Best free family day outs to visit

As the Easter holidays loom, many families worry about how to entertain their kids this spring without breaking the bank.

With this in mind, FatFace has scoured the country and picked the best free family days out all over England to shake up wintry weekend routines in spring. 

NORTH EAST

DURHAM CATHEDRAL

Take a step back in time with a visit to this awe-inspiring cathedral. Budding historians can soak up the atmosphere of the nearly 1000-year-old building, while architecture enthusiasts will enjoy its incredible pointed arches and vaulted ceiling.

Challenge yourself by climbing the central tower, which clocks up an impressive 325 stairs each way before stopping by the Undercroft Cafe for some well-earned refreshments.

QUAYSIDE

Night owls are in for a magical treat by heading to this cafe-lined stretch of the River Tyne after dusk. The river is lit up by the glow from the bridges and surrounding buildings. 

And when it’s time to stop and have a bite to eat, you’ll have loads of family-friendly options to choose from. We highly recommend Babucho, a New York style Italian brasserie with a kids’ menu.

ROKER AND SEABURN BEACHES

Who doesn’t love a trip to the seaside? And it’s even better in the winter. Leave the swimsuits at home and pack your warmest knitwear, alongside your bucket and spade, before heading to these beautiful twin beaches near Sunderland. Expect miles of golden sand, perfect for family races and sandcastle-building competitions.

Once you’ve crowned your sandcastle king or queen, enjoy a wander down the Grade II listed restored Roker Pier to take a look at its historic lighthouse. Plenty of parking at the seafront on Marine Walk, and public toilets with baby changing facilities and disabled access make this a fuss-free family trip.

NORTH WEST

CHESTER CATHEDRAL

Spend a couple of hours exploring this working church to discover its ancient abbey and beautiful grounds. Eagle-eyed architecture buffs can spot the differences between the original Norman-style features and the later Gothic additions. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop by the atmospheric Refectory Cafe set in the cathedral’s thirteenth-century monks’ dining hall.

The cathedral also hosts a variety of unexpected events, so it’s worth checking their upcoming calendar. It’s previously been home to numerous art exhibitions and even an indoor charity abseil!

HELVELLYN

Dust off your hiking boots, and spend a weekend in the Lake District conquering England’s third-highest mountain. Fun fact: it reaches a whopping 950 metres at its highest point.

One for older adventurers – while you can choose from a selection of routes that vary in steepness, they’re all guaranteed to get your blood pumping and none are for the faint-hearted.

WALTON HALL AND GARDENS

Set in acres of idyllic park, little ones can meet a variety of furry friends in the free children’s zoo: expect alpacas, donkeys, pigs, rabbits and more. And once they’ve finished getting acquainted with the animal kingdom, they can climb, swing and play to their heart’s content in the accessible adventure playground.

Looking for a bigger adrenaline rush? You can pay to tackle the high ropes adventure course – suitable for children aged three and up, and a session lasts for two hours.

YORKSHIRE & THE HUMBER

VALLEY GARDENS

Escape the bustle of Harrogate town centre with a visit to this beautiful 17-acre park and gardens.

The Japanese Garden and the Garden of Tranquillity fit the bill for those looking to peacefully commune with nature, while mini thrill-seekers might prefer to slip into their waterproofs and head straight to the adventure play area.

PEASHOLM PARK

There’s plenty to explore – and be surprised by – in this renowned Scarborough Park. Take the bridge across the boating lake to discover an island that’s home to an ornate pagoda and a hidden garden.

Professional dinosaur-spotters are also warmly welcomed: download the park’s free augmented reality dinosaur safari app by searching the app store for ‘love exploring’ and see how many different species you can check off your list. 

BRIMHAM ROCKS

Take a trip to this iconic Harrogate attraction to see the incredible natural rock formations created by a river that pre-dated the dinosaurs.

Nothing’s off limits and you’re free to scramble around on the rocks to your heart’s content, whether you’re serious climbers who’ve come prepared with all the kit or you’re sticking a bit closer to the ground. Just keep a close eye on smaller children, especially if it’s been raining – there are sudden drops and the rocks can get pretty slippery.

WEST MIDLANDS

DAVID AUSTIN ROSES

Channel your inner Alice in Wonderland at this two-acre rose garden in Shropshire. Its five themed gardens are packed with over 700 varieties of flowers, and you can even buy your own potted rose to take home from the Plant Centre.

If you’re feeling extra luxurious, the on-site restaurant offers afternoon tea which can be pre-booked every Wednesday to Saturday until the end of April 2023.

MALVERN AND BRUETON PARK

Walking enthusiasts can take one of the park’s trails, nature lovers can enjoy the ornamental gardens and the young (or young at heart) can get stuck into the playground at the Malvern end of the park. Keep an eye on the park’s calendar for outdoor events happening throughout the year.

WALSALL ARBORETUM

This massive park in the centre of Walsall covers 170 acres of gardens, green spaces, playgrounds and a lake, making it equally perfect for taking a relaxed stroll or running, jumping and generally burning off some serious energy.

