Outings and Treats
At weekends, families might go to the park, and listen to a band. Crowds would gather round the bandstand to enjoy the music. Zoos were popular too. Children rode on elephants and camels, and watched the lions being fed. At Easter, there was Maypole dancing and a May Queen was chosen, and paraded through the streets. Poor children looked forward to treats such as day trips and picnics. These were often run by youth organizations such as the Band of Hope and the Boys' Brigade.
Going to the Seaside
Railways changed people's lives. Families went to the seaside for the day by train. People who could afford it took a week's summer holiday. Seaside towns such as Blackpool and Margate became popular resorts. Trippers and holidaymakers enjoyed things we still enjoy at the seaside today: ice cream, fish and chips, riding on donkeys, paddling and making sandcastles on the beach. In old photos you'll notice most people are wearing ordinary clothes, with trousers and skirts rolled up to keep dry.
Funfairs and circuses travelled around the country. Funfairs had roundabouts (worked by steam engines), slides and swings, coconut shies, shooting galleries and sideshows with strongmen, fire-eaters, jugglers and fortune-tellers. Circuses put on shows in big tents, and often paraded into the town on arrival with the clowns, elephants, horses and camels. Children laughed at Punch and Judy, a one-man travelling puppet show.
Theatre and Pantomime
The Victorians loved theatre, and most towns had at least one theatre or music hall. At Christmas, lucky children were taken to the pantomime. This was often a lavish show with exciting special effects (lights, smoke, loud bangs, live animals). Poor children who could not afford a theatre seat might get a job in the pantomime as 'juvenile dancers' or 'crowds'. Children paid a penny to get into the cheap music halls, and came out whistling the latest popular song.