Best things to do in Portsmouth with kids
If you are looking for things to do in Portsmouth with kids then there’s plenty to keep your family entertained whatever the season from attractions to museums and events.
Before moving to Devon I lived in a Portsmouth postcode for more than thirty years, so have a pretty good idea of the very best attractions for families and days out in Portsmouth.
What to do in Portsmouth with kids
Below is my round up of the best things to do with kids in Portsmouth including free days out, world-class attractions and experiences on the South Coast.
PLEASE NOTE: many days out in Portsmouth and events have been affected by the pandemic. Please check what’s open before you visit and book ahead to avoid disappointment.
*This post contains affiliate links*
Find more days out in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in my big round up of 101 UK attractions for families.
Free things to do in Portsmouth
You don’t even have to spend a lot of money to appreciate the city’s maritime heritage and views of the Solent.
Here’s some ideas for things to do in Portsmouth for free:
- Pack your beach bag and head to Southsea Beach.
- Walk around Old Portsmouth where you’ll find plenty of historic fortifications and excellent views of traffic coming in and out of the harbour.
- Enjoy the open space and adventure playgrounds by Canoe Lake.
- Take a walk along South Parade Pier.
- Feed the ducks at Baffins Pond.
You can also check out one of these free museums in Portsmouth:
Portsmouth Natural History Museum
If you are looking for free things to do in Portsmouth then why not explore the city’s culture and natural history at this museum on Eastern Parade in Southsea.
There’s exhibitions about D Day, Charles Dickens and the city’s military history as well as art and a butterfly house.
On street parking is available. Donations welcome.
Portsmouth Natural History Museum | Wet day activity | Open all year
The castle was built by King Henry VIII as part of a series of south coast defences against French invasion and was in use almost continuously until 1960. It sits at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour so was a strategically significant fortification through the centuries.
It’s free to enter the keep and enjoy the views across the harbour and Solent.
There’s a small car park close by and limited on street parking.
Southsea Castle | Outdoor activity | Open all year
Portsmouth City Museum
Find out about the history of this maritime city through exhibitions about its people and industry, as well as seeing touring displays of art.
One of the city’s most famous residents was Arthur Conan Doyle – the author of Sherlock Holmes. The museum houses the world’s largest Sherlock Holmes exhibition.
On street parking is available.
Portsmouth City Museum | Wet day activity | Open all year
Historic places and museums in Portsmouth
Portsmouth is famed for its military connections. Anyone with an interest in the Royal Navy will find plenty of places to visit in the city.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
See 11 attractions for the price of one at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. From Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, to the interactive Action Stations activity boathouse and the National Museum of the Royal Navy, there’s more than a full day out to be had here.
The good news is that once you’ve bought your tickets you can return again within 12 months.
One of our personal favourite things to do is to visit during the dockyard’s Christmas events when costumed characters from the past roam the Victorian streets.
The dockyard attraction has its own car park. If you are travelling from to Portsmouth from the west we can also recommend parking in Gosport and catching the ferry to avoid the city traffic.
The Mary Rose Museum
Discover the story of The Mary Rose, why she sank and who was onboard in this incredible exhibition where the preserved wreak is the star of the show.
This indoor day out in Portsmouth is packed full of interactive features like touch screen games, dressing up in Tudor costumes and story telling using light and projections to explain life on a Tudor warship.
I’ve not been to see the Mary Rose since I was a kid but would love to take the girls back now. It’s ranked as one of the top things to do with kids in Portsmouth.
Top tips for visiting: use the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard car park.
D Day Museum
For an educational day out in Portsmouth, visit this museum to find out the personal stories behind the D Day landings in 1944.
This Portsmouth attraction is ideal for children learning about the Second World War, showing them how the preparations were made, where the landings embarked from along the South Coast, and plenty of artefacts to bring history alive. It’s also a great wet weather day out in Portsmouth.
There’s lots of parking along the seafront.
The D Day Museum | Wet day activity | Open all year
Seaside fun in Portsmouth
Portsmouth is a seaside city that fronts on to the Solent and English Channel. Here’s some things to do in Southsea and at the beach in Portsmouth:
If you love traditional fun fairs then a visit to Clarence Pier is a must. There are rides, arcades and family activities like crazy golf, high ropes and indoor play.
You can pay for rides using tokens or unlimited wristbands that can be bought at the onsite kiosk or in advance online.
Clarence Pier | Best on a sunny day | This is a seasonal attraction so check the website for opening times
If you are looking for things to do in Portsmouth on a rainy day this is perfect. Come face to face with creatures from the deep in more than 40 displays around the aquarium including sharks, lobsters and fish native to UK shores. There’s also Asian Short Clawed Otters and reptiles.
Time your visit with the five feeding times during the day to make the most of this creature experience.
There’s lots of parking along the seafront.
Bluereef Aquarium | Wet day activity | Open all year
Southsea Model Village
This small attraction is set in an old Victorian fort just back from the seafront. It’s a great thing to do in Portsmouth with toddlers because of the charming models and easy accessibility.
The 1/12th scale village includes 40 model houses and scenes, plus a G scale railway.
While at the model village you can also explore the 100ft long rifleman’s tunnel and have a picnic overlooking the seafront.
There’s a handy car park right outside the model village or you can park on the seafront.
You’ll also find a large playground and a few cafes outside.
Southsea Model Village | Outdoor activity | This is a seasonal attraction so check the website for opening times
Landmarks in Portsmouth
As well as historic landmarks around the harbour and in the dockyard, here’s another you can’t afford to miss when looking for things to do in Portsmouth:
Emirates Spinnaker Tower
This iconic 170m tall tower, which was completed in 2005, can been seen from 23 miles away. Climb up more than 100 meter to reach the three viewing platforms or ascend in 30 seconds in the lift.
From the top on a clear day its possible to see across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, the South Downs and along the English Channel coast.
If you have a head for heights you can step onto the glass Sky Walk 100 meters above the sea or even book an abseiling experience.
Park in the Gunwharf Quays shopping centre were you’ll also find lots of restaurants, a cinema and outlet stores.
Day trip to the Isle of Wight
A fun day out or even short break from Portsmouth is to hop on a Wightlink ferry or Hovertravel hovercraft to the Isle of Wight.
Read about our last day trip to the Isle of Wight.
It’s worth keeping an eye on what’s on in Portsmouth throughout the year as there are plenty of family events. One of our favourites is the Christmas events in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
If your family is into music then the Victorious Festival held each August has been highly recommended to us as being family-friendly.
Also in the summer you can find the Kite Festival held on Southsea Common. This attracts kite flyers and fans from around the world to see kites of all shapes and sides fly on the seafront.
Things to do close to Portsmouth
Not far from Portsmouth you’ll find even more things to do with kids including exploring Portchester Castle, getting hands on with science and space experiments at Winchester Science Centre and enjoying the gardens of Hinton Ampner.
Here’s some more days out round ups for cities and countries close to Portsmouth:
- Things to do in Winchester
- What to do in Southampton
- Days out with kids in Sussex
- Things to do in Dorset with kids
Where to stay in Portsmouth
We’re lucky to still have family in the Portsmouth area so stay with them when we are visiting.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay close to Portsmouth we can also recommend The Solent Hotel & Spa.
Find more places to stay in Portsmouth on Booking.com:
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links marked with *. This means that if you click through and make a purchase I may earn some commission. This does not affect the price you pay.
If you’re heading to the South Coast then why not pin this post about things to do in Portsmouth with kids?