Why not make the most of the lengthening days with all the fantastic 2FOR1 offers available in Brighton, London and Cambridge when you travel by train with Thameslink or Great Northern? In fact there are over 150 moneysaving 2FOR1 offers on a range of museums, zoos, attractions and more, perfect for a fantastic fun-filled day out with the family. Here are our top picks of things to do in Brighton, many of them available through the 2FOR1 offers.
Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Head straight out of the station and turn right, then walk down the road under the station concourse a little way to find this nostalgic gem. The pavement is wide enough for buggies, but keep young children on the wall side as the taxis tend to speed down here.
Nestled in the early Victorian arches under the station, this compact museum houses over ten thousand toys and models, mostly from the early Twentieth Century. With working model train dioramas, cabinets full of Matchbox and Dinky models, collections of dolls, bears and puppets, and a wide selection of early Playmobil, LEGO and more, there will be much oohing and aahing from both old and young visitors.
Head down through the famous Lanes and stop for ice cream at Gelato Gusto on Gardner Street. Or if you fancy freshly roasted coffee, artisan teas, handmade cakes and good quality people watching, head to Pelicano on Sydney Street.
The Royal Pavilion
You can hardly miss the crazy pile that is the Royal Pavilion, an extravagant pleasure palace built for the foppish Prince Regent, later King George IV between 1787 and 1823. With lavish oriental decor within the Indian-inspired architecture it is both a monstrosity and a treat. The surrounding gardens are a pleasant diversion, with ice cream stalls and classical concerts during the summer.
The Pavilion Gardens Cafe offers great sandwiches made to order, delicious cakes and good coffee.
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
Located next to the Pavilion is the fascinating Museum, which offers a wealth of interactive displays and hands-on experiences, perfect for young children. There is also a performance gallery with puppets, mask and costumes, which is great fun. The changing and eclectic mix of exhibits means there is something for everyone.
Further afield, the Booth Museum of Natural History houses a rather eccentric but fascinating collection of dinosaur bones, insects, rocks and minerals, fossils, plants and Victorian taxidermy.
Brighton Beach & Promenade
Even in winter, a trip to Brighton isn’t complete with some time on the beach. Whether you want to throw pebbles in the sea, build towers, have a paddle, play crazy golf, visit the playgrounds and trampolines, or frequent one of the many cafes along the sea front, there’s always something to do on Brighton beach. On a clear day, take a spin on the Brighton Wheel which provides panoramic views across the city and beyond as you ride 50 metres in the air.
The Bucket & Spade Cafe in the Victorian arches on the sea front is a great place for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with locally sourced food and a very child-friendly atmosphere.
The structure of this beautiful Victorian pier is still visible behind the donut stands, rock sellers, bars and rides, and its slightly tacky modern nature even adds something to the experience. This is the ubiquitous British seaside experience at its finest. Grab your coastal culinary treat of choice (fish & chips, ice cream, donuts [sic]) and take a stroll.
Stop to admire the seaside views or people watch and take advantage of the free to use deckchairs. Enjoy a pint, or even a full meal, at the Palm Court, and make time for the end of the pier funfair with rides for the more conservative and the thrill-seekers amongst us.
Brighton Sea Life Centre
Situated bang on the sea front, opposite the entrance to the iconic pier, Sea Life Brighton is the world’s oldest operating aquarium and an architectural treat. We love the colour-changing light show illuminating the pillars and arches above, as well as the huge collection of watery inhabitants.
Children move from tank to tank awestruck by the bright colours and myriad shapes of underwater cousins, and newer exhibits like the Rainforest, Secrets of the Reef and Jurassic Seas provide endless learning opportunities. With languorous rays, graceful jellyfish, laidback turtles and razor-teethed sharks, what will your family’s favourites be?
The main entrance has a steep flight of steps, for level access go down the sea front ramp east of the pier and head through the tunnel.
The Volks Railway
A bit further east along the sea front you will find the wonderful Volks Railway, a timeless narrow gauge electric railway, the world’s oldest operating electric railway in fact. It offers a slow ride along just over a mile of Brighton’s sea front, all the way to the Black Rock station for the Marina. There is also a Halfway stop, ideal for the Peter Pan’s playground and its cafe, perfect for little ones.
Runs Easter to September. Cyclists and walkers can also take advantage of the long, wide pathway which runs adjacent to the railway at the base of the cliffs.
To get to the Marina, you can either take a bus from town, walk right along the sea front in an easterly direction, or take the Volks Railway to the Black Rock stop. Designed as a place to live, work, relax, shop, eat and stay, the Marina hasn’t quite taken off in some respects. But there is a boutique hotel there, a wide range of chain restaurants (Prezzo, Pizza Express etc) and some independents.
It is a lovely spot on a sunny day – perfect for that glass of vino you can indulge in because you took the train! There is also an 8-screen cinema and 26-lane bowling alley, plus some other child-friendly activities over in the shopping area during the summer.
West Pier Playground
If you head west from the pier instead of east, you will arrive at the West Pier Playground, situated just after the fading remains of the old West Pier. This is play heaven for young children, with a paddling pool, adventure playground and sand pit. There are lots of coffee shops nearby for parents to re-fuel, and perfect fun for small people. You can also check out how well Brighton’s newest attraction, the British Airways i360 'pier in the sky' is coming along.
For a great lunch, head to The Lion & Lobster on Sillwood Street, just a little further west, where you will find fresh, locally sourced food and a brilliant daily menu.
I’m slightly cheating with number ten by including two options, but I’ll justify it by saying on a day trip you’d probably only have time to do one of them. If you want to head away from the city centre and sea front for a bit, you could explore one of the 90+ parks and gardens Brighton and Hove offer, maybe the miniature railway and huge spaces over at Hove Park, or the woodland trails of Stanmer Park.
But our first recommendation would be to take the Breeze up to the Downs bus service to Devil’s Dyke up on to the South Downs. This natural wonder is a hub of activity on a breezy day, with hanggliders and kite flyers, but its footpaths and beautiful unspoilt countryside is a delight to explore at any time of year. There is a pub at the top for lunch, or bring a picnic and enjoy the views.
If you can stop for dinner before catching the train home, head into the city centre or over to the Marina for every type of food you can imagine, with a wealth of independent and chain restaurants. Try tapas at Casa Don Carlos on Union Street, or pizza at Very Italian on Old Steine. Vegetarians and vegans are spoilt for choice, but Terre a Terre and Food for Friends have well-deserved reputations for outstanding food and are well worth a visit, even for confirmed carnivores! Our other top recommendation is Brighton’s Indian food, the best of which can be found at Indian Summer on East Street and The Chilli Pickle in Jubilee Square.
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