You’ve got three years to make the most of everything West Yorkshire has to offer – here’s where to start.
Leeds is the gateway to Yorkshire, which means you now have a world of rolling countryside and natural wonders right on your doorstep, but there’s much more to it than that. Even if you narrow it down to West Yorkshire, you can have a wealth of adventures, with everything from bouldering to adult play, ice skating and all-night horror marathons. Can you do it all before they dot the Is and cross the Ts on your degree?
1. Go ghost hunting at Armley Mills
Throw off the cloak of convention and don the jacket of jitters – you’re going on a ghost hunt. This is not your typical student night out in Leeds, but that’s what makes it so darn fun. Assemble your motley crew and take bets on who’s going to shriek like a banshee first. Loser buys the drinks, it’s only fair.
Plenty of haunted happenings have been reported in Leeds over the years, but when it comes to choosing your spooky spot it has to be Armley Mills. The former woollen mill has been standing since 1788, that’s plenty of time for the ghosts to get really comfortable. A number of companies offer late-night perambulations, most of which include proper ghost hunting kits, seances and all sorts of spooky experiments. Funny or fearsome, that’s up to you, but there’s nothing quite like it for bumps in the night.
Haunted Evenings, Simply Ghost Nights, Haunted Happenings, Haunted Rooms, Dusk Till Dawn and UK Ghost Nights all hold events at Armley Mills. You can get the 33, 34 and 72 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
2. Have a crack at bouldering at Caley Crags
Savvy scramblers get two climbing classics for the price of one at Caley Crags near Otley. The bus drops you off right next to the footpath and within seconds of heading up the bracken hillside you’re in the midst of the Roadside Boulders. Forget lugging your bouldering mat for miles and save your energy for the actual climbing instead. The excellent range of rocky outcrops are always busy, so it’s a great place to buddy up and find new climbing partners.
If you fancy a change of scenery, head to the crags just five minutes further along the hillside. Altogether, there are over 600 boulder problems to get to grips with. The grades range from an easy-peasy f2 all the way to a knuckle-grazing f8B. The views are glorious wherever you choose to lay your mat, although that may pass you by when you’re clinging on for dear life. Perhaps save the sightseeing for the bus journey back, eh?
Caley Crags, Leeds Road, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 3DB. You can get the X84 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
3. Try an immersive cinema experience Kirkstall Abbey
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind encounter to tempt you out of the city centre, don’t miss Sneaky Experience. These guys love a themed party and they go the whole hog to ensure you love it too. Bringing together live cinema, costumed actors, improvised action and props aplenty, they offer nights of total escapism in some of the most stunning locations in the north.
The medieval ruins of Kirkstall Abbey are already breathtaking. But to see them transformed as the backdrop of your favourite film? It’s an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. From casting spells at Hogwarts to ganging up on ghouls with the Ghostbusters, you don’t just get to watch the film, you can be part of it too. Throw in food, cocktails and a few cheery sing-a-longs and you’ll know who to call next time you want an unforgettable experience.
Kirkstall Abbey, Abbey Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH. You can get the 33, 34, 50 or 50A bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
4. Do an all-night horror marathon at Night of the Dead
Popcorn, cushions and blood-curdling screams at the ready – Night of the Dead is a horror fan’s ultimate dream – or should that be worst nightmare? Persuade your bravest bosom buddies to sign up for Leeds International Film Festival’s most iconic all-night scare-athon. This annual event sees a string of must-see horror movies play back-to-back as darkness descends across the city.
Bed down and get ready for gore, jumps and trembles galore. In between the scares, you’re treated to a selection of handpicked horror shorts, prize giveaways and even a competition for who can bring the best-worst scary film with them. It’s a total scream and an absolute must-do. Just make sure you check under your seat before you settle in for the night.
Night of the Dead is held every year at Hyde Park Picture House, 73 Brudenell Road, Hyde Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1JD. You can get the 1, 6, 27, or 28 bus.Get your free First Bus day pass…
5. Explore the National Science and Media Museum
Museums aren’t always high on the list when it comes to student capers, but they absolutely should be. Especially when they’re as ram-jam filled with fun as the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. How many museums do you know that come with a musical laser tunnel? Not many, we bet. And with a bus from Leeds that plonks you right on the museum’s doorstep, it couldn’t be much easier to get there.
This eight-floor behemoth is a tribute to all things science and technology. Get stuck into an entire room loaded with retro video games, see animation in action and get a snapshot of the history of photography. West Yorkshire’s biggest IMAX cinema is here too. Entry to the museum is totally free, including their adult-only late evenings, so you can expand your horizons (or play with the lasers) for next to nothing. Bargain!
