A-z of toddler days out in the north of England!
A quick overview of the guide:
This was a collaboration of 20 bloggers who have visited these places on a day out with a toddler and can vouch for their brilliance! If you want to read more about the location, written by the blogger recommending it, simply click their name at the start of the text.
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Nelly's Cupcakes: Alnwick Gardens is one of my favourite places in the North East, sadly without a car it isn't possible to go that often, but when we do it is extra special. We tend to visit on special occasions like Easter or Christmas as they really know how to put on an event! (Their Santa is almost definitely the real deal) The Gardens are not just pretty to walk around, there is so much for little ones to do and see. Zoe loved the fountains in the Serpent Garden, which children can play in (bring a change of clothes) although thankfully the fully enclosed and therefore dry one was the favourite last time we visited. Zoe also loves just toddling about in the gardens, as there is lots of little places to hide and interesting things to touch and explore. There is a fantastic Garden of Fairy Tales activity going on at the moment. Zoe was maybe a bit young (2) to read and answer the clues, but she loved taking part in the excitement and finding the clues with us, it also kept all of the adults truly entertained (some of the clues are HARD). There is also the treehouse (complete with numerous rope bridges), the crafting cottage, poison garden and a fantastic café (although there is plenty of lovely grass for you to bring your own picnic, weather permitting). For us it is the perfect place to spend a full day.
Yorkshire Tots: Bolton Abbey is such a fantastic place for a family walk. It's such a beautiful spot! We go during all season but in the Spring through late Autumn they have a Welly Walk on. It's free and the kids love it. It's not too long and there's loads for them to do. They also have themed walks during school holidays where there are trails to follow.
It's Adam Again:Looking for something alternative, Little M and attended Croft Motor Circuit near Darlington, to watch a day of car racing. Whilst the intricacy of the sport was completely lost on our toddler, the opportunity to explore, play and develop his use of the word ‘car’ was well worth the trip. Perhaps it was more of a day for me than him, but it was enjoyed by both of us and challenged me to cope without the usual child friendly amenities at more popular family destinations.
My Mummy's Pennies:Dunham Massey is the perfect place for families to visit with a picnic. Located in the Cheshire countryside and owned by the National Trust, Dunham Massey House is set in a 300-acre deer park with beautiful gardens perfect for little ones to run around and explore. During school holidays and on certain weekends throughout the year, there are special activities for children to enjoy from Easter Egg trails to garden trails, meet the servant events and much more. Visitors can take a leisurely walk in the woods and come face to face with the beautiful Deer, rabbits and other wildlife, as well as letting their imagination run wild in at the log pile. It's a great value day out that is free for National Trust Members, or just £6 per car for non members to access the grounds and Deer park, with an additional fee for adults and over fives to enter the house or gardens.
Seeing Rainbows:Eureka in Halifax is the most wonderful, bright, exciting children's museum in the UK! To ensure your little ones (specifically aimed for 0-11 year olds) are kept busy, everything in the museum is interactive and hands on, perfect for inspiring and exploring. At Eureka, there are six 'galleries' to visit. Each with a differing theme housing lots of activities, learning opportunities and items for children to play with too. Exhibits are on display for children to touch and nothing is kept in a glass cabinet, like in traditional museums! My children especially like the 'All About Me' gallery where they can learn about their bodies, how they work and what goes where! There are skeletons to pull apart, giant noses to play with and lots of bones and body parts to learn about and figure out how they work! You can even, scan a 'Mother's tummy' and see a baby on the ultrasound, great for those expecting a sibling soon! Our other favourite gallery is the 'Living and Working Together' space. This teaches our children all about community, job roles, hobbies and the home. You can 'work' in M&S or the Post Office, play dress-up or even have a go at being a mechanic! Other galleries include SoundSpace, Sound Garden, Desert Discovery, Wonder Walk and also the outside areas of Eureka, which includes a real life train carriage to play in, a man-made beach and also lots of sensory based play activities too. The facilities as you would expect at the children's museum are wonderful, with big, clean toilets, a lovely cafe and lots of play areas and down-time space too. Prices for the museum are as follows are £12.95 per person with children age 1-2 costing £5.25. These prices included unlimited yearly access so it's definitely excellent value for money!
Nelly's Cupcakes:Fountains Abbey Last summer we took a little staycation near Ripon in North Yorkshire. On our way home we planned to break the journey and spend a half a day at Fountains Abbey, and to be honest it really wasn’t enough time. Alongside the extensive ruins of the Abbey, there is a water garden, deer park, amazing adventure playground and so much space to roam safely. It is basically toddler heaven. We started with a coffee in the café, which had a fantastic selection of toys, not just your bog standard bead maze, but lots of wooden blocks and trains too. We then moved onto the adventure playground, which was all made of natural materials and great for a range of ages. There was baby swings and small slides for Zoe, along with zip wires and higher climbing frames for older kids. There was also a teepee building area and lots of natural open space nearby, which I felt comfortable letting my two-year-old roam safely. We then wandered down to the abbey, and we had so much fun running around, hiding, jumping and rolling down hills. Honestly I think we had more fun in the ruin that in the playground! It is such an amazing space for imaginative play. We didn’t make it as far as the water garden or deer park, as we had to head home but we have made plans to return this summer and spend a full day.
Sprog on the Tyne:Gibside is my favourite of the North East National Trust sites, and not just because it's right on my doorstep. The play park, which was updated in 2016, is huge and will suit a range of age groups. There is a zip wire and large wooden climbing structure for the daring tweens, and a sand and water play space and mini farm area provide a safe place to entertain the smallest members of the family. As a national trust member we will often visit just for the play park, but when we have the time to explore the whole site we are never disappointed. You can choose to follow one of their signposted walks, take on the low ropes obstacle course, and in the summer they have sporting equipment set out to use. They have family friendly events on almost all year round, this year we are determined to catch the Easter Egg hunt, and in the past we've really enjoyed some of the free open air concerts they host. If you are a music fan, then visit their pub which is on every Saturday evenings - a family friendly night with local musicians, street food and craft beers.
We're going on an adventure:Heaton Park plays host to all sorts of events through the year - from huge concerts and festivals to weekend park runs and summer fun. It is one of our most favourite places to go for a walk at any time of the year - there's just so much to see and so much space to explore. Hills to roll down, play areas to enjoy, a small farm and cafes all set in 600 acres of beautiful woodland, lake and grassed space. In the autumn and winter we like to wrap up warm and kick leaves as we walk through the park before enjoying a hot chocolate and a chip butty to warm up. Come summer we take a picnic and spend all day up there and might even have an ice cream!
Mini Travellers: The ice cream farm is a fab place to visit with toddlers. There are two indoor places to play so don’t let the bad weather put you off going. The soft play part isn’t super exciting, but it definitely keep kids up to 5 (at least) busy for an hour or so and because it isn't exciting for the older ones your toddlers will have free reign. There is also a very large indoor play area with water, sand pits, climbing frames, walkways and more water. If it is pouring down this is a great place to spend a hour or so. Just make sure you take spare clothes!
North East Family Fun:Jesmond Dene is a few miles from Newcastle’s city centre but it feels a whole world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s a fantastic place for families to visit with it’s own small play park, a variety of animals to meet & greet in Pet’s Corner, a Thomas land train in the warmer months and a lovely little cafe and ice cream van. There are plenty of places to enjoy a picnic or have a kick about and the woods a nice place for a stroll. Look out for the secret waterfall and don’t forget to play pooh sticks on the bridge.
Life in Geordieland: A place where you can get up close to over 200 species of animals, including Wallabies, Snakes and Meerkats! You can meet your farmyard favourites in the petting barn and learn about life underwater in the aquatics centre. Kirkley Hall Zoo is an educational and fun day out for kids of all ages and you'll certainly not run out of things to do, they even offer zoo keeper experience packages which make a unique and memorable gift. Like any good family attraction it also has a couple of adventure playgrounds and a welcoming tearoom. It's a bit out in the sticks, situated on the outskirts of Ponteland so you'll probably need a car to get there.
Mini Travellers: Lowther Castle is beautiful and dramatic and sits within 130 acres of hidden gardens, enchanting woodland and breath-taking views. However it is recommended for toddlers because they have a huge new playground at the far end of the gardens called #thelostcastle with countless things to climb on, under, through and with a dedicated toddler section with swings, slides and a sandpit they will be spoilt for choice.
