You’ve got three years to make the most of everything West Yorkshire has to offer – here’s where to start.
Leeds is the best of both worlds. The rolling countryside of Yorkshire is a mere bus ride away, and yet, you also have the bright lights of the city right on your doorstep. It’s an epic adventure, with all manner of unforgettable experiences to tick off, and only a finite amount of time to do it. So without further ado, let us introduce you to your new must-do uni check-list!
Hit street food overload at Chow Down
Over the last few years, Chow Down has become the street food event to be seen at. Come rain or shine, they throw open the gates to Temple Arches and invite you in for an almighty feed. You’ll step into a kaleidoscope of colour, where twee pitched fences sit side-by-side with DIY shelters and a festival-style tent-top (hence the any weather vibe).
And the food, oh man, the food! Burgers oozing with cheese, donuts filled with jammy goodness and chicken thighs encased in a delicious blanket of crispy buttermilk – that’s just the lightest whiff of what’s on the menu. In reality, you won’t know until you go because their revolving line-up of street food vendors changes every week. Favourites like Mor Mor, Sabroso Street and Little Bao Boy have been known to serve amongst the DJs and live music.
Chow Down, Temple Arches, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5QG. Find your line into Leeds city centre here.
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. Take the Headingley line.
Push your stomach to the absolute limit with the Paralyser
When it comes to epic hangover cures, you need look no further than the Greasy Pig cafe. They do a fine line in breakfasts, with all the stodgy, carby meaty (or indeed, totally meat-free) deliciousness you could ever desire. From sausage sarnies to fluffy American pancakes, loaded muffins to giant breakfast subs, there’s something for absolutely everyone here.
But the big daddy of the menu is the Paralyser, a ginormous, stomach-stretching breakfast challenge that will push you to the absolute limit. Challenge your mates and make this your uni claim to fame by polishing off a serving plate piled with food. Four sausages, four pieces of bacon, four eggs, four hash browns and four slices of toast sit alongside a veritable mountain of mushrooms, tomatoes and beans.
Greasy Pig, 74 Victoria Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1DL. Take the Headingley line.
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. Take the Bradford line.
Get your skates on and prove your prowess at Planet Ice
Leeds (finally) has an Ice Rink. You’ll find it on Elland Road, a mere hop, skip and a jump from the football stadium – skating and footie? Well, ain’t that just a match made in heaven? Inside their 2,000-capacity area, a vast ice rink awaits. It’s nearly 1,500 square foot, space enough to skate, spin and even jump, if you’re feeling bold enough.
Of course, you don’t have to be a pro-skater to take a turn. They run a six week Learn to Skate course to help you get started. It costs £66 and includes 30 minutes of group tuition, skate hire, training aids and coach support every week. Once you’ve learned the ropes, you’re free to roam to rink at their public skate session – whizz around, perfect your toe-loop or desperately cling to the sides, it’s sure to be a great day out.
Planet Ice, Elland Road, Beeston, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 0EY. Take the Morley line.
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. Take the Kirkstall 508 line.
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. The 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. Take the Headingley line.
Skip from gig to gig at Live at Leeds
Every year, students come out in droves for the annual Live at Leeds weekender. It’s one of the biggest events on the city’s event calendar, a festival of music that brings the best up-and-coming bands to the stage. This is your chance to see the big hits of tomorrow in an intimate space, as well as catching top bands like Circa Waves, The Reverend and the Makers, Poppy Adjudha and more.
Dress as dapper as you like, but those boots better be made for walking because you’ll be speed-walking between venues. Catch The Big Moon at LUU Stylus, The Orielles at Leeds Beckett, then jump on the bus in an epic race to Brudenell Social Club for the post punk sounds of Hamish Hawk. The line-up changes every year, but the running around? That’s always the same.
Live at Leeds takes place at venues all over the city. Find your line into Leeds city centre here.
Try an immersive cinema experience at 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. Take the Kirkstall line.
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. Haunted Happenings offer late-night exploits that 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 Happenings hold events at Armley Mills, Canal Road, Armley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 2QF. Take the Kirkstall line.
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, huh? 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. Take the Bradford line.
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. Take the Kirkstall line.
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. Take the East Leeds line.
Head into the great outdoors at Otley Chevin Forest Park
Another must-do for nature-lovers is located a mere bus-ride away in Otley. From Leeds it takes less than an hour to reach this 700-acre wedge of glorious greenery, and yet Chevin Forest Park feels 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. Take the Headingley line.
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. Take the Kirkstall line.
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, West Yorkshire, LS29 9RF. Take the Headingley line.
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 that we can’t wait to be reunited with. 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 Chapeltown.
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. Take the Moortown line.
Hot-foot it across the city on the Meanwood Valley Trail
Like the Otley Run, the Meanwood Valley Trail is a right of passage, and definitely something you want to tick off before your university days are up. This 7-mile patchwork of interconnected woodlands, parks and marshes is a voyage of discovery that will reveal parts of Leeds you’d never otherwise see. It’s been split into seven circular routes, but who are you kidding? The challenge is in doing it all in one!
Start at the H.R. Marsden statue, on the junction of Woodhouse Lane and Raglan Road, wander through the old Victorian Promenade, past the site of the former Meanwood Tannery and on to Meanwood Park. But that, dear readers, is not the end. You still have the lush greenery of The Hollies, the old ruins of Scotland Mill and the mysterious carvings of the Slabbering Baby Well ahead of you, as you wind your way towards Golden Acre Park.
Meanwood Valley Trail starts near the junction between Woodhouse Lane and Raglan Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9DZ. Take the Headingley line.
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 will reopen 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 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. Take the Headingley line.
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 wants 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. Take the Kirkstall line.
The colour-coded map that makes bus travel easier
Off out? Then you’ll love the Leeds Core Bus Network. This simple named and colour-coded map brings together 18 of the most popular bus routes in the city, so you can get from A-to-B with minimum effort.
- Named and colour-coded routes show you which bus to catch
- Clear city centre zones make it easy to find the right stop
- Maps, markers and real-time information screens keep you informed