World-renowned zoos and working city farms, 60 mph go karts, catching the latest blockbusters, learning bushcraft skills, or a spot of late night gambling – there are plenty of activities in Leicester to keep the whole family entertained.
Just 40 minutes by car from our Leicester Fosse Park hotel, Twycross Zoo is a fun and educational day out for all ages. The zoo welcomes almost half a million visitors each year, many coming to see their monkeys and apes; the largest collection in the western world.
With almost 100 different species of animals – including many endangered species – across eight zones, visitors can delight in seeing animals they may not otherwise get a chance to witness.
Animal lovers, particularly with young children, will also enjoy Gorse Hill City Farm. A working farm on the outskirts of the city, Gorse Hill offers visitors the chance to see the day-to-day mechanics of a busy farm and get hands-on experience with resident lambs, chicks and piglets in the farm’s dedicated handling area.
If it’s birds that take your fancy, Tropical Birdland has over 250 feathered friends, including parrots, toucans and cockatoos. The sanctuary includes a walk-through aviary to get up close with the exotic birds, which are inclined to take a cheeky nibble of anything they can get their beaks on, so buying some of the centre’s nuts and fruits is recommended.
The Stretton Circuit, next to Leicester Airport, is a karting circuit where guests can put the pedal to the metal and race around the 950m outdoor racing track. Open seven days a week, about nine minutes’ drive from our South (Oadby) hotel, the track is floodlit for night riders and offers a range of events to test your speed and handling against your friends or other drivers. The karts can reach speeds of up to 60 mph, so it isn’t child’s play, but there are junior karting packages available for under-16s.
For people with a taste for adventure, the Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre offers a robust choice of activity sessions for individuals and larger groups. With a varied calendar, the centre caters for a range of abilities and interests, from Bear Grylls-types looking to brush up their bushcraft skills, to yogis, paddlesport enthusiasts and sharp-eyed rifle shooters. Check the centre’s website to see its calendar and availability.
It is perhaps no surprise that the city where David and Richard Attenborough grew up is dedicated to the creative arts. Phoenix Cinema and Arts Centre is an independent enterprise, playing films from either end of the budget spectrum in two modern cinema screens, showcasing work by local and international artists. Phoenix also boasts a busy café bar, serving locally-sourced meals throughout the day, as well as an impressive list of wines, ciders and beers that you can enjoy in the bar or the comfort of your cinema seat.
If you enjoy your films on a larger scale but with equal opulence, Showcase Cinema de Luxe next to the Highcross shopping centre in the heart of the city centre certainly delivers. With 12 screens showing the latest blockbusters, two bars, a Costa Coffee and usual food and drink snack fodder, you can catch up on the latest silver screen flicks while sinking into their luxe leather reclining loungers. A true A-list experience.
Escape games have become the activity de rigueur and with good reason. Leicester has three escape room options: BOLT OUT, Escape Reality and Escape Asylum. A heart-pounding 60 minutes awaits players who can choose from a glut of game-playing scenarios to try and escape their confines before the time runs out. The rooms generally allow space for between two and six players and larger groups tend to have the advantage, thanks to bolstered collective brainpower.
For those of you feeling flush, Grosvenor Casino offers state-of-the-art electronic games and slots, a host of table games and even a dedicated poker room with daily tournaments. A broad bar and restaurant menu serves up classic grill staples, hearty sandwiches, tapas and salad, with an extensive wine, cocktail and champagne list, if you’ve played your cards right.
Leicester has felt the benefit of the enormous success of British cycling over the past decade and now has a new indoor cycling track. The 1km-long Leicester Cycle Circuit sits in the grounds of the city’s New College and is open for training and competitive use, as well as recreational. Just bring along your bike and helmet and pay a couple of pounds for the entrance fee to get on your bike away from the roads – and the weather.
The National Cycle Network stretches over 14,000 miles across the UK, connecting every major town and city. The Leicester city leg of the network is Route 6 and it provides a largely traffic-free link between the city centre and the stunning Watermead Park, totalling around 6.3 miles if you set off from the train station. The picturesque route takes in views of the River Soar, Grand Union Canal and Abbey Park, before reaching Watermead. You can download and print the Route 6 trail map from the Sustrans website.
The King Richard III walking trail takes you around the key sites in the city connected to the last English king to die in battle in 1485.
Lasting around an hour, the tour traces Richard’s final steps, from the site of the former inn where he stayed before his final fateful battle, the bridge across which his body was brought back to the city, the site of his first burial place and Leicester Cathedral and its gardens, which are Richard’s final resting place. It’s an enthralling tour charting a bloody and fascinating period of British history.
Just 4.5 miles away from the city centre and less than 20 minutes in the car from our North West hotel, is the sprawling Bradgate Park. The first enclosed deer hunting park in the country, Bradgate Park in Newtown Linford is still home to roaming herds of deer that are safe within its perimeter and can be spotted by visitors as they make their way around the park. Stunning views across Leicestershire’s rolling hills are in store for walkers and the Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood walking tours are available with park rangers to explore the park with an expert and learn the history of Bradgate House, built in the year 1500.
There are no fewer than seven Leicester hotels to suit your needs when planning a visit - so you can choose whatever's best for you, whether you're indulging in some retail therapy or treating yourself to a night out.
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