Whether it’s the weekend, the school holidays or just a family day out, you’ll find plenty of things to do with the kids in Leeds…
When it comes to family days out, Leeds always comes through. You’ve got fantastic museums to explore, marvellous immersive theatre experiences and all manner of opportunities to get back to nature, meeting some incredible creatures along the way. So next time you’re looking for things to do with the kids – take a trip to Leeds.
1. Take a walk down a proper Victorian street
One of the most interesting museums in Leeds is Abbey House Museum. You’d never guess from the outside, but within, they’ve created a Victorian high street, complete with old fashioned shops. You can also get a glimpse into homes, as well as taking a peek into the inn and seeing the darker side of history at the undertaker’s. Upstairs, you can introduce the kids to a new world of toys, as the Childhood Galleries showcase an impressive selection of 19th-century doll’s houses, toys and games.
Abbey House Museum, Abbey Walk, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH.
2. Wear out the kids at the trampoline park
If you want to give your little ones a mighty fine day out, wearing them out ready for an early bedtime, head to Oxygen Freejumping. The trampoline park will see the kids jumping, bouncing and springing their way across the huge complex which is home to over 100 interconnected trampolines. Wait, there’s more, because you can also have a go at dodgeball, obstacle courts and the giant airbag – all of which make it perfect for family days out in Leeds.
Oxygen Freejumping, Cardigan Fields Leisure Park, Kirkstall Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS4 2DG.
3. Feed the penguins at Harewood House
On a bright sunny day, you’ll find few better things to do with the kids than a visit to Harewood House. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the city, and with good reason, because as well as the 18th-century house, which is beautiful to behold and full of history, it boasts 100 acres of gardens, perfect for boisterous children to run around in, and an adventure playground that is second to none. The kids will love the bird gardens and the farm but it’s the chance to feed the Humboldt penguins they’ll go home talking about.
Harewood House, Harewood, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS17 9LG.
4. Step into a story at The Rainbow Factory
The Rainbow Factory brings those famous bedtime stories to life for the little ones, in a play centre with a difference. They’ve made it their mission to inspire kids to read, by recreating famous tales like Jack and the Beanstalk and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, offering a host of interactive shows for the little ones to enjoy that bring together crafts, singing, dancing and messy play. When you’re finished there, visit the Gingerbread Cafe for a bite to eat.
The Rainbow Factory, Springfield Commercial Centre, Bagley Lane, Farsley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS28 5LY.
5. Visit one of the last water powered mills in Britain
Thwaite Mills offers the best of both worlds – nature and history all in one. It’s one of the last remaining examples of a water-powered mill in Britain and will give you the chance to see the full force of water in action, as solid rock is ground into paint and putty. Visit the engineer’s workshop to see the equipment they used to repair the mill, nip into the grade II-listed Thwaite House to see what life at the mill was like and head out to the island itself for a walk, a picnic or just to take in the lovely riverside views.
Thwaite Mills, Thwaite Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1RP.
6. Have a scenic picnic at Kirkstall Abbey
Kirkstall Abbey is the jewel in Leeds’ crown. Founded in 1152, it’s one of the finest remaining medieval Cistercian abbeys in Britain – and you can step inside to explore the remains up close. The abbey is set in 24 hectares of parkland, perfect for a scenic picnic, with plenty of space for the kids to run around, play games and generally burn off some energy. There are tennis courts, if you fancy a game, as well as scenic walks for active day-trippers and an adventure playground across the road. And if the weather turns, why not take shelter in Abbey House Museum?
Kirkstall Abbey, Abbey Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH.
7. Visit a farm in the heart of the city
It’s not often that you find a farm in the heart of a bustling city, so if you’re looking for things to do with the kids, Meanwood Valley Urban Farm awaits. They have all manner of marvellous animals for you to meet, with alpacas, cows and sheep, alongside donkeys, guinea pigs and rabbits. It doesn’t end there because you can also take a turn around the bike track, tick off their bird spotting checklist and pop in the cafe for a bite to eat. Before you go, nip to the shop where you can even pick up fresh local produce.
Meanwood Valley Urban Farm, Sugarwell Road, Meanwood, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 2QG.
8. Delve into the gory world of medicine
Got kids that love horrific histories and gory stories? Then you need to pay a visit to Thackray Medical Museum. It’s the epitome of ‘fun learning’ with loads of interactive exhibitions that will teach you a thing or two about the history of medicine, taking you from the rudimental (and often rather grisly) techniques and tools of the Victorian age right through plagues, pregnancy and surgery. Look out for their regular activities, which could see you doing anything from dissecting eyes to making stethoscopes.
