Looking for new and exciting things to do in Yorkshire this summer? Check out our fantastic top 50 free things to do, see, and explore!
1. National Railway Museum, York
With nearly 300 locomotives, the National Railway Museum in York is the largest rail museum in the UK. Whether you’re an avid Trainspotter or simply want to know more about the history of rail, the NRM has something for everyone. This summer, they’re showcasing a ‘Summer Sleuthing’ event. Think you have what it takes to solve ‘The Case of the Missing Passenger’? Then head on down to test your detective skills.
2. National Coal Mining Museum, Wakefield
The National Coal Mining Museum is a true piece of Yorkshire history. Located at Cophouse Colliery in Wakefield, it has the oldest coal-mine shaft in Britain to still be in use today! With up to 31 underground tours every day, you can experience what life was like as a miner.
3. National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
The National Science and Media Museum will always remain a favourite free day out in Yorkshire. With eight floors of interactive exhibits this museum boasts hours and hours of family fun. Wander around the Magic Light Factory, test out your presenting skills on the green screen, or watch some retro films from their National Archive of over 2,500 titles. There are also loads of free activities on this summer, such as science busking and taste labs so visit their website before you go!
4. The Royal Armouries, Leeds
With six themed galleries and daily talks, you can explore the world of arms and armour through the ages at The Royal Armouries in Leeds. Check out their ‘Dangerous Arts’ events this summer; free activities include museum trails and theatre workshops.
5. Leeds City Museum
Leeds City Museum has loads of interesting exhibits with a focus on the ancient world, natural history and Yorkshire! There are lots of interactive activities to keep the kids entertained on those inevitable rainy days. This summer they’re hosting ‘Enchanted Forest’ craft sessions throughout the school holidays.
6. Bolling Hall, Bradford
Bolling Hall is a great way to journey back in time and explore the lives of its previous inhabitants. All the rooms are decorated to show different periods of time and offer an interactive way to view Bradford’s rich history. But, beware the ‘White Lady’ in the Ghost Room!
7. The Hepworth, Wakefield
Winner of ‘Museum of the Year 2017’, The Hepworth is definitely one of the best free things to do in Yorkshire. This incredible art gallery showcases some of the most influential pieces from the 20th Century, including work by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.
8. Salt’s Mill, Saltaire
This former textile mill is now home to many works by the fantastic Yorkshireman, David Hockney. To celebrate his 80th birthday this summer, his 1970’s and 80’s prints, sketches and lithographs have taken over Gallery 2!
9. Millennium Gallery, Sheffield
This fantastic art gallery celebrates Sheffield’s industrial heritage and is definitely a must-see. The Ruskin collection showcases a variety of works by the Victorian writer who aimed to inspire Sheffield’s workers 130 years ago. The rare Metalwork collection is also not to be missed.
12. Dean Clough Mills, Halifax
This former carpet factory is now a nationally-renowned arts centre. It has six free galleries with continually changing exhibitions, focusing on contemporary Northern art. You can also find jazz, theatre and comedy performances in the underground ‘Viaduct’ theatre. This is a great place for budding artists!
11. Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield
Home to works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, this award-winning sculpture park is a fantastic free day out! Set in over 500 acres, this outdoor gallery is a great place for kids to explore and appreciate these Yorkshire greats.
12. The Graves Gallery, Sheffield
The Graves Gallery has been the home of Sheffield’s visual arts collection since 1934. Featuring pieces by William Blake and Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry, there are so many free things to see and do at this spectacular gallery.
13. The Tetley, Leeds
This brewery-turned-gallery is a fantastic arts centre located in Leeds city centre. Whether you’re into contemporary art or beer, this art-deco building is bursting with free things to do. Check out their range of summer events for kids and adults alike.
14. Cartwright Hall, Bradford
Cartwright Hall Gallery has four permanent art exhibitions showcasing mostly 19th and 20th century British art. The upper galleries reopened in 2008 and exhibit over 200 Eastern and Western works of art connecting the themes People, Place and Imagination. The beautiful building is located in the fantastic Lister Park, complete with a children’s playground and boating lake.
The Great Outdoors
15. Nosterfield Nature Reserve, Bedale
Make sure you bring your wellies if you’re heading to Nosterfield Nature Reserve! This huge area of natural beauty is regarded as North Yorkshire’s premier wetland, with water levels reaching 2.5m. Grab some binoculars and go spot the many birds and creepy crawlies on offer!
16. Harrogate Valley Gardens
These Grade II listed gardens are perfect for anyone with green fingers. Bursting with colourful flowers and plants, this 17 acre garden is a great free day out. Complete with a children’s playpark and paddling pool, there is something to keep the whole family happy on a sunny day!
