The school holidays needn't break the bank. You can still enjoy a nice day out together without spending a lot of money. We've put together some ideas of free/cheap places to visit, all across the region. We would love to hear your favourite free days out too!
NB Following Covid19, there may be some restrictions in places at these venues.
Pre-booking may be required, or the need to wear face coverings. Some services may be limited. Please check with the venue direct before setting off.
Stourbridge is the home of the glass industry. The Red House Glass Cone in Stourbridge holds free themed trails for children each school holiday, Children can wander round looking for clues and learning about the building's rich heritage.
Dudley Museum at the Archives: This modern museum tells the story of Dudley (and the wider Black Country) through time. Learn about industry, dinosaurs, fossils and local heros. Now based near the Black Country Museum, Dudley Museum also houses the borough's archives. So you can even trace your family tree whilst you're there!
Wren's Nest National Nature Reserve: This is one of the most notable geological locations in the British Isles and visited and studied by geologists from all over the world. It is one of the reasons that the Black Country has just been given UNESCO geopark status. Dudley used to be under a tropical sea, so head to 'fossil beach' and see if you can find a trilobite, also known as the Dudley Bug.
Sandwell Valley Country Park: There is so much on offer here, whether you want to go birdspotting, ride a bike , enjoy a picnic or see animals at Sandwell Park Farm or Forge Mill Farm. There are plenty of walking trails and cycling routes. The nearby park is home to an Adventure Playground with climbing nets, a rope bridge, an eight metre high tower with a slide, swings, a double zip wire, a dragon roundabout, a suspension bridge, a play tractor and trailer and timber sculptures - plus a picnic area and sandpit. There's also an aerial assault course located here (although this is a paid for activity).
The New Art Gallery Walsall.
This iconic gallery was hailed as one of the most exciting new galleries to be built in Britain for decades when it opened in 2000 and a walk through the gallery’s spaces is a must for any family.
Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
Boasting family friendly displays, interactives plus a café stocking delicious cakes this City centre museum is sure to be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. The regularly changing exhibitions embrace painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, multi-media, and more.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery: BMAG first opened in 1885. It is housed in a Grade II* listed city centre landmark building. There are over 40 galleries to explore and is a great placed for children to learn more about ancient history - from the Greeks to the Romans. The new Mini Museum gallery has been specially designed to provide an engaging place for children aged 5 and under to experience Birmingham Museums' collections; see fantastic art works made by children, young people and artists; and help children love museums from a young age.
BBC Public Space at the Mailbox: For something a bit different, head to the Mailbox indoor shopping centre in Birmingham. You'll find the BBC on level 7. There is free entry to the public space where children can see exhibitions about BBC TV programmes, try out virtual reality head sets and have a go a presenting the weather. You can pay to do the full BBC tour if you wish but there are age restrictions and pre-booking is advised.
Lickey Hills Country Park: The Park covers an area of 524 acres (212ha) and Beacon Hill is the highest point rising to a height of 975 ft (297m). “The Beacon” is one of the most popular landmarks on the Hills, with panoramic views over Birmingham and the Black Country and to the south west over Worcestershire towards the Malvern Hills and beyond. There are way marked walking trails to follow all around the grounds. You can park in Warren Lane (for free) to access the visitor centre and playground. The rangers often hold activiites for children during the school holidays.
Canal Walk: We all know the bizarre fact that Birmingham has more canals than Venice, so how about exploring them! Click here to download a map and trail from Canal and River Trust. Set off from the City centre and learn about local landmarks along the way.
Cannon Hill Park: Cannon Hill Park is a fantastic place to visit for a family day out as there’s so much to do, from outdoor sports, games and rides, to shows and exhibitions, crafts, wildlife and lots of open spaces for a picnic or a game of rounders. How about hiring a Swan Pedalo on the boating lake (fee charged)? It's next door to the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Centre - a mini urban zoo, so you could visit both together (small admission fee for the zoo).
Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery: this city centre museum offers free entry. It's housed in a beautiful Victorian building in the centre of Worcester, so easy to get to by train. Learn about the history of Worcester with interactive displays - you can even dress up in costume! Each school holiday the museum holds activities for children (may be an additional charge for activities).