National Science and Media Museum, Pictureville, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 1NQ. You can get the X6 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
6. Overdose on Computer Games at Arcade Club
If you’ve been living in Leeds without realising there’s a veritable gaming sensation on the city’s outskirts, then it’s probably time to reconsider your life choices. Arcade Club is a Nintendo nirvana, a Sega sanctuary and a PlayStation paradise. Venture out on the bus and within half an hour you’ll be rewarded with three whole floors filled with, wait for it, over 200 games!
Let loose after a long week of lectures with classic arcade shooters, retro favourites, Japanese rhythm games and even bang-up-to-date virtual reality releases. Spend time with old friends (hello, Pac-Man) or go freestyle on some of the titles you’ve never had the chance to try before – all for just £16. The beauty of Arcade Club is that once you’re in, you’re free to try out as many games as you like, for as long as you like. The only limit is your imagination. And the closing time, obviously.
Arcade Club, Unit 3, Abbey Retail Park, Savins Mill Way, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3RP. You can get the 35, 49, 50, 50A or 508 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
7. Embrace your inner child at grown up lates at Eureka!
You may have flown the nest, but there’s one West Yorkshire gem that lets all your childhood fantasies come true. We’re talking robots, lasers and flaming sound waves. Eureka! may be a children’s museum, but on very special occasions, they allow adults in after-hours for first dibs on all their amazing exhibits. That’s right, you don’t have to wait for those pesky kids to finish, it’s all yours!
Eureka! has six colourful zones, each packed with interactive exhibits on all things science. Your inner toddler will be happy as Larry getting hands-on with their displays on space, the human body and desert discovery. But to cap it all off there are bonus demonstrations, group games and… a pop-up bar. Swap the Ribena for booze and then spend the entire bus ride home napping off the excitement.
Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, Discovery Road, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX1 2NE. You can get the 508 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
8. Race through the treetops at Go Ape at Temple Newsam
Your time at uni will no doubt involve plenty of days simply hanging out with mates. But when the same old sofa-and-takeaway suggestion just isn’t cutting it, there’s one West Yorkshire experience that takes ‘hanging around’ to a whole new level. Welcome to Go Ape, the exhilarating high rope course that lets you play monkey for the day.
Gather your boldest buddies, jump on the bus and swing by for hours of adrenaline-fuelled fun. A whole range of giddy obstacles await here, like tree-to-tree zip lines, swinging rope bridges and sky-high stepping stones. Fancy finishing on a real nail-biter? The Tarzan swing and free-fall plummet are the big daddies of the course and will make sure your scream reflex is in proper working order.
Go Ape, Temple Newsam Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS15 0AD. You can get the 19 or 19A bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
9. Enjoy a colour explosion at Holi Festival
Every spring, the Indian Student Association (ISA) at Leeds University welcomes all cultures together to mark Holi. This ancient Hindu festival, also known as the ‘festival of colours’, celebrates the triumph of good over evil through togetherness, friendship and a giant, no-holds-barred party. Good times are at the heart of Holi festival and the annual nine-hour phenomenon ISA serves up doesn’t disappoint.
Yummy street food paves the way for a day filled with live music, DJs and dancing. But that’s not all, because Holi’s reputation as the festival of colour means you can expect something pretty spectacular. Vibrant coloured powders are on hand to be smeared, launched and generally revelled in until you’re covered from head to toe. Sure it’s a little messy, but more than anything, it’s a riot of colour unlike anything you’ve seen before. Don’t miss out.
Leeds Holi Festival is held at Church Leeds, 177-179 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AR. You can get the 1, 6, 27 or 28 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
10. Ooh and ahh at Bonfire Night at Roundhay Park
For a welcome show of snap, crackle and pop on Bonfire Night, your first port of call has to be Roundhay Park. You may be tempted by Woodhouse Moor, and indeed, it’s a worthy choice, but you haven’t done Firework’s Night until you’ve done Roundhay. This 700-acre sanctuary is already a green-fingered favourite, but to see the park after dark, thrumming with locals, upturned faces illuminated as the sky is set ablaze with fireworks of every colour… it’s magical.
Its popularity is testament to its success. You’ll find students, families, friends and visitors all turn out to enjoy this giant display, one of the biggest and best in Yorkshire. It remains blessedly free, so round up your mates, don your thermals and get ready to be part of a 70,000 strong crowd oohing and ahhing at the spectacular show. And when you realise you can no longer feel your toes, you’ll know it’s time make a dash to The Roundhay Fox for a warming pint in front of the fire.
