Cheap family days out

child having fun in park 

Having trouble thinking of ways to keep your DC entertained without breaking the bank over the summer? Fear not - fellow Mumsnetters are on hand with their suggestions for the best cheap days out in your area.

South West | South East | London | East of EnglandMidlands | North West |
North East | Scotland | Wales


South West

moors valley

Parks and countryside




  • Moors Valley Park Ashley Heath

    "Fantastic woodland trails, cycle paths, massive play trail, adventure play grounds and a train. Plenty of space for picnicing. A good outdoor day out where kids can just be kids!" dancingqueen17


"A brilliant day out. Free parking, children's paddling pool and two play parks, there is also a beach and cafe. Lots of room for picnics, kite flying and ball games." localeditorbournemouthandpoole


Zoos and farms



"It's free, has a nice cafe and lots of buggy friendly walking." JRsandCoffee

"Plenty of free parking on-site and a short walk to the visitors centre. We met some very friendly donkeys [and cat] and enjoyed a walk around the site along their well marked trails. Lots and lots of donkeys to see, we enjoyed reading about the history of each donkey. There were guided tours available, a maze, beautiful gardens and a café on site." OoooShiney


Other activities 



  • airfieldOld Sarum Airfield Salisbury

"Has a cafe right next to the runway and on a nice day you can sit and eat ice cream with small planes taking off just meters away. Also watch the parachutes at the weekends and there is an aviation collection, which I think you pay for, but otherwise just pay for your ice cream and it's a pitstop with interest!" JRsandcoffee


Other cheap days out in the South West 


South East


camber sands



"A beautiful stretch of sandy beach and the only dune system in West Sussex. The dunes are formed of sand blown inland and builds up around the marram grass. They provide the perfect hideout if you want some privacy to sunbathe or shelter from the wind on the beach." MNGreenwich

"This sandy beach is quite flat and stretches for over 3 miles. The beach is very close to the facilities at Dymchurch village including cafés, restaurant, pubs and amusements. No visit to Dymchurch would be complete without a trip on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch which covers just 13.5 miles from Hythe to Dungeoness, making it the World’s smallest public railway." MNGreenwich


 Parks and countryside



"There's a lovely lake where you can fish for free, great play area, cafe and lovely walk around to feed the ducks. Always very busy and free. There is a Go Ape there too which has a mini one that kids can try if they are over 1 metre tall." WantSunshine

"The park backs on to Pinewood Studios, so has been used for lots of films, including Harry Potter, James Bond and Robin Hood. They even do some Harry Potter themed days around the filming sites." Claire

  • Shorne Wood Country Park Gravesend 

"Come here for the cafe, trim trail, adventure playground, lakes, geocaching, cycle paths, fishing, orienteering and a family fun trail where you follow the clues, complete the task and get a prize at the end. Parking is £2.50 and take a picnic (the eco cafe can be a bit pricey). Just off the A2, about 10 minutes from the M25. You can even take the dog." CatTheifKeith

  • Frensham Ponds Waverley

"Free car park, free swimming in fresh water ponds among the swans and coots. Sandy beaches on the shore. Lovely walks. Cafe with really good cheap ice creams. Free loos and drinking water. You can have a whole day out for the cost of an ice cream." chinamoon

"Loads to see and do, and I've never known it to be overcrowded. Safe for children to run, hide, climb - and not at all expensive. The food in the cafe is locally sourced and very reasonably priced." optimist1


Towns and cities




  • Windsor castleWindsor

"The guards marching to Changing of the Guard can be watched every day at 11am (with the return at 11.15) and then there are two parks with splash areas as well as a river to walk by. Beware of where you park though as some of the car parks can be hideously expensive." Laundryangel



Museums, culture and historical locations




"Has lots going on this summer, including jousting tournaments. They have a summer programme with things going on most days. If you buy Palace and Garden tickets you can convert them into Annual Passes for free. Advance adult tickets are £18, child tickets are £9.84 and family tickets (2 + 2) are £47.20 and can be bought online up to the night before visiting." runningcircles