Wyre Forest: Run by the Forestry Commission, this woodland offers a great venue for a free family day out (although you do need to pay for parking) Enjoy 3 way-marked trails through ancient woodlands (have a go at building your own den). There are cycling routes, a children's play ground, and onsite café. Four leggged friends are very welcome and there's even a Dog Wash on site for mucky paws! You could have a go at Go Ape Adventure whilst you're there! (paid activity)
Bewdley Museum: The Load Street museum is set in the heart of the beautiful riverside market town of Bewdley, next to the Tourist Office. Here you can learn the history of the Georgian town but also the surrounding Wyre Forest area. Visitors can enjoy visual craft demonstrations; audio histories; hands on activities; a sensory herb garden with water feature and you can even find out what it was like to be locked up in our town jails! Activities are held for children each school holiday.
Ghulevelt Park: The Worcester park is a memorial park built in honour of those lost in the First World War. It straddles Barbourne Brook and has two distinct areas - a formal park to the east, and an informal area managed for wildlife conservation to the west, next to the River Severn. The playground has separate areas for younger and older children, so that little ones can play safely and older children can be more adventurous without the danger of hurting their younger companions. The multi-age facility uses the very latest play technology and floor surfaces, giving a truly 21st-century play experience.
Worcester Woods Country Park: This site is always popular, with two nature reserves, a huge open field, busy Countryside Centre with cafe facilities, adventure play area and easy access from the city or the motorway. Follow the way marked footpaths and spot carved sculptures along the way, and take a break in the Orchard Cafe where all the ingredients are locally sourced.
Queenswood Country Park & Arboretum covers over 123 acres of ancient woodland, with easy access paths, including the Gruffalo Trail, a woodlands children’s adventure playground, a fabulous viewing point capturing views across to The Malvern Hills and The Black Mountains, a visitors centre, toilets, picnic facilities, café and shop. Dogs are welcome in the parkland. Entry is free, but car parking charges apply.
Belmont Haywood Country Park
Selected areas of this lovely 18-acre wild grassland site have been mown to allow children and families space to play games such as football or rounders. There is a small play area with equipment for younger children to enjoy, picnic benches and places to sit all around the park. The Belmont pool has visits from swans, moorhens, a variety of ducks and other waterfowl, even the occasional heron. You may even spot terrapins basking in the sunshine when the weather is warm. Recently restored footways meander across and around the park and allow access for people to enjoy the area whether on foot, on a bicycle, in a pushchair or on a mobility scooter. Car parking is available off Waterfield Road.
Kenchester Water Gardens
This established centre has landscaped pools and gardens for you to explore. And if you spot something you like, they probably stock it to sell! They also house a large array of pond fish, tropical fish, cold water fish, aquatic turtles and accessories. There is a lovely tearoom serving all sorts of food, drinks, and gorgeous cakes!
Hereford Museum and Art Gallery
This is located in Broad Street, Hereford, near the Cathedral. Housed in a splendid Victorian Gothic building (can you spot the carved monkeys?) the museum has been exhibiting artefacts and works of fine and decorative art connected with the local area since 1874. Check their website for exhibition and opening details.
Black Mountains - Stargazing – We are really blessed to have so many rural spots around Herefordshire and Worcestershire which have very little light pollution, so why not make the most of it and take the family star gazing? If you time it right, you can even spot shooting stars, with the Delta Aquariids meteor shower (12th July – 23rd August), Alpha Capricornids meteor shower (2nd July 2 – 10th August), and The Perseid meteor shower, regarded as one of the best yearly showers, (July 17th – August 26th but peaking on 12th August). Our favourite star gazing spot is Hay Bluff, part of the Black Mountain range of the Brecon Beacons, right on the Welsh border with Herefordshire, and we aren’t alone in thinking that – The Guardian lists it as one of the 20 top places in the UK to stargaze. Check out their list for great star gazing locations near you!
The Herbert Museum & Art Gallery
The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum is the perfect place to delve into Coventry’s history and engage with art and culture. The museum offers a wide range of detailed talks, fantastic events and inventive workshops for adults and families and encourages creativity, exploration and fun. Alfred's is the in-house cafe (re-opening on 3rd August 2020)
Nuneaton Art Gallery & Museum
The museum is located in the beautiful grounds of Riversley Park, just 10 minutes walk from the centre of Nuneaton. Entry is free but donations are welcome. Entry muse be pre-booked at the moment (Aug 2020). Hourly slots will be available at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Children's activities usually run during school holidays and there is a tearoom on site.
Coventry Transport Museum
Coventry Transport Museum is home to one of the largest collections of British road transport in the world –with 300 cycles, 120 motorcycles and 250 cars and commercial vehicles, and includes some of the most iconic vehicles from different periods including the 1935 Daimler Limousine (Queen Mary’s Daimler), 1975 E-Type Jaguar and the World Land Speed Record Breaker Thrust SSC. Coventry residents with a valid Go CV card are eligible for FREE entry to the museum. All family members require a Go CV card. NB If you live outside of Coventry then admission fees apply.
