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  • Writer's pictureKelly

Free/Low Cost Things To Do

This post has been updated for 2023 but please double check the info with each individual attraction.

We have had lots of messages asking for budget friendly ideas, many of us will be looking for ways to save some cash, without leaving the kids bored, so we have put together a handy list of what we think are some of the best, budget friendly, ideas for family days out, across the North East.

All attractions on our list are either free entry, or very cheap and most have free parking. To save even more, why not take a picnic? Read about our favourite North East Picnic spots here.

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We are a family of history buffs and all 3 boys love visiting museums, specially if they have hands on, interactive displays available.

These are the North East museums that we like to visit most often.

Check out Our Museum Guide HERE

With collections including Living Planet, Fossil Stories, Hadrian's Wall, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and LOADS more to see and do, this one is a sure hit with anyone who likes history, up close and personal.

Free entry

Disabled parking only onsite.

2 minute walk from Haymarket Metro and Bus station

Barras Bridge

Newcastle upon Tyne


We have spent a full day here in the past, with so much for younger visitors to see and do. Home to one of the finest collections of scientific and technical exhibits outside of London, Discovery Museum also has maritime, social and regimental history displays. Plenty of hands on activities and regular events.

Free entry

Limited parking outside the museum

5 minute walk from Central Station

Blandford Square

Newcastle Upon Tyne


Kirkleatham Museum & Grounds

We visit Kirkleatham often and we always enjoy a visit. There's a fantastic museum with lots of local history and the grounds is fab too with a large play area and a forest trail.

Free entry

Parking on site

Dorman Museum

The Dorman Museum is a really good museum to visit, we have been a few times now when we visit Middlesbrough.

You can expect Dinosaurs, lots of local history and special exhibitions. Currently there's a Titanic exhibition with some great displays.

Free Entry

Limited parking for Disabled badge holders out the front but there is road parking to the side of Albert Park

Arbeia Roman Fort

Arbeia is a fantastic free museum to visit with a small museum and then lots of great roman ruins to explore including the fort.

Free entry

On street parking

Our local museum, featuring exhibits dating back to 1846, including Wallace the Lion, detailed coal mining and shipbuilding displays, and the very first car to roll off the production line at the local Nissan plant. Other displays include glass and pottery making and Anglo Saxon exhibits.

The winter gardens offers a tropical paradise made up of over 2,000 plants and featuring a treetop walkway with views over Mowbray Park.

Recently (2023) There has been talks of upgrading the museum, whether this will happen is a different story.

Free entry.

Parking available a short walk away

2 minute walk from Sunderland Central Metro.

Burdon Road



Sitting on the site of an old pit village, Woodhorn is housed in former colliery buildings, though it is not a traditional mining museum. Combining historic artefacts with modern works of art and also featuring working relics of the industrial era, Woodhorn certainly has something for everyone, including a great calendar of events.

Entry £7 per adult, includes free return visits for 12 months.

Free entry for children.

Parking available onsite

Queen Elizabeth II Country Park



NE63 9YF

With various fascinating exhibits spread across various galleries, an authentic recreation of a Victorian street with various shops, blacksmith, Police station and other businesses, plus adventure play area and skate park in the grounds, Preston Park offer a full day out for the whole family. This one is not free entry, but with tickets giving free return visits for 12 months, we feel it is great value for money.

Entry for a family of 5 - £15

Free parking onsite

Yarm Road



TS18 3RH

Shildon was the world's first railway town. Located right next to the original Stockton and Darlington Railway, Locomotion tells the story of how Shildon became so vital in the early development of railways around the world. With a large collection of historic locomotives and artefacts, this is a must for any railway enthusiast, but is also a great place to visit, even if you aren't a transport buff. 2023 UPDATE - New play area has been installed and work is under way to create more viewing space

Free entry

Free parking onsite





A beautiful country park on the site of a former colliery, in the shadow of Penshaw monument. Featuring a large lake, adventure play area, skate park, amphitheatre, cycle trails, sculptures, nature reserve and plenty of nice picnic spots, this is a great spot to let off some steam.

Free entry

Free parking on site

Toilets on site

Café onsite (Love Lily) Although we do recommend Penshaw Tearooms across the road.

