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Things to do in Southampton

Hit the south coast's ski slopes

Let's face it, England rarely gets any snow - least of all Southampton and the South coast - but that doesn't mean keen skiers and snowboarders have to go without their fix. An hour's drive north west of the city, the Alpine Snowsports Centre (tel +44 1252 325 889; http://activenation.org.uk/leisure-centre/alpine-snowsports-centre-aldershot) boasts three floodlit dry slopes and beginner lessons.

Pull on your walking boots and explore the South Downs

With over 3,300km (2,050 miles) of marked trails, the expansive South Downs (tel +44 1730 814 810; www.southdowns.gov.uk) is a hiker's paradise. Indeed, there are more routes to be found here, than in any other UK national park. For a serious stroll, follow the 160km (100 mile) South Downs Way, starting from England's first capital, Winchester.

Raise the main sail with yachting lessons

Southampton is one of England's busiest ports, with many cruise ship operators departing from its water. It's also a brilliant place to learn how to sail. Don't worry, lessons take place at the calmer, less crowded, River Hamble where Hamble School of Yachting (tel +44 23 8045 2668; www.hamble.co.uk) will show you the ropes.

Tear around on two wheels in the New Forest

The New Forest is a vast 571 sq km (57,100 sq hectares) national park that flanks the west of Southampton. With over 160km (100 miles) of trails and plenty of pubs at which to refresh, the park is brilliant for tearing around on two wheels. Forest Leisure Cycling (www.forestleisurecycling.co.uk) offers bike hire.

Trapeze the treetops at Go Ape

Tucked away in Itchen Valley's ancient woodland, Go Ape (tel +44 333 920 6011; http://goape.co.uk) is a thrilling treetop adventure course and a great family day out. With tunnels, rope bridges and zip-wires, who will prove themselves the king of the swingers? The course takes three hours to complete and climbers require sensible shoes.

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Novotel Southampton

This hotel has a central location near the main railway station and West Quay shopping centre. It has 121 rooms, including four for disabled guests, and there is a swimming pool with exercise area and a sauna. Wi-Fi access is available. The hotel has a bar and restaurant.

Mercure Southampton Centre Dolphin Hotel

This large chain hotel has clearly spent a lot of time agonising over the finer details, including individually designed headboards created by artists in each of the 65 rooms. The buildings date from 1790 and 1890, and Jane Austen attended a ball in the hotel's Assembly rooms on her 18th birthday. A hotel with genuine character.

Premier Inn Southampton City Centre

A neat, clean and comfortable budget option well placed for exploring the city. It might not be the most exciting place to stay in Southampton, but if your priorities are location and price then this central Premier Inn can't be beaten.

Jury Inn

Book early to get the best prices at this city centre hotel, which overlooks East Park and is within walking distance of the main rail station. With 270 rooms, Jury Inn is the largest hotel in the city. Plus points include flatscreen TVs and supremely comfortable beds in all rooms, as well as free Wi-Fi.

Grand Harbour Hotel

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Louvre, this iconic hotel stands out both for its architectural style and for its facilities. Many of the 173 rooms have sea views, there are suites with Jacuzzi baths and double balconies for luxury lovers, and the in-house fitness centre has a state-of-the-art gym and a pool as well as several therapy rooms.

Careys Manor Hotel

It's a 16km (10-mile) drive from central Southampton, but if you're keen to completely indulge then Careys Manor is worth the journey. With a multi-award-winning spa, three fine dining restaurants and luxurious rooms as well as manicured gardens and famous breakfasts, this is a fabulously decadent option.