Summer holidays are almost upon us.
If your like me you spend the weeks running up to it really looking forward to having the children home all day and frolicking in the sunshine.
When the reality hits, well, six weeks is rather a long time isn’t it!?
Once we’ve taken a family holiday and the children have spent a week at my parents I’m going to be left with 24 days to entertain them and try and make their summer break one to remember, for the right reasons.
As you all know, I have a history of failing miserably at school holidays so this time I’ve decided I’ll be all over it.
I’m going to plan well in advance all the wonderful, cheap, if not free, things we can do to fill those 24 days home or away.
Part I can be found here.
- Pick Your Own
Strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries. What screams summer fun more than picking fruit in the sunshine? Well Pimms but that’s not suitable for the children so we’ll stick to strawberry picking. Not much more expensive per kilo than at the supermarket but a damn site tastier. The children can fill their boots on the way round, they can appreciate where their food is coming from then you can go home and put the rest in your Pimms.
- The Library
If you’re lucky enough to still have a local library then head down there and sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge. Your child reads six books over the school holidays and collects little rewards along the way. There are also opportunities to take part in craft activities, Lego building and meet an author as part of the challenge. It’s completely free to take part and can fill those inevitable rainy days.
- Wood trails and walks
One of the nicest things about living in Leeds is not living in the city centre. Living in the suburbs, we are so close to many beautiful places to walk. We live near the Meanwood Valley trail. In it’s entirety it’s a 7 mile trail but a small section runs through our local park so we can head to the woods and make our own trail. If you have the foresight or inclination, send someone ahead to make wooden arrows and stone symbols,(try not to make it too Blair Witch Project). If you’re less of a planner, like me, just take your imagination and your kids. Make your own trail. Look for the Gruffalo, fairies, witches or whatever else takes your fancy. We also have the Otley Chevin close by, with free parking and spectacular views it’s somewhere we like to visit whatever the weather. Perfect for clambering over rocks, walking through the trees, spotting some art and falling in the mud.
- Communal Walks
Not with hardcore rambling groups but a more slow paced, leisurely stroll. Offered by community groups it’s a great way of learning more about your local area by walking with others who are knowledgeable and passionate about the community. Incredible Edible Kirkstall offer two walks this summer – July 29th & August 2nd. The five hour walk gives the opportunity to learn a little local history, forage along the canal, partake in some pond dipping and paper boat sailing. A lovely way to while away a sunny day. The route is buggy friendly and perfect for the kids to take bikes or scooter. The walk is free but donations would be welcomed.
- Breeze on Tour
Run by LCC, Breeze on Tour is a free event offering activities, workshops, arts and crafts within five ‘zones’ over two days at three locations in Leeds. Offering Play, Sport, Challenge, Info, Art and Performance, there is something for everyone. There is also a play area for under 5s and a ‘relaxed’ opening is offered for young people with additional needs, enabling them to enjoy the activities before the crowds arrive. The event is free, though you will need money for refreshments and fair rides. Your child will need a BreezeCard in order to enter the event. The card is free. You can get it on the day but if you apply for it before you will get a fast track entry to the event. This years Tour dates are 2nd & 3rd Aug, 9th & 10th Aug and 16th & 17th Aug.
- Vamos! Festival
This is the 3rd time Vamos! festival is visiting Leeds. How have I never heard about it until now? On Wednesday 2nd August you can get your Latino on at this FREE, family friendly celebration of Latino music, dance and food. With live performances, DJs and street food I can’t think of a more summery way to spend a day! Drinking rum in the sun and maybe even trying a little Samba….
- Urban Farm
Meanwood Urban Valley Farm is a lovely place to spend a few hours on a sunny day. There is a small entry fee of £2 for an adult, 50p for a child and 50p for a bag of animal food (not a necessity but I like to feed the animals OK?). Alongside the usual suspects of sheep, donkeys, goats and alpaca’s. Meanwood farm offers gardens, a meadow and woodland walks where you can try to spot other wildlife, or at least their tracks. The woods home badgers, foxes and even deer. You can also spot a variety of small wild birds alongside red kites and sparrowhawks. Well maybe not right alongside. Risky.
- Animal Sanctuary
If you’re looking for a free version of the farm then take a look online to see if you have any animal sanctuaries close by. They are generally free entry but a donations would be gratefully received. We are lucky enough to have two sanctuaries near here. Hope Pastures and The Donkey Sanctuary, both are quite small affairs and due to the nature of them some of the animals are reluctant to be patted. They aren’t places to spend a full day but are perfect for taking the children to for an hour. Both have a little refreshment area and gift shop to purchase that all important rainbow rubber. You know, the one you used to buy on every school trip. Just me? OK.
- Pets at Home
If, like us, you live close to a Pets at Home you’ve probably already discovered the joy of treating it like a small farm trip. Take the children, look at the animals, they think they’ve had the best time ever. During the school holidays Pets at Home offer FREE workshops for children talking to them about the animals, teaching them how to care for their pets and how to handle them. This year the workshops are Summer Small Furries and Summer Fishy Friends. Each workshop has a limited number of places so you need to sign up online.
One thing we have in abundance in Leeds is museums. Some are free and some cost. Many of them run activities over the summer. Leeds City Museum is free to enter. They are running Enchanted Forest Summer Holidays every Tuesday-Friday during the school holidays (10am-12 & 1pm-3). Tuesday will offer a new animal activity from live rainforest animals to den building. Craft activities will run Wednesday-Friday. Thackray Medical museum is fantastic value for money. An adult ticket costs £8 and a child ticket (5-16) costs £5 but the ticket gives you 12 months entry to the museum, you also get 10% off if you book online. Some areas of the museum are possibly a bit too grim for small children but you are warned before you enter these areas This summer Thackray are giving your children the chance to become Disease Detectives with lots of activities and even the chance to explore inside the human body using virtual reality.
- Leeds City Beach
Every year, Millennium Square turns into a beach. Well, almost. There’s sand, deckchairs, buckets and spades. Vans selling burgers, ice creams and candyfloss. Fairground rides and hook a duck type stalls where you can pay £2 and win some tat. This year the beach will be back from 12th August – 2nd September. Entry to the beach is free, you’ll need to take a picnic or some money for refreshments and rides. It’s a nice idea for a little while.
Usually a family trip to the cinema requires a remortgage or, at the very least, the sale of a major organ. Unless you have a lovely little local independent cinema close by. We have Cottage Road, the oldest cinema in Leeds. Not only is it beautifully quaint with it’s single screen, it’s heavy red curtains and matching red seats. But there is an opportunity to buy ice cream from the usher with the ice cream tray around their neck. Yes, it’s THAT quaint. As it only has one screen there isn’t a lot of choice but it’s a far better film viewing experience at a fraction of the cost of those big cinema complexes -£7 for an adult and £5 for a child before 5pm. The concessions stand is really cheap too, small drink and popcorn £2.70. BARGAIN. They also sell beer, wine and other important stuff.
So there you have 12 very inexpensive things to do in Leeds this summer.
I will be absolutely honest, until I compiled this list I had forgotten how terribly lucky we are living here with all these fantastic things going on and wonderful places close by.