There are so many ways to travel – solo, with friends, as a couple – but my favorite is, and probably always will be, as a family. There is just something about watching your kids experience new things that is extremely gratifying as a parent. And with travel, there is always something new – new places, new foods, new cultures and things to do. I know many people hesitate to travel with kids in tow because it is harder, not to mention more expensive, and I get it, I really do. We took Lexie on a trip to southeast Asia when she was 5 and let me tell you, walking around Singapore for hours in the sweltering heat and humidity of mid-June with someone who preferred to be carried than use her own two legs was not what I’d call easy, but you know what? Seven years later and she still remembers that trip, the good parts mostly. :)
It’s just my opinion, which means very little in the grand scheme of things, but besides the obvious skills of how to be a good human being, I feel like a love for travel just might be the most important thing I have to pass on to her. And so, when we travel, we do it as a family which, I promise, gets a whole lot easier the more often you do it. And it’s a heck of a lot easier when you keep everything on your travel itinerary as family-friendly as possible. Not an easy task in some places, but in North Wales? It’s a cinch. There are so many family-friendly things to do in North Wales that you could stay for weeks and not run out of things to do, but if you’ve only got a few days (in our case, just three!), this is what we recommend you do!
STAY IN BETWS-Y-COED
Betws-y-Coed is a small Welsh town in northern Snowdonia with loads of character and, as suggested by the title of this post, the perfect place to stay for anyone traveling to North Wales with a family. The entire town is accessible on foot making the need for a car, at least within the town, unnecessary. There are plenty of choices for eating out, most very reasonably priced and family-friendly. Besides boutique stores and the usual tourist shops, there are a couple of corner shops offering the basics. (No supermarkets in town, though. You’ll have to drive elsewhere if you require a large grocery.)
Often our biggest issue when traveling to small towns in Britain is finding a place to stay that offers one-room family accommodations, but we found what we were looking for at Garth Dderwen B&B, right smack in the center of town. (There are plenty of other options available for families, too, especially if you book early.) As far as things to do, there are public footpaths that wind through and around the prettiest parts of Betws-y-Coed, and Swallow Falls is only a short walk away and not to be missed. Betws-y-Coed isn’t the sort of town that will keep you entertained for days on end, but it is the perfect peaceful retreat to return to after a day spent exploring elsewhere in Snowdonia.
Read more about Betws-y-Coed.
HOP ABOARD A STEAM TRAIN
If traveling in the comfort of an antique carriage with the ever-changing scenery of North Wales passing outside your window sounds appealing, you need to hop aboard one of Wales’ famous steam trains! One of the coolest ways to travel around the country, the steam railways in Wales cover both long and short distances, making them a great option for both those who just want the steam train experience and anyone who wants to get from point A to point B, 19th century style. If you’re staying in Betws-y-Coed, one of the most popular steam train routes in the country leaves from the nearby town of Blaenau Ffestiniog and travels to Porthmadog along the coast. Or if you’d like to reach the peak of Mount Snowdon with the littlest amount of effort, the Snowdon Mountain Railway will take you straight there. Other options for steam train travel in North Wales can be found here. Many of the trains offer free children’s tickets with the purchase of an adult ticket, making this a great family and budget-friendly option.
Read more about our ride on the Ffestiniog Steam Train.
TAKE A HIKE
If you’re in North Wales, no doubt you’ve planned to do a little hiking while you’re here. There are plenty of options for all levels of hikers, even the littlest ones. Some of the most popular hikes for families are Cader Idris in Gwynedd, Aber Falls in Abergwyngregyn, Llyn Elsi in Betws-y-Coed and Cwm Idwal in the Ogwen Valley. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and your kids are up for it, there are even a couple paths up Snowden (the highest mountain in Wales) appropriate for older kids. Regardless of which hike you do, be prepared for dramatic weather changes! We had plans to hike up one of the higher peaks in North Wales, but when the weather turned against us, we chose the gentler Cwm Idwal to be on the safe side, yet we still weren’t prepared for the drenching rains we got caught in on our way down. Umbrellas, or at least waterproof jackets with a hood, and good shoes are a must, regardless of what the weather looks like on your way up!
Read more about our hike at Cwm Idwal.
GO TRAMPOLINING UNDERGROUND IN THE SLATE MINES
For families with kids 7 and older, Bounce Below is the ultimate underground playground in Blaenau Ffestiniog. In this unique construction, giant trampolines, slides, ladders, and tunnels made from super-strong netting have been strung up underground in an abandoned slate mine and for a fee, you can jump and slide and roll around on them to your heart’s content…or an hour, whichever comes first. It’s pricey, and it might not be for everyone – it’s very dark inside, and the trampolines are suspended above a giant, open cavern – but if you’re looking for a little kid-friendly excitement (or you just want to wear the kids out!), you’ll love this place. Apologies for the blurry photo – low lighting + an iPhone + the inability to stand without falling down = pretty terrible photos.
Find out more about Bounce Below.
VISIT THE LONGEST-NAMED TOWN IN EUROPE
At 58 characters long, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is the longest-named town in Europe, and the second longest in the world. In English, the town name means “St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of the Church of St Tysilio near the red cave”, and in the language of tourists it means you must drive all the way to Anglesey just so you can have your picture taken underneath the sign at the train station. Kitschy, yes, but totally worth it, especially if you can get someone to pronounce the town name for you while you’re there. It sounds just as cool as it looks. If you must have a souvenir to prove you were here, stop by the James Pringle Weavers shop across from the train station. They also have a cafe if you happen to visit after everything else is closed and you absolutely must have food Right This Second. (I speak from experience, obviously.)
Hear how to say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch here.
ENJOY A PICNIC WITH A VIEW
Last, but not least, the only thing North Wales seems to have more of than hiking trails is beautiful spots by the water where all you’re required to do is sit back and enjoy the view. Picnic optional, but recommended. This kind of vacation relaxation is our favorite. Everyone is free to do their own thing – fish, read a book, take a nap, take pictures (me), run around like mad (me again). Anything goes. As far as where to go, there are hundreds of great spots to choose from, but Cregennan Lakes gets six big thumbs up from us. It’s hard to beat the scenery here, plus it’s free! For a few other ideas for great picnic spots, check out this article.
More about our afternoon at Cregennan Lakes.
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