Puy du Fou
(45Km) Huge park with stunning staged spectaculars from gladiators to vikings to musketeers. One amazing show features hundreds of birds of prey. Lots of other things to see and explore in between the shows. A very full day but the one visit that everyone agrees is fantastic. All in French but you can buy headsets which translate the main shows. Not to be missed! Starts around 10am. Most things have closed down by about 7pm so if you are staying on for the 'Orgues du Feu' evening show which starts at dusk, you need to take a picnic, book a restaurant table or leave the site (stamped hands) to find somewhere to eat. www.puydufou.com
(90Km) Opens at 10am, and the evening show ends at 10pm. You can't go on everything in the 12 hours because there is so much to do. If you like scary rides, this is the place for you. But you have to be 1.2 metres tall to go on the best ones so perhaps not for families with small children. There is also educational stuff, rooms full of computer games, films on screens the size of 2 tennis courts, 3D effects, robots which take you for a dance (that one is really good!) Plenty of picnic benches by the water, cafes and restaurants. www.futuroscope.com
(40Km) For a much more slow-paced day, go to Coulon, which is a pretty town on a network of canals. Hire a boat and find your way around the backwaters, or do it in style with a boatman who will tell you all the history of the marshes. Or go a little further to the less busy but equally picturesque village of La Garette. Lots of restaurants of all prices along the canal banks.
"One of the most relaxing times we have had"
- (Butcher family)
Parc de Pierre Brune, Mervent
(20Km) Several families with young children have found this a good value day out. You pay to go in (€ 11 each) and then all the amusements are free. There are bumper boats, bouncy castles, giant slides, bungee trampolines, whirligig ride, swings and other playground equipment, crazy golf, a little train ride through the forest. There are restaurants and picnic sites and covered areas for shade on hot days. www.mervent-foret.com
Parcours Aventure Chantemerle
(4Km) A treetop adventure on ropes, nets and walkways. Exciting but safe as everyone has a safety harness, so if you let go you don't crash to the ground. A lower, smaller course available for younger children and a new one for toddlers. Picnic area. Mini golf. Bouncy castles.
"A highlight of our holiday - a test of nerves for the adults more than the children!"
- (Lloyds family)
Aquarium, La Rochelle
(75km) La Rochelle is a great day out with lots to see and do. The Aquarium has particularly impressed visitors with its large variety of fish from all over the world. It is a good visit for a rainy day as, of course, it is indoors!
"Aquarium is superb"
- (Wainhouse family)
Vallée des Singes Romagne, south of Poitiers
(90km) 350 apes and monkeys in a very open natural environment. www.la-vallee-des-singes.fr
"Best zoo we have ever been to"
- (Lammas family)
St Mesmin Castle
(19Km) Always has some characters playing roles around the castle. Occasionally they host a banquet night with musicians. There is a programme of varied events throughout the summer. www.chateau-saintmesmin.fr
"We all got involved in XIV century life including a banquet with dancing!""
- (Dean family)
Massais Between Mauleon and Thouars
(around 50 Km) Good value because once you have paid to go in almost everything is free. Lots of different rides and amusements, both wet and dry. www.parcdelavallee.com
"The kids didn't want to leave!"
- (Dean family)
(11Km) Fishing village with public ponds for carp or private (fee-paying) ones for more exotic fish. Has a souvenir shop, fishing tackle shop, restaurant, bar, children's play area, mini golf. Pleasant area to walk your dog and there are marked routes. There is a farmers' market there on Sunday mornings in the summer.
Les Noues de Puy Jean Moncoutant
(11Km) Farm visit with walks, cart-rides (pulled by tractor or donkey) aromatic garden, rare breeds. Picnic area or buy your meal at the farm. Pleasant, inexpensive, low-key outing. www.ferme-pedagogique-puyjean.com
Ostrich farm Courlay
(17Km) with maize maze, wagon rides, a quiz and a close up look at the birds. www.sevre-autruche.fr
Mouton Village Vasles
(25Km) A good day out for younger children. Everything you ever wanted to know about sheep! Petting area, tastings, displays. Info 05 49 69 12 12 www.moutonvillage.fr
(4.5Km) Go-karts. Fun but expensive.
(4Km) At Breuil-Barret from the top of a water tower. Saturday and Sunday afternoons every 3-4 weeks. Reservations 05 65 60 00 45
(75Km the nearest) Aiguillon/La Tranche/La Faute sur Mer for beaches and sand dunes, Rochefort for coastal walks, naval history, ropeworks and much more. La Rochelle for boat trips, a million harbourside cafes, interesting history and architecture. If you have had enough history and architecture and want a beach, go to Chatillon-sur-plage. If it is peak season park your car in town and pick up the free bus to the beach.
"Great sandy beach!"
- (Dean family)
Golf Mazières en Gâtine
(32Km) 18 hole course set in lovely countryside around a castle. 05 49 63 20 95
(80Km) An interesting town, good shopping, pretty parks, lots of history and when you've had enough go out to St Benoit (just south of the ring road) for a picnic by the water.