Thackray Medical Museum, 141 Beckett Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 7LN. The museum is temporarily closed until late June 2020 for refurbishment but is still hosting events throughout this period.
9. Visit the oldest working railway in the world
Believe it or not, Leeds is home to the oldest working railway in the world. Middleton Railway was founded in 1758 and the former colliery line is still fully functional today, so you can ride the mile-long track from Moor Road to Park Halt. It’s not just the railway itself, though, as you can also dig into the history of railways by visiting their museum, which is home to a host of old steam, diesel and electric locomotives. A fabulous family day out, guaranteed.
Middleton Railway, Moor Road Station, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 2JQ.
10. Paint your own pottery
When the weather’s miserable, why not head indoors at Jackrabbits Pottery? You can round up the kids and head out to this little pottery studio for a day of arty fun. It’s a pretty straightforward set up – you choose from a selection of ceramic pieces made on-site, with everything from mugs and bowls to money boxes and plant pots. Once you’ve made your choice, you can let the kids loose with the paints provided, creating their own unique little piece of art – hand it back when you’re done, so they can glaze and fire it before you pick it up a week later.
Jackrabbits Pottery, 633A Roundhay Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 4BA.
11. Meet the Leeds tiger
Leeds City Museum is great for family days out and there’s loads to discover here, with collections covering everything from the city’s past to life on earth and the ancient world. Along the way, you’ll encounter the iconic Leeds Tiger, a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy that survived a bomb raid and the complete skeleton of a Heavy-footed Moa – the latter can be found in the Leeds Collectors’ Gallery, which is full of weird and wonderful exhibits collected over the years. Look out for their regular exhibitions and events, which include plenty of things for the kids to do.
Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BH.
12. Challenge the kids to a go-karting race
If you want to give the kids a day out they won’t forget, head to Team Sport. It’s the ultimate go-karting experience, with 580 metres of track for you to race around. Expect hairpin turns and speedy straights, as you give the kids a run for their money, putting their video game practice to the test against your real-life driving experience. They offer a range of family experience packages, each of which comes with a full safety briefing, so you know your little ones are in good hands – and if you want to sit it out, they offer kids sessions too.
Team Sport Leeds, South Accommodation Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1NQ.
13. Step into a Tropical World in the middle of a park
This is a bit of a two-in-one scenario. You see, Roundhay Park is a day out in itself, boasting 700 acres of rolling parkland complete with landscaped gardens, lakes, adventure playgrounds, tennis courts and even a skate park. It’s perfect for family days out in Leeds, with loads of adventures to be had – but the great outdoors isn’t the only reason to visit. Roundhay Park is also home to Tropical World, where you’ll find all manner of intriguing creatures, from snakes and tarantulas to crocodiles, meerkats and butterflies. The kids will love wandering around, learning as they go, and the cafe is the perfect spot for a cuppa before or after.
Tropical World, Princes Avenue, Roundhay Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 2ER.
14. Scale the colourful Clip n’ Climb walls
If you want to introduce the little ones to the world of climbing, Clip ’n Climb is the place to go. It’s a family-friendly climbing centre with brightly coloured walls that have special grips which make it easier for kids as young as four to hold on. There are 32 different climbing walls to tackle and you can rest easy knowing their clip-on safety system will keep them secure throughout.
Clip ’n Climb, Unit 3, Tristram Centre, Brown Lane West, Gelderd Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 6BF.
15. See the birds at Lotherton Hall
This Edwardian house and country estate makes for a fabulous family day out in Leeds. There are loads of things to do with the kids, you can look inside the house and chapel or head out to explore the grounds, which cover eight acres promising landscaped gardens, wooded walks and nature trails. The kids will love visiting the bird garden, which is home to 130 different species – and the adventure playground is the perfect place for them to burn off some energy before you head home.
Lotherton Hall, Aberford, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS25 3EB.
16. Go family-friendly paintballing
If it’s a big family adventure you’re after, Live for Today will be more than happy to oblige. This is for big kids only, so everyone taking part will need to be over the age of 12, but if your clan meets those requirements, you’re in for a great day out. You can explore the grounds, which cover a massive 77 acres before you get down to action. Live for Today will take care of everything on the day, providing the guns, the gear and the paintballs, as well as safety briefings and a mission for you to complete together. If you want more, they also offer combo days, which means you can do your paintballing alongside the likes of quad biking and axe throwing.
