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For the ultimate day out that kids and grown-ups are both bound to love, Wicksteed Park in Kettering is the place to go. As one of our favourite things to do in Northamptonshire, this Grade I listed park owned by Wicksteed Charitable Trust also includes an amusement park, a campsite and playgrounds galore.
Created in the early 20th century by Charles Wicksteed, also known as 'The Pioneer of the Playground', Wicksteed Park has grown over the years to become a truly magical day out. With everything from bumper cars to rollercoasters, the theme park is still alive and well over 100 years later. Having opened as a theme park in 1921, Wicksteed Park is the oldest theme park on the whole of the UK mainland. To carry on the work of Charles Wicksteed, the initial Wicksteed Trust was set up in 1916. Now known as the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, the organisation aims to enhance and support the people of Kettering, particularly by providing recreation facilities to improve quality of life. In 2001 Wicksteed Park became a Grade II English Heritage Listed Park & Garden, due to its significance in local and national history.
Of all the things to do in Kettering, you can't beat some classic fairground attractions like the ones at Wicksteed. The perfect spot to bring three - nine-year-olds, Wicksteed has something to offer for everyone. Once you enter the theme park area, there are four different zones to choose from that are bound to appeal to thrill-seekers of all ages. The Thrill Zone, first of all, is home to classic Dodgems, Honey Pot Bears (more commonly known as the teacup ride!), as well as the water chute at Rocky River Falls! Make sure to pack your waterproofs, as you might get make a splash with this ride. You can also find the Pinfari Rollercoaster here for those who are ready to take to the skies and the Wicksteed Racers where mini Lewis Hamiltons can show off their driving skills.
For those who like a touch of tradition on their days out, head to the Heritage Zone, which is home to classic rides that wouldn't have looked out of place when Charles Wicksteed himself was still around. The stunning Carousel ride is a great way for children to get used to rides, and younger kids can hop on with a parent or older buddy. As well as being a great opportunity, this ride is also stacks of fun! If the kids enjoy the Carousel, take it a step further next with a turn on the Sway Rider, a 30ft tall ride that swings you around at up to 30mph. Or, if you prefer to take it slow and stay firmly on the ground, the Traditional Playground is the perfect place to take some time out and play the old fashioned way. In the Heritage Zone, you can also find the narrow gauge Railway track, where you can take a ride around the park and take in some of the gorgeous local scenery.
Remember those waterproofs we mentioned earlier? You'll certainly be needing them for this next location, the Splash Zone. Here, kids can try out one of the oldest rides in the park, the Water Chute, which was designed by Charles Wicksteed himself. Other activities include sand and water sensory play area, as well as a Children's Lake where you can row, canoe and paddle the time away. Those who don't mind heights can also hop on the Monorail, and take a trip viewing the park from above. And lastly, you can have a go on the Wicksteed Cars, which are replicas of the mini-cars that used to bring visitors to the park.
If you've survived the Water Chute, Thrill Zone and Sway Rider, the Adventure Zone is the largest zone, with the most attractions. From Wicky's Mini Defenders, where kids can drive around their very own version of a mini Land Rover Defender, to Laser Xtreme in an indoor neon maze, there are plenty of outdoor and indoor activities in the Adventure Zone that can be enjoyed whatever the weather. Younger kids will have a ball riding the cars on the roundabout, as well as the soaring Mini Jet ride. And, those who like nature (and heights) can challenge themselves to take on the 90 metre Tree Top Walk, an exciting climbing route through the trees. Here you'll also find the Astroslide, dizzying Dropslide for adventurous types, and some classic Crazy Golf.
As if the rides weren't enough, the Adventure Zone is also the area of the park where, unlike other theme parks in England, you can meet some animals! At the Wooloomooloo walk-through aviary, kids can meet a variety of Australian birds up close, including budgies, kakarikies, diamond doves and much more. Or, for another immersive experience, head to the Meerkat Burrows, where kids can 'pop up' in the meerkat enclosure inside clear domes, to hang out with their furry friends right up close.
If you've had your fill of the theme park area, the rest of Wicksteed Park and the surrounding land is filled with things to do as a family. The formal gardens and lake are the perfect place to go for an afternoon stroll. The Rose Garden has two terraces filled with rose beds and stone monuments, set among formal lawns. Keep your eyes peeled for a memorial to Jerry, Charles Wicksteed's dog, who went missing in 1928. As you wander around you will also see the lake and the remains of what used to be formal lily ponds. A great place to go for a peaceful retreat on your day out, the Rose Garden is filled with history and beautiful wildlife.
There are plenty of Wicksteed Park events on throughout the year, including comedy shows by famous comedians such as Russell Kane, Christmas Extravaganza shows during the festive season, and much more. There are also plenty of nights for grown-ups, where you can boogie away to some '80s tunes or enjoy some jerk chicken on a Rum & Reggae night.
If you would like to grab some lunch or a quick bite on your day out at Wicksteed Park, there are a selection of eight different takeaway and sit in options on site. If you fancy a quick coffee and cake, head to the Carousel Coffee Shop, where you can get pastries and hot drinks. The idea's Cafe and Peacock Cafe are also great spots if you're looking for a sandwich or pasty. Fish and chip lovers should check out The Oaktree for freshly fried fish, or if you have meat lovers in the family make sure you get down to The Hex Smokehouse, where you'll find freshly grilled steak, ribs and burgers, yum! For a takeaway treat that is ever-changing, nip down to the Street Food Parade where you'll find anything from pizza and hotdogs to nachos and doughnuts. And, for a classic fairground ice cream treat, The Parlour has over 20 flavours of ice cream to choose from, as well as milkshakes and much more.
Alternatively, you can bring your own picnic to enjoy in the beautiful parkland, or head into Kettering where you'll find restaurant and cafe options including Prezzo for pizza and Italian dishes, and sizzling Mexican delights at Mexican Fire Garden.
If your family enjoyed their thrilling day out at Wicksteed Park, why not continue the fun at the fantastic Bugtopia, which is located in Kettering? Or, head to Northampton where you can experience more fun at the beautiful Abington Park.
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