A183 Chester Road

Houghton le Spring


This beautiful, Victorian park, in the heart of Gateshead has undergone a major restoration in recent years and has something to offer the whole family. With a mix of woodland, open spaces and ornamental gardens, the park features sports facilities, play areas, a lake, a maze and an education centre.

Free entry

Limited on site parking and on the road parking

Good public transport connections

East Park Road



Situated on the beautiful Northumberland coast, between Amble and Cresswell, this is a large country park with a freshwater lake, various walking routes, nature reserve and visitor centre with toilets, café and play area. The park also has direct access to miles of gorgeous sandy beaches.

Free entry

Parking on site (charges apply)

Druridge Bay Country Park,

Red Row,


NE61 5BX

Perfect for a walk and a picnic by the River Wear and exploring the wildlife area with a large pond and meadow. The park also features landscaped gardens, themed around stars and planets, as well as a large play area.

Free entry

Large car park (charges apply)






In our opinion, the North East has some of the best beaches in the country. Here are just a few of our favourites.

The twin resorts of Roker and Seaburn have beautiful, Blue flag award beaches, as well as access to plenty of other opportunities to keep the kids entertained but, if you want to keep it budget friendly, there's nothing wrong with packing a bucket and spade and picnic and spending the entire day messing around on the beach and looking through the rock pools for interesting creatures.

Various car parks available along the seafront. (charges apply)

10 minute walk from Seaburn Metro station

Marine Walk

Sunderland SR6 9NX

A beautiful stretch of golden sandy beach, with easy access to Tynemouth Park, with it's play areas, boating lake and crazy golf course.

Plenty of parking available (charges apply)

Good public transport links

Grand Parade


NE30 4NT

If you like a beach with a view, they don't come much better than this.

Sitting in the shadow of the majestic Bamburgh Castle and with views of the Farne Islands, this is one of those beaches where you could happily just sit and take in the view all day long.

Parking available in Bamburgh Village (charges apply)

NE69 7DF

Redcar has 8 miles of sandy beaches on offer, all with easy access and parking nearby. Closer to Redcar Town Centre, the beach has easy access to various food outlets and other entertainment opportunities for the whole family.

Various car parks and on street parking available

Easily accessible from Redcar train station



TS10 3AH

Historic Sites

I have always encouraged people to take out membership for English Heritage and National Trust, you can pay monthly and you get unlimited visits to hundreds of places every year.

With so many castles, churches, roman forts and other historic sites to visit, it's easy to plan multiple days out along the wall. Some of the English Heritage and National Trust sites in the area do charge for entry, but you can save yourself some money by purchasing a membership to either or both of these charities.

With so much to see and do, this is another North East destination that could fill more than one day. Explore the village, take in the views and spot wildlife in the bays or visit the castle or Priory (charges apply)

Always remember to check safe crossing times for the causeway before crossing.

This is one of the smaller destinations on our list, so we would advise combining this with another attraction in the area. The castle is known for its leaning tower. There is also a church next to the site, which is open to the public. This is a free to enter English Heritage property. English Heritage membership allows you to visit all of the larger properties, as often as you like, so you could spend a day touring some of the great castles of the North East,

Free entry

Limited free parking

No facilities




NE66 2BW

The remains of a 12th century castle, overlooking the River Tweed and Scottish border. Another free entry English Heritage property, which could be combined with Berwick Castle and Ramparts, to make for a full day out, exploring local history, without breaking the bank.

Free entry

Limited free parking

No facilities - Nearest toilets are at the other end of the village

Not suitable for wheelchairs

Castle Street



TD15 2JY

Forest Walks

Mile after mile of scenic walks, cycling routes and beautiful picnic spots surrounding the expansive Kielder reservoir. The forest also features Kielder castle, with a maze, that our boys just love getting lost in and one of the best dark skies parks in Europe.

Various car parks (charges apply)

Tower Knowe visitor centre

NE48 1BX

Hamsterley has plenty to offer more active families, but is also good for a more relaxed wander. Mountain biking, geocaching, walking trails, adventure play and Gruffalo orienteering (small charge applies). Plenty of great photo opportunities too.

