The best free days out for kids

Long hazy days playing out with friends, sun-drenched picnics in the park, long bike rides through leafy lanes. Whatever you have planned, it’s certain that everyone is looking forward to summer this year.

Although it looks to be another summer of uncertainty and changing plans, a lack of foreign travel doesn’t have to impact the enjoyment of the school summer holidays. There’s an abundance of incredible activities, stunning nature spots, as well as educational endeavours to shake up your summer itinerary and keep kids entertained. And best of all - they don’t cost a penny.

In preparation for this summer, we’ve done all the hard work for you. We’ve analysed Tripadvisor reviews data to bring you the ultimate list of best free days out for kids in the UK. We looked at over 1,000 attractions across every category and county in the UK - covering everything from ancient ruins and historical landmarks, to botanical gardens and art galleries - to reveal the free attractions with the most 5* reviews.

Whether you’re looking for a cultural, educational, historical or nature day out, grab your kids’ trainers - these are the best free days out for kids in the UK.

The British Museum

The best free educational days out for kids

  1. 1. The British Museum

    London

    5 star rating (52,753)
  2. 2. Natural History Museum

    London

    5 star rating (24,540)
  3. 3. V&A - Victoria and Albert Museum

    London

    5 star rating (23,507)
  4. 4. National Museum of Scotland

    Edinburgh

    5 star rating (15,890)
  5. 5. National Railway Museum

    York

    5 star rating (13,280)
  6. 6. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

    Glasgow

    5 star rating (11,143)
  7. 7. Imperial War Museums

    London

    5 star rating (6,650)
  8. 8. The Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel

    Glasgow

    5 star rating (6,205)
  9. 9. St Fagans National Museum of History

    Cardiff

    5 star rating (5,350)
  10. 10. Science and Industry Museum

    Manchester

    5 star rating (4,834)

If you want to keep up your kids’ education ahead of back to school, we’ve analysed the best free kids’ educational days out to reveal the top 10 in the UK.

It might not be surprising to see London dominating our educational list of days out. The capital city is home to over 170 museums1 - and many of them are free. The British Museum is a clear first place with over 50,000 5* reviews, followed by the Natural History Museum and V&A in second and third place. Scotland is also home to many free enlightening institutions, appearing three times in our top 10 with Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and The Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel, also in Glasgow.

1 https://www.timeout.com/london/attractions/top-london-museums

The National Gallery

The best free cultural days out for kids

  1. 1. National Gallery

    London

    5 star rating (29,373)
  2. 2. Camden Market

    London

    5 star rating (17,611)
  3. 3. Royal Mile

    Edinburgh

    5 star rating (14,964)
  4. 4. Covent Garden

    London

    5 star rating (14,193)
  5. 5. Borough Market

    London

    5 star rating (9,100)
  6. 6. Wallace Collection

    London

    5 star rating (4,994)
  7. 7. The John Rylands Library

    Manchester

    5 star rating (4,123)
  8. 8. National Portrait Gallery

    London

    5 star rating (3,643)
  9. 9. Scottish National Gallery

    Edinburgh

    5 star rating (3,259)
  10. 10. Buchanan Street

    Glasgow

    5 star rating (2,974)

London also dominates our list for cultural attractions, with six of our top 10 residing in the capital. The world-renowned National Gallery is a firm first place with almost 30,000 5* reviews, followed by other famous London galleries such as The Wallace Collection and the National Portrait Gallery. Markets can also make for a fantastic cultural day out, with iconic destinations such as Camden Market and Borough Market making the list.

Free cultural days out aren’t exclusive to London however, with three Scottish attractions ranking in our top 10. The bustling Royal Mile in third place has everything on offer, from street performers and bagpipe players to museums and ghost tours, while Buchanan Street in Glasgow is a vibrant high street with something for everyone. For the studious types, The John Rylands Library in Manchester is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful libraries in the UK.

If you are wanting to dress your little ones in something a little smarter for a cultural day out, our collection of black school trainers offers the perfect combination of kids’ comfort and style.

