Free things to do this summer

Free things to do this summer

School summer holidays are on the horizon, and a hefty price tag for keeping the kids entertained comes with them. 


Trustpilot has found that parents' top concerns about the upcoming summer holidays include not planning enough activities for their little ones (22%) and, on the flip side, how much all these activities will cost (32%).


As a result, those who plan to fork out for activities during the school holidays estimate they will spend an average of £635 on keeping their kids entertained for six weeks, as one in five (18%) of us hate the idea of their children having a "disappointing" summer.


The good news is there are many free activities for kids that won't break the bank. Here's what you need to know.


Find a quirky museum


Not all museums are about history and art, so inspire your kids by visiting something different. There are 200 museums and attractions in England that can be visited without charge (and you don't have to pay the obligatory donation suggested at the entrance). In Wales, 65 museums and attractions can be visited without charge; in Scotland, 186 museums can be visited for free. 


Look for places like the Museum of Zoology and see  68,000 specimens covering the entire animal kingdom. Alternatively, try The Bug Farm, a tropical insect museum in Pembrokeshire, Wales, or the waterside Museum of the Broads in Norfolk, which has a unique Victorian steamboat. You can even visit a Teddy Bear museum in Dorset. Plus, many large museums have free activities for children during the summer, so even if your kids have been somewhere many times, there will still be something new for them to see and do. Check individual museum websites for details.

Go to the theatre


Kids Week is when any child aged 17 and under can go free to a range of London shows when accompanied by an adult paying full price. Plus, an additional two children can attend for half price. This year, Kids Week performances will run from Wednesday, 24 July, to Friday, 6 September. 


What's more, during Kids Week, some shows will have activity sessions or interactive curtain calls before or after performances, so you can get even more from your theatre trip! Shows usually include Wicked, Matilda, Back to the Future, Frozen and Peppa Pig. 


Sign up for the Reading Challenge


If you have kids who love books or challenges, you can't go wrong with The Summer Reading Challenge. This program encourages children to keep reading during the summer holidays. Children set a reading goal and collect rewards for reading anything they enjoy. Simply sign up at your local library or online; it's free to take part and, of course, free to borrow books.


Try nature activities 


It's not always easy to think of things to do outside besides another endless trip to the park, so this is where Wildlife Watch's activity guides and spotter sheets come in handy. They are full of ingenious ideas and give step-by-step guides to everything from making a bird feeder to creating a bug hotel to even making your own binoculars for wildlife watching.


Give geocaching a go


Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunt using a GPS-enabled device (e.g. a smartphone). Participants navigate to a specific set of coordinates and then attempt to find a geocache (container) hidden at that location.


All you need to get started is a smartphone, a geocaching account (free for parents to sign up), and a sense of adventure! Geocaches are everywhere, and it's a great, family-friendly, low-entry activity that's perfect for the summer, no matter where you are.


Head to Cardigan Bay Regatta


If you live in Wales or are heading to Wales this summer, the Cardigan Bay Regatta is well worth attending. This three-day annual event, which runs from 9 to 11 August, organises sailing races for all classes, swimming races, and fun-free events for children and families. It is suitable for all the family, with sandcastle-building competitions on the first day.


Visit a sky garden

In London, many garden rooftops are open to the public if you know where to look! The Garden at 120 and Sky Garden are both well-known locations for taking in the iconic London skyline for free. You can walk into The Garden at 120 but need to book your free ticket at the Sky Garden.

Go to the International Kite Festival


The St Annes International Kite Festival in Lancashire is free for all to attend (7-8 September) and features beautiful and magnificent giant kites from all over the world. It's a kid-friendly festival with lots of entertainment for children of all ages, including market stalls and face painting. 


See a free air show


The Sunderland International Airshow is Europe's largest free airshow, showcasing everything from wing walkers and classic aerial battle re-enactments to synchronised aerobatic stunts by the Red Arrows. The action takes place over the city's picturesque coastline at Seaburn and Roker. Crowds gather on the sandy beaches, pier and cliff parks, and there is also plenty going on at ground level, with a fairground, flight simulators, ride-on model trains and helicopter flights on offer (there is a fee for some of the activities).


Take a family bike ride 


The National Trust has a range of free, family-friendly bike routes all over the UK, so you can head outdoors and explore expansive parkland and woodland. For example, the multi-use trail at Blickling in Norfolk offers a 4-mile path tailored to families. The National Trust also has a great blog post telling you where all the best family-friendly routes are across the country, from woodland areas to coastal and countryside trails.


Visit the Totally Thames Festival 

Finally, September is a month of free celebration and entertainment on the Thames, London. The 2024 line-up for the festival hasn't been announced yet, but in previous years, it's included the Mayor's Thames Festival, the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival and the Great River Race. Although the festival is free to attend, some activities charge a fee.


Written by Anita Naik Published Jun 25, 2024 ● 5 mins