Redwings Horse Santuary
This horse rescue centre is home to more than 50 rescued horses, ponies and donkeys and adoption horses. Regular guided tours of the centre and demonstrations of horse care given by the equine centre staff. Staff love to talk about our four-legged friends, especially during the school holidays when they host lots of free fascinating tours and talks.
Tours at the Guide Dogs for the Blind’s National Breeding Centre
Just outside Leamington , this is perfect for children who love dogs! Take a free two hour tour of the centre and see how the puppies socialise and grow to develop the skills they need as guide dogs. Gain a fascinating insight into how the latest technology and innovations are used in the charity’s breeding programme. The tours run three times a week.
Cannock Chase Forest.
This Area of Outstanding beauty has plenty to offer, from bike trails and picnic tables to play areas and woodland walks. If you want to put your hand in your pocket there’s Go Ape there too.
Baggeridge Country Park.
There’s plenty of picnic benches around plus a newly refurbished play area. Embark on one of the four walking trails – there’s an easy access trail that is suitable for pushchairs that takes 30 minutes. If you want to upgrade your day visit Challenge Academy Baggeridge Adventure high ropes, nets and obstacle course.
The castle has dominated the local skyline for over 900 years. The site itself extends to over 26 acres. The visitor centre (currently closed due to covid-19) has items including arms, armour and costumes as well as a film which tells the history of Stafford Castle.
This area of outstanding beauty is looked after by the National Trust. Although you have to pay to go into the sandstone Rock Houses (or use your membership pass) you can still enjoy the trails and spectacular views for free. Children will enjoy the Woodland Trail where you can find natural play areas on the route, or follow the Rock House Trail and discover two very different Rock Houses on this trail - one restored and another hidden in the trees - as you walk through woodland and heathland habitats.
Foremark & Staunton Harold Reservoirs, Milton.These amazingly picturesque sites of natural beauty are actually reservoirs in use, but the areas around them have been transformed into small beaches, picnic areas and both walking and biking trails as well as bridleways. It’s only £3 for parking (all day) and access to all the outdoor areas is free. There’s also a playground that has been shut during the pandemic. Swimming is not permitted as there’s no lifeguard on duty, but paddling is very much allowed. There’s also toilets and a café kiosk.
Rosliston Forestry Centre, 15 minutes’ drive from Burton-on-Trent. Known as Ros Forestry Centre to locals, this country park is a well-loved haven. The outdoor playground is suitable for all ages, and it also includes wheelchair accessible roundabouts and swings. Don’t miss the ‘big bird’ a huge wooden bird of prey climbing frame. The Hub café serves hot drinks and food, there is a small soft play area, toilets, bird of prey centre, walking and biking routes and fishing on its unspoilt lake. Parking is £1.50 per hour or £4 for all day.
Moira Furnace & Country Park, 9 minutes’ drive from Ashby-de-la-Zouch. A true gem, entrance to the country park and its car park are completely free! Try a narrowboat trips on the ‘Joseph Wilkes’ historic vessel, visit the rare museum of iron making and its social history, try a spot of fishing on the canal, take a walk with the dog along the tow path or browse the boutique shops (some charges for activities apply). Toilets available and a refreshment kiosk serving ice creams and drinks.
National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas. The NMA is a calm, tranquil place of reflection, which is also a favourite amongst families in the area. Its 150 acre site is home to the Stick Man Trail, featuring a giant stick man! The Remembrance Centre has a café, coffee shop, toilet facilities, exhibition area and a small shop; where you can pick up maps of the walks, memorial areas, a dedicated dog walk trail and light a candle. Pre-booking essential under COVID regulations - £4 for the car park. (Charges also apply for the land train.)
Church Farm Tea Rooms and Children’s Farm, Anslow. A lovely site based in Anslow, the Church Farm Tea Rooms serve up a wonderful afternoon tea, while entry to the Children’s Farm is totally free! Bookings required for both the tea room and children’s farm.
Bakewell Recreation Ground
This is the ideal spot to start your day in the picturesque market town of Bakewell. And the markets themselves are now being held again! Take a walk through the park, see the famous padlock bridge, feed the ducks, walk along the River Wye and stroll round the shops and markets, plus discover the history of the Bakewell Tart! Charges and booking apply for some sports facilities, e.g. tennis courts.