17. Malham Cove, Skipton
Formed by an ancient waterfall, this 260 foot high cliff is an absolute Yorkshire must-see! The majestic cove overlooks the picturesque village of Malham and the views of the Dales are simply incredible. If that hasn’t tempted you to explore this natural beauty, you may be interested to know that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was filmed here!
18. Brimham Rocks, Harrogate
Brimham Rocks is the ultimate free day out! Whether you want to take a gentle stroll and appreciate these incredible rock formations, test out your climbing skills on the enormous boulders, or mountain bike through the scenery, this National Trust site is an absolute winner. Tempt the kids outside this summer and try geocaching or go bilberry picking. You can also have the most incredible games of hide-and-seek here! Check out our recent Brimham Rocks blog for more ideas.
19. North York Moors National Park
This astounding national park expands over 554 square miles, offering days (if not weeks) of free fun! Why not stroll through the incredible scenery before settling down for a picnic? Or, grab your bike and cycle up one of the 23 hills? With this on your doorstep you can never be bored!
20. Bronte Way, West Yorkshire
Follow in the footsteps of Cathy and Heathcliff and explore the wild Yorkshire moors that inspired Emily Bronte’s classic novel ‘Wuthering Heights’. This route takes you to the Bronte’s birthplace, as well as many other scenic sights such as Haworth village and Pennistone Hill.
21. Bolton Abbey, Skipton
This Duke of Devonshire estate will always remain a firm family favourite. There are so many free things to do here: explore the priory ruins, follow the woodland trails, paddle in the river Wharfe, or cross the celebrated stepping stones on the ‘Welly Walk’. Treat yourself to an ice-cream and appreciate what Yorkshire has to offer!
22. Aysgarth Falls, Wensleydale
Situated in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales in Wensleydale, these three flight waterfalls are a truly stunning sight. After exploring the river Ure and its breath-taking scenery, why not pop to Wensleydale and sample some of its famous cheese?
23. Roberts Park, Saltaire
Roberts Park is a beautiful little spot in the historic milling town of Saltaire. The park boasts a children’s play area, skate park, bandstand and cricket pitch and is located just on the banks of the River Aire.
24. Cow and Calf, Ilkley
Legend has it, this impressive rock formation was formed when the giant Rombald was fleeing from an enemy and stepped on the rock, separating the cow and its calf. Today, the Cow and Calf rocks are a great place to climb and explore the Ilkley Moors. Why not continue the route to White Wells, the 18th century open air spa?
25. Otley Chevin Forest Park
Overlooking the historic market town of Otley, this forest park is a great free family day out. The 282m summit at Surprise View offers spectacular views of Wharfedale. Great for walks, running or cycling, there are also orienteering routes to get the kids active!
26. Roundhay Park, Leeds
Roundhay Park is the biggest park in Leeds with over 700 acres to explore, including a beautiful lake in the centre. Feed the ducks, play hide-and-seek, or simply stroll round the gardens. Bring a picnic and you’ve got the perfect free family day out.
27. Leeds Owl Trail
The Leeds Owl Trail is a great way to explore Leeds and discover its history and architecture for absolutely nothing. Simply download the map and try to find all 25 owls hidden around the city. Interesting, interactive and informative – this is a great free day out!
28. Ribblehead Viaduct
Ribblehead Viaduct is one of the most impressive feats of Victorian engineering. Spanning 400m and with 24 arches, it is a truly magnificent structure. Settle here for a picnic before exploring the Yorkshire Three Peaks.
As it’s summer, we can’t ignore the beautiful beaches of Whitby. There is so much to do here without spending a penny, making it the ideal day out for all the family. If you’re feeling particularly brave, why not swim in the (freezing) sea? Alternatively, you could climb the steps up to Dracula’s Castle, wander around the picturesque, little streets or sunbathe on the beaches (weather permitting). Check out our blog on fossil hunting for some inspiration!
30. Withernsea Beach
Withernsea is a lesser known Yorkshire coastal town, but should definitely be on your list. This is a rather quirky, little town which has a giant lighthouse and a castellated entrance to the beach. There’s loads going on here over summer, so check out their events page for details.
31. Wharfemeadows Park, Otley
This family park will always be a popular attraction in the beautiful town of Otley. Located just next to the river Wharfe, it’s a perfectly relaxing spot for kids and adults. With a playground, Skate Park and outdoor gym there’s always something to keep you entertained.
32. Heeley City Farm, Sheffield
This community-led farm park is located right in the heart of Sheffield and has an expansive range of animals, including horses, pigs, goats, rabbits, chipmunks, tarantulas, snakes and giant African land snails!
33. None Go By Farm, Horsforth
With free parking and a special picnic area, this free farm in Horsforth is another great day out! Animals include alpacas, prairie dogs, donkeys, and pigs. With a fantastic little farm shop you can even pick up something for tea!
