33 Ideas for Budget Friendly Days out in the North East this Summer.
Updated: Feb 28
THIS POST WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN 2020, PLEASE CHECK CURRENT GUIDELINES FOR 2021.
Thanks to Covid-19, most kids have been off school for several months now but, whether yours have been at school or not, there's no avoiding the fact that the summer holidays are officially here. With lots of parents and carers being furloughed and some even losing their jobs, many of us will be looking for ways to save some cash over the next 6 weeks, 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.
We are a family of history buffs and all 3 boys love visiting museums, specially if they have hands on, interactive displays available. (Most attractions are not currently allowing access to this type of exhibit, due to Covid -19 safety measures, so please check and stay safe). These are the North East museums that we like to visit most often.
1) Great North Museum Hancock, Newcastle.
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.
Disabