FAMILY DAYS OUT

RAIN or shine there are a host of attractions in South-West Wales to keep the whole family happy and entertained with our round up of fun-filled family days out.

A wide range of interests are catered for at the National Showcave Centre of Wales, at Dan-yr-Ogof, near Abercraf at the head of the Swansea Valley. Apart from the cave system with its light-enhanced range of natural effects that two years back saw it voted Britain’s Finest Natural Wonder, there are many other attractions to appeal to all tastes, including an Iron Age Village, The Farm, the Shire Horse Centre and Barney’s Play Barn.

The National Wetland Centre for Wales is a sanctuary for a great range of aquatic birdlife and other creatures as well as providing a lot of handson activity and outdoor pursuits. The latest fun activity on offer is the canoe safari that uses 14 Canadian canoes that can seat three people and comes free with the admission ticket. Bike riding is a great way to get around the Millennium Coastal Park to Pembrey Country Park where you can speed things up a little on a real motor racing circuit. Just a little slower is the toboggan ride on a shiny metal piste.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is now in full bloom and makes a great all-round family attraction. The largest and most visited garden in the country has, as its centre-piece, the Lord Foster-designed Great Glasshouse.

Poised in the landscape like a giant raindrop, the 3500sq m structure is a Noah’s Ark for rare and endangered plants from around the world. It is home to a rich array of flora from Mediterranean climate zones. Under the 785 panes of glass – each one weighing a tonne – you will find plants from California, Chile, The Canaries, Australia and South Africa as well as the Mediterranean Basin.

But there is much more to the Garden than the biggest single-span glasshouse in the world. The Garden lies on land that was once a magnificent Regency water park and many original features have been restored. Many new features have been created and care has been taken that these harmonise with the historic landscape and add a sense of awe.

There is a unique and historic doublewalled garden; lakes, ponds and walks; a theatre; licensed restaurant; shop; gallery; bog garden and bee garden;  Physicians of Myddfai Exhibition and Apothecaries’ Garden; children’s play
area and discovery centre.

For those with more exotic tastes, the Tropical House – which opened in the summer of 2007 – is bursting with palms and pineapples, coconuts and cardamom . . . and scores of orchids.

The Garden is very welcoming. Whatever your age, they have something for you.
No matter how old you are the West Wales Museum of Childhood at Llangeler, near Newcastle Emlyn will make you feel young at heart. The toys, bikes, pedal cars, rocking horses, models and other pocket-filling impedimenta of our schooldays will trigger tales to entertain our children and bring them closer to us - despite the fact that there’s not a video game in sight.

And as we’re dwelling a little in the past how about a reminder of the age of
steam? A trip on the Gwili Railway through countryside just made for
a picnic will help provide another memorable family day out.

Further afield, but a real capital attraction Techniquest offers a Summer of sport…and science! It’s a busy summer of sport, and science education charity, Techniquest is getting in on the action.

While cyclists, swimmers, and other athletes are preparing for the Olympic Games, work is underway at Techniquest designing activities to explain the science behind sport. The hands-on science centre in Cardiff Bay will be increasing its floorspace for all this activity, by putting some interactive
exhibits outside for all to enjoy. There will be wheelchair racing, pitting a
basic wheelchair against a smoothrunning lightweight chassis, like
those used by athletes such as Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson. Visitors can
test their ability at standing jumps, learn about the science of golf, and
bring their bikes along to take part in slow bicycle races.

It is the second summer that Techniquest will be offering free activities on the dock finger. Some of the wind-up “sound stores”, introduced as alternative energy exhibits last summer, will be back in service - this time offering stories of local sporting heroes and heroines.

TheScienceofSport themerunsrightthroughtheTechniquest building, with a new show in the Science Theatre, and a special trail around the interactive exhibits. There will alsobeonthe spot demonstrations looking at topics such as how the right boots might help you bend it like Beckham, and the clothes that help you run faster!

Oakwood Theme Park is a top 10 UK theme park and with over 30 rides and
attractions there’s something for everyone. Thrill seekers can brave Speed, our  newest white knuckle ride and the UK’s first rollercoaster with a beyond
vertical drop. Or why not try Megafobia, the award winning wooden coaster with character, you’ll get off laughing and be desperate for more. Not afraid of heights? Well, what about The Bounce, a 160ft Shot ‘n Drop Tower coaster which shoots riders into the air at speeds of 70 kph in less than two seconds.

Or maybe you fancy cooling off on Hydro, the steepest and wettest ride in Europe! For those who prefera slightly slower pace we have fantastic family rides for everyone to enjoy.You can whiz around the slides of Snake River
Falls, pilot your own plane on Plane Crazy or take a relaxing paddle around the
Boating Lake on one of our pedaloes. Joining these great rides
are The Waterfall, Bobsleigh Spooky 3D, the Pirate Ship and many,
many more the only problem is making sure you have time to
squeeze them all in! For smaller kids there’s plenty of fun to be had in
KidzWorld – a special world created just for children. In Kidz World your child can lead an expedition into the undercover adventure playworld The Lost
Kingdom. WhizzKidz can experiment with more than30 hands-on science exhibits in the indoor discovery world Techniquest.

In The Wacky Factory, they’ll have a ball! Equipped with thousands of
soft balls, banana blasters, air fountains and levitation tables all propelled by compressed air, The Wacky Factory is an interactive play zone where
kids can go wild! And for the little ones there’s Playtown, where kids can ride the
Clown Coaster, pilot their own jet plane or cause chaos on the roads in
their own Trucks.