The secret to a great family break is finding lots of things all the family can enjoy together. Fun for all couldn't be easier to find in Craigavon, from skiing and karting to making pottery and getting close up to cuddly animals.
There's a range of great value accommodation to choose from but why not enjoy a special weekend staying in the award-winning cottages at Ballydougan Pottery, just three miles from Lurgan? Housed in a tranquil courtyard these beautifully renovated Victorian cottages offer a very reasonable option for families, as well as being the perfect base to enjoy Ballydougan Pottery and the many attractions of the area.
Once an 18th century Huguenot linen merchant's home, the beautifully restored Bloomvale House is now home to the master potters of Ballydougan Pottery. You can watch them at work or ring ahead to book classes in making hand thrown pottery. You'll be amazed at what the kids can create! And after a morning potting treat the family to some hearty traditional Ulster cooking at their welcoming restaurant.
Spend a leisurely afternoon strolling the delightful grounds at Tannaghmore Garden & Animal Farm (tel: 028 3834 3244) discovering the farming life of past years from apple growing to dairy farming and even beekeeping at the Barn Museum. You can also meet the rare (in some cases nearly extinct) breeds of cattle, sheep and pigs which populated Ulster farms over a century ago.
Let the kids loose at one of Craigavon’s popular indoor play centres, such as Funky Monkeys in Lurgan. With stacks of soft play attractions for the under-eights, including a special toddler zone, it also has ultra comfortable settees and excellent cappuccinos so the grown-ups can enjoy themselves too, as well as a healthy eating café offering some great party food.
At Peter Pan’s Neverland in Portadown children can have a ball in safety with great features like an adventure play frame, sports court, a four-metre freefall slide, king size trampoline, automated disco room and more, while parents relax in the café or watch television. There’s a soft play frame for toddlers and babies and five party rooms too.
Also brilliant fun is The Mad Hatter's Adventure World in Lurgan, another favourite for children’s parties. They have a great array of slides for kids to let loose, a separate area for the younger kids and even a football court for soccer lovers. They have an excellent café too. Packages are available for parties.
There's nothing kids enjoy more than seeing animals close up and at C and J Rare Breeds Farm (tel: 028 3835 0315) outside Portadown there are some really unusual animals to meet, including pygmy goats, wallabies, and snowy owls, as well as old favourites like donkeys and ponies.
Time to burn off some more energy and you've a wealth of choice. There's the ten kilometre dedicated mountain bike trail at Craigavon Watersports Centre for starters. You can hire the bikes there or hit the water banana boating, water-skiing, windsurfing or sailing. Why not take advantage of Northern Ireland's only artificial ski slope at Craigavon Golf Ski Centre in Lurgan? There's snowboarding and snow tubing as well as skiing and a nursery slope for the younger kids and beginners. Just outside Portadown the Superdrive Motorsports Centre offers terrific karting for over-eights, while the Centrepoint Bowl in Lurgan is the place for family ten-pin bowling.
Oxford Island is an outdoor paradise for all the family with a nature reserve, bird watching and cycling trails. Begin your exploration of Lough Neagh, the UK's largest inland lake, at the Loughside Discovery Centre and enjoy a great meal with stunning views. It's also a pick up point for thrilling cruises around the lough aboard the Maid of Antrim (ring 07969 927098) for times and bookings). Weekend afternoons in summer you can also get a boat trip around the lough on the Master McGra' (tel: 028 3832 7573).
Once the busy day is over there are some enticing family friendly restaurants to savour, such as the Palomo Bistro in Lurgan. Round off the evening with a film or concert at the amazing Iveagh Movie Studios complex in nearby Banbridge.