Let’s Explore: Reading
8th July 2019
Illustration by Kasia Bishop
Perhaps not the first choice for a weekend away but Reading boasts a bunch of great options when it comes to entertaining kids. We caught up with Olivia Fear, a local mum and interior designer, to get her thoughts on the best spots in and around the city.
This might sound a bit random but it’s actually super cute. Not only does this free museum boast fascinating collections of artefacts, wagons, tractors and machines but they have a weekly outdoor learning session for under-fives in their garden. Friday Fledglings costs £3 and involves story-telling, craft activities and singing, all lead by a qualified Forest School teacher. Check their website for times and make sure to dress for the weather.
With more than 100 trampolines, a dodgeball court, total wipeout zone, ninja warrior course, gladiator pits, tumble tracks, foam pits and more, this is the place if you looking to tire them out. Kanga Bounce (for over 4s) is their most popular session and runs multiple times each day. Kanga Tots (for 1-5s), Kanga Family (for bouncing in a troop) and Kanga Calm (for over 2s with anxiety, autism and sensory needs) are dotted throughout the week. Check their website for times.
When it’s wet outside and their bouncing off the walls, this soft play centre is the perfect remedy. Great for kids up to 11 years old, it features a massive play frame, assault course, soft ball cannons, ball pit and more while the specific “tots time” and baby area keep extra little ones safe amidst the fun. Don’t forget socks!
Looking to entertain slightly older kids? Take the 6 or 6a bus from the town centre and you’ll reach the Reading Climbing Centre. Their small-group classes are perfect for anyone over four years old who wants to try it out or master the skill with a three-day holiday course. If there’s a few of you keen to learn the ropes you can even book a family session.
Open seven days a week, the Mad Hatter’s Pottery Painting Café in Tilehurst makes the perfect coffee and cake pitstop. Painting is optional but hard to resist with their lovely selection of plates, cups, trinkets and jars that will keep little (and not so little) ones entertained for long enough to enjoy your coffee hot.
If the sun’s out, jump in the car and drive the six miles to Beale Park. This lovely country park has so much to see, including exotic animals, beautiful gardens, play areas and more while the Peacock Restaurant serves hot and cold food all day long. The miniature train and model boats are a particular highlight for little ones.
Check out the line-up for what’s on at The Hexagon, Reading’s best arts venue for live music, dance and theatre. Kids shows are popular and crop up throughout the year so probably worth booking advance if you can. This year has already seen Madagascar The Musical and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s family concert, ‘Noisy Kids’ grace its stage.
This Grade II listed pool, spa and restaurant reopened in 2017 after more than 40 years behind closed doors. The developers have done an amazing job at bringing the original character back and, although it’s usually adult-only, they open it up to families during non-member swim sessions between 2pm and 4pm. Just be prepared to get wet as they don’t have lifeguards on duty, meaning every under-18 needs accompanying by an adult.
The Oracle Shopping Centre is Reading’s answer to the Westfields of the world. Packed with all the usual suspects, you’ll find everything you need here from shops, bars and restaurants to a 10-screen Vue cinema.
While you’re in town, make sure to check out Waterstones on Broad Street. The beautiful, historic chapel building is worth the trip alone and they regularly hold events in-store.
The Oracle shopping centre has a large riverside area, full of all the chains. Some of the best I’ve found for kids include Giraffe, Jamie’s, Franco Manca and Comptoir Libanas. You can never go wrong with the John Lewis café either.
For a slightly calmer vibe, Bill’s sits just off the High Street looking over the church yard. The menu feels a little more considered too, and they always have crayons for the kiddos.
If you’re there on a Sunday, make sure to book a table at this country inn just a short walk from the centre. With all the character of the old biscuit factory its housed in and sitting on the bank of the Kennet and Avon Canal, it’ll keep children, adults and tummies happy for sure.
If it’s ice cream they’re after, head over to Palmer Park, where you can check out the playground and stadium (featuring a velodrome and athletics track) before indulging in American-style waffles, sundaes and the sweetest lick-smacking treats.
Words by Olivia Fear & Anna Whitaker
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