The tastiest, tried-and-tested brood-happy trips, from gelato-making in Rome to Thai family cooking in Chiang Mai

Cooking with kids in Oxfordshire

Cooking with kids in Oxfordshire

Raymond Blanc’s lovely Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – a hotel and world-famous restaurant within easy reach of London – may have two Michelin stars, but it’s very kid friendly, both for overnight stays and on parent and child day cookery courses. It’s great fun – my son couldn’t believe it when he was encouraged to hold a bowl of egg whites upside down over my head to prove they were whisked to perfection. There are lots of opportunities to get your hands dirty, from whacking dough over your shoulder to putting your hand in, claw like, to a bowl of eggs, to yank out the egg yolk. There are lots of tasting opportunities too. You make your own lunch; our salmon on a bed of veg was such a success that my fussy son declared he’d eat fish all the time if it tasted like that. What’s more, you end up with a really impressive dessert to take home with you.

Gelato making in Rome

Gelato making in Rome

When in Rome… eat gelato, not ice cream. The difference? “It’s like comparing real mashed potatoes with potatoes made from powder,” according to our guide, Daniela. But why stop with eating it when you can make it? At Punto Gelato on Via dei Pettinari, we donned hats and shoe covers before watching the high-tech Willy Wonka-style machine – which uses a secret, magic formula to calculate ingredient quantity – make strawberry gelato. Only the finest ingredients are used, including bottled rather than tap water. Then we made our own by hand to compare the results. Even better was the tasting session that followed; the gelateria has 40 delicious flavours; the normal chocolatey and fruit varieties, and some unusual ones including a frozen version of mozzarella and tomato salad. Stay just out of town at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria, which has an amazing family-friendly Sunday brunch.

Market and green tea tour in Kyoto

Market and green tea tour in Kyoto

Kyoto may be famous for its 1,400 temples and five geisha districts, but it also happens to be the green tea capital of Japan. There’s lots of fun to be had on an improvised green tea treasure hunt, tracking down and trying green tea Kit Kats (like a sweet white chocolate), ice cream (nice) and a green tea latte (questionable). Then take a tour of the atmospheric Nishiki Market, with five blocks of everything from seaweed to giant pickled cucumbers on show. Dubbed ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’, the market’s first shop opened in about 1310; it now has more than 100 shops and restaurants. If your palate yearns for western tastes after that, the excellent Hyatt Regency hotel has a good pizza restaurant.

Family friendly vineyard tours in Bordeaux

Family friendly vineyard tours in Bordeaux

Who said you can’t take kids on vineyard tours? Not the French – a number of vineyards in Bordeaux have family-friendly tours, with quizzes, adventure trails and iPod tours to make learning about wine fun. The fairytale Château d’Agassac (pictured above) at Ludon-Médoc has an iPod treasure hunt, but better still is the old-fashioned treasure hunt at Château Dauphiné-Rondillon in Loupiac which culminates in a wine tasting for adults and a fun workbook on life at a vineyard for kids. At Château Saint Ahon in Blanquefort, buy produce for a picnic from the vineyard shop and take it on a self-guided trail named Mirabel’s Garden in honour of the resident donkey, filling in a quiz sheet as you go. Stay in the centre at the chic Boutique Hotel, which has great tasting menus and a family suite.

Cook with a Thai family in Chiang Mai

Cook with a Thai family in Chiang Mai

It’s hard to beat Chiang Mai for a family visit, with its zip wiring, elephant camps, and great Thai cookery courses. We joined a local family that showed us round their vegetable and herb garden, where we picked ingredients that we later mashed up with our pestle and mortars as we joined the whole family in preparing a meal. There are dozens of cookery schools in town and it’s easy to find one to your tastes. Alternatively, if you’re staying at the nearby Four Seasons, there’s an on-site cookery school with family classes that start with a tour of the local food market, and end with vegetable carving, including lunch that you make yourself.

Fish for your supper in the Florida Keys

Fish for your supper in the Florida Keys

The cool bit about fishing from America’s self-proclaimed fishing capital – Islamorada, on the Florida Keys – is that you can take some of your catch to a local restaurant, and they’ll cook it for you, for dinner. A half-day tour with Captain Rick, who knows exactly where the fish hang out, makes a great family-friendly activity. Sadly, the 100lb tarpon we caught on our excursion, along with the nurse shark and the half a dozen snook, all had to be returned to the shallow waters around the keys. But we kept the red snapper and the trout, and took it that night to Islamorada’s Shrimp Shack restaurant, not far from the Cheeca Lodge hotel, to be grilled and topped with a delicious sauce. It makes a superb prelude to key lime pie.

Find more inspiration for fun things to do with the family in some of our favourite cities: Sydney and New York 

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