"Churchill's family home is beautiful, looking over the Weald of Kent, it's National Trust. Has lovely walks with some swings in the trees and dens etc, also a brick play house and big veggie garden. There's always different activities on." dreadfulspiller


millets farm

Zoos and farms




  • Millets Farm Oxford 

"Free entry petting zoo and playground attached to a massive garden centre/farm shop and cafe. Perfect toddler size." twelveleggedwalk

"It makes for a very enjoyable day out. Very young children can stroke rabbits and guinea pigs while older children will enjoy being gently butted by the rather enthusiastic goats. The farm is very well laid out with play and picnic areas as well as the animals. Under twos go free which helps." MiniMarmite


open top bus

Other activities




  • New Forest open top bus tours

"(The bus tours) are running every day in the summer. If you buy tickets from the Hythe ferry terminal in Southampton you get free ferry travel to Hythe, then can hop on and off the buses." irritablebitchsyndrome


Other cheap days out in the South East



Kew gardens

Parks and countryside




"Walk along beside the Thames to Ham House for a picnic. Take a boat-trip up or down the river to Kew or Kingston/Hampton. Visit Richmond Museum and/or the theatre (Celebration and Angelina Ballerina being two family-oriented summer holiday options). Or why not cross over the bridge and marvel at Richmond from the Twickenham side, walking along to Marble Hill House and Marble Hill Playground." MNMerton


"There's cycles to hire, a row/pedalo boat trip on the lake, an amazing outdoor adventure playground, Battersea Park Zoo, the Pump House Gallery with its family-oriented Sunday Socials and not forgetting, for the animal-lovers amongst us, nearby Battersea Dogs & Cats Home." MNMerton


epsom sign

Towns and cities




  • Ewell and Epsom

"Visit one of the many inspiring Bourne Hall Museum Summer Holiday History events aimed at families (in Ewell), followed by a fantastic visit to Hobbledown children's adventure park and farm (but do pre-book), just a short walk from Epsom town-centre!" Mnmerton


  • Southbank and Westminster

"Cross Vauxhall Bridge, go to Tate Britain, walk along by the Thames to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and walk up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. 

Or stay on the Southbank, visiting the Florence Nightingale Museum (at St Thomas's Hospital), take in the many free summertime activities going on at The Southbank Centre (including Urban Weekend from 25 - 27 July), have lunch in one of the many family-friendly restaurants, watch the street entertainers. Visit the BFI for film fun and free retro TV/film watching in their archive room. Admire The Globe Theatre, visit The Clink Museum for ghoulish goings-on and the Tate Modern." Mnmerton


"Fantastic playgrounds for toddlers to pre-teens, great fountains to play in too, and the planting is a feast for the eyes. Take plenty of food and water as all catering is pretty expensive." bloodybridget


"[There's a] Peter Pan themed playground, you can have a lovely afternoon tea too. You may even see Kate, Lupo and George in the park. It is also nice to visit the Diana Fountain and hire a boat." BridgettRousselot


Museums, culture and historical locations

natural history museum



"Great if your kids are into dinosaurs and lots of interactive stuff. It has picnic area where you can have your packed lunch if you don't want to buy food. Free entry and many of the exhibitions are free too." esmum

Top tip: "You can pre-book a time slot for free on their website. When we went last week, the queue to get into the museum was 20 mins and then there would have been a separate 30 mins queue for the dinosaurs had we not been able to just jump it." laundryangel


Other activities



morden park

"A National Trust property but there's no entry charge and the car park's free too! There's loads to do with or without much money. Every Thursday of the school holidays there are family nature/craft activities (for a very small fee). There's loads going on this summer including open-air cinema, outdoor theatre, Mad Hatter's Tea Party, The Really Wild Family Sleepover (although additional charges apply for these events) plus, a fantastic wooden outdoor play area, The Potting Shed cafe for a cuppa and homemade cakes, a garden centre, bike hire, plenty of park space for picnics and games and the beautiful rose garden." MNmerton

Other cheap days out in London


East of England 

Parks and countryside

go ape



"You really can spend a whole day here, and all it costs is the parking charge (a maximum of £11 for the whole day). Archerypony riding, miles of bike trails suitable for all abilities, several excellently-designed play areas for all ages of children, including a great 'sound trail' - definitely a hit with the younger members of the family! You can even hire one of the barbecues on site and bring a gazebo to sit under, or just pack a picnic." incogKNEEto


