Looking for free children’s activities? You’re in luck, Leeds has loads of family days out that won’t cost you a penny to suit every taste and age group, and we’ve rounded up 20 of the very best for you.
Days out with the kids can break the bank really quickly, so you’ll be pleased to know there are a tonne of cheap family activities on offer all around Leeds, from family art workshops to horse sanctuaries and nature reserves. For an action-packed day out without spending a penny, try one of these…
Leeds City Museum
If you’re looking for ways to keep your little ones entertained, head to Leeds City Museum. It’s got 540 million years of history under one roof, so there’s loads to keep them busy. Take a trip back in time to meet the Egyptian mummy Nesyamun or see how the city has changed in recent years – there’s something for every age group.
Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BH.
Cow & Calf Rocks
Want a gentle walk through picturesque scenery? The whole family will love the Cow & Calf Rocks. Nestled in Ilkley Quarry up on the moors, the rocky outcrop overhangs a smaller boulder and is said to look like a cow protecting its calf. Bring the kids, clamber around and enjoy the unspoilt scenery for a relaxing day out.
Cow & Calf Rocks, Ilkley Moor, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9RF
One of Leeds’ most popular art galleries, there’s plenty of fun for the whole family at The Tetley. For toddlers under five, pop along to Tiny Tetley, where they do everything from big drawings to finger painting to keep them occupied. For older children, their family art workshops include book-making, robot designs, printing and more – so let their creativity soar.
The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1JQ.
Horses, ponies, donkeys and even a resident mule. Introduce the kids to the joy of animals early at Hope Pastures sanctuary, where you’ll find the friendliest four-legged fillies you’ll ever meet. From Coco the brown donkey to Cloud the miniature Shetland pony, this is sure to put a smile on the little one’s faces – the hardest part will be not adopting one!
Hope Pastures, Westwood Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 5PH.
Have a hoot as you search for the 25 hidden owls that make up Leeds’ famous Owl Trail. Download the map or pick one up from the Art Gallery, then keep your eyes peeled to see if you can spot all of them. Hint – look up! If you want to show your kids more of the city, this is the perfect way to do it, and it’s completely free.
The Leeds Owl Trail starts at Millennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BH.
The Little Bookshop
As you might expect from Leeds’ only independent children’s bookshop, story time at The Little Bookshop is amazing. At 11am every weekday morning, pop in and see your youngster’s eyes light up with wonder as they hear stories about pirates, nature and everything in between. Once it’s done, you can treat them to a juice or a slice of cake at their great little cafe.
The Little Bookshop, 47 Harrogate Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3PD.
With 22 nature reserves across Leeds at last count, there are almost too many to cover, but rest assured – every single one makes for a cracking family day out. From the enormous variety of birds that flock to Farnley Hall Fishpond to the staggering beauty of St Aidan’s 400-hectare nature park, you simply can’t go wrong.
Outlaws Yacht Club
A Leeds bar may not be a traditional family day out, but Outlaws Yacht Club might just surprise you. Grab the kids a juice or a milkshake from the bar and maybe something stronger for yourself, then pick a free board game from their enormous selection or draw on their child-friendly wall. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can while away the hours.
Outlaws Yacht Club, 38 New York Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DY.
This 700-acre slice of paradise is one of the most popular family haunts in Leeds, and with oodles of activities at no cost, it’s no wonder. Take the kids for a wander around the lake or the gorge and see what animals you can spot, before finding a sunny spot for a family picnic or a game of hide and seek. With tennis courts, adventure playgrounds and even a skate park, you won’t run out of things to do.
Roundhay Park, Princes Avenue, Roundhay, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS8 1DF.
From jousting and falconry to axes and armour, Royal Armouries promises a fascinating and child-friendly glimpse into the past. It’s one of the best free things to do with the kids in Leeds, with six galleries covering everything from War and Self Defence to Oriental and Hunting. For the ultimate family day out, don’t forget to take them there on the water taxi, which is free for under fives and just £1 for everyone else.
The Royal Armouries, Armouries Drive, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1LT.
