12 family-friendly attractions to visit in Cardiff city centre
Cardiff is a great place for families. Whether you live here or are visiting, there’s so much to do. From a castle, a stadium and museums to theatre, cinema and bowling, there’s plenty to do in the centre of Cardiff itself and because the city is so compact, it’s easy to explore by foot. Here are 12 great places for families to visit right in the heart of Wales’s capital city.
And, once you’re done here, don’t forget to check out my post on 12 great places for families to visit in Cardiff Bay too.
Let me know of any you’d add to the list, either in the comments section below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting on @cardiffmummy
1. National Museum Cardiff FREE
Seeing the dinosaur skeletons and replica models at the museum is a rite of passage for most Cardiff kids. They’re part of the evolution of Wales display, but there’s also a natural sciences section featuring all manner of animals, birds and insects, plus a humpback whale skeleton. The museum also houses various galleries featuring paintings and ceramics from significant Welsh and international artists.
Friday afternoons during term-time feature extra activities for pre-schoolers, there are weekend family sessions in the Clore Discovery Centre, plus a good programme of family events during school holidays. You can read our review of National Museum Cardiff here. Please note the museum is closed on Mondays.
2. Cardiff Central Library FREE
Cardiff’s biggest library has a whole floor for children’s literature and a huge selection of both fiction and factual books for all ages. There’s plenty of space for children to sit and read, including some fun and unusual cubby holes. There are also regular rhyme and story time sessions for pre-schoolers, plus other activities for older children at the weekends and after school. The library is closed on Sundays.
3. Cardiff Castle FREE if you live or work in Cardiff
Nestled right in the heart of the city, behind the famous animal walls, the impressive castle was once owned by the Third Marquis of Bute, and designed by the architect William Burges. As well as visiting the lavishly decorated rooms in the Castle Apartments, there’s also a Norman Keep, a battlement walk, wartime shelters within the castle walls, and a historically accurate replica of a 13th century trebuchet. Look out for family activities during the school holidays, as well as special themed days such as Joust, a medieval spectacular (18th-19th June 2016).
If you live or work in Cardiff, the sign up for a Castle Key. This gives you free admission for three years. There is an administration charge of £5 per adult key, no charge for under-16s. Otherwise, tickets cost £12 for adults, £9 for children, free for under 5s, £36 for a family (2+2).
4. The Cardiff Story FREE
Telling the story of the people of Cardiff is this interactive, hands-on museum. Exhibits include a rotating doll’s-style house showing how a property on Cathedral Road would have looked at different points in its history; plenty of costumes for children to dress up in, including war time evacuees; a play area featuring a steam train and a kitchen. Look out for the monthly Dinky Dragons pre-school days, which feature arts and crafts and singing sessions, as well as activities for children during the school holidays. You can read our review of The Cardiff Story here. The Cardiff Story is closed on Sundays.
5. Bute Park FREE
A green oasis in the heart of the city centre, Bute Park is 56 hectares of grassland, wooded areas and the River Taff running alongside it. There are paths for scooting and cycling along, plenty of wildlife to spot, trees to climb, wooden carvings to admire, as well as two cafes. You can read a review of one of our days out at Bute Park here.
6. The cinema
There are three choices of cinema in the city centre – Cineworld on Mary Ann Street, Vue in the Stadium Plaza (tickets from £4 all day every day), and Premiere in the Capitol Shopping Centre (all screenings are £4 all day, every day). Both Cineworld and Vue offer cheap early-morning family screenings during school holidays and at weekends. These films are usually a few months old, but tickets cost around £2.
7. A tour of the Principality Stadium
One of the most famous landmarks in modern Wales, a tour will take you behind the scenes of the home of Welsh rugby, which has also seen shows from some of the biggest rock and pop stars in the world. Visit the press conference suite, experience a pre-match build-up in the dressing room, hear the roar of 74,500 fans as you walk down the players’ tunnel, learn about the fully retractable roof, and lift the trophy like a sporting superstar in the President’s Box, an area normally reserved for royalty.
Tickets cost £12.50 for adults, £9 for children aged 5-16, with under 5s free. A family ticket (2+2) is £38. Check online to availability, as tours are not available during special events.
Forget regular ice cream – Science Cream, in Castle Arcade is Wales’ first Liquid Nitrogen ice cream parlour. The ice cream is made fresh to order…. so you can witness for yourself how it freezes in seconds, and enjoy a sensory overload of spectacular smoke, sweet smells and a smooth and creamy taste.
This rainforest-themed indoor adventure golf is located on the third floor of St David’s shopping centre. There are two fun 18-hole courses to choose from, Tropical Trail and Ancient Explorer, with interactive features including a 60-foot mystic river, singing frogs, vines, trees and plants, and drop holes where the ball will disappear from site, only to reappear elsewhere. No need to book, just turn up. No minimum age although under-12s need to be accompanied by an adult. Prices start at £7.50 for adults, £6 for children and £3.75 for under 5s, or £25 for a family of four/£30 for a family of 5. Read our review here.
Based in the Stadium Plaza, Laserquest is a hide-and-seek style game in a huge ultra-violet, fog-filled laser arena where opponents try to zap each other with laser guns, and avoid being zapped themselves. Prices start at £5.50 for adults and £4.50 for children for one game, although check online for details of cheaper early morning sessions and after-school deals.
11. Superbowl UK
Also based in the Stadium Plaza is Superbowl UK, offering up 10-pin bowling. Prices start at £5.50 for adults and £4.50 for children for one game, although check online for details of cheaper early morning children’s sessions and after-school deals.
12. New Theatre
The New stages a range of children’s theatre throughout the year, mostly from touring companies. Coming up later in 2016 are Goodnight Mister Tom (10th-14th May); Cinderella by local company Orbit Theatre (1st-5th June); The Gruffalo’s Child (22nd-24th July); George’s Marvellous Medicine (25th-29th October) and the annual pantomime, Peter Pan (10th December-8th January).
Also worth checking out are Sherman Cymru and Chapter Arts Centre, both of which stage brilliant and innovative productions for children, and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, which has various family theatre and music events throughout the year.
All prices correct as of 2/4/2016 but are subject to change. Please check with the venues in advance to avoid disappointment.
What else would you recommend for families in Cardiff city centre? Do let me know in the comments section below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting on @cardiffmummy
For more ideas on local family-friendly days out, see the Cardiff section of Cardiff Mummy Says.
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