Want to do something a little bit different? Then you’ve come to the right place, because we’ve scoured the city to find you 28 rather unusual things to do…
If your usual pastimes aren’t cutting the mustard, why not try something new? There are loads of unusual things to do in Leeds, from feeding penguins to foraging for food and ghost hunting in the city’s most haunted buildings, so if you fancy trying something a little bit different, start working your way through this list.
1. Hunt for ghosts
How would you like to spend the night in one of the city’s most haunted buildings, calling out to the spirit world? Believe it or not, you can do exactly that with Simply Ghost Nights. They host ghost hunting nights in Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds City Museum and Armley Mills. Starting at 9pm, they go on long into the night, as you try out Victorian séances, table tipping experiments, glass divination and even Ouija boards.
Simply Ghost Nights run events throughout the year in Leeds.
2. Expose black and white photographs in the city’s only public darkroom
Aire Street Darkroom was set up 2017 by a group of dedicated film photographers who needed a space to make their prints, but it’s now open to the public, making this the city’s only public darkroom. They provide training courses in darkroom techniques and courses on how to use your film camera, but once you’ve got enough experience and you sign up to be a member (it’s £60 for the year or just a fiver a month), you can use it as a drop-in facility to process your photos.
Aire Street Darkroom, 30-Aire Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4HT.
3. Enjoy afternoon tea on a riverboat
This isn’t any ordinary afternoon tea. Instead you’ll tuck into finger sandwiches and scones as you sail along the River Aire on an authentic fly boat. Gather a group of 20, then set out on a peaceful cruise into the countryside. As you spot local landmarks, you’ll be able to enjoy a traditional three-tiered afternoon tea served on vintage bone china. There’ll be lots of sweet and savoury treats, served with your choice of hot drinks.
Yorkshire Hire Cruises, 26 Canal Wharf, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5PS.
4. Go foraging
Wild foods have grown in popularity of late and you can get in on the action with one of Edible Leeds’ foraging walks. Run by Craig Worrall, a man who’s passionate about picking fresh ingredients from all over Leeds and knows exactly what you can and can’t eat, they’re a great way to learn about the edible plants and fungi that grow around Leeds. The majority of his foraging walks end with a cooking session, giving you a few ideas of what you can make with your newly discovered wild ingredients.
Edible Leeds run foraging walks throughout the year.
5. Explore the city while geocaching
For something a little bit different, why not have a go at geocaching? There are boxes hidden around Leeds, with an object inside – but in order to find them, you have to solve a series of clues, that give you their coordinates. It’s a fun challenge that could lead you to all kinds of discoveries, be it a piece of public art or a local landmark you’ve never noticed before. You’re free to take whatever you find in the geocaching box, as long as you replace it with something of equal or greater value.
Geocaching boxes are hidden throughout the city centre and suburbs, clues can be found on the website.
6. Make your great escape
If, like us, you played an escape game or two as a kid, this particular day out will likely appeal. You see, you can find yourself locked in a room, packed with clues, puzzles and challenges – it’s a real life version of the game that will see the timer set at 60 minutes as you and your mates try and work out how to get out. Choose from six different games, like the ‘Kiss of Doom’ and the ‘American Die-ner’.
Locked In Games, 2 Chapletown Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3AP.
7. Have a go at aerial yoga
This isn’t your average fitness class. Indeed, aerial yoga will see you using hammocks instead of mats, as you try out a host of traditional yoga poses like the Sun Salutation and the Downward Facing Dog, but with the extra support of a hammock. It’s said to help you achieve a deeper muscle release, releasing tension and relaxing both body and mind. So if you fancy getting toned with new and interesting workshops, try Paddy Aerial Yoga out.
Paddy Aerial Yoga, Workhouse Fitness, Springfield Commercial Centre, Farsley, West Yorkshire, LS28 5LY.
8. Try your hand at chocolate making
How do you fancy making your own chocolate? You can, thanks to the guys at Chocolate Collective. After huge success in Manchester, they’ve followed that up in Leeds with their popular chocolate making workshops. They take place at the Novotel hotel and will see you learning a little about the history of chocolate before you set about piping, shaping and devouring your own Belgian truffles. Prices start from £40 per person – but you should look out for their discounts to save a few pounds.
Chocolate Collective run classes throughout the year at Hotel Novotel Leeds Centre.
9. Visit a little known nature reserve and see a 1,200 tonne coal dragline
St Aidan’s is a hidden gem, waiting to be discovered. The nature reserve covers 400 hectares and is a great day out, with rare reedbeds, walking trails, woodlands and open pastures to go and explore. It’s best known for its wildlife, but that’s not all that can be found here – there’s also a remnant from the past. The Bucyrus Erie BE 1150 Walking Dragline Excavator, or Oddball, as it’s now known, is one of the biggest diggers you’ll ever see. They even run open days throughout the year, so you could even go inside.