2023 update: They now have the Zog trail up and running! small charge for a activity bag although not needed you can just download the trail for free in the app

Free entry

Plenty of parking (charges apply)

Redford Lane


DL13 3NL

Featuring miles of walking, biking and horse riding trails along with plenty of great picnic spots, all set in over 880 acres of mixed woodland, just a short drive from Newcastle and Gateshead.

Free entry

Free parking

High Spen


NE39 1LT

Art Galleries

Home to an internationally important collection of art, focusing on British oil paintings, watercolours, ceramics, silver and glassware, the Laing Art Gallery also features a shop, cafe and dedicated under 5's area.

Free entry to most exhibits. Entry to the De Morgan exhibition costs £16 for a family ticket.

Nearest parking is at the NCP multi storey, behind the gallery. (Charges apply)

5 minutes walk from Monument Metro station

New Bridge Street

Newcastle upon Tyne


Housed in a converted 1950's flour mill, BALTIC hosts frequently changing exhibitions, various events and family activities.

Free entry

Parking available onsite (charges apply)

South Shore Rd



Nature Reserves

With so much open space in the North East, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to spotting wildlife. Here are a few of our favourite reserves.

One of the largest and most accessible reserves managed by Durham Wildlife Trust, Rainton Meadows sits on the site of a former opencast mine. The site features a visitors centre with cafe, toilets and play area, plus grassland and wetlands, where over 200 bird species have been spotted.

Free entry

Free parking

Mallard Way

Chilton Moor

Houghton le Spring


Great for beginner or experienced bird watchers, a family discovery zone, cafe, play area, picnic area and accessible trails.

Entry £3 per adult, £1.50 per child (free entry for RSPB members)

Free parking

Seaton Carew Rd



A large wetlands reserve, on the banks of the River Wear, with visitors centre, shop, cafe, large, accessible hides and toilets.

Free entry

Free parking (suggested £2 donation for non members)

Low Lane

Bishop Auckland

DL14 0AG

A large number of wetland birds, including Kingfisher, Sandpiper and Lap Wing, can be seen at this Durham Wildlife Trust reserve, just 2 minutes from the Metro Centre.

Free entry

Free parking (at Blaydon Youth and Community Centre)

No other facilities

Other ideas

St. Peters Church

Originally built in AD 674, this is one of the oldest stone built churches in the UK. Remains of the original building are still clearly visible.

Free entry

Free Parking

5 minute walk from St. Peters Metro station

Remains of the once powerful monastery, lie in the shadow of the present day church.

Free Entry

Free parking

No other facilities

Church Bank,


NE32 3DY

Sitting high above the River Wear, next to Durham Castle, the cathedral is a must visit. Stunning architecture, endless history and the backdrop for several Hollywood movies, including Harry Potter and Avengers:Endgame.

Free entry (donations welcome)

No parking onsite.

Congestion charges apply in city centre.

Various park and ride options available.

Toilets currently closed.


A working farm and visitor attraction, under the Byker bridge in the heart of Newcastle, giving families the opportunity to help look after nature and learn about farm life.

Usually free entry, though there is currently a temporary £3.50 entry charge, as the farm has been badly hit by the effects of lockdown.

Ouseburn Road,

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE1 2PA.

Seven Stories

Now free to enter, this fantastic literacy centre is perfect for those who love books. We visit a few times a year with Elliot and there's always lots to do. Would suggest suitable to those 12 and under.

Located right next door to OuseBurn Farm

Free glassmaking demonstrations, various exhibitions, regular workshops and events inside the glass centre.

The sculpture trail runs along the riverside, outside the centre and features a hammerhead crane, a cormorant taking flight and a collection of stone books, among other sculptures, all linked to local history.

Free entry

Free parking

5 minute walk from St' Peters Metro station

Liberty Way



Chainbridge Honey Farm, near Berwick

Learn about bees and bee behaviour, products of the beehive, including honey, wax and propolis, different types of bee as well as bumble bees and wasps. Visitors can also view the observation hive and visit the shop, with a range of products, made using honey and beeswax from the farm.

Free entry

Free parking


Berwick upon Tweed


TD15 2XT

Why not

Check out your local libraries for free activities

Community centres are great places to find free events for the kids and sometimes Adults too

Head to your local park for a picnic, you could put together a scavenger hunt

Check out these other posts

Spring walk ideas (Also nice during summer)


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