Vanbrugh House



5 Family-Friendly Things To Do With Children In Oxford

Oxford is well-known for its universities, libraries, history and architecture – and rightly so! While its cultural and academic credentials are obvious, Oxford may not be the first place you think of for a family-friendly holiday. 

However, Oxford is one of the best places in England to spend precious family time. Let your kids soak in the rich culture while entertaining them with engaging days out. At Vanbrugh, we’re dedicated to making sure you have the best holiday possible. We know the local area. You could say we’re experts. Our unique hotel in Oxford is here to help you plan a once-in-a-lifetime family holiday. 


Step into a Family-Friendly Fairytale at Oxford Story Museum

Oxford is lucky enough to be steeped in creative history. The Inklings, a group of famous Oxford writers, once called the city their home. Your children may already recognise one or two of these literary greats. The legendary C.S. Lewis (author of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe) and Lewis Caroll (author of Alice In Wonderland) both called Oxford their home. The amount of literature the city has inspired means it’s no surprise that right next to Modern Art Oxford, you’ll be able to find the Oxford Story Museum. 

Once you arrive at the Oxford Story Museum, you start your visit at ‘The Portal’, where your story guides will help you plan your journey ahead. You then get to explore ‘The Whispering Wood’ where every tree has a story to tell. After this, ‘The Enchanted Library’ offers fun for the whole family. For even younger children and toddlers, there is an area of the museum dedicated to short stories and nursery rhymes. It’s a perfect day out for the whole family and children can experience a great mix of education and fun. 

The museum also has a dedicated events space, so if you plan to go at the right time, you can make your visit extra special! From the ‘Lego Masters Build Club’ to ‘David Gibb’s Family Jukebox’, there is something to excite everyone. You can find out more about family-friendly events here and book museum tickets here

A selection of books from Oxford writers

Create ‘WOW’ Moments at The Natural History Museum

What could be more ideal than a free adventure with incredible reviews? The Natural History Museum at the university will amaze your kids. It’s the perfect excursion as a family, as even adults will learn something new! We want to highlight a few of the amazing exhibits, however, there are so many things to see that we won’t even scratch the surface of what is on offer. If you want to find out more about what there is to explore, you can visit their website here.

A recently added exhibition sure to blow your socks off is ‘Out Of The Deep’! This display features two large plesiosaur skeletons that used to swim Britain’s shores 165 million years ago. 

If you look up to the roof at the museum, you’ll see whale skeletons – and yes they are incredibly awe-inspiring! The central beluga whale is from Norway and spans 4.15 metres in length. You can also see the skeletons of a bottlenose dolphin, a killer whale, and the jaw of an 88-foot sperm whale. 

A little closer to the ground you’ll find bears and see 450 million-year-old trilobites. There are also family trails on offer at the museum. The university gardens are also a stone’s throw away if you fancy stretching your legs and getting some fresh air in afterwards. 


Experience True Family-Friendly Oxford Culture by Going Punting

Punting is an activity that dates back to the 1800s. It’s the perfect thing to do with children in Oxford as it is sure to get them excited and tire them out for a good night’s sleep afterwards! Punting is a type of boating in a long flat-bottomed boat. Instead of rowing or sailing, you move along the river with a pole that pushes against the river bed. In Oxford, you’re treated to picturesque views as you punt through the city and into the countryside. It’s perfect as an activity for a family since Cherwell Boathouse doesn’t charge you for a set time, so there are no set time restraints. 

You can either show off your skills and hire your own punt, or you can get chauffeured experiences that can last as little as 30 minutes. You may not be able to get very far down the river with kids but it would be a great experience with them and you can even let them steer the boat, making it interactive for the little ones. Although it’s very unlikely, we’d suggest you take a change of clothes in case somebody falls in – don’t worry, at Cherwell Boathouse lifejackets are available upon request. And our hotel in Oxford is close by if you need to nip back and change. Punts fit up to 6 people so even if you have a larger family, this activity is family-friendly and suitable for you. 


Step Back into History at Oxford Castle and Prison

Visiting Oxford Castle and Prison is what some people would call the perfect family-friendly activity in Oxford. It boasts over 1,000 years of history to explore. You get to begin by climbing the Saxon St. George’s Tower. With such a challenge, there’s no chance that your kids will get bored. 

Once you make it to the top of the tower, you get to experience 360-degree panoramic views of the city. Can you think of anywhere better for a family selfie? From the mount, you head back down into the 900-year-old crypt which is the only surviving remains of St. George’s chapel. At the castle and prison, you’ll be able to explore the 18th-century debtor’s tower, just before exploring the eerie prison d-wing. 

Tours run every 20 minutes if you want to learn all the facts or you can explore in your own time and take it steady! And it’s only a short walk from our Oxford hotel. To avoid any disappointment, it is worth booking online. Plus, if you happen to be planning your visit around the school holidays, take a look on their website as you’ll find they often run special events.

Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter

Expelliarmus: Let Children Explore Harry Potter on The Heart of Oxford 

Oxford’s historic buildings not only inspired the designs for the first Harry Potter movies but also took centre stage as filming locations, meaning a trip offers amazing opportunities for children to see their favourite films come to life! 

Christ Church College is where the Tudor dining hall served as the blueprint for Hogwarts’ Great Hall. The staircase, a key setting for Professor McGonagall’s meeting with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, adds to the magical atmosphere. You can also see New College cloister: the spot where Mad-Eye Moody turned Draco Malfoy into a ferret. Both Christ Church and New College are open for independent visits but remember to pre-book your visit to Christ Church. The Bodleian Library doubles as the school’s infirmary in the films. Opting for a special tour reveals Duke Humfrey’s Library, where Harry uses his invisibility cloak to access the restricted section.

If you’re a World of Wizardry fan, you can join the 90-minute Harry Potter tour of Oxford, and gain entry to the Bodleian Library amongst other discover other city highlights. Keep an eye out for the ‘Nearly Headless Nick’ statue and Turf Tavern Lane, reminiscent of Knockturn Alley. This exploration of the piece of Oxford that influenced Harry Potter might be even more of a treat for adults than children! It’s not all architecture and statues though. Don’t miss out on the ‘House Of Wonders’. It’s a dedicated Harry Potter shop stocking chocolate frogs, quidditch wear, and even wands. But maybe give your children a budget before they enter, otherwise, you might be leaving with the whole shop! 


We hope that you have got inspiration for some amazing things you can do with kids in Oxford. If you’re anxious to start your trip ASAP, why not book a stay at Vanbrugh House Hotel? We are in the heart of the city, making it easy to try out all of these wonderful activities. Plus, we’re right there if you need a hand planning your next family-friendly excursion. Guarantee a personal and memorable family holiday by enjoying your stay at our hotel in Oxford!

Share this post

Book Now