St Aidan’s Nature Park, Astley Lane, Swillington, West Yorkshire, LS26 8AL.
10. Go on a hot air balloon ride
How would you like to see the city from on high? You can with a hot air balloon ride from Temple Newsam. Floating serenely over the 18th-century estate, you’ll have stunning views of the park and woodland, as well as the city skyline, the River Aire and Yorkshire’s rolling countryside. Of course, it doesn’t come cheap – you’re looking at £117 per person for a hot air balloon ride at sunrise or £137 for the same thing at sunset, but it does come with champagne.
Hot air balloon rides set off from Temple Newsam at pre-arranged times.
11. Give pole dancing a whirl
You can learn to pole dance with Aerial Empire. It’s the latest fitness craze and a fun, flirty way to build muscle, improve core strength and boost flexibility. There are loads of classes to choose from and if you’re a beginner, the expert instructor will teach you all the basic grips and poses on a static pole. Once you build your confidence you can strap on heels, strut your stuff and have a go on the exotic pole.
Aerial Empire, Mill 3, Mabgate Mills, Macauly Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 7SW.
12. Play retro video games with your mates
Love retro games? Spend a few hours Press Start Gaming Zone, a cool-as-heck vintage gaming cafe on the top floor of MEATliquor. They have over 15 different old-school consoles, from the SNES to the Nintendo 64, Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, and you can choose from thousands of games. If it’s been an age since you mastered Super Mario Bros or Guitar Hero, this the perfect place to get back to your best – you can even have a beer from downstairs while you play.
Press Start Gaming Zone, MEATliquor, Bank Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 5AT.
13. Watch a film in a Cistercian monastery
You can enjoy a film screening like no other at one of Sneaky Experience’s special movie events. It’s an immersive cinema experience and they put on films at Kirkstall Abbey throughout the year. It’s a stunning setting to watch a flick and the team go all out before the film starts with actors playing your favourite characters and themed activities while you enjoy a few drinks from the bar. From Harry Potter to Ghostbusters, they know how to bring your favourite films to life.
Sneaky Experience’s screenings take place throughout the year at Kirkstall Abbey.
14. Feed the penguins
If you haven’t already, get yourself over to Harewood House for a day out with a difference. Every day between March and November, they invite visitors to feed their flock of Humboldt penguins. You’ll be able to get up close with these lovely little creatures, helping the zookeepers to feed them whitebait and sprats. It starts at £38.70 for children to get involved and from £45 for adults, but well worth it for the experience.
Penguin feedings take place at Harewood House from 11am to 11.30am every day while the House is open from March through until November.
15. Be crowned a mini golf champion
Want to challenge your mates to a game of mini golf? You can do it with a bevvy in hand at Junkyard Golf. They have 3 crazy courses for you to choose from – there’s a creepy carnival, a neon scrapyard and a wild jungle full of beasts. Whichever you go for, you’ll be knocking your ball around corners and doing the loop-the-loop as you battle it out to a soundtrack of 90s pop. Head to one of the bars along the way and you can sup an array of creative sweet-shop inspired cocktails.
Junkyard Golf, The Light, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 8TL.
16. Learn to fly
That’s right – instead of looking up and thinking how cool it would be to fly one of those bad boys, bite the bullet and learn how to do it yourself. Sherburn Aero Club is a flying school where you can learn how to fly an aeroplane, jetting off from their own private airfield. You’ll be taken up into the clouds with a professional pilot, who will teach you how to navigate, steer and even land. Although the experience won’t come cheap, you won’t soon forget it.
Sherburn Aero Club, New Lennerton Lane, Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS25 6JE.
17. Dance with drag queens
Expect big hair, fierce make up and killer heels at Viaduct Showbar, where they have a legendary line-up of drag queens every night. You can see the ladies dance, lip-sync and unleash their inner diva on stage during their cabaret performances. As the night goes on, they’ll join you on the dance floor where the DJ will be pumping out a mix of chart toppers and gay anthems from the likes of Lady Gaga, Kylie and Beyonce.
Viaduct Showbar, 11 Lower Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6ER.
18. Find the bullseye on your friends
With Combat Archery, you can fire arrows at your friends and not get in any trouble. This is your chance to run around a field at the National Archery centre, armed with foam-tipped arrows to aim at your pals. You’ll start with a practice run before you grab your crossbow and make use of their incredible pitch, which has everything from medieval barriers to bunkers and barricades.
National Archery, Redcote Lane, Off Kirkstall Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2AW.