Roundhay Park, Mansion Lane, off Princes Avenue, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 2HH. You can get the 2, 12, 13 or 13A bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
11. Take in the natural wonder that is Cow and Calf
High on the hills overlooking Ilkley, sits the Cow and Calf. You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing too special about a bovine family in the countryside, but these two beauties are in fact a rather impressive rock formation. Famous in the area, it’s worth a bus ride out to admire these local legends, scramble their rocky faces and survey the striking 360 degree views from the top.
Rumour has it that these rocks were first separated when the giant Rombald stamped on them as he fled an enemy. Whether you believe this tall tale or not, it remains a prime spot to soak in the surroundings and meander the plentiful walking routes nearby. What’s more, you can round off your day’s adventure in the best possible way – by downing a pint or two at the Cow & Calf pub just across the road. Bottoms up!
Cow and Calf, Hangingstone Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8BT. You can catch the X84 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
12. Experience the wonders of virtual reality at VR-Immersion
As a child, did you imagine the future – people jetting around on rocket boots and entering magical worlds via electronic headsets? Those boots may still be a work in progress, but virtual reality has become, well, a reality. You’ll find one of the best experiences at VR-Immersion, where they use the latest HTC Vive headsets to transport you into a range of mesmerising games.
Dozens of titles are ready and waiting for you to try out. Test the waters with a jolly trip into outer space or go full throttle in a zombie apocalypse. There’s even a choice of sharp-shooting multi-player games so you can go head-to-head against your friends. You may be willing to blast them into oblivion during the action, but don’t forget to kiss and make up over some popcorn in the lounge afterwards.
VR-Immersion, Black Dyke Mills, Unit 22 Sf, Brighouse Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD13 1QA. You can get the 576 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
13. Head into the great outdoors at Otley Chevin Forest Park
Another must-do for nature-lovers is located just down the road in Otley. From Leeds it takes less than an hour to reach this 700-acre wedge of glorious greenery, and yet Chevin Forest Park could be a million miles away from the city. It’s a worthy day trip, a designated nature reserve with a magnificent outlook over the Wharfe Valley.
As is typical of this area of West Yorkshire, you’ll find heather-heavy moorland and rocky outcrops aplenty. It’s a dramatic sight – moody and atmospheric in winter, bursting with colour during the summer. The eastern side of the park is also home to wild forest. Pick a path and wander, see how many wood carvings you can spot among the trees and don’t forget to stop off at Surprise View before you leave. Yes, the views from here are stunning, but it’s the ice cream you’re really after.
Otley Chevin Forest Park, East Chevin Road, Otley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS21 3HB. You can get the X84 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
14. Get your skates on at Ice Cube
Winter wonderlands don’t come much cooler than Ice Cube. It transforms Millennium Square into a full-on frosty fairground every February. Just as you’re knuckling down to tackle your spring term studies, Ice Cube is popping up to provide the perfect way to let your hair down in between assignments.
The main attraction is undoubtedly the big old ice skating rink right slap bang in the centre. It’s too tempting to resist grabbing a pair of skates to hit the ice. Or wobble across the ice. Or perhaps fall flat on your face on the ice. Hey, it’s all part of the fun! When you’ve finished channeling Torvill and Dean, embrace the chill even further by jumping on a bunch of rides, from 75-foot high spinners to the slippery Ice Slide.
Ice Cube is at Millennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 1UR. You can get the 1, 1A, 1B, 6, 27 and 28 bus to Leeds city centre. Get your free First Bus day pass…
15. Go rambling on Ilkley Moor
Nothing blows off the study cobwebs quite like an open air escapade with your chums at Ilkley Moor. Sitting over 400 metres above sea level and criss-crossed with walking routes, it’s home to some of Yorkshire’s most stunning scenery. Jump off the bus in Ilkley, grab a sandwich or visit the countryside twin to Leeds’ very own North Bar, then it’s just a 10 minute stroll up to the moor itself.
Strewn with rocks for climbing, streams for hopping and routes for hiking, you can return time and time again without ever getting bored. It’s ideal for friends on the hunt for an outdoor adventure, but Ilkley Moor is an equally magical companion for those who seek solitude. At the end of it all, no matter which route you take or which way you look, you’re faced with those far-reaching views in every direction. How lucky we are to call this home.
Ilkley Moor, Ilkley LS29 9RF. You can get the X84 bus to Ilkley Bus Station. Get your free First Bus day pass…
16. Feast on tasty morsels at Leeds Indie Food Festival
If you love to snack, there’s one feeding frenzy in West Yorkshire that needs to be top of your list. You simply haven’t had a proper taste of Leeds’ legendary food scene until you’ve hit up the annual Leeds Indie Food Festival. Whether you’re hoping to nibble on something new, or just want to stuff your face with your favourites, there’s no better time to do it.