Bournemouth Beach

The best free nature days out for kids

  1. 1. Bournemouth Beach

    Bournemouth

    5 star rating (5,844)
  2. 2. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

    Edinburgh

    5 star rating (5,451)
  3. 3. Princes Street Gardens

    Edinburgh

    5 star rating (4,515)
  4. 4. Cardiff Bay

    Cardiff

    5 star rating (3,599)
  5. 5. Kensington Gardens

    London

    5 star rating (2,874)
  6. 6. Steep Hill

    Lincoln

    5 star rating (2,154)
  7. 7. Gower Peninsula

    Swansea

    5 star rating (1,820)
  8. 8. Hengistbury Head Beach

    Bournemouth

    5 star rating (1,689)
  9. 9. Old Town Hastings

    Hastings

    5 star rating (1,586)
  10. 10. Lower Gardens

    Bournemouth

    5 star rating (1,313)

For those wanting a more active day outside, grab your kids’ sport shoes and get ready to explore nature with our top free nature days out.

Our research revealed the top free nature days out are widely spread across the UK, with two in Scotland, two in Wales and several on the English south coast. It seems Bournemouth firmly takes the lead however, with the seaside town being home to three of our top 10 free nature days out. The famous Bournemouth Beach is in well-deserved first place with almost 6,000 5* reviews, with the more secluded Hengistbury Head Beach and Lower Gardens appearing later in our list.

Outside of Dorset, Edinburgh swoops into the second-best nature destination with the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens and Princes Street Gardens sitting in second and third place, while in Wales Cardiff Bay and the lesser known Gower Peninsula in Swansea are highly reviewed too.

Edinburgh Old Town

The best free historical days out for kids

  1. 1. Edinburgh Old Town

    Edinburgh

    5 star rating (11,620)
  2. 2. Shambles

    York

    5 star rating (9,552)
  3. 3. Liverpool Cathedral

    Liverpool

    5 star rating (6,616)
  4. 4. York City Walls

    York

    5 star rating (5,811)
  5. 5. Chester City Walls

    Chester

    5 star rating (3,807)
  6. 6. St Giles' Cathedral

    Edinburgh

    5 star rating (3,557)
  7. 7. Chester Cathedral

    Chester

    5 star rating (3,495)
  8. 8. Norwich Cathedral

    Norwich

    5 star rating (2,921)
  9. 9. Gloucester Cathedral

    Gloucester

    5 star rating (2,724)
  10. 10. Worcester Cathedral

    Worcester

    5 star rating (2,156)

When reviewing the best free historical days out, looking at categories such as ancient ruins, castles, cathedrals and historical landmarks, we were somewhat surprised to see London not appearing in our top 10. It appears the best places for a historical day out are up north - and what a great choice there is.

Coming in at first place is the Edinburgh Old Town, a bustling area of centuries-old buildings and winding alleys with the heart of the Edinburgh skyline right in the middle: Edinburgh Castle. Next up is the Shambles in York, an incredibly quaint area with cobbled streets and overhanging buildings dating back as far as the 14th century. Fun fact: the Shambles was allegedly the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, for any wizarding enthusiasts.

Elsewhere in the UK, opulent cathedrals can be found in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Chester, Norwich, Gloucester and Worcester - with Liverpool Cathedral having the highest reviews of them all, perhaps due to its impressive Grade I listed building stature.

Little girl with goats

Best free days out for animal lovers

  1. 1. Devil's Dyke National Trust

    Brighton

    5 star rating (586)
  2. 2. Sutton Park National Nature Reserve

    Sutton Coldfield

    5 star rating (573)
  3. 3. Our Cow Molly Dairy Farm & Ice Cream Shop

    Sheffield

    5 star rating (316)
  4. 4. The Natural World Centre, Whisby

    Lincoln

    5 star rating (145)
  5. 5. Tam O'Shanter Urban Farm

    Birkenhead

    5 star rating (138)
  6. 6. Stonebridge City Farm

    Nottingham

    5 star rating (127)
  7. 7. Ouseburn Farm

    Newcastle Upon Tyne

    5 star rating (119)
  8. 8. Black Mountain

    Belfast

    5 star rating (116)
  9. 9. Windmill Hill City Farm

    Bristol

    5 star rating (66)
  10. 10. Uphill Local Nature Reserve

    Weston Super Mare

    5 star rating (66)

For the little ones (or big ones!) in your life, we also looked at animal centres, farms, nature reserves and wildlife centres to reveal the best free days out for animal lovers in the UK. This category also saw a very even spread across the country, with adorable attractions from Brighton to Belfast.

In first place is the picturesque Devil’s Dyke National Trust park in Brighton, where you can see Dartmoor ponies grazing to the sound of skylarks in the early summer months. Next up is Sutton Park National Nature Reserve in Sutton Coldfield, which is home to open heathland, woodlands, seven lakes, wetlands, and marshes - each with its own rich variety of plants and wildlife, as well as cattle and wild ponies.