  • Rendlesham Forest Suffolk

"Lovely bike trails and a bike park for the brave souls. Beautiful, and free but for the £3.30 car parking for the whole day." bluevista62

orford ness

 Museums, culture and historical locations



"For teenagers studying the wars in history, an atmospheric trip to Orfordness is well worth the visit. It's a desolate, other-wordly nature reserve now that you travel to by ferry form Orford Quay. National Trust-run and odd opening hours but worth the trip." bluevista62


Zoos and farms



"Nice and only £2.50 per adult." Sylviecat

"Free entry (donations welcomed) and they have a tea shop, tractor rides and loads of lovely equine characters." Lesuffolkandnorfolk


 Other cheap days out in the East of England



bike riding

Parks and countryside




"This is where we go for a walk/bike ride and a picnic" SantasLittleMonkeyButler


"Canon Hill Park has the Midlands Arts Centre (with its own events and exhibitions, is free entry) and a cafe, crazy golf, toddler rides, two play structure parks, ducks and beautiful gardens. At the end is also a small nature park that is more like a mini zoo with a reptile house, birds and small animals." andsmile


"You pay a few pounds to park but it is possible to go in completely free on foot and enjoy all the play equipment. There is a big field for a picnic and you can walk around the lake for free as well.

There are lots of rides and a little train, and you can either buy passes for them individually, if you are on a tight budget for time or money, or buy a wrist band for the day. You can use Tesco vouchers for sheets of tokens for rides as well." boffinmum

matlock bath

Towns and cities




  • Matlock Bath

"A family favourite; very quaint/different. It's like a seaside town, but inland. Visit the Aquarium - don't be put off by its outward appearance. There are the cable cars up to the Heights of Abraham too (it's lovely up there and lots to do). Relatively inexpensive day out for the family." culyweasel



Museums, culture and historical locations



"A museum of dead planes with free admission (there is a car park charge). My two sons love the place. Me, not so much - but it has a coffee shop!" sparklingbrook 

"I printed off a voucher online for Thinktank last month and spent the entire day there with my three boys for £12.50(ish) - was very, very well worthwhile. I'd been put off by the high ticket prices before, but would consider an annual pass now." MNBirminghamlocaled


Other activities



  • kids with plantsMazeworld and Plantasia Nuneaton

"About £20 for a family ticket or £50 for annual family pass which includes two free hot drinks per month at the cafe in the garden centre. It has six or seven mazes, a wildlife trail, play and picnic areas." sugarmiceintherain


Other cheap days out in the Midlands

  • Baggeridge Country Park West Midlands

  • Captain Cook Museum Middlesbrough
  • Clumber Park Worksop
  • Fermyn Woods Kettering
  • Markeaton Park Derby
  • Mountain biking Sherwood Pines


North West

Parks and countryside



  • rimham rocksBrimham Rocks Ripon

"Brilliant. Pay for car parking, take a picnic and enjoy climbing the rocks. As long as little ones can climb up a slide in the park there's generally climbing/walking for all ages." spottybra

"The park is free. Loads of lovely walking, fab playground, and interesting animals to see (llamas, goats, chickens etc). The museum is mega cheap, £4 for a year's ticket for a family of four and really very good. The cafe is excellent and also very cheap." silverten


Museums, culture and historical locations



"It costs £8 to park the car, but then there's the ruined abbey, river and woodland walks, a tree with loads of pennies embedded in the trunk, stepping stones, and some events. You could easily spend a day there - just don't fall in the strid." OnIlkleyMoorBahTwat

  • Media Museum Bradford

"They have ditched a lot of the film exhibits, which I used to love, but have a great exhibit of old computer stuff, and vintage video games to play on the top floor! Brilliant place." IfNotNowThenWhen

"Over the summer holidays on Wednesdays the council are doing free screenings of kids films (I forget which but all recent ones) in centenary square across from the museum on the big screen, along with themed craft and activities." chestnut100

