Did you know that there’s a super green, plucky and historic country right next to England, only a few hour’s drive from London? Wales is one of those places you go to and feel like you’ve been there before. The warm smiles and welcome of locals immediately puts you at ease. Everyone’s even wearing comfy clothes, from knitted sweaters to snug rain boots. But oftentimes the sun still shines and the beaches, trails and town centers are always full of outdoorsy people who love to have a good time.
We tackled a giant multi-generational trip to Wales to visit family recently. Ages ranged from 3-years-old to 85-years old, and everyone had an unforgettable time. As for my wonderful toddler nephew, he seemed to have the most fun of all. We mostly stuck around driving distance of Dinas Powys, our base. There are a few charming cottages to stay in that can be found on major booking sites, along with B&Bs that often welcome families. The capital city of Cardiff is only 45 minutes from Dinas Powys and can be another ideal area to find accommodations.
The beachfront promenade and town has recently undergone a massive facelift. Grab some scrummy (British for yummy) food on the boardwalk, from paninis to fish and chips. Let the kids try their luck at the ‘2p’ machines, which are super cheap arcade games that can occupy small minds for hours. Just make sure you bring some change along. They have also installed something really interesting on the other side of the walkway – a mini climbing wall. The ground underneath is squishy, so toddlers can grab onto the brightly colored wall grips within their reach and pick out their favorite sea creatures.
In Wales, people love going for a stroll on the beach even in the fall and colder months to get some exercise. Bring everyone down to the ocean after lunch on Barry Island, and let the kids run wild. There are lots of dogs on this beach so be cautious, but most are very well trained and even friendly.
The National Showcaves Centre
Want to see more than 200 dinosaurs in one place? Your toddler will lose their minds over this interactive play plaza filled with facts and figures about these ancient roaming beasts. The giant plastic figures tower over human guests, ranging from ferocious looking raptors to lumbering brontosaurus. Do give your toddler a head’s up before going, as the sounds and big figures can be a little overwhelming. Past these creatures are entrances to three different caves. Our favorite cave was the closest to the entrance – it take about 30 minutes to walk through the well-lit tunnels with a teetering toddler in tow. Marvel at indoor waterfalls, hanging stalactites and rock formations. The little guy in our group was sensitive to the loud narrative booming through the caves, so pack a pair of foamy ear plugs just in case. Other than that, he gleefully led us through the caves, pointing out all the cool things to see. I coined the phrase ‘cave boogers’ and it was all over, he giggled for the next hour about the slimy walls covering the inside of this cavern. Back outside there’s a lovely sitting area for a picnic lunch and ice cream.
This is only one of countless castles found across Wales. But the Caerphilly Castle has a cool-looking drawbridge, actors dressed as knight and tons of spiraling towers to explore. The big green area in the middle is also perfect for a toddler to run around in. We split up at the castle and checked out things on our own. There are some medieval catapults and weapons on display inside and outside, along with statues of royalty and tapestries. The little guy had a long day and needed to be bribed with a red Welsh toy dragon to wipe away some tears toward the end, but let’s be real. We’ve all been there.
Like most little ones, the Welsh really love their comfort food. Almost any pub will have a little children’s menu, featuring all the staples of chicken fingers, fries, pastas and sometimes pizza. If your toddler isn’t too picky, have then try a bit of your Sunday Roast. This is a giant plate of roasted potatoes, chicken/beef or lamb, mixed veggies and gravy. Their favorite part will be the Yorkshire pudding, which is more like a biscuit or bun than a dessert! The twenty-somethings in our group loved choosing bubbly alcoholic ciders that each different pub offered, and all the adults enjoyed the views of ocean and rolling landscape from the hilltop pubs.
If you’re looking to take a leisurely, nature-focused trip to somewhere new, consider Wales as a family-friendly destination for everyone to fall in love with.