Emma Hill, The Guardian, March 28, 2014
One of the best ways to share breathtaking views of the Liverpool skyline with your family is aboard a River Explorer Cruise on one of the famous Mersey Ferries. Over 600,000 visitors every year take to the seas to take in the Unesco world heritage skyline and to hear about Liverpool's musical and maritime past, with tales of smuggling and famous passengers devised to entertain younger travellers. If the sun's shining, you'll find plenty of families stepping out on deck to feel the wind in their hair, but on colder days, hot chocolates below deck appeal to passengers of all ages.
• Board from, The Pier Head, Liverpool, the Woodside Ferry Terminal or the Seacombe Ferry Terminal, 0151 236 7676, merseyferries.co.uk. Open year round except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day, price for a Family Ticket (including two adults and three kids) £20.50
If you're keen to introduce young visitors to the city's architectural heritage, there are worse places to start than at the imposing Croxteth Hall, which was the ancestral home of the Molyneux family, the Earls of Sefton. Today, Croxteth Hall is managed by The City of Liverpool and attracts thousands of visitors every year. Children tend to enjoy taking a step back in time with a visit to Croxteth Hall itself, but you'll also find a real working farm, a Victorian walled garden and a 500-acre country park, including Croxteth Local Nature Reserve, all of which are hard to resist on sunnier days.
• Croxteth Hall and Country Park, off Muirhead Avenue East, liverpoolcityhalls.co.uk, Open 29 March-28 September 2014 daily from 10.30am-5pm, check website for garden and cafe opening hours, price for a family ticket (two adults and up to three children) £17
The Interesting Eating Company
Naturally, Liverpool boasts all the usual chain restaurants featuring inoffensive children's menus but it's compact independent eatery The Interesting Eating Company where you'll really find the city's youngest diners, drawn to the extensive family-friendly menus. On Allerton Road, The Interesting Eating Company is best-known for its pancakes, freshly made soups and handmade Italian ice cream. Founders Nichola Lee and Andrea Edwards are understandably proud of their restaurant's reputation as the city's number one place for pancakes and are committed to remaining an independent, locally run business.
• Allerton Road, theinterestingeatingcompany.co.uk. Open daily from 8.30am-4.30pm (kitchen closes at 4pm)
The Albert Dock
Long before anyone was talking about the regeneration of Liverpool and decades before the city gained its Capital of Culture status, the Albert Dock underwent a stunning renovation, shaking off its industrial past to become the city's most visited free tourist attraction. A mix of popular museums and art galleries (including Liverpool's Tate), the Big Wheel and a host of family-friendly restaurants and shops make this a perennially popular attraction for visitors with children of all ages. And with the UK's largest collection of Grade I-listed buildings and waterfront views, the Albert Dock's pretty easy on the eye, too.
• Albert Dock, albertdock.com. Most attractions and shops open daily 10am-6pm
FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology)
Liverpool's much-loved independent cinema and arts centre holds the title of the UK's leading organisation for the support and display of film, art and new media. FACT hosts a wide range of activities, screening and events for the whole family, including a Kids' Club film, accompanied by games and activities for young movie fans, on Saturdays. The weekly Big Scream Club is exclusively for parents and babies under one year old. As part of The Big Scream Club, FACT screens the biggest family-friendly releases every Thursday, creating an environment where you don't have to worry about your baby causing a disturbance.
• 88 Wood Street, fact.co.uk. Centre open Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-9pm
Liverpool's Route 66 drive-in cinema (Manchester already has one) will open on 4 April. It is set to feature one of the biggest cinema screens in the UK and will show a host of children's films as soon as they go onto general release (in addition to special screenings of classic movies). With a capacity of 200 and excellent image quality, this drive-in will appeal to families who want to make watching the latest children's film feel like more of an adventure than visiting the nearest multiplex. Also, as you simply pay per vehicle, it's a surprisingly cost-effective way to enjoy a visit to the flicks.
• Kings Dock, Liverpool, 0756 265 0733, route66driveincinemas.co.uk. £20 per vehicle, check website for screening times and events
Generations of children have gazed wide-eyed at Liverpool's World Museum's dinosaur displays, Egyptian mummies, creepy crawlies, aquarium and planetarium. This museum, which opened in 1853, continues to be a draw for school parties and for parents with children of all ages. Over the years, it has expanded to become one of the country's finest museums, featuring collections and displays of life sciences, earth sciences and human cultures around the world. There are plenty of displays and activities specifically for younger visitors.
• William Brown Street, liverpoolmuseums.org.uk. Open daily 10am-5pm, admission free
Children's Afternoon Tea at the Panoramic 34
Panoramic 34, which is one of the UK's tallest restaurants, has a hard-earned reputation for serving some of the best food in the city. Parents travel for miles to treat their youngsters to the restaurant's popular children's afternoon teas – while soaking up some of the best views of Liverpool. As long as no family members have a fear of heights, it's worth requesting a table near the floor-to-ceiling windows. The dress code is smart, but with stunning panoramic views across the city and beyond to Wales and Manchester on a clear day, it's a venue worth dressing up for.
• West Tower, 34th Floor, Brook Street, 0151 236 5534, panoramic34.com. Restaurant open Tues-Fri midday-3pm and 6pm-9.30pm, Sat midday-2.30pm and 6pm-9.30pm, Sun midday-8pm, children's afternoon tea £12.50
If you're planning on incorporating a spot of shopping into your time in the city, Liverpool ONE, which has rapidly established itself as one of Europe's most popular retail destinations, is the obvious choice. A large Lego store, indoor crazy golf (at Jungle Rumble), plus an Odeon cinema and plenty of family-focused places to eat make this open-air complex popular with families keen to keep their youngest members entertained while they shop. There's a year-round programme of children's activities at Chavasse Park within Liverpool ONE (which is one of the city's popular picnic spots) and a clever layout means you don't have to hike between stores.
• 5 Wall Street, liverpool-one.com. Shops open Mon-Fri 9.30am-8pm, Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 11am-5pm (shops)
Museum of Liverpool
The Museum of Liverpool, which is housed in a landmark building on the waterfront, opened amid much fanfare in 2011. Although the initial hype may have subsided, this museum, which celebrates the city's unique history and culture, has continued to win awards and to pull in the crowds. Within the museum, you'll find a "Little Liverpool" gallery, featuring hands-on activities to keep children under seven occupied and informed. Admission to Little Liverpool is by a free timed ticket. Each child's session lasts about 30 minutes, providing the perfect kid-friendly introduction to the museum.
• Pier Head, liverpoolmuseums.org.uk. Open daily 10am-5pm, admission free
Emma Hill is the editor of His & Hers, the monthly Liverpool fashion and style magazine
For more information, go to the Visit Liverpool website
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk