Whilst we understand not all single parents are struggling financially we do understand that budgeting and watching those all-important pennies is a top priority as a lone parent.
Heading out the door for an adventure with the children often costs you money for example transport to and from a place. This can be costly indeed and that’s before you have even paid for entry, food and souvenirs. These are the souvenirs your child will beg you for and then create a public display of alien break dancing whilst they shout and cry because you are the worst parent in the world for not buying them that cuddly animal (etc) that is as overpriced as the strawberries and cream at Wimbledon! Just to add salt to the wounds and another hole in your wallet, the souvenir will only get tossed under their bed and forgotten about once home. With this in mind, we thought it would be a great idea to bring you a list of our top FREE attractions across the UK.
Having school holidays and lots of days to entertain the children can become very costly and with careful planning and research, you can plan days out that the children will love without breaking the bank. We've included a range of free activities from active experiences such as parks to more educational experiences such as free entry to museums and workshops to help you with your day out planning.
We firmly believe that the best things do come for free whether they are snuggles on a sofa or free entry to community events. Even better when you share these things with other parents you may also be able to share travel costs while encouraging social development for the children as part of a fun play day out and actual adult conversation for you. We consider this a win all round!
There are times when you just want to get out of the house, but where should you go? We've put together some tried and tested day trip locations for you to add to your list (if local enough) as well as some ideas for more spur of the moment local day trips and weekend adventures.
*Please check all details are current before visiting
Head for the Beach
Kids love a day at the beach. It doesn’t have to be all about spending a fortune either. Head to one of the quieter beaches, with towels, a picnic, a bat and ball, buckets and spades and they’ll have a whale of a time! If it’s not too cold, you can even let them have a dip in the sea.
This is our selection of some of the best family beaches around (let us know if you have any to add to the list):
Ainsdale Beach, Southport, Merseyside
Ainsdale Beach in Southport, Merseyside has been awarded the Quality Coast Award by the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. It is also the only beach in the North West of England ever to have been awarded the international Blue Flag award (in 2004 and 2006), which judges cleanliness, water quality and other factors. This makes it perfect for swimming and a family day at the beach. You can do several activities at Ainsdale, including para karting and kite surfing and it has some great sand dunes to explore in the nature reserve.
Benone Strand, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Londonderry is the county with the highest number of Blue Flag beaches in Northern Ireland. Of these, Benone Strand features seven miles of golden sand, a backdrop of cliffs and mountains plus views across to Donegal. There is even an outdoor paddling pool and a supervised playground, so that you can relax for a little while.
Blackpool Sands, Dartmouth, Devon
Despite the name, Blackpool Sands isn’t actually in Blackpool but in South Devon, about three miles from Dartmouth. Even the name “Sands” is misleading as it is actually a shingle beach! One of the county’s most popular beaches, Blackpool Sands has a prestigious Blue Flag award for cleanliness. It also offers a safe swimming area for the kids and so it’s great for added peace of mind.
Bournemouth Beach, Dorset
The sandy beach in Bournemouth is 11km long, and perfect for families. It lays claim to some of the warmest sea temperatures in the UK. The beach also boasts the LV= KidZone scheme, which is aimed at keeping your kids safe whilst on the beach. The beach is split into zones, each of a different colour, and children wear a wristband of the colour that corresponds to the zone you’re in so any “strays” can be easily identified.
Burntisland Beach, Fife
Burntisland is a sandy beach overlooking the Firth of Forth in Fife. If rock pools are your thing this is the place for you as it has lots of pools for little adventurers to explore. Seaside Park is a great place where you can play a round of crazy golf and isn’t far away. In summer, there is a fairground.
Caswell Bay, Wales
Wales has 100 beaches, of which fifty-one were awarded Blue Flags in 2015. Pembrokeshire has the highest number of these Blue Flags. It also lays claim to being one of the sunniest spots in the UK, with twenty per cent more sunshine than London. It’s hard to pick just one beach here, but the resort of Tenby was awarded Silver for ‘Best UK Coastal Resort’ in 2014. The town also has an indoor soft-play venue which is spread over five levels for those rainy days. Eight miles east of Tenby at Llanteg there’s a laser shooting centre which is ideal for any action-loving girls and boys.
Filey Beach, Yorkshire
The beach at Filey has beautiful, golden sand and is perfect for a family day by the sea. Filey also has a promenade and the obligatory arcades and crazy golf. You can even have a pony ride on the beach, so lots of fun for all the family.