My Mummy's Pennies: The Museum of Science and Industry, also known as MSI Manchester is one our favourite local museums and is ideal for a fun day out with toddlers. Located in Manchester City Centre it has fantastic public transport links and a wide range of activities for all ages. From the Air and Space Hall and 1830's warehouse which are fascinating for little ones who love trains, planes and all sorts of transport to the more hands on Experiment! area that as well as an array of interactive sensory experiments also has a special soft play area especially for young builders and demolishers! Families with young children can also take advantage of free activity bundles available during term time from the information desk. Blanket Bags for small babies, Treasure baskets for crawlers and Power Packs for toddlers, ideal for inquisitive young minds, budding engineers and train drivers! When tummies start to rumble MSI has both a cafe and Bistro with a wide selection of healthy, tasty for that should suit even the fussiest of eaters. With a suggested donation of just £3 per person MSI Manchester is a great value day out for the whole family in a great location!
This day I love...: Nostell Priory allows children to be children. Wide open spaces for them to run free on, woodlands to explore and the most amazing playground to play on. Part of the National trust there are often weekly events such as buggy walks, scavenger hunts and storytime as well as special seasonal events like storytime with Mrs Claus at Christmas and an Easter egg hunt for Easter. Every Saturday and Sunday morning Nostell plays host to parkrun and junior parkrun which the whole family are welcome to take part in. Nostell is pushchair friendly and if you love the outdoors or you have a toddler that loves muddy puddles than you must visit
Here come the Hoopers: When spring starts to emerge from the cold, dark days of winter, the Ouseburn is a delight for young children. Apart from the major draw of Seven stories there are so many more things to experience. Our two girls love watching the horses at Stepney Bank stables. Seeing the pigs and chickens in the Ouseburn farm. Or following and spotting the trail of green bottles along the Ouseburn between the Waymarker art installations. After all the walking and watching there is a nice coffee shop in the Ouseburn Farm or if you time it right try a unique experience at the Cookhouse. Located behind Dallas Carpets in two black shipping containers. A pre-warning though; they are cash only.
Catch a Single Thought: Whether you have 30 minutes or 3 hours, a 2 year old or a 10 year old, Pleasureland at Southport is an exciting family day out. The whole promenade has a wonderful old-fashioned seaside feel to it and Pleasureland is perfect for younger children with a nice mix of rides including flumes, teacups, a pirate ship and lots more besides. It’s great for those on a budget too as you only pay for the rides you choose with free entry to the park and you are more than welcome to bring your own picnic with plenty of grassy areas to sit and enjoy it. Our favourite part is definitely the nearby arcades, where you can happily spend hours (and often less than a fiver) playing the 2p machines or winning tickets on the horse racing which can then be exchanged for toys and goodies. Round the day off with a walk along the pier, or a ride on the pier’s tram if you’ve got little legs which are tired, and enjoy fish and chips and delicious hot doughnuts as you look out towards Blackpool; on a clear day you can often spot Blackpool Tower in the distance.
Red Rose Mummy: Salford Quays is a regular choice for a day out for us as it has so many different ways to spend time there. The Lowry theatre has a full programme of shows and the art gallery has the most extensive collection of LS Lowry's work available. It's a fantastic way to introduce children to the work of one of Manchester's favourite sons and I think his art really appeals to children as it's easy to understand and interpret. Across the plaza (which regularly hosts markets and street art) is The Lowry Shopping Outlet which has restaurants, shops, a cinema and offers regular free children's activities on weekends and school holidays. A short walk from The Lowry complex takes you into the very heart of Media City, with the BBC Studios. You can see the Blue Peter garden, have a photo taken with Upsy Daisy or pop into the public areas of the studios and see a TARDIS and a Dalek! If there are events being shown on TV you can sit outside and watch them on the big screens, in Summer they set up deckchairs too. Cross through Media City and over one of the Quay's spectacular bridges and you'll arrive at the Imperial War Museum North. A national museum (so free admission) which hosts the Imperial War Museum's post Second World War collection. They have a permanent display which discusses the impact of war on people and examines conflict from the Second World War onwards. They always have a temporary exhibition too, last year it was Horrible Histories themed and really geared towards explaining the effect of the Second World War on the Home Front. My oldest loved it. You can take a trip to the top of the Shard which has great views over Manchester, great for spotting landmarks like Old Trafford and the Beetham Tower. Salford Quays are a great place to explore as a family, there really is something for everyone.
Rock and Roll PussycatSaltwell Park is a North East gem. It's a huge beautiful green park located right in the centre of the city. Perfect for a purse friendly day out, it's home to children's play parks, a boating lake, animal corner and a reasonably priced cafe. Perfect for kids of any age, there's lots of open space to wear them out, woods to walk through or even creepy crawlies to hunt out. It's worth a visit at any time of the year.