34. Sheffield Winter Garden
Sheffield Winter Gardens brings the great outdoors inside. This award-winning greenhouse holds over 2,500 plants from all over the world and is one of the largest temperate glasshouses in the UK. Costing absolutely nothing, this is an absolute must-see.
35. City Park Mirror Pool and Fountain, Bradford
Bradford’s Mirror Pool is the UK’s largest urban water feature and is an unmissable day out. With over 100 fountains, including a 100ft water cannon, it is a truly spectacular sight. The play jets and pool are perfect for children to cool off on hot days. Come at dusk to view the water light display.
36. Painted Illusion Trail, Staithes
The Painted Illusion Trail in Staithes was created by trompe l’oeil artist Paul Czainski in 2014. This local artist painted eight optical illusions on buildings hidden around the village. Pick up a leaflet from one of the villages in the shop and enjoy these 3D illusions.
History and Architecture
37. The Piece Hall, Halifax
This grade I listed building is the only remaining 18th century Northern cloth hall. It is an architectural feat with an outstanding heritage dating back to 1779. This exquisite Hall is one of Britain’s most impressive Georgian buildings. Recently reopened, The Piece Hall now offers museum exhibitions, cafes and a stunning courtyard.
38. Leeds Minster
Unlike most big cathedrals and minsters, Leeds Minster is completely free to go in. As equally impressive on the outside as the inside, this building is a work of architectural beauty.
39. Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds
Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery founded in 1152 before being disestablished in 1538 under the rule of Henry VIII. Thousands of people come to visit these well-preserved ruins every year to learn the rich past of the monks who used to live here. The surrounding park makes it a great free day out.
40. Ripon Cathedral
Built between 1160 and 1547, Ripon Cathedral has a heritage dating back to the 7th century. This impressive cathedral mixes Gothic and Anglo-Saxon architecture, making it a truly unique building. Free to enter, you can explore the amazing stained-glass windows and see the huge organ installed in 1926.
41. Mountain Biking, Otley
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous then why not try mountain biking through Otley Chevin? This 8.5 mile route with a total 2670 ft climb boasts some spectacular views of the Wharfe Valley and is a great beginner’s ride.
42. Yorkshire Three Peaks
The Yorkshire Three Peaks route is 24 miles long with a total 5,200ft climb and takes you up Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. Whether you want to take on the challenge of climbing all three peaks in under 12 hours, or start small(ish) and climb one peak, the views will be incredible and you’ll feel great afterwards (though maybe with slightly sore feet). Check out Lyndsey’s experience here!
43. Tour de Yorkshire
The Tour de Yorkshire attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists and put Yorkshire on the world map. Think you’ve got what it takes to follow in the footsteps, or wheel tracks, of the cycling greats? Grab your bike, a bottle of water and follow the Tour de Yorkshire signposts. Not into cycling? Well, you can still walk the routes and enjoy the beautiful Yorkshire scenery.
Not only is Geocaching free, you also get free stuff! What Yorkshireman doesn’t love free stuff?! A cross between orienteering and a treasure hunt, geocaching is the latest craze to hit the nation and a great free way to explore the country! The aim of the game is to find the hidden containers which hold a secret object. You can either leave the surprise object or take it and replace it with a new one.
45. Yeadon Tarn + BMX track
Yeadon Tarn is a great park and is open 365 days a year. A perfect spot for picnicking or feeding the ducks. If you’re looking for some adventure, then the BMX track is one of the most exciting free things to do in Leeds.
46. Continental Market, Ilkley
Every year the Continental Market comes to Ilkley, bringing hordes of visitors with it. This year, the market will be in town Friday 11th – Sunday 13th August. Come and sample food from around the world in this fantastic weekend event!
47. YUM festival at Queens Gardens, Hull
Set in the beautiful 9.75 acre Queens Gardens in Hull, a two day food festival extravaganza is taking place. The event is running Friday 11th – Saturday 12th August and you can find delicious street food, tasty local produce, traditional dishes and exotic flavours.
48. Otley Farmer’s Market
Otley’s celebrated Farmer’s Market is held the last Sunday of every month at Otley Market Place. From pork pies to fruit and veg, handmade soaps to delicious cakes this market is full of amazing, local produce. Come and support your independent sellers at this brilliant monthly market.
49. The Hop Pub Quiz, Leeds
Free entry and a home cooked supper included, what more can you want from a pub quiz? Oh, and the prize is a gallon of Osset Brewery Ale. You’ll want to buy you own drinks, but if you’re smart enough you could win your bar tab back in beer! The quiz takes place every Tuesday at 8pm in this Leeds city centre pub.
50. Leeds Comedy Cellar
Bored of your usual, expensive date nights? Well, every Tuesday at Verve bar on Merrion Street, there’s a FREE comedy show! Acts change every week, making it a unique, cheap night out in Leeds.
Still stuck for inspiration?! Then check out our Top 10 Things to do with the Kids this Summer!