Want to treat the kids without breaking the bank? Check out these budget-friendly days out for the whole gang in Leeds.
A city full of art, culture and history, Leeds is a great place for a family day out – even if you’re on a budget. And to prove it, we’ve rounded up 15 awesome activities you can get stuck into with the kids that won’t cost the earth. From amazing farms in the middle of the city to nationally-renowned museums filled with awesome weaponry, there’s something for every family on this list, so read on and plan your next adventure.
Swithens is a family-run farm that’s not only kid-friendly, but wallet-friendly too. Entry is £6 and there’s plenty to keep the brood entertained all day. You can visit your farmyard favourites like cows, pigs, donkeys, sheep and goats, while the little ones can meet even more cute and fluffy creatures at the petting farm. There’s also a few more unusual residents you can say hello to, including a group of turtles and a pair of emus. When you’re done, head to the on-site cafe for a bite to eat.
Hope Pastures is a wonderful horse, donkey and pony sanctuary tucked away in Weetwood. You can bring the kids to visit the paddocks for free, where the rescue animals will be playing in the fields. For the truly horse-obsessed, check out their pony pampering sessions. The little ones will meet the sanctuary’s friendliest residents, then get hands-on with grooming. All they ask for is a £5 donation to the rehabilitation centre to help them continue their good work.
St Aidan’s Nature Reserve
Round up the kids, pull on their wellies and head to St Aidan’s for a cheap family day out in the great outdoors. It’s a stunning 400-hectare RSPB nature reserve and there are loads of fantastic walks you can do, from the woodland Lowther Loop to the picturesque and pushchair-friendly Bowers Lake. There will be plenty of muddy puddles to splash in along the way and keep your eyes peeled for all the cool birds hiding in the reeds and trees. There’s often sightings of bitterns, skylarks, harriers and short-eared owls.
Armley Mills is a historic woollen mill that’s home to Leeds Industrial Museum. It’s jam-packed with interesting exhibits that tell the story of the city’s great industrial heritage from the 18th century right up to the present day. The little ones can wander around the milling room and even see the old watermill. Don’t miss the Palace Picture House either. It’s a tiny 1920s cinema that seats just 24 people. They have screenings of family favourites that are included in your ticket to the museum, which costs £10 for family groups.
Meanwood Valley Urban Farm
A slice of the countryside in the city, Meanwood Valley Urban Farm is a fantastic cheap day out for animal-obsessed families. This 24-acre working farm is home to fluffy alpacas, ginger Dexter cows and rare-breed sheep. You can meet them all and even feed their family of greedy goats. There are plenty of woodland trails and wildlife gardens to explore after you’ve seen the animals. It’s free entry for youngsters, £2 for adults and 50p for feeds – your money goes straight back into the farm too.
Thwaite Mills is a picturesque old mill set on an island in the River Aire. There’s plenty to do and the whole family can spend the day exploring the mill and its beautiful grounds for just £10. This huge watermill has been lovingly restored and you can see it in working action – you might even catch a live demo of its stone-grinding power in the engineer’s house. You can also visit the Georgian mill cottage to get a glimpse of how the workers lived and outside you can take a stroll along beautiful riverside paths.
Founded in 1758, Middleton Railway is the world’s oldest working railway and it makes for a fantastic family day out that won’t cost the earth. You can wander around the engine hall for free – it’s been transformed into a museum where you can see their old-school locomotives up close and learn about the history of the railways. To top the day off, why not go for a ride on one of their steam engines or diesel trains? Family tickets are £18 and during the school holidays they run a Kids for a Quid service.
The Middleton Railway Museum, Moor Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 2JQ. Train rides take place on weekends and on Wednesdays in school holidays. Pre-booking online is advised. Find out about their new safety measures.
Leeds Owl Trail
If you want to get the kids out and about on the cheap, why not take on the Leeds Owl Trail? The wise old owl is an icon of Leeds and there are over 25 spread across the city. Follow the official trail from Millennium Square down to the River Aire and see how many you can spot perched on local landmarks like Kirkgate Market and the Corn Exchange. It’s a fun twist on a treasure hunt and a great way to explore the city for free. So what are you waiting for? Get the map online and get going.
The Owl Trail starts at Millennium Square, Calverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 UR.
Leeds City Museum
Over 3000 years of history awaits at Leeds City Museum and you can learn all about it without paying a penny. It’s home to an eclectic collection of artefacts and there’s plenty to keep the kids on their toes, from a man-eating tiger to the spine-tingling mummy Nesyamun. They have intriguing exhibitions on the city’s heritage and its unlikely links to Asia, but don’t miss the natural history collection – you can get up close to a whopping great whale skeleton and the remains of a pre-historic Moa bird.
The Royal Armouries
Home to the National Collection of Arms and Armour, The Royal Armouries is one of the best museums in the country and it’s absolutely free. There are five floors to explore, with an impressive array of swords, guns and military artefacts that’s sure to make the little one’s jaws drop. Don’t miss the huge elephant armour or the dizzying Hall of Steel, a glass tower that displays over 2,000 weapons. They have loads of kid-friendly events on throughout the year, including epic live-action demos that bring the history of combat to life.
The Tetley is a contemporary art gallery where the whole family is welcome. It’s free to enter and you can see cutting-edge work from local artists at their exhibitions. In the past, they’ve showcased everything from abstract sculpture to modern audiovisual projects. They run regular family art workshops at the weekends, so the kids can unleash their creativity and get stuck into clay modelling, painting and more. You can refuel with an affordable family meal at The Bar & Kitchen – they serve pub classics and have a great kids menu.
Why not spend the day at Roundhay Park? It’s one of the largest urban parks in Europe and with over 700-acres to nosey around, there’s plenty to keep the brood entertained without splashing any cash. The youngsters will have a ball in the adventure playgrounds, while older kids can whizz about the skate park. There’s also free tennis courts, landscaped gardens and loads of walking trails. Go for a wander around the beautiful Waterloo Lake – the kids can spot wild birds like woodpeckers and herons along the way.
Tropical World is a miniature indoor zoo where you can get up close to a wonderful array of exotic critters. Start in the Butterfly House and see if you can spot all 30 species fluttering by. Watch out for the croc too! You’ll then get to visit five other habitats and see loads of cool creatures along the way, like endangered cotton-top monkeys, brightly-coloured dart frogs and lively meerkats. Fun and educational, it’s a day out the whole family can enjoy for a snip at £3.60 for kids and £7.20 for grown ups.
Temple Newsam is a Tudor-Jacobean mansion that you can spend the whole day exploring with the kids. You’ll get to discover the secrets of the historic families that once lived there as you venture through the magnificent rooms. And that’s just the half of it – outside there are spectacular grounds, including a walled garden and Home Farm, where the little ones can meet some furry friends. With 500 years of history to soak up and cute animals to see, there’s something for everyone and the whole family can visit for £20.
Kirkstall Abbey & Abbey House Museum
A dramatic and ruined Cistercian monastery, Kirkstall Abbey is one of the city’s most spectacular landmarks and it’s free to visit. Adventurous youngsters will have a great time investigating every nook and cranny of the ruins. Why not make a day of it and bring a picnic to enjoy in the grounds of the abbey, then head to Abbey House Museum? They’ve recreated a Victorian street that you can stroll down and take in the sights of 19th-century Leeds. TA family ticket is just £12.
Kirkstall Abbey, Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH & Abbey House Museum, Abbey Walk, Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH. Walk ins are welcome. Find out about their new safety measures.Cover image credit: LCC Tropical World