As one of England’s oldest cities, Oxford is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK; there’s plenty to see and do, and it makes a great day trip from London. But are there things to do in Oxford with kids? The answer is absolutely! Kids of all ages will find things to see and do in Oxford, and there are plenty of family friendly places to visit – and to eat! Read through my guide for things to do in Oxford with kids, and don’t miss my list of family friendly restaurants in Oxford at the bottom!
Things to do in Oxford with kids
Explore Oxford Castle
Oxford Castle is somewhere that any kid would love to visit! Not only do you get to tour an actual real life castle, but you can climb to the top of one of the oldest buildings in Oxford to get amazing views over the city, visit the surviving remains of St George’s Chapel, and even visit the prison!
Admission is by guided tour only so you’ll need to book in advance, and when you book you’ll need to choose a date and a time, so be prepared with when you think you’ll want to go. Once you’ve taken the guided tour you are free to explore the castle on your own, and children under 5 are admitted for free!
Visit The University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a pretty amazing place to visit for older kids, but it’s also worth taking a tour of some parts of it with young children too. Since it’s not a campus university, the various colleges and libraries are spread throughout Oxford so you’ll need to have an idea of what you might like to tour beforehand or you might be in totally the wrong place.
I’d recommend browsing the website in advance to see what might interest your child; depending on their age, they might like seeing the various colleges, especially if they think they might like to attend one day, or they might be interested in the famous libraries – or they might want to see something cool like Harry Potter filming locations!
There are many of these located at the University of Oxford but some require a tour or advance booking so research them in advance. Whatever you choose to tour, the University of Oxford is an inspirational place and one of the great things to do in Oxford with kids.
See the Bodleian Library
Speaking of Harry Potter filming locations, one of my favorite of these is the Bodelian Library. Here you can find Duke Humfrey’s Library, which was used as the Hogwarts Library in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Divinity Room, which was used as the Hogwarts Infirmary.
If you have a young Harry Potter fan, then they will love getting to see some of these filming locations themselves! You can book a guided tour online on their website to take a look around.
Visit the Alice in Wonderland shop
If you have a young Alice in Wonderland fan, then you cannot miss visiting Alice’s Shop! Found across the street from Christ Church College, this shop became famous when it was written into the Alice in Wonderland stories and was given the nickname Alice’s Shop by the locals, even though at the time it was just a small grocery shop.
In the mid 1960’s it began selling Alice in Wonderland souvenirs, and now has all kinds of gifts, souvenirs, and memorabilia. The shop is small and a little hard to navigate when it gets crowded, so try to go earlier in the day, but it’s the perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir for any Alice in Wonderland fan.
Take a river cruise or try punting
Taking a boat trip on the river Thames is a great way to get an overview of the city. Oxford River Cruises offers public cruises, where you can learn more about the city itself as well as getting recommendations for other things to see and do (and some insider knowledge on local places to eat!) but you can also hire a private boat for a trip.
The public boat tours are child friendly, but I’d recommend the shorter Sightseeing Highlights Tour since it’s the shortest and children are less likely to lose interest – if your child is older or has a longer attention span, the 50 minute Oxford Experience Tour would be a good option.
Infants under 12 months are free, children travel at a reduced cost, and while food is not permitted on board the public cruises, you are allowed to bring snacks for the kids.
If you’re feeling brave, punting is a timeless and slightly bizarre Oxford tradition. For those unfamiliar with the term, a punt is a wooden boat that is propelled forward by someone standing on the back of the boat holding a long metal pole that they use to push off from the river bed – kind of like a gondola, but without the stripey shirt or the singing.
For the passengers, it’s a very pleasant way to make your way slowly along the river, and for the person doing the punting, it can be a great way to build up those arm muscles!
If you want to give this a try but you’re a bit nervous, choose a quieter time of the day when the river will be less busy and you have less other punts to navigate, and remember the most important rule of all: if your pole gets stuck in the river bed, let it go – otherwise you and the pole will be in the water while the punt leaves without you!
There are plenty of places to hire a punt and life jackets are provided, but I probably wouldn’t try this with little ones who might not want to sit still – punts can be a bit precarious!
Things to do near Oxford with kids
Didcot Railway Center
About 30 minutes outside of Oxford is Didcot Railway Center, which is the perfect place for a train fan with its collection of Great Western Railway Steam Engines. Not only can you see these engines up close, but you can ride on them too!
There is also a museum, a World War 2 bomb shelter to explore, and some hands on activities for kids. Parking is a short walk away at the Didcot Parkway station, and there are restrooms and a cafe to get some lunch.
Be sure to check the website before you go to make sure everything is running on the day you wish to visit since some of the activities are seasonal, and bear in mind that the center is not particularly stroller friendly so bringing one might involve carrying it up and down some steps.
Play at Blenheim Castle Pleasure Gardens
Another great place for a short excursion from Oxford is Blenheim Palace. The palace itself is well worth a visit to see the incredible state rooms and gardens, but kids will probably enjoy the Blenheim Palace Pleasure Gardens most of all.
You can take a miniature train from the palace to the gardens, where you will find a Butterfly House, the huge Marlborough Maze, and an amazing Adventure Playground. There is also a cafe to grab a snack or some lunch.
This is a great place to let kids run around if you’ve been doing a lot of sight seeing, and be sure to check the website to see some of their seasonal events if you’re visiting during a holiday.
Take a trip to Cotswold Wildlife Park
If you have a little extra time and you don’t mind driving a bit further, just under an hour from Oxford is the Cotswold Wildlife Park.
This is a nature park where you can see camels, giraffe, rhino, and even lions! There is a train that gives you a great overview of the park, restrooms, picnic areas, and cafes to get refreshments.
This would make a great day trip if you’re staying in Oxford but want to venture out to see more of the Oxfordshire area, and would be perfect for visiting Oxford with kids.
Where to eat in Oxford with kids
Atomic Burger is a comic book themed burger bar that not only makes the best high quality burgers fresh every day in house, but has so much going on that your kids won’t know where to look! If they are super hero or sci fi fans, they will absolutely love this place, and the menu is very kid friendly. Oh and if you love Atomic Burger, try their sister restaurant, Atomic Pizza as well!
Mario’s has some of the best Italian food in Oxford, and is great for pizza or traditional pasta dishes. It does tend to get busy so head to their website to book a table if you know you want to eat there.
The Magdalen Arms
Turf Tavern is another traditional family friendly pub with a diverse menu and some great Sunday roasts.
With multiple locations throughout the city, G&D’s Cafe serve up the absolute best ice cream in Oxford, as well as milkshakes, ice cream cakes, and homemade desserts.