Leeds has got loads of free activities for kids, from exploring the city’s great parks to making friends with donkeys.
Family days out don’t have to be expensive. In fact, with these activities, you don’t have to put your hand into your pocket at all. Whether you’re entertaining tiny tots or pre-teens, there’s something for everyone. We’re talking riding the trails at a bike park, discovering fascinating works at an art gallery and hunting bugs in the undergrowth, all without spending a penny.
Leeds City Museum
Leeds City Museum is a great family-friendly day out that doesn’t cost a thing. There are four floors and six galleries to explore, ranging from extinct animals and archaeological finds to stories of the city and our links to Asian culture. You can see the famous Leeds tiger, an Egyptian mummy that survived a bombing and the shiny gold rings from the West Yorkshire Hoard. Exhibitions change regularly, so there’s always something new to see, as well as free craft workshops during the school holidays to keep the kids busy.
Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BH.
Who doesn’t love seeing horses? At Hope Pastures, you can take the kids to say hello to the gee-gees without reaching for your wallet. They’re a charity that looks after horses, donkeys and ponies in need of rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming. You and the little ones will meet all the crazy characters who won’t be afraid to nuzzle you with a soft nose or greet you with a friendly whinny. Learn the best ways to look after your new found equine friends, sip on a hot drink as you wander round and grab a yummy bite from the cafe.
Hope Pastures, Westwood Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 5PH.
Roundhay Park is one of the biggest city parks in Europe and it’s packed with great things to do with the kids, with over 700 acres to explore. You can hunt bugs in the wet woodlands, feed the ducks and swans on the lakes or smell flowers in the formal gardens. There are playgrounds to enjoy, a skatepark to practice ollies on and sports areas to play football, rugby or tennis in. Take one of the five trails around the park and you can even check out the gorge, the castle ruins or the mansion. Even the parking is free!
Roundhay Park, Roundhay, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 2ER.
One of the best free things to do with kids in Leeds, Royal Armouries is brimming with cool stuff to learn about. It houses the UK’s national collection of arms and armour and they’ve got five galleries with loads of incredible objects on display. They take you on a journey through how conflict and war have shaped the way we live through history. Don’t miss the ‘Writhen Hilt’ sword with its beautiful, entwined branches, the ornately engraved LePage-Moutier double shotgun and the endlessly fascinating vampire-killing kit.
Royal Armouries, Armouries Drive, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1LT.
Leeds Urban Bike Park
Tire out your little ones with a day at the free Leeds Urban Bike Park. You and the kids can spend the whole day practicing your skills on two wheels without worrying about cost. It’s open to all, whether you’re confident on a bike or not. There are several trails, ranging from the easy green run to the tricky red run designed for mountain bikers with good off-roading skills. There are challenging climbs and drop offs, as well as rocks, bridges and jumps. You can even practice your BMX skills on the dedicated track.
Leeds Urban Bike Park, Ring Road, Beeston Park, Middleton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 3TN.
Chevin Forest Park
Fancy some epic scenery and interesting wildlife? Chevin Forest Park has got both in spades. It’s a nature reserve, with incredible views across Otley and the Wharfe Valley from the top of the Chevin. At 280 metres above sea level, they say you can see 40 miles out on a clear day. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot the Green Hairstreak butterfly that likes to call the Chevin home – take the Woodcock Walk and spot the camouflage expert in amongst the bushes while listening to a poem by Matthew Hedley Stoppard.
Otley Chevin Forest Park, East Chevin Road, Otley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS21 3HB.
Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery that was left to crumble after Henry VIII had his way. What remains of it is beautiful to behold, whatever the season. The ruins are so picturesque that they’ve even been immortalised by JMW Turner, among others. Today, it’s one of the best free things to do with kids in Leeds. You can explore the abbey and imagine how the monks might have lived, take a stroll by the River Aire and visit the playground. Bringing a picnic and enjoying it in the abbey grounds is practically mandatory.
Kirkstall Abbey, Abbey Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH.
Leeds Art Gallery
There’s no two ways about it, kids love art and Leeds Art Gallery has got one of the finest collections of 20th-century British art in the country, so it’s a no-brainer. Inspire little minds to think about ideas big and small or to explore their own creative outlets. There’s the mural by Götz made up of colourful triangles going up the original Victorian staircase. You can even get them to think in 3D with sculptures, like the Leeds Brick Man maquette by Anthony Gormley and the Reclining Figure by Henry Moore. The best bit? It’s all free!
Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AA.
Woodhouse Moor Skatepark
Looking for free things to do with the kids in Leeds? Woodhouse Moor Skatepark is the perfect way to spend the day. It’s one of the most popular in the city, with three areas to ride on, full of quarter pipes, spine ramps, flat banks, rails and more. The surfaces are smooth and fast too. Whether your kids are obsessing over their skateboard, scooter or BMX, they’ll have an absolute ball here. The patrons are friendly and the surrounding areas are flat, making it a great place to try out new wheels for wobbly skaters.
Woodhouse Moor Skatepark, Woodhouse Moor, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AP.
The Tetley is a cultural hub of contemporary art. Whatever your age, there’s something to captivate you here. There are two exhibition spaces across two floors, showcasing interesting and important modern artists from across the UK. In the past, they’ve showcased the likes of Holly Hendry’s underground tunnel sculptures and the legacy of the Leeds West Indian Carnival through their vibrant costumes and music. There are plenty of family friendly events and craft workshops to take part in as well, with experts in sensory play.
