Great Days out A to Z ; for Six Weeks the Stella Artois: Star over London Will Fly above the Capital Lightning McQueen at the British Internation Al Motor Show. Above: Thrills at Alton Towers Red Bull Air Races Aerobatics the Butterfly House at the Natural History Museum

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A

Airship

For a unique persepctive on London theres nothing better than a birds eye view, and for six weeks only, a commercial airship will fly over the capital with flights taking off from an airfield near Upminster.

With a maximum of 12 per flight, the Stella Artois: Star Over London will follow three different routes, taking in some of Londons most famous and historical landmarks.

Until 21 Aug. Damyns Hall Airfield, Upminster, RM14 2TN. Flights [pounds sterling]185 for the 30min route, [pounds sterling]295 for 45min and [pounds sterling]360 for the full hour. Tel: 020 7183 3911. Visit: staroverlondon.co.uk

Air Race

Watch 14 of the worlds best pilots swoop low by the Thames and whizz past Canary Wharf performing aerobatic stunts at speeds of up to 370kph and reaching ten G in the London leg of the ten-country Red Bull Air Race.

Air Race 2-3 Aug.

Seating on the Greenwich Peninsula and at West Silvertown. Tickets: [pounds sterling]10-[pounds sterling]40. Visit: redbullairrace.com

Alton Towers

So many thrills, watercoasters and an indoor Cariba Creek Waterpark (do not forget your costumes) you may want to stay in one of the on-site hotels (and then you can enter the park earlier at 9am).

Three new attractions at Mutiny Bay with the Battle Galleons water adventure the highlight. The Flume and Congo Rapids also combine speed with a good soaking.

Young ones love the Runaway Mine Train, Willy Wonka and the Dung Heap. For an adrenaline rush, head for Rita-Queen of Speed, Nemesis and Oblivion.

Alton, Staffordshire, ST10 4DB.

Online tickets are cheaper: [pounds sterling]28, under-12s [pounds sterling]21, under-fours free, family of four [pounds sterling]78 (saves [pounds sterling]20). Fastrack tickets on some rides. Visit: altontowers.com

B

Butterflies

Amazing Butterflies a tropical butterfly house and a giant outdoor maze is the big attraction at the Natural History Museum this summer but it is only on until 17 August, so you have not got much time to marvel at the free-flying tropical butterflies (who knows, if they think you smell sweet enough, they may even land on you!) and explore the life cycle of these amazing creatures.

The rest of the museum, with the dinosaurs, giant blue whale and simulation of an earthquake is all well worth seeing Red Bull Air Races aerobatics (however many times you visit), and you can make the most of your day with an Explorer Backpack ([pounds sterling]25 deposit).

Also follow the Bookasaurus and Jurassic Ark trails, and for 7-13s there is the hands-on Investigate centre in the basement.

Until 17 August.

Natural History Museum, Exhibition Road, SW7. Tickets for Amazing Butterflies [pounds sterling]5, [pounds sterling]3.50 children and under-threes free. There is an online booking fee of [pounds sterling]1.50 per transaction. Rest of museum free. Check in advance that maze is open as it may be closed in wet weather. Tel: 020 7924 5000 or visit nhm.ac.uk

Birds

There are butterflies and birds at London Zoo where you can enter a jungle paradise at the new Blackburn Pavilion a restored Victorian birdhouse, which houses tropical birds and an indoor waterfall.

In addition to the Butterfly Kingdom there is the relatively new [pounds sterling]3.75m Gorilla Kingdom which even has heated rocks to mimic the gorillas natural habitat.

Other musts are the Clore Rainforest, the aquarium and, of course, animal feeding times. Check website for times/daily events.

Outer Circle, Regents Park, NW1. Book online tickets: [pounds sterling]15.40/[pounds sterling]17 (including donation) under-16s [pounds sterling]11.90/[pounds sterling]13.50, under-threes free, family [pounds sterling]49.10/[pounds sterling]55.50. Visit: zsl.org

Buses

You dont have to be a tourist to enjoy seeing London from the open-top deck of a sightseeing bus. …