19. Uncover your family’s secrets
Have you always wanted to find out more about your family history but never known where to start? Leeds Central Library has everything you need and you can even get a bit of help from their experts. They run free family history workshops every month to get you started and you’ll have access to over 180,000 items that could help you reveal everything you’re looking for. Don’t worry if you get stuck, because they also do free drop-in sessions whenever you like.
Local and Family History Library, 2nd Floor, Central Library, Calverley Street, Leeds, LS1 3AB.
20. Try a military spec tactical laser game
You can bring those shoot ‘em up games to life at iCombat. It’s a tactical laser game designed for adults – you’ll be using an infra-red M4 gun that’s the same size, weight and shape as the real thing as you set off on a mission with your mates. So get everyone together for a fantastic day out, get the most kills and then brag about it all night.
iCombat, 164 Armley Rd, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 2TY.
21. Try your hand at sewing over a cuppa
Workshop is not your normal cafe. Head up the counter for a quality brew and a slice of cake, then take it to one of their sewing machines, where you can get to work on your next creation. They have several machines, overlockers and irons for you to use or you can bring your own. If you know what you’re doing, just phone ahead and get to it, but if you’re a newbie, they host regular classes and meet-ups too.
Workshop Sewing Cafe, 24 Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 2AD.
22. Take the leap of faith
West Leeds Activity Centre offers up all sorts of adventure activities, from climbing to sumo wrestling, but the one thing you might not have come across before is the ominous-sounding Leap of Faith. It’s exactly what it sounds like – you’ll climb a 20-foot pole and jump off it. Your aim is to hit a punching bag, suspended in the air, but whether you reach it or not, there’s always a drop. If you’re feeling super confident, you can even do it blindfolded. The question is – just how brave are you?
The Leap of Faith is available all year round at West Leeds Activity Centre.
23. Find your flamenco beat
Instituto Cervantes is the Spanish cultural centre in Leeds. They offer courses on everything from speaking the language to traditional instruments, and it’s the latter we’re focusing on here. Their flamenco guitar classes take place at their Woodhouse Lane building with accomplished guitarist Elías Bolufer and you can make the most of them whether you’re a beginner or an expert. Learn how to get the traditional style from an expert – you’ll get to grips with palos, different styles of flamenco, and falsetas, flamenco guitar solos.
Instituto Cervantes, 169 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AR.
24. Pay as you feel for theatre
Avid theatre-goers are probably used to getting their tickets weeks or even months in advance, but that’s not how it works at The Holkbeck. Local theatre company Slung Low present their own works here and offer up their space for small, unique productions from local and national theatre groups. This is where you’ll see innovative new productions that redefine theatre – and best of all, whether you love or hate what you see, you can pay whatever the heck you like.
The Holbeck, Holbeck, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 9QX. Shows usually take place on Sundays.
25. Sling an axe at the bullseye
Ever wanted to wield an axe? Head to Timberjacks and get stuck into a thrilling axe-throwing experience. It’s essentially a super-sized game of darts, just with a deadly weapon in your hand. The expert team will give you a crash course on how to hold and throw the tomahawks before you’re let loose on the lanes. Have a couple of practise throws and then challenge your mates to see who can hit the most bullseyes.
Timberjacks, Unit H, Flexspace, Burley Hill Trading Estate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2PU.
26. Delve into the world of coffee
There’s nothing unusual about grabbing a brew, but what about learning how to make one like a barista? You can go for an all-round coffee experience courtesy of Leeds’ first micro roaster, North Star who have made themselves at home on Leeds Dock. From their unit, where you can buy their beans to use at home, they run the North Star Coffee Academy, a comprehensive, in-depth series of courses that cover everything from home barista and home brewing to professional courses in barista skills and sensory skills.
The North Star Coffee Academy run regular classes at North Star Coffee Roasters at Leeds Dock.
27. Take to the water for a spot windsurfing
Leeds might not be by the sea, but it’s still a great place for water sports thanks to Leeds Sailing and Activity Centre at Yeadon Tarn. You can do all sorts here, but the most testing activity has to be windsurfing. Jump on your board, which comes complete with a mast, boom and sail, then attempt to master the waves across the lake. Don’t worry, you won’t have to go it alone – their fully qualified instructors will help you learn the ropes.
Leeds Sailing & Activity Centre, Yeadon Tarn, Yeadon, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS19 7UR.
28. Shoot a gun without getting into trouble
Always wanted to learn how to shoot, but never known where to start? You can give it a go at The York Gate Gun Club in Otley. They specialise in clay pigeon shooting, so you can do it without the guilt too. Look out across the Yorkshire countryside as an expert instructor shows you the ropes, before you test your skills on 25 or 50 clay pigeons.
York Gate Gun Club, York Gate, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 3DG.Cover image credit: Sarah Ayache