With the Easter holidays almost upon us, and only a few short months to go until that long summer break begins, many parents are starting to think about ways to entertain their children for days on end.
From things to do on a rainy day to outdoor activities that will help the kids to burn off some energy, there are plenty of fun family activities in Harrogate and the surrounding area. The extra good news is that a lot of family days out and activities are offered by independent businesses, so at the same time as entertaining the youngsters you can also #ThinkIndie.
If you’re already worrying about how you’ll keep yours occupied during the school holidays without breaking the bank, read on – we have lots of ideas to help!
If you live in the Harrogate area and you’ve got children, the chances are that one of your regular haunts on a mildly decent day is the Valley Gardens. Great fun though the venue is, it’s not an indie and so only gets a mention from us here – and that’s because it’s positioned really close to one of the town’s thriving indie outlets. Vanilli’s has become the go-to place for those fancying a sweet treat to round off their hours of family fun in the Valley Gardens.
The business, based on Cold Bath Road, sells high quality homemade ice cream, as well as coffees, milkshakes and smoothies. There’s even a Pick ‘n’ Mix sweets area as well. Founder and director Alex Leishman worked as a food and beverage director in the cinema industry for 17 years. He spotted a market for top quality ice cream made from natural ingredients and bursting with flavour.
Alex makes all the ice cream on site – with the help of some state-of-the-art equipment shipped over from Italy – using milk and cream from JG Bellerby in Killinghall. He creates all the amazing flavours himself from scratch, although he’s open to ideas from customers too. At any one time, Vanilli’s offers a minimum of 16 flavours, although there are usually 18-20 on display and a further half a dozen in reserve. The most popular flavour is the Belgian chocolate ice cream. Made with 70 per cent solid Belgian chocolate, it truly is a full-on chocolate experience – perfect at any time of the year.But for a real Easter treat, Vanilli’s Creme Egg ice cream is on the menu again, having proved a hit in previous years. Made with all the ingredients that are in a Creme Egg, it really does recreate the Creme Egg experience!
Alongside ice cream, Vanilli’s also offers a range of sorbets and, again, Alex is open to suggestions for different flavours. One recent addition is the chocolate sorbet,made with 85 per cent Columbian chocolate. Sorbet is one of the products on offer for those who are looking for a gluten free, nut free or dairy free treat. There’s also ice cream made with soya milk or coconut milk.
Despite launching during the wettest summer in 100 years in 2012, Vanilli’s has grown in popularity ever since as happy customers spread the word about its amazing artisan ice cream. Alex also keeps busy making bespoke ice cream for some of the area’s restaurants. For the latest news and new flavours, visit the official Facebook page.
Open daily from Monday to Saturday throughout the Easter holidays, Bead is a great place to escape the wet weather – or just relax for a while. Its Bead Bar allows youngsters (and not-so-youngsters) to stretch their creative muscles and make something unique. Whether it’s a necklace, a bracelet, a keyring or a bookmark, there are lots of options to suit different tastes, all made with the wide array of colourful beads.
If crafts aren’t your thing, but you want to have something personal to take home, Bead also has wooden items all ready to decorate in the Bead Bar. Jill Norwood, who has been running the shop for a year this Easter, said many people come in planning to make something with beads but change their minds when they spot the wooden creations and the paints, glitter and decorations that go with them. She also says that whatever people make, they often buy extra ready-made items from the range in the shop as they leave.
Of course, Bead isn’t just for youngsters. There are regular workshops for all ages, which Jill says are most popular with over-25s, and she and her team are happy to organise private events for groups, such as hen parties and birthday parties. However, they also accommodate people who just drop in: the Easter holidays are likely to be busy, but with a typical item taking around 45 minutes to create, spaces become available quite quickly. And if you do have to wait, it’s not far to pop to your favourite Scandinavian cafe in Harrogate for a drink until Bead is a bit quieter!
For an adventurous Easter day out, thrill-seekers need go no further than Ripley. Based in woodland on the Ripley Castle estate is an independent business which aims to offer amazing experiences and lifelong memories. Live For Today Adventures is run by two dads, Marc Wise, 31, and Dan Miller, 28, both of whom are qualified outdoor instructors.
The company offers a range of outdoor adventures, from high ropes to bushcraft skills, archery to body zorbing, gorge walking to rock climbing in Nidderdale, and quad biking to orienteering. Anyone aged 8 or above can take part, and Live For Today also holds activities for groups, such as team building days. They even offer kids’ parties for those birthday girls and boys whose idea of fun is more adventurous than most.
If you read our Locals’ Guide to Easter in Harrogate, you’ll know we’re big fans of the latest addition to Commercial Street. Harrogate Chocolate Tree is run by chocolate experts and enthusiasts Mark and Julie, who love nothing more than sharing their knowledge and experience with customers. So this Easter, they’re running chocolate-making workshops in the Harrogate shop.
The workshops are both fun and educational, with kids able to take home their creations at the end of the one-hour session. There are a few workshops taking place over the Easter holidays, although we hear spaces are booking up so it’s best to act quickly if you want to get involved. Alternatively, you can book a chocolate-making workshop for a children’s birthday party with a difference – just contact Mark and Julie for details.
Over to you…
What are your favourite family activities in Harrogate? Which other independent businesses would you like us to feature? If you have a #ThinkIndie recommendation to make, we’d love to hear it – just comment below, or on our Facebook page, or contact us on Twitter.