The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1JQ.
Cow and Calf Rocks
Got adventurous little ones? If the kids love getting out into nature, a trip to see the Cow and Calf Rocks (also known as the Hangingstone Rocks) has to be on the list. High up on Ilkley Moor, it’s a big rocky outcrop (the Cow) with a boulder sitting nearby (the Calf). The legend goes that Rombald the giant split the rocks as he fled from an enemy – his angry wife, according to rumour! Walk between them and even climb to the top to appreciate the views. You can take a picnic or there’s a cosy pub close by!
Cow and Calf Rocks, Hangingstone Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8BT.
Leeds Owl Trail
If you’d prefer to stay closer to home, the Owl Trail is one of the best free things to do with kids in Leeds city centre. Owls are on the city’s coat of arms, not only have they’ve become a symbol of Leeds, but they’re everywhere. Kids will love searching for the wise old birds – they could be on top of gateposts, on the eaves of buildings or woven into tapestries. Grab a map, follow the trail and discover the history of the city. There are two trails, one with 10 stops, and another that has a further 15, all with a unique owl or two to find!
The Owl Trail starts at Millennium Square, Calverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 UR.
Want to explore the countryside on your doorstep? You need only head to one of the city’s many nature reserves. There are 19 in total, each with something different to offer. We’re talking ancient woodlands, colourful meadows, sites of Geological and Ecological Importance and more. You and the kids could be bug hunting at Denso Marston, bird spotting at St Aidans or identifying plants and flowers at Hollinghurst Wood. Why not make it your mission to visit them all? Don’t forget to pack your picnic!
Leeds Central Library
A library is a treasure trove of adventure and discovery for kids (and adults too). You can explore new worlds and learn about your favourite subjects – all with the power of your imagination. It doesn’t cost a thing to read at the library or even to take the books to enjoy at home. The best bit? No late fees! They put on family-friendly events on too, from a Code Club for older kids on Saturday mornings to Story & Rhyme at your local library for little ones under 5. You can use the computers and the wifi for free too!
Leeds Central Library, Calverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB.
The Lines Way
Once a railway line between Garforth and Castleford, today The Lines Way is one of the best free things to do with kids in Leeds – especially if you love a bit of nature. It’s a three-and-a-half-mile route, with lots of access points to other nature reserves along the way, such as Owl Wood and Hollinghurst Wood. There are loads of habitats to discover, including abundant freshwater ponds that are home to newts in the warmer months. You might be able to spot common orchids, cuckoos and even glowworms if you’re walking at dusk.
Golden Acre Park
Golden Acre Park is a stunning 55-hectare park in Bramhope. It opened as a private amusement park in 1932 with a swimming pool and a boating lake, but today anyone can enjoy it without having to pay up. There’s no longer a swimming pool, and the boating lake is smaller than it was, but it’s still got lots to see. You can explore mature woodland, a cherry orchard, a wildflower meadow and more. They have a variety of gardens too, including a Mediterranean one, a rockery and a demonstration garden that changes every year.
Golden Acre Park, Off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 8BQ.
There’s always something going on at Yeadon Tarn. You can explore all 17 hectares of its scenic surroundings, with the main route going around the lake (or tarn). All the paths are perfect for buggies, and there are plenty of open green spaces for a picnic or a ball game. There will be someone on the tarn sailing, kayaking or canoeing to watch too. Looking for something more active? Take the older kids and their bikes to have a go at the BMX track or just go wild with the little ones in the playground.
Yeadon Tarn, Cemetery Road, Yeadon, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS19 7BB.
Meanwood Valley Trail
The Meanwood Valley Trail is a handsome slice of countryside in the city. It’s a seven-mile walk that’s split into three sections – perfect for little legs. It starts at Woodhouse Moor and takes you all the way up to Golden Acre Park, through all sorts of lovely nature. You’ll wander through mature woodland, pretty meadows and babbling waterways. Keep an eye out for the ruins of the old flax mill and the Seven Arches Aqueduct, as well as creatures like common lizards, orange tip butterflies and even crayfish in the water.
Meanwood Valley Trail, Woodhouse Moor Car Park, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS6 1BJ or Golden Acre Park, Off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, LS16 8BQ.
Temple Newsam Grounds
Temple Newsam is a historic house with beautiful grounds that you can explore for free. Why not take a stroll around the three lakes? One is set in parkland perfect for a picnic, one is bordered by colourful flowers and one is surrounded by a whispering grass and bamboo garden. There’s also the Walled Garden, which is a sanctuary of herbs, roses and veggies set inside 18th-century brick walls. Or you could walk around the formal garden to the south, with its laburnum arches and box hedges. There’s an adventure playground too!
Temple Newsam, Temple Newsam Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS15 0AE.
Love Exploring App
Download the Love Exploring App for augmented-reality fun. It’s designed to help you discover your local parks, landmarks and cultural treasures. They have different activities including games, guided trails and maps. You might discover dinosaurs in the field, fairies in the trees or giant bugs in the flowers. They’ll ask you a question about your location, so you’d better be ready to answer! You can also use it as a way to plan the essentials for a day out and a source of info as you explore.