-then-life musical brimming with nonsensical fun for all the family. Immersion Theatre proudly present Alice in Wonderland on Saturday 31st August at 3.30pm – book your tickets here.
Harpur Centre soft play and Ping Pong Parlour
Whatever the weather, little ones will be entertained at the Harpur Centre‘s new woodland friends’ soft play and big ones will love the Ping Pong Parlour. Both activities are free to take part in. Check out their Facebook page for up-to-date opening times.
Roll up, roll up for all the fun of the fair at this summer’s Gumbles Children’s Funzones. Unlimited rides for the price of one wristband (£7.99) and adults are FREE! They’ll be popping up at these locations throughout the holidays:
Priory Marina 20th-22nd July
Waveney Green, Brickhill 26th -29th July
Mowsbury Park 2nd -5th August
Bedford Park 19th- 22nd August
Addison Park, Kempston 24th- 26th August
Goldington Green 29th August- 2nd September
Great Denham 7th-8th September
Love Bedford Medieval Festival
July 27th, 10am-6pm and July 28th, 10am-4pm
Great weekend event for all the family on Castle Mound and grounds. Free family entertainment, Medieval style including falconry, ferrets, jugglers and jester, medieval band, barber surgeon, circus school, ferret racing, artillery display, The Wythe Retinue – living history & banquets, sword fighting tournament, the King’s executioner and A Merrie Noyse Devilstick, Peat Fibbs will be showing his amazing juggling skills too!
On Saturday 3 August, Ready Steady Roll are hosting a Battle Sheep Tournament from 11am – 1pm. Entry is free and includes a drink. Join the tournament and compete to win a copy of the game among other prizes such as vouchers and their truly delicious cake.
If you don’t know how to play, no worries, either come along before and have a practice, or as it’s so simple, we can show you how to play on the day.
If Battle Sheep isn’t your thing or it’s fully booked, you can play many of their hundreds of other games – staff are always on hand to help with the rules and a few excellent tips! Click here to book, hurry as they get popular.
To sign up, either call or text: 07584484101 or email: Info@readysteadyroll.co.uk. You can also contact them via their Facebook page.
Lace up your trainers as the Bedford Running Festival is back and it’s bigger than ever before, held at Priory Country Park from 30th August to 1st September.
Bedford loves a running event and this festival has a race for everyone with a 5k, 10k and half marathon plus a mini mile for the younger ones. Places are rapidly filling up so don’t miss your chance to take part and book here now.
It’s not just about the running as the weekend will have street food, an open air cinema, live music, yoga & wellness, expert talks, kids clubs plus a recovery zone. The open air cinema will be showing Mary Poppins Returns, Captain Marvel, Dumbo and The Greatest Showman over the weekend and you can get your tickets here. You can either bring your own seating or upgrade to the VIP package to include a prime position deckchair, a drink from the bar plus your choice of meal from one of the street food vendors.
Keep an eye on their website for announcements for the music line up and also check out the website for the kids activities including mini miles, kids yoga, Cha Char Chimps and facepainting.
If you and your little ones are into Birds of Prey and animals then a visit to Herrings Green Farm in Wilstead is a must.
Every day throughout the summer holidays enjoy a whole host of fun on the farm activities, with a packed time table of activities running every day there is something for everyone. Meet and handle our owls, pat a pet with guinea pigs and giant continental rabbits, donkey grooming, have a go at flying an owl, animal and critter displays, alpaca meet and greet, flying displays plus lots more.
Their tea room is open daily, as well as a gift shop and farm shop. There’s no need to book just come along and join in the fun. Check out the website for more info and ticket prices.
During the holidays The Bedford Model Engineering Society operates The Summerfield Miniature Railway from Haynes West End. The first train of the day departs at 10:30 and the last train of the day departs at 15:45, check their opening days here. A return ticket costs £2.00 per person but children under the age of two travel free.
Over at Wrest Park your Minecraft fan can once again mix up the ancient and modern with a second season of their popular castle building workshops, curated by our expert cube construction friends at Blockbuilders. Tickets went quick last year so book here!
Sat 13 – Sun 14 Jul 2019, 10am, 11.15am, 12.30pm, 2.15pm, 3.30pm & 4.45pm.
You can also Get Hands on With History. Discover the myths and legends of England’s past as you tip toe around the gardens on a trail to spot magical fairies. Learn about life upstairs and downstairs in a country house and explore the world of crime and punishment in the Victorian age.
The activities will change on a daily basis so why not come back time and time again to try something new? Check out the current schedule here.
For the rainy days (well this is the UK) it’s always worth checking out the local cinemas as Cineworld and Vue extend their ‘films for juniors’ so you can grab a couple of hours to sit down as they enjoy the films.
And finally don’t forget all the wonderful open spaces in Bedford Borough, including woodlands, lakeside country parks, Bedford Embankment and Bedford, Russell, Addison, Jubilee, Allen and Mowsbury parks where you can have a relaxing walk, run off some energy in the play areas, pitch and putt and grab a coffee or ice cream – read more here.