Stonehenge is an amazing piece of world history about 90 miles (2-hour drive) west of London on Salisbury Plains, set amongst the hills of southwest England.
This family fun day trip to the famous Unesco World Heritage Site is great for kids as you watch interactive video exhibits in the visitors center and learn about the life and times of the people around the era.
While Stonehenge is a great idea for children, most families find that within 1.5-2 hours they’re ready to move on.
You can walk through a few replica houses built to demonstrate how people in that time lived and take the bus through the hilly fields to see the actual stone monument that people travel from around the world to see.
Most days (except the summer solstice and winter solstice), you can’t walk between the stones when you visit Stonehenge or touch the rocks.
Still, you can walk around the perimeter of the prehistoric monument located on the plains in England and read plaques that tell your family about the features of Stonehenge and the surrounding English countryside.
There are also picture challenges to accomplish to look like you’re leaning on Stonehenge or holding it up with one finger which is a welcoming break for kids from “walking around some rocks.” Showing them a video about the history can help them relate to their visit.
While steeped in the history of Southwest England, you might not want to get caught in the tourist traps in the major cities like movie theaters or escape games, or other tourist attractions, but rather learn more about historically significant areas that originally served a cultural purpose, and now act as history museums.
There are a few major cities near Stonehenge (like Salisbury or Bath with plenty of historic buildings) and in our view, it’s much more interesting to spend the day enjoying history than to chase the newest attraction.
We visited Stonehenge while petsitting in England for six weeks and wanted to jump all in on the history of the area.
One of our challenges of traveling as a family is finding activities that all 3 of our boys will enjoy, and they found ways to enjoy Stonehenge in their own way.
If Stonehenge is on your bucket list, here are some fun places to visit with kids on your Stonehenge day trip to keep your family entertained and create memories of family fun… after all, it’s a long drive out during your London vacation for only a couple hours.
Things To Do Near Stonehenge: Old Wardour Castle
If you’re heading to Stonehenge (managed by an organization called English Heritage) you may consider choosing a year’s membership if you’re a UK resident or an English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass, which gives you unlimited access to 100 English Heritage sites for either nine days or sixteen days (depending on the length of your visit to the UK).
This opens up the option to visit other locations, including nearby Old Wardour Castle, just nineteen miles southwest of Stonehenge.
Unlike many other historical sites where the stone outline of the castle walls is visible around the perimeter, Old Wardour Castle has been preserved and restored to the point where you can climb the staircases from the main courtyard to the great hall on the second floor.
On the way up, you’ll explore the areas where the portcullis gate would have been raised or lowered, walk through the main and secondary kitchens, see the pantry and explore much of the original architectural design that was in place when the castle was a bustling party house.
On this second level, you’ll learn the history of the castle and how the structure was compromised accidentally during one of Britain’s civil wars (I won’t spoil the story, but our boys laughed for a while when they found out.
You can peer out through the private side chamber off of the great hall where political deals were made to see the amazing English countryside.
From there, scale a spiral staircase up one of the towers, which remains intact an additional four stories for a 5-story view over the woods and hills of Wiltshire.
In this tower, stop on each level to see multiple bedrooms (along with a game the kids love of ‘guessing where the ‘privy’ would have been’) and see the waiting room where the musicians would have waited (and probably slept) before or after performing in the minstrel’s gallery on the main hall.
Along the way through Old Wardour Castle, there are challenges for the kids to complete and earn points, like hopping around the castle on one foot, memorizing a menu in the kitchen, or deciding how they would present themselves before the king in the dining hall.
From the highest bedroom on the 4th floor, you can learn about NEW Wardour Castle, the history of how the Old castle faced destruction, and tackle a challenge determining how you would parse your land, sell your livestock, or marry into wealth to afford to build the NEW Wardour Castle (apparently a better option than repairing the old one).
If you’re looking for a hands-on experience where you can actually wander around the castle and climb stairs to imagine what life was like, Old Wardour Castle is one of the most hands-on historical sites in this beautiful county of Wiltshire.
It’s a start contrast from our hands-free guided tour of Neuschwanstein castle – at Old Wardour, you get to roam freely, climb the stairs, and explore.
Things To Do With Kids At Old Wardour Castle:
- Climb the castle tower staircase to the 5th story
- Earn points by completing challenges posted around the castle to help learn the history
- Find many new avenues and passageways to wander through
- Listen to the audio commentary about the castle
- Explore the courtyard and decide which door to visit, stairway to climb, or hallway to enter.
Things To Do Near Stonehenge: Longleat Safari and Adventure Park
Longleat Safari and Adventure Park is built near the Longleat house, completed in 1580, and decorated as if you’re stepping back into time to find out how the elite of the elite lived in Wiltshire.
Along with the amazing historic manor (mansion), enjoy the drive-thru safari tour, walking areas of the Main Square (including a hedge maze, railroad, and jungle cruise, and plenty of animals, gardens, and interesting things to see), outdoor activities, and the adventure castle.
Unlike other historic sites intended to be preserved as close to the original as possible, Longleat is an original site that has grown to allow young explorers to learn about history while experiencing an environment that they can play around in and enjoy.
We didn’t get to visit Longleat on this trip, but almost everyone who found out we were near Stonehenge asked if we got to Longleat also.
Things To Do Near Stonehenge: Avebury, Wiltshire
Just 24 miles (37-minute drive) North of Stonehenge is Avebury, Wiltshire another Bronze-age site that has the feel of a medieval city where Sarsen stones (the same material as the outer ring of Stonehenge) were erected to surround the crossroads of a small village completely.