Lowestoft Beach, Suffolk
Blue Flag award-winning Lowestoft Beach is next to the town of Lowestoft:,the most Easterly town in Britain. Perfect for a family day out, Lowestoft Beach boasts not one, but two piers and a long promenade which will take you back to the heyday of the British seaside with their traditional attractions.
Three Shells Beach, Southend, Essex
Three Shells is a sandy beach at the bottom of Southend Pier, which is the longest pleasure pier in the world. The beach is small but very clean and has lots of play equipment nearby for children. It’s also very close to Adventure Island theme park – which is handy if the weather isn’t being kind.
The guys at the old funfairs used to shout, “Scream if you want to go faster” but these days it’s all about the thrill rides at theme parks. They do cost a bit, but you’ll find you can use supermarket loyalty card points or vouchers you can find online to get discounted tickets (or even free if you save up enough points / vouchers) in advance for some parks. Here is a selection of our favourite theme parks for kids:
Alton Towers, Staffordshire
Alton Towers is probably the UK’s best-known theme park. And it’s not just a theme park. There is also a water park, a farm, a stately home, a spa, and two hotels, all set in 500 acres of the Staffordshire countryside. There is so much to see and do that most people stay overnight and spread the fun over two days.
Barry’s Amusements, Portrush, County Antrim
Situated in the centre of Portrush on the North coast, Barry’s Amusements is the largest theme park in Northern Ireland and features both indoor and outdoor rides. From the Big Dipper to the traditional carousel and the coconut shy, there’s something for all ages and tastes.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire
Blackpool is world renowned, not just for the celebrated Pleasure Beach theme park but also for the lights along the promenade and for Blackpool Tower and the Tower Ballroom. The theme park is still owned by the family who opened it in 1896 and whilst the rides might be purely twenty-first century, it still holds all the charm of a Victorian seaside attraction.
Chessington World of Adventures, Surrey
Chessington has ten “Lands”, from the Land of the Dragons to Transylvania so there’s plenty for all the family to see and do. It’s also a mere twelve miles from London, so a short hop if you live in London or the Home Counties.
Drayton Manor, Staffordshire
Another one of the UK’s largest theme parks, Drayton Manor has something for all ages. There have all the usual rides for the thrill seekers, plus a 4D cinema and even a zoo. They even have the only Thomas Land in Europe, featuring everyone’s favourite engines from the Thomas the Tank Engine books and TV series, just the place for your little Thomas fans.
Fantasy Island Theme Park, Skegness, Lincolnshire
Fantasy Island is Britain’s first indoor theme park which is probably useful when you’re on the North Sea coast. It has all the fun of rollercoasters and rides, all undercover and out of any bad weather but you’ll probably still get wet on the water rides. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
GreenWood Forest Park, Y Felinheli, Gwynedd
A theme park with a difference, GreenWood in North Wales is run along ecological grounds. Not for the idle, the rides are designed to be “people-powered” so you need to be prepared to power them yourself. Among the many attractions, there are also donkey rides, a barefoot trail and a seventy-metre sledge ride. 2016 will see the launch of a new giant water slide, 80 per cent of which will be powered by solar energy. The ride will feature two 60-metre wave chutes and one 90-metre spiral tube.
Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire
This hillside venue (with sister parks at Warrington and Milton Keynes) is the perfect theme park for younger children. There’s a sedate chair lift to take you up the hill, and then there are rides on different levels, including a miniature hot-air balloon Ferris wheel, and a small train on a circular track. Some of the rides aren’t suitable for the very young however there should be plenty to occupy and amuse them. Bear in mind that there are some steep paths, so not every part of the site is fully accessible.
Legoland, Windsor, Berkshire
Legoland has an amazing display of Lego attractions, from miniature versions of London and Paris to the Land of the Vikings and fantastic Duplo Valley Splash Park. There’s tonnes to see and do, just don’t forget your swimming trunks! This park does get very busy at times so it’s worth trying to go “off-peak”, if you can.
M&D’s, Strathclyde Country Park, North Lanarkshire
Branding itself “Scotland’s Theme Park”, M&D’s has a host of white-knuckle rides and kids’ rides, plus M&D’s Indoors: an undercover area with glow-in-the-dark indoor bowling, soft play and seasonal events. There’s also Amazonia: an indoor rainforest experience, complete with animals, birds, snakes, and creepy crawlies galore…
Paultons Family Theme Park, New Forest, Hampshire
Paultons is perhaps best known for having the fantastic Peppa Pig World although there’s so much more to see and do besides that. Rides and rollercoasters, waterparks, gardens and animals, and all on the doorstep of the beautiful New Forest National Park. Perfect for families and particularly for the younger ones.