Newcastle Family Life: Being a mum to two preschoolers one place they love visiting is the beach, we are really lucky to have lots of lovely beaches in the north east but our favourite is Tynemouth. The beach is perfect for toddlers with lots of golden sand for the them to play on. It is close to the local shops and restaurants and it also had a great park with mini golf and boating lake. It really is a great day at the seaside for little ones.
My Boys Club: Ullswater is my favourite lake. It's also handily the nearest to home so often our destination when heading to the lakes for a day out. It is so picturesque with the villages of Pooley Bridge and Glenridding at either end, between which you can travel on the Ullswater Steamer. This mode of transport also takes you to Aira Force, where rainwater runs down from the fells, creating a 65-foot waterfall. Managed by the National Trust this network of woodland walks provides a breathtaking view over the lake and Ullswater valley. There are lots of things to do at Ullswater but personally, I just love taking in the scenery, enjoying the peace and quiet, and ambling alongside the lake. We spent Mother’s Day there as a family last year and it was just perfect.
North East Family Fun: Vallum Farm is a real countryside escape. Situated on Hadrian’s Wall and surrounded by nothing but the beautiful Northumberland Countryside, if you’re in need of some fresh air, it’s the perfect place to head. With a tearoom and pre-school play corner, award winning restaurant renowned for their fabulous Sunday lunches, an ice cream parlour (with no less than 16 types of ice cream), outdoor play paddock, climbing frames, swings and slides. Vallum is a real foodie heaven too and if you’re lucky, you might get to spot one of the on-site artisan producers at work.
My Boys Club: What’s not to like about Wallington. The National Trust property just over half an hour's drive north of Newcastle, has big green open spaces, trees you can climb, sticks to build dens, playgrounds to let off steam in, woodland walks, a walled garden, bird-watching hides, local produce to buy and some of tastiest homemade cakes on the planet. We love it. It’s a full day out with plenty of picnic areas dotted around. And that’s just the outside. Let’s not forget the house itself – the much-loved home to generations of the unconventional Trevelyan family, in which you can explore the history of Northumberland.
It's Adam Again: Xscape Castleford hosts a variety of attractions, most notable is the venue defining Sno-Zone ski slopes featuring real snow! On a mission from Babyfoote, Little M and I discovered a weekly toddler session, where families can enjoy thirty minutes of snow focussed activity every Thursday. Highlights included sliding down a mini slope, building snow castles, flattening, raking and walking on snow, throwing snow and trying to build a snowman! Tickets were £4.99 per child (adults are free) with £2.50 for clothing hire if required.
Chilling with Lucas: Yarrow Valley Country Park is located just off Birkacre road in Coppull, near Chorley. There is a fab play area for all ages which includes a giant rope swing, natural climbing wall, rock stacks and embankment slide. Once you have finished playing, you can go for a walk around the lake or up to the waterfall where you can look out for various birds on the way, a beautiful kingfisher can sometimes be spotted. There are benches and picnic tables around the reserve, perfect for taking dinner on nicer days. There is also a café and visitor centre with toilets and baby changing facilities. Parking is also free which is a bonus.
Thrifty Mum: Blackpool Zoo is a great attraction if you’re looking for a full day out. I visited in October and stayed over in Blackpool so we could see the illuminations too. What I wasn’t expecting was the dinosaur section of the zoo. Perfect for my little boy and his pall took with us. They were mesmerised by the extravagant sea lion show and the huge apes on gorilla mountain. My husband really enjoyed watching another couple have a close up tour of the tortoise enclosure as they were getting to feed them. I particularly loved the talks which are scheduled throughout the day. You can just turn up to and enjoy learning about the different animals. As well as the animals there is a large wooden adventure playground for children which is set in sand so felt nice and safe. The animals all looked well taken care of and the staff were super helpful in answering any questions we had. We bought our tickets online ahead of time to save money but there were offers on in Blackpool where you could visit a number of attractions and save even more money so it is worth looking out for a good deal.
Need more ideas for days out with a toddler? Try this guide – 10 brilliant places for days out with toddlers all over the UK.
Or this guide to more than 11 days out around the UK (and 1 in Massachusetts) all of them tried and tested days out with toddlers.