Chatsworth Park, Bakewell
Book a parking spot in the grounds of Chatsworth House and you can access picturesque trails across Stand Wood to the Queen Mary Bower and James Paine’s architecturally famous bridge. While charges apply to the house, gardens and farmyard/playgrounds, the 1,000-acre park is free and open to the public year-round!
Cycle the Monsal Trail.
Pack a picnic, grab your cycle helmet and head out on the Monsal Trail – the Peaks’ ultimate traffic-free route for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair users. Running through spectacular limestone dales, the Trail was once the Midland Railway line, stretching for 8.5 miles between Blackwell Mill, in Chee Dale and Coombs Road, at Bakewell.
Castleton Visitor Centre, Hope Valley.
If you’re going to explore the Peak District, there’s no better place to start than the Castleton Visitor Centre in the picturesque Hope Valley. Find out all about the area in the centre, get your refreshments at the centre, then take a stroll through the village up to the family-friendly walking trail up to the 517-metre Mam Tor for the best views around.
Pavilion Gardens, Buxton.
One of the most beautiful spots in the Peak District, the 23-acre Pavilion Gardens was lovingly restored over a span of seven years. It's sculptures, sun dial, miniature train, bandstand, cafe, boating lake and stream are always popular amongst families. The garden hosts a retail complex and is also home to Gallery in the Gardens, home of the High Peak Artists, the Winter Conservatory, Ice Cream Parlour, Octagon Concert Hall, Pavilion Kitchen and Pavilion Tea Rooms. Some charges apply for boat hire and the miniature train. Parking is £3.60 for 2-4 hours.
Bridgnorth Castle and Riverside.
This is a well maintained, small park which has stunning views over Low Town and beyond. Italy may have the leaning Tower of Pisa - Bridgnorth has its leaning ruined castle wall. Then take a trip on the Cliff Railway for a small charge down to the riverside to discover more scenic picnic spots over the bridge in Severn Park or follow the Bridgnorth Art Trail find 12 sculptures dotted around this picturesque town.
Discover the amazing stories of those who have served in the RAF, walk through the war time hangars, in the National Cold War Exhibition you will find a fantastic display of aircraft and exhibits and learn about the bravery of pilots in Test Flight. The museum is free but there’s a charge for the car park.
Severn Valley Country Park.
In the peaceful, scenic valley of the River Severn lies the Green Flag award-winning Severn Valley Country Park. 126 acres of beautiful countryside and wonderful views, spanning both sides of the River Severn. Picnic tables are located outside the visitor centre, near the children’s play area, adjacent to Country Park Halt and in the river meadows. There's a great natural play area too.
Telford Town Park.
There’s lots of thing to do at this award-winning park including cycle trails, high ropes and adventure golf plus lots of fun play areas plus the popular paid for attraction Wonderland. Pop over to nearby Southwater and Telford Shopping Centre if you fancy a spot of retail therapy.
Comer Woods, Dudmaston Estate.
Run by the National Trust, access to Comer Woods is free (you have to pay car parking if you are not a NT member). There’s a family ‘Explorer’ bike trail and walking trails. If you're looking to picnic in the great outdoors The Scout Camp, on the Explorer route, is the perfect place to pause, or stop in Heath meadow, it's just a short walk from the car park.
Bourton on the Water
Go to the “Venice of the Cotswolds” – Bourton on the Water. A beautiful, picturesque place to wander around, have a picnic by the river…. Lots of attractions to visit whilst you’re there.
Costwolds Water Park
Take a walk in the Cotswold Water park and see how much nature you can spot, there are birds a plenty and you may even see some otters in an area of over 40 square miles and 170 lakes, with many different leisure providers. It is is an ideal destination for watching wildlife all year round.
Take the children to the Broadway Playground, complete with zipwire.., climbing wall, grass pitch for socially distanced football and a picnic area
Visit the in Oxford from 10th August. Opening hours will be 10am–5pm daily, entry will be FREE, but pre-booked tickets are required. Download a free family trail in advance. Pick up FREE sketching materials, trails, Ashventure Packs and Explore Kits when you arrive at the Museum and borrow magnifiers and torches on weekend afternoons.
Foxholes Nature Reserve, Bruern, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 6QE. There’s a circular Wildlife Walk (1.75 miles). Just follow the badger waymarkers. Look out for Nuthatch, which creep up and down trees, and Treecreepers, which only creep up the trunks and 23 different species of butterfly.
If you know of any great days out for free, let us know and we'll add the to the list. Email here.
Editor of Raring2go! Kidderminster & Stourbridge since 2008. Local font of knowledge. Mother of two and wife of one.