"MOSI is free but they do charge for the 4D cinema, simulator and planetarium (all about £3 each but you really don't need them, we only do one per day out if any). It's near a Roman fort and that's a nice picnic spot." MARGUERITE18


ice cream farm

Zoos and farms




  • Cheshire ice cream farm Chester

"Free to get in. They have farm animals you can see and pet, an outdoor playground, games room for older kids (haven't tried this; there's a charge but you can then go in and out at will) indoor soft play which is £3.50 and again, once paid you can go in and out all day. The cafe is middling, however the ice cream servery is amazing! Small kids only need one scoop - I have seen many staggering under the weight of two." inelectricdreams


Other activities


red house farm bouncy castle


"Has lazer quest, a climbing wall, barrel train, mini diggers, play structure, bouncy castle and maize maze for £7 each. Then there are lots of nice walks in the surrounding area and the national trust park if you have a membership." MARGUERITE18


Other cheap days out in the North West


North East

scultpture park

Museums, culture and historical locations




"Not expensive because they charge per car, not person. It is suitable for all age groups and not just for arty types. Loads of space to run, play, hide, climb and have picnics." Allmycats

"Doesn't cost anything to go in - very interesting museum plus activities for children in the afternoon (last week was clay pot making) and talks from characters from the 1930s/40s which were good too. Plus if children are over five, you can go down the mine as well." liney15

valley gardens playground

Towns and cities




"Play area, outside paddling pool and minigolf for £1.75." CombineBananaFister

"Great playground, paddling pool in summer, skate park, tennis courts, mini golf, cafe, toilets, model boating pond and gardens." HighCockalorum 



Zoos and farms




  • RSPB Reserve Saltholme

"I think RSPB reserves are generally fab. If you are a member you get in for free and get to do the activities for free. If you're not a member it's just the cost of parking (plus activities if you want). Our local one (Saltholme in Teesside) has a fantastic play park and a beautiful garden, as well as lots of walks round the site with hides to watch the birds from. Take a camera and a picnic and it's a fab day out." gamescompendium


beverley races

Other activites 




  • Beverley races Westwood

"We went today, there's free parking, enclosure was £5 entry- £3 OAP or student, under 18s free. Ypu can take a picnic in enclosure too.

We spent £2 on a racing programme, kids had fun picking out their favourites while eating the picnic, then watching the races. It was a newcomer day, so they had lots of stuff on for kids, including facepainting and a bouncy castle." BreakOutTheKaraoke


Other cheap days out in the North East



caldergan park
Parks and countryside



  • Calderglen Country Park East Kilbride

"Friends took us to Calderglen Country Park near Glasgow at the weekend - free entry to the park, and a little zoo and gardens for the princely sum of £1.25 per adult, under 16s free." cabster


Museums, culture and historical locations



  • Highland Folk Museum Newtonmore

"We went in June - free entrance, free car park. And the attractions are amazing!" jucymyname


Zoos and farms



"There is a bus from Ayr town centre, there is also parking, and it costs only £42.50 for a family of five and almost everything there is free. They have amazing play areas outdoors with sand and toys, a wooden pirate ship, model diggers and a wooden castle. Inside there is a brilliant soft play with slides and more farm vehicles to play on. There is a large variety of animals, you can buy food and feed goats, horses, donkeys and one cheeky llama." coffeethrowrampbitch

Other cheap days out in the North East



Parks and countryside



  • margam parkMargam Park Port Talbot

"Free to enter, you just pay to park (I think it's around £5). There are play areas, a fairy tale village and farm park, as well as loads of walks and cycle tracks, and a narrow gauge railway." FlipFlopWaddle





Towns and cities



"The National Slate Museum in North Wales is wonderful, and free. Probably best for 7+ years." Bloodybridget 


  • The Waterfront Museum Swansea

"Always has children's activities on, and it's free." FlipFlopWaddle



Zoos and farms

penguins with girl



"Isn't free, but it's really good value. We've got annual passes but I think it's in the region of £10 for adult entry and there is loads there, easily enough to keep a family amused for a whole day and there are picnic areas inside and outside." FlipFlopWaddle


 Other cheap days out in Wales


Do share your own recommendations for family days out (including any we've missed off this list) with other Mumsnetters by writing a review.


Last updated: 8 months ago