Hazlewood Castle, Tadcaster, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS24 9NJ.
17. Explore Leeds’ industrial past
Once the largest woollen mill in the world, Armley Mills is now a museum dedicated to the city’s industrial heritage. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find within – it ranges from early engineering feats, like steam locomotives, to remnants from the textiles industry, including the machines that were once used in this historic building. There’s even an old 1920s cinema that’s in full working order – why not catch a show while you’re here? If you fancy a walk, Armley Mills is positioned right beside the Leeds Liverpool Canal, perfect for a leisurely stroll with the family.
Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley Mills, Canal Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 2QF.
18. Step into an immersive theatre experience
Leeds has something you won’t find anywhere else – Sneaky Experience. This innovative organisation creates incredible immersive theatre experiences for all the family, bringing your favourite films to life with characters, activities and fun in unique locations like Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds Town Hall and Millennium Square. They have events on throughout the year, covering everything from Harry Potter to superheroes, space exploration and fairy tales, so there’s sure to be something the whole family will enjoy.
Sneaky Experience holds events throughout the year and various venues across Leeds.
19. Visit the ever-so marvellous Stockeld Park
Did you know that Leeds has its very own adventure park? You can enjoy a whole day of fun at Stockeld Park. It’s home to a host of activities for the kids to get involved in, from go-karting and roller skating to tree climbing and boating. They’ve got not just one, but five adventure playgrounds for the kids to let off a bit of steam on, as well as a maze, an electric scooter track and an inflatable zone.
The Adventure Park, Stockeld Park, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS22 4AN.
20. Take a scenic walk
Leeds may be a thriving city, but it’s also full of green spaces. In fact, Leeds has 21 nature reserves, for you to explore, as well as a wealth of family-friendly walks. You could venture out to Otley Chevin Forest Park to take in the Surprise View or take a turn around the stunning grounds of Temple Newsam, whatever you choose, you’ll have an opportunity to discover why Yorkshire is known as God’s Own Country, without venturing far from the city centre.
21. Delve into the history of weapons and armour
The Royal Armouries is a purpose-built museum, designed to protect and display the National Collection of Arms and Armour alongside The Tower of London and Fort Nelson. It’s home to over 8,500 objects, ranging from suits of armour to swords, spears and arrows – but that’s just the start because they also have their own crossbow range and a special play area called the Jester’s Yard, where the children can get dressed up and play in the castle. Look out for their school holiday events, which see live combat demonstrations taking place in the arena.
Royal Armouries, Armouries Drive, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1LT.
22. Go on a scenic cycling tour
Leeds is a great place to go cycling. If you’ve got younger kids, why not hire bikes and take a ride along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal to Saltaire? It will give you a glimpse of the city’s industrial history, with a few very nice pubs to stop at along the way. You can always jump on a train in Saltaire and be back in Leeds in 15 minutes. Alternatively, if you’ve got big kids and teens, why not take on a section of the Tour de France route? It’ll take you out of the city, towards Harrogate, passing through stunning Yorkshire countryside along the way.
Check out our guide to scenic cycling routes in Leeds…
23. Boogie at a family-friendly rave
Boomchikkaboom’s family-friendly raves are the stuff of legends and you can head down for a boogie every month at Our Place. It’s just as much fun for the adults as it is for the kids. You can throw shapes on the dance floor as big name DJs spin classic dance anthems from the past 30 years. The kids can join in with their own moves and take part in everything from craft workshops to face-painting.
Our Place, Unit 3 Buslingthorpe Green Industrial Estate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 2HG.
24. Play on vintage arcade machines
Arcade Club is video game heaven. It’s a retro gaming centre that welcomes children to step back in time every weekend. They have three floors of old school arcade machines, so you can play classics like Pac-Man, Mario Kart and Space Invaders. And if that’s not enough, they have all the modern consoles for you to play on too.
Arcade Club, Unit 3, Abbey Retail Park, Savins Mill Way, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3RP.
25. Delve into a world of books
The Little Bookshop is one of a kind – it’s the only independent book shop in Leeds that’s dedicated to children. You can pick up everything from picture books to teen fiction, but it’s not just about what you can buy. They host special events that the little ones will love. From author talks to storytime sessions and craft workshops, they know how to make reading fun. It’s even got a cafe that’s just as good for the adults as it is the kids.
The Little Bookshop, 47 Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3PD.Cover image credit LCC Tropical World