While Stonehenge is mostly a looking event, in Avebury, you can walk up to each stone, walk between them, visit the local pub in the town, and explore the Alexander Keiller Museum included with your English Heritage pass – an opportunity to have an indoor space to learn about the history of the area if a typical English rain shows up.
While Stonehenge is not short on space for the kids to run around the stone circle, Avebury is the opportunity to run between stones, the ditch and mounds created to encircle the stones and village and to hike around the perimeter of the ditches and mounds.
Additionally, visit the Avebury Manor house and gardens – not included in your English Heritage Pass, but part of the National Trust (which also offers single admissions or a pass for access to many historical sites in the area).
Things to do with kids at Avebury, Wiltshire, England:
- Touch the stones and walk the full circle, including exploring the man-made ditches and grass mounds surrounding the village
- Visit the Alexander Keiller Museum to learn about the history of the area
- Visit the Avebury Manor and Gardens
- Walk through the cathedral to discover what has been added and which parts are original
- Stop for a snack at the local pub
Things To Do Near Stonehenge: Farleigh Hungerford Castle
Another on the English Heritage pass, at Farleigh Hungerford Castle you’ll have a completely different experience from Old Wardour Castle.
28 miles from Stonehenge (About a 36-minute drive) you’ll see the majestic castle tower overpowering the small town in a valley.
While there’s simply a remaining outline of the stone wall ruins for most the castle, there is plenty of interesting history and plotting that took place here including an outside wall of a 4-story tower called the “Lady tower” since all of the locals knew that, at one point, a lady was being kept there against her will.
The audio listening guide is one of the family-friendly things that English Heritage has implemented. These handheld listening devices are great for kids (and adults) to listen to information about each plaque around the property highlighting special features, stories of past Lords and Ladies, and trivia questions to keep the conversation going while enjoying your family day near Stonehenge.
While most of the property is without a roof (and mostly without walls or floors for that matter) if the weather turns rainy, there is space for the whole family to explore the original chapel, a spacious priests house now acting as a museum for the castle, and the small gift shop with local treasures, costumes, and additional information about Farleigh Hungerford Castle.
Things to do with kids at Farleigh Hungerford Castle:
- Listen to the audio explanations of the story and history of the castle
- Play trivia games about the information you’re learning
- Visit the chapel surrounded by the expansion of the castle walls hundreds of years ago
- See a model of the fully-formed castle in the priest’s house to give context to the visit
With Salisbury Cathedral (the heart of the city) just 17 minutes south (9.5 miles) this is an opportunity you can’t miss with military museums, art galleries, filming locations, the Salisbury Museum, and of course, the world-famous Salisbury Cathedral, home of the Magna Carta (the constitution of Britain).
Tickets are required to visit the cathedral, and an additional price for tours of the tower (with a minimum height requirement of 1.1 metres (44 inches) but if your children are not likely to want to spend hours at the cathedral, you can plan your trip to attend a service at the cathedral where admission is free, much like walking into any other church.
There are plenty of other things to see in Salisbury if wandering is more your style, from bridges to architecture, tourist attractions galore, and plenty of ice cream shops.
Plan a picnic to break up the walking and exploring between Salisbury and Stonehenge.
This would be an ambitious day since there is much to see and learn at both Stonehenge and in Bath, but carpe diem if you’re up for it!
Bath is about 35 miles (1-hour drive Northwest), and don’t let the stuffy historians fool you; there is plenty to keep kids of all ages engaged during your visit.
While most of the structure in Bath is a recreation of what historians guess the original would have looked like, the hot springs are still there, along with some of the original buildings and stone walkways excavated from centuries of being buried.
With handheld audio-guided tours, kids who visit the Roman Bath Museum have their own audio-listening experience filled with activities, scavenger hunts, and dramatized voices and characters they’ll get to know along the way.
The kids’ audio tour (divided into stations) matches the length of the adults’ audio tour, so you can move from station to station through the museum at the same time while learning different facts and stories.
More than just looking at the structure around the main bath, you’ll get to see artifacts found in the bath areas, learn about the stone structures and meanings of the carvings around the bath, see gemstones that had dropped into the baths hundreds of years ago and walk through the excavated saunas, indoor pools, and workout gym with plenty to touch, see and do along the way.
Besides the Baths:
Outside the Roman Bath Museum, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, parks, and architecture for children to explore.
A quick game of eye-spy can help you pass long stretches of wandering through the amazing Gregorian-designed city.
Things To Do With Kids At The Roman Bath Museum:
- Listen to dramatized audio tours specifically created for kids
- Touch models of the artifacts
- See hundreds of century-old coins and gemstones lost in the baths
- Drink some of the hot spring water (it tastes a bit metallic!)
- Find a balance of indoor and outdoor exploring if the day looks a bit overcast or if some rain is expected.
How To Choose What To Do On A Day Trip With Kids To Stonehenge?
This is a good question that we may not have an easy answer to. While you can easily make a day trip during your vacation with your kids to London, Stonehenge and the surrounding area could easily be a vacation of its own.
You could plan a weekend in Salisbury and visit some of the surrounding areas there, or a night in Salisbury, one in Bath, and another in a small village pub on the way to or from London.
Whatever you make of your family vacation to Stonehenge, be sure to explore along the way.
BONUS: Visit Thorpe Park
Thorpe Park is a roller coaster theme park – neither historical nor something you would fit into a day trip to Stonehenge – but Thorpe Park (just west of London) is a great place to take your kids if you’re taking a few days to get out to Stonehenge.
As interested as our kids are in the historical significance of Stonehenge, they also want to have days that are just plain fun, so bookending one with the other is a good balance for us.