This wonder brings together the city’s best-loved independent bars and eateries for a smorgasbord of succulent events, from street food extravaganzas to intimate supper clubs, mammoth tasting menus to drink masterclasses. Your favourites are almost certainly involved, but with so many one-off activities, it’s a marvellous chance to taste them in a whole new light. We’ll cheers to that.
Leeds Indie Food Festival takes over the city’s restaurants every May. You can get the 1, 1A, 1B, 6, 27 and 28 to Leeds city centre. Get your free First Bus day pass…
17. Get a reet-good soaking at Yeadon Tarn
Water babies, if you haven’t yet discovered the joys of Yeadon Tarn, chuck your trunks on and take a bus there, pronto. This freshwater lake is home to the Leeds Sailing and Activity Centre, where you can wet your whistle with a variety of water sports. Want to play captain for the day aboard your very own sailboat? Check. Fancy hopping in a kayak for a bicep workout? Check. Ready to practice your balance skills on a stand-up paddle board? Check and double check.
It’s a must for anyone who loves to combine their love of sport with a passion for the outdoors. Once you’ve had a dunk, there’s even more to explore back on dry land. Around the tarn, the 17 hectares of parkland include a BMX track if you’re feeling racy and plenty of duck feeding opportunities if you’re more bill-seeker than thrill-seeker. Look up and you may also see planes coming into land from nearby Leeds Bradford Airport.
Yeadon Tarn, Cemetery Road, Yeadon, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS19 7BB. You can get the 34 or 27 bus to. Get your free First Bus day pass…
18. Try your hand at axe throwing at Timberjacks
You know that well-known phrase – nothing says party like an axe-throwing party? Ok, no one says that, but they should because when it comes to bonkers group activities, Timberjacks more than cuts the mustard. Think of it like bowling, except with wooden target boards instead of pins, axes instead of bowling balls and with a lot more safety instructions.
The aim is simple. Muster your mates, take over the ten lanes and see who’s got what it takes to hurl their axe straight into the bulls eye. Playtime lasts between 45-75 minutes, so you’ve got plenty of opportunities to perfect your catapult. When you do, extra challenges await with the option to turn your target into a paper zombie or dangling apple instead. Plaid shirts are optional, axe puns are obligatory. What are you waiting for? Chop chop.
TimberJacks, Flexspace Unit H, Burley Hill Trading Estate, Burley Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2PU. You can get the 49,50 or 50A bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
19. Line the street to watch Leeds West Indian Carnival
Any student that loves to party should have the last Monday in August circled in their diaries. Why? Because this is the date of the annual Leeds West Indian Carnival, an explosion of culture, music, costume and booty-shaking entertainment. It’s a feast for the eyes. Pick a prime spot to jiggle along to the colourful carnival line that begins in Potternewton Park and snakes its way through Harehills and Chapletown.
Bringing festival fever to Leeds since 1967, Leeds West Indian Carnival is a rite of passage that’s blossomed far beyond the parade itself. Carnival Day brings signature Caribbean street food favourites (holy moly, don’t miss the fried plantain), dazzling costumes and a whole lot of music. Steel pan bands, live DJs, trumpets, horns and whistles – it’s all here. A vibrant celebration of culture, this is one loud, proud event sure to spice up your student life.
Leeds West Indian Carnival begins at Potternewton Park, Harehills Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 4HA. You can get the 2, 3, 3A or 91 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…
20. Take a dip in the great outdoors at Ilkley Lido
Summer hasn’t officially begun until you’ve had a paddle in Ilkley Lido. This ginormous outdoor pool is open from May through to September and there’s no finer way to salute the sun’s appearance than with a celebratory dip. Surrounded by West Yorkshire’s rolling hills, plus picnic areas aplenty, it’s only an hour by bus and yet feels like a complete countryside escape. There’s even a heated indoor pool if you’re not quite brave enough for an al fresco frolic.
Bring your favourite cossie, a sackful of snacks and spend a happy day swimming, relaxing and generally forgetting about all your responsibilities back at uni. Understandably, it can get a bit chocka during the school holidays. But if you time your visit wisely (term time is your friend) there’s masses of space to enjoy your splishing and sploshing in relative peace.
Ilkley Lido, Denton Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 0BZ. You can get the X84 bus. Get your free First Bus day pass…Cover image © Copyright Leeds-List 2019 by Ali Turner