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Child’s play: Big days out promise fun for all the family
Provincial parks are a great resource for nature activities and family leisure. Walloon Brabant’s Bois des rêves near Ottignies offers ponds, streams, a water museum, signposted walks and a playground plus a brasserie. Domaine de Chevetogne in Namur province (pictured above) occupies a former country estate with a swimming pool, farmyard, lakes, mini golf, canoes and adventure playgrounds. The Huizingen domain, close to Brussels, has a pool, animal park, rowing boats and arboretum, with overnight stays possible in wooden cabins.
Ferme Maximilien, hiding away within the concrete jungle that is the Brussels-North station district, is an educational farm to familiarise city kids with animals and nature in the unlikeliest of places. Keep your eyes open for activities such as shearing alpacas, composting and bird watching.
The De Schorre recreational park in Antwerp province is best known for being home to the Tomorrowland dance festival. But the rest of the year it’s a family paradise of paddleboats, mini-golf, a barefoot path, fishing lake, playground and a forest of monolithic trolls. The trolls are courtesy of Danish artist Thomas Dambo, who constructs them from recycled wood. They’re worth the trip alone.
Aventure Parc on the outskirts of Wavre is a great option for an active day spent outdoors under a shadowy sea of canopies. Circuits of different levels lead through the trees via tubes, rope bridges and zipwires, and there’s also a dedicated kids area.
(Sponsored): English Youth Theatre kicks off summer with two weeks of film and theatre holiday workshops (or stages). You can already sign up for weekly classes in locations around Brussels and Waterloo for September. Classes from 6-18 years old. Have fun, express yourself and build your confidence!
Open all year round, Le Parc Animalia de Forestia at Theux (Liège province) is home to 300 animals. The 30 species of predators and endangered animals, all native to Belgium, roam almost free in the 44-hectare park. Nature lovers can enjoy more than 5km of walking paths.
The La Roche-en-Ardenne animal park puts wildlife in its natural habitat in the heart of the Ardennes. A hiking trail leads visitors along many species indigenous to the area, including deer, lynx, foxes, wolves, wild boar and owls. There’s also a petting zoo and restaurant.
An underground cave system and wildlife park are the main attractions of the Grottes de Han in Luxembourg province’s Lesse valley. Now it’s possible to sleep in treetop cabins in the park, enjoy a spot of glamping in a cocoon tent village or sleep on a firm bed in the four-star hotel recently opened on the site.
Ecoparks Adventures Tournai encompasses aerial trails of varying difficulty, a woodland legend zone (from age two) and a games section featuring digital and escape adventures (from age 10). A restaurant serves drinks and snacks on the terrace.
If you’re looking for an open-air kiddie pool this summer, look no further than the Kessel-Lo recreational park in Leuven. Besides playgrounds, tennis courts, rowing boats, mini-golf, petanque, roller skating and walking trails, there’s a great swimming pool for kids up to age 12. Adults can jump in too, though the deepest part is just 1m.
Tour the globe at animal park Pairi Daiza, divided into nine geographical zones where animals are placed at the centre of their natural habitats. The decor, gardens and planting almost compete with the 700 species in attracting visitors’ attention. The 80-hectare park in Brugelette (Hainaut) includes restaurants, cafes, picnic spots and a range of accommodation.
(Sponsored): Brussels Childbirth Trust (BCT) is all about family! Volunteers organise parent-and-child activities at The Clubhouse in Ixelles and in 10 Local Groups in and around Brussels. Activities are member-only, aimed at different age-groups and often include music, crafts, stories, free play, park dates, playground meet-ups and walks. New families welcome to join.
Science and technology park Pass is geared towards families and schools, taking kids on a discovery journey with indoor and outdoor activities including interactive exhibitions, a biodiversity garden, films and workshops. Located in a former coal mining area near Mons, there’s even a slag heap to explore.
Belgium has a long railway history so it’s no surprise that a handful of rail enthusiasts set up a railway line serviced by steam and diesel trains. Three Valleys Steam Train runs between Mariembourg and Treignes in the southern part of Namur province; there’s a museum and cafeteria here too.
Water sports may be the main activity – water skiing, wakeboarding, cable lift and aqua park – at Dock 79 leisure park, southwest of Mons, but tree climbing, yoga and trampolining all mix up the fun, making it an active day out for kids big and small.
Exploring the five senses, Houtopia is a family experience park in the Ardennes town of Houffalize in the Ourthe valley. The educational recreation centre has indoor and outdoor areas (including a 30m slide) with a range of sensory activities and themes, from nature and the human body to the environment and creative skills.
The revamped Euro Space Center in Transinne, Luxembourg province, promises a range of new attractions and interactive installations for all ages. Activities include a freefall slide, Mars walk and space show giving a taste of the astronaut experience. The centre also has simulators and Europe’s only full-scale mock-up of a US space shuttle.
(Sponsored): British Scouting Overseas. Whether you’re completely new to Scouts or have been with us since you were six-years-old, joining is a great way to meet new people, seek out new challenges and learn new skills for life. We operate in Brussels, Tervuren and Waterloo, following the UK programme.
More from The Bulletin's summer travel guide
- Walk this way: Discover Belgium on foot
- Get your green fix at our favourite parks, woodlands and gardens
- Top spots for spectacular scenery
- The best culture this summer is outside
- Monuments and memorials to remember the fallen
- Delve into Belgium’s rich industrial past
- Local food at its finest
- Come on in, the water’s lovely
- The finest spots for a summer apero
- Big days out for all the family
- Seven cycling experiences to discover
- Top heritage sites for a fine day out
- Don't miss out this summer thanks to our agenda of events in Belgium