Bring along wellies for little puddle-jumpers if it’s been raining recently, as the ground can get muddy.

EAST OF ENGLAND

NORWICH CATHEDRAL

There’s no missing this cathedral when you’re in Norwich – at 96 metres high, its spire towers majestically over the city. Head inside to take a free tour with one of the volunteer guides on hand to talk you through this 900-year-old building.

Children aged 5-11 can pick up an explorer backpack, which is stuffed with items to help them understand the history of the cathedral.

CHRISTCHURCH PARK

Animal lovers are in for a treat at this Ipswich park: spot tawny owls, sparrowhawks, bats and beetles in its wildlife reserve, before heading to the wilderness pond to catch a glimpse of a variety of birds, fish and butterflies.

Little ones looking to burn off energy can go wild in the park’s extensive play area, while culture vultures might enjoy Christchurch Mansion’s collection of paintings by Gainsborough and Constable – the largest outside London.

NORFOLK COAST PATH

Get your comfiest boots ready to take on this picturesque Norfolk trail. It runs for a total of 42 miles from Hunstanton to Cromer – pick a start and end point and decide how much of it you want to tackle. It’s fairly flat in most parts, so it’s suitable for a range of walkers.

Expect a variety of landscapes, from pebbly and sandy beaches to salt marshes, woodlands, cliff tops and dunes. And when you start getting peckish, you can stop off at one of the many villages along the way for a bite to eat.

LONDON

HYDE PARK

This beautiful Royal Park offers a breath of fresh air right in the centre of the city. Stroll along its tree-lined paths before making an essential hot chocolate pitstop at the Serpentine Lake’s waterside cafe.

The iconic Speakers’ Corner, where anyone can jump onto the (literal) soap box to make a speech or spark a debate is unmissable.

Little ones can slide, swing and climb their way through the playground and there are always loads of events going on so check the online calendar for wintry activities, tours and talks.

ST JAMES’S PARK

London’s oldest Royal Park, it’s surrounded by iconic landmarks – cross the blue bridge over its lake for incredible views of Buckingham Palace to the west and Horse Guards Parade, Big Ben and the London Eye to the east.

Keep an eye out for its famous pelicans – the long-beaked water birds have lived in the park for nearly 400 years since they were originally given as a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II.

Once you’ve finished wandering through the park, head to Buckingham Palace on its outskirts. If you get your timings right, you could even catch the Changing of the Guard.

THE REGENT’S PARK

Famously home to London Zoo, this park also offers miles of landscaped gardens, large open spaces, tree-lined paths and a total of four children’s playgrounds. Queen Mary’s Gardens are home to London’s largest rose collection too – with a staggering 12,000 of them!

Get bold mini explorers all kitted out in warm knitwear and waterproof jackets to reach the summit of Primrose Hill, where you can enjoy spectacular views across London (or just take a spectacular roly-poly back down the hill again).

SOUTH EAST

VIKING COASTAL TRAIL

This 32-mile loop on the Isle of Thanet runs through Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, passing pretty villages, the King George VI Memorial Park and views of flat marshland. Whizz along the route on your bike or take it at a slower pace by walking part of the trail.

Top tip: if you don’t fancy taking on the whole route, go for the nine-mile (and practically traffic-free) stretch following the sea wall from Margate to Reculver.

ISLE OF WIGHT COASTAL FOOTPATH

The Isle of Wight’s circular footpath covers a total of 70 miles which can be split up into six separate walks ranging from 8 to 16 miles.

The various walks take in the iconic Needles landmark, as well as award-winning beaches, the chalk cliffs of Culver Down and just all-round delightful views.

BEACHY HEAD

The views from these 530-foot-high bright white chalk cliffs close to Eastbourne are guaranteed to get your heart racing. Just stay well away from the edge, as the winds can be very strong.

Take one of the paths down to the beach (careful – the steps could be steep) for a spot of fresh sea air. Dinosaur fans can go fossil-hunting along the base of the cliffs. Once you’ve pocketed a few Jurassic souvenirs, see how many crustaceans you can spot in the beach’s rock pools.

SOUTH WEST

BOURNEMOUTH BEACH

Enjoy miles of golden sand at this popular beach. Get little ones suited and booted in toasty puddle suits and wellies for seashell-spotting and splashing along the shoreline.

And if bigger ones are feeling brave enough, head to the pier for a 250-metre-long zip wire that runs from the pier to the beach.

Once you’ve had your fill of fresh sea air, warm up with a hot chocolate from the Prom Cafe right on the beach.

CORNISH COASTAL PATH

Expect incredible natural scenery and plenty of beautiful beaches along this coastal path. It stretches to a total of 296 miles long that have been helpfully divided up into smaller trails.

Do your research before you settle on which one to go for, as some of the routes aren’t entirely straightforward and could involve clambering over boulders or taking stepping stones across marshy ground.

FISTRAL BEACH

Water sports may be off the cards in the winter months, but visitors can still enjoy watching the incredible waves that bring surfers from around the world flocking to this sandy beach in Cornwall.

Get the whole family kitted out in their waterproofs and cosy knitwear for digging in the sand and building castles.