Further up north we have the unique Our Cow Molly Dairy Farm in Sheffield in third place, which serves as an ice cream shop as well as being home to new born calves, lambs and hens, and across the channel the fantastic Black Mountain in Belfast is a stunning sight full of a diverse range of wildlife, flora and fauna, including ponies and grazing cattle.

The top 10 towns/cities for under 10s

We’ve unveiled the top free kids’ days out around the UK, but which cities have the most 5* free attractions? Family days out can be expensive, but in these towns and cities you can plan your trip with the peace of mind that you’ll have to cover transport, refreshments and not much else. We’ve split the top towns and cities based on the best suited for under and over 10s, so here are the top 10 towns and cities for entertaining your little ones.

The top 10 towns/cities for under 10s
Rank Town/City Count of 5* Attractions Most 5* reviewed free attraction Category
1Swansea14Gower PeninsulaBeach/Bay
2Sheffield12The Botanical GardensBotanic Gardens
3Plymouth11Plymouth SoundBeach/Bay
4Cardiff10Cardiff BayBeach/Bay
5Leeds8Roundhay ParkPark/Country Park
6Norwich8Elm HillHill
7Poole8Sandbanks BeachBeach/Bay
8Hastings8Old Town HastingsBeach/Bay
9London8Hyde ParkPark/Country Park
10Leicester8University of Leicester Botanic GardenBotanic Gardens

For our under 10s, we looked at outdoorsy attractions, exploring and animal activities, so with these in mind we can reveal that Swansea takes the crown for the most free 5* attractions for under 10s. With its most 5* reviewed free attraction being the Gower Peninsula, Swansea is home to lots of beautiful beaches and bays, as well as parks and nature reserves, making it comfortably first place.

Sheffield and Plymouth come in close behind with attractions such as The Botanical Gardens and Plymouth Sound being family favourites, while later down the list sandy Poole is a hotspot for beach lovers and London is known for its iconic green spaces.

The top 10 towns/cities for over 10s

The top 10 towns/cities for over 10s
Rank Town/City Count of 5* Attractions Most 5* reviewed free attraction Category
1London22The British MuseumMuseum
2Cambridge19Fitzwilliam MuseumMuseum
3Liverpool19Royal Albert Dock LiverpoolDock
4Aberdeen18Aberdeen Maritime MuseumMuseum
5Belfast16City HallTown Hall
6Oxford16Ashmolean Museum of Art and ArchaeologyMuseum
7Edinburgh15National Museum of ScotlandMuseum
8Kingston Upon Hull15Streetlife Museum of TransportMuseum
9Dundee15The McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery & MuseumMuseum
10Bristol14Clifton Suspension BridgeBridge

For our over 10s, we looked at more cultural attractions, from historical hotspots to vibrant markets to art galleries. With these categories in mind, it is unsurprising that London comes in at first place for being home to the most free 5* attractions for over 10s. With its most 5* reviewed free attraction being The British Museum, London is renowned worldwide for its many free museums and galleries, as well as its bustling market scene.

Cambridge and Liverpool are joint second favourites, with attractions such as The Fitzwilliam Museum and the Royal Albert Dock being iconic destinations, while Aberdeen has been an up and coming city of culture for a long time, boasting unique attractions such as the Aberdeen Maritime Museum. In fact, Scotland has a wide breadth of cultural attractions, with the inclusion of Edinburgh and Dundee making three of our top 10 in Scotland.

And that concludes our ranking of the best free days out for kids this summer. We hope we’ve inspired you to get out there and explore whatever cultural, natural or educational activity piques your interest. Whether you’re embarking on a civilised day out at a gallery or a jam-packed day on the beach, Clarks have got you covered in ensuring your little ones’ feet are kept comfy all day. It’s never too early to get kitted out with school trainers, and our wide range of girls' school trainers and boys’ school trainers offers something for everyone – no matter the adventure.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance

Please enjoy public spaces, such as those listed, responsibly and in line with government rules and advice. Wash your hands frequently with soap for at least 20 seconds, take hand sanitiser with you and use it before and after touching any surfaces, and wear face coverings over your mouth and nose in enclosed spaces.

Methodology

The 100 most-populated UK towns and cities were selected based on population data from thegeographist.com. Tripadvisor data was analysed to produce a list of 1,777 free attractions/things to do in these areas. The data was filtered to only include attractions with an average review score of 4.5* or 5*.

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