Leeds Urban Bike Park
The Leeds Urban Bike Park has quickly become one of the most popular destinations for sporty families. The park has something to suit every age group and skill level, from the gentler pump and mini-pump tracks to the more intense BMX and downhill tracks. It’s free to ride on your own bike and they have a great little cafe, so you can enjoy a toastie and cuppa while keeping an eye on your little ones.
Leeds Urban Bike Park, Middleton Park Bike Hub Ring Road, Beeston Park, Leeds, LS10 3TN.
Leeds Central Library
Introduce your youngsters to the joys of reading early with the unbelievable selection of children’s books at Leeds Central Library. What truly sets this library apart, though, is their packed events calendar, which includes football sticker swaps, story and rhyme sessions and even Lego building workshops. When they’ve had their fill, head outside for giant chess.
Leeds Central Library, Calverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB.
The Lines Way
A few years ago, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust teamed up with the Council to transform four miles of the old Garforth to Castleford railway branch into The Lines Way, a leafy green trail that’s simply perfect for a family stroll. The path passes four different nature reserves, Letchmire Pastures, Townclose Hills, Hollinghurst Wood and Owl Wood and Pit Plantation – and there’s tonnes of wildlife everywhere you look along the way.
The Lines Way, Leeds, West Yorkshire, WF10 2AF.
Golden Acre Park
When the sun is shining, Golden Acre Park is the perfect choice for a full day of exploring with the kids. From the large lake packed with swans and ducks, to the bird-watching shelters and greenhouses full of rare plants – this 55-acre paradise has plenty to keep the whole family busy. Don’t forget the cafe and restaurant if you need a bite to eat after.
Golden Acre Park, Arthington Rd, Bramhope, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 8BQ.
There are so many free things to do with the kids at Yeadon Tarn that you might have trouble working out where to start. It’s just 40 minutes from Leeds city centre and the enormous lake full of wildlife is just the beginning. There’s a packed adventure playground, BMX track and even French boules to try out after feeding the ducks.
Yeadon Tarn, Yeadon, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS19 7UR.
Meanwood Valley Trail
Shaped like a leaping fish, the seven-mile Meanwood Valley Trail is a unique family day out, with the chance to learn about Leeds’ fascinating history as you go. Starting from the statue of historic Leeds mayor H.R. Marsden, follow the path past Victorian hotspot Woodhouse Ridge, Tannery Park and even Alwoodley Crags – which was supposedly the site of pagan worship in the distant past.
Meanwood Valley Trail starts near the junction between Woodhouse Lane and Raglan Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9DZ.
Woodhouse Moor Skatepark
Skateboarding is a great way to teach kids about balance and instinct early on, just like riding a bike. Plus, it’s enormous fun too, so why not pop down to Woodhouse Moor Skatepark for a dynamic day out? Make sure you bring safety pads and a blanket, so they can practise without getting hurt, and enjoy a family picnic afterwards too.
Woodhouse Moor Skatepark, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AP.
Chevin Forest Park
Not your usual forest, if you’re looking for free things to do with the kids, Chevin Forest Park in Leeds is just the place. With trails and footpaths a-plenty, and even bouldering for older children, you can explore to your heart’s content. Just make sure you seek out the ‘Surprise View’, as the panoramic scene over Otley makes the trip worthwhile.
Chevin Forest Park, East Chevin Road, Otley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS21 3HB.
Home to over 1 million objects from Leeds’ collections, the Discovery Centre is free for the whole family – you just have to book in advance. With exhibitions including everything from world celebrations and frightening animals to meteorites and masks, it’s well worth the effort, so bring the family and enjoy a day of exploring.
Leeds Discovery Centre, Carlisle Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1LB.
Kirkstall Abbey stands on 24 hectares of land, just next to the River Aire, which makes it the perfect outdoor adventure for the little ones. You can roam around the ruins, settle down for a picnic or follow the 1 kilometre trail. If you’re willing to put your hand in your pocket, more fun awaits at Abbey House, a family-friendly museum with a life-size Victorian street.
Kirkstall Abbey, Abbey Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH.Cover image credit Royal Armouries.