About Time: What to Do in StaffordshireBy Angelica Malin
Packed with everything from thrilling theme parks to acres of roaming countryside, and boasting a storied history and heritage, Staffordshire has everything you need for a great day out. Indeed, some of the UK’s most visited attractions are situated in the county, so whether you’re looking for a family day out, a date spot or somewhere to go with friends, Staffordshire is sure to deliver.
If you’re thinking of taking a trip to this beautiful county, and need some ideas for a few spots to get you started, read on for our guide to the best that Staffordshire has to offer.
1. Alton Towers
As the UK’s biggest theme park, and among the top 15 most popular in Europe, Alton Towers is perhaps the jewel in Staffordshire’s crown. Situated north of the village of Alton, in the grounds of a stately home, the theme park contains some of the biggest and best rides around, and is suited to every occasion, from birthday parties to a date.
Alton Towers is certainly one for the adrenaline junkies and is best known for its impressive range of rollercoasters, with some of them previous or current world-record holders. Highlights include The Smiler, the world’s only 14-loop ride, Oblivion, the UK’s third-fastest rollercoaster, and TH13TEEN, the world’s first vertical freefall drop coaster. As well as the big guns, Alton Towers has a few more family-friendly attractions. From the Congo River Rapids and the Duel laser quest adventure, to CBeebies Land and the Sharkbait Reef aquarium, there’s something for visitors of all ages. With onsite accommodation to boot, you can even turn a single-day visit into a weekend adventure.
2. Sandon Hall
Located five miles northeast of Stafford, Sandon Hall is one of the UK’s most beautiful stately homes. Enveloped in 400 acres of picturesque parkland, visitors can explore its luxuriously decorated conservatory and the palatial drawing-room, characterised by their neo-Jacobean design. Sandon Hall even has an onsite museum where guests can admire the treasures accumulated by the Harrowby family, who have lived there since 1776. As a noble English family, the Harrowbys have had close ties with numerous notable figures throughout history, and the stately home museum displays correspondences sent by the likes of Lord Nelson and Charles Dickens.
Sandon Hall also hosts events throughout the year, including classical music recitals, tea parties, and the Flower Power plant fair. Typically held in June, visitors can marvel at the thousands of plants on show before basking in the sunshine with a picnic. The stately home will mount two plant fairs in 2020, with Flower Power also returning in August.
Enjoy playing in the snow all year round at SnowDome in Tamworth. One of the county’s most popular days out — it was voted runner-up in 2009’s Staffordshire Large Visitor Attraction of the Year Award — the indoor leisure centre is a sterling snow experience. Perfect for both adults and kids, the centre offers skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing down the venue’s 170m slope, while you can also get your skates on and glide around the UK’s only ice track.
When you’re not frolicking in freezing conditions, there’s also a swimming pool, climbing wall and luxurious spa onsite, so there’s more than enough to keep you entertained for hours on end. SnowDome is also well worth a family visit around Christmas time, with Santa’s Winter Wonderland opening each November, featuring various festive attractions, including a snow trail and an annual theatrical performance.
4. National Brewery Centre
Learn more about Burton-on-Trent’s reputation for real ale by visiting the National Brewery Centre. Perfect for beer lovers, tours begin with a holographic display of the history of brewing before guides detail each step of the process, and demonstrate how steam engines and the other vintage vehicles on show were involved. This is rounded off by a chance to sample some of the first-rate ales brewed on site.
Once the tour is over, you can pick up a souvenir and try some homemade cakes at the onsite café and gift shop, before sinking a few more pints at The Brewery Tap Bar and Restaurant. The site is also home to escape rooms with brewery-themed experiences, while the National Brewery Centre hosts events throughout the year, including comedy acts, live music, and the annual Vintage Festival.
5. Trentham Monkey Forest
The only place in the UK where you can walk among Barbary macaques, Trentham Monkey Forest is set in 60 acres of woodland at Trentham Estate on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent. The forest has just under a mile of pathways that get you up close to the 140 free-roaming monkeys that populate the area. With no cages or enclosures, they behave just as they would in the wild, making it an incredibly authentic experience. Don’t miss out on the hourly feeding talks, which are a great way to learn more about the monkeys and see them in their natural habitat.
After all that monkeying around, you’ll probably want to spend some time at the onsite Banana Café, Jungle Shop and dedicated picnic area, while those with kids should certainly check out the rest of Trentham Estate. Home to an adventure playground, maze and a fairy trail, there’s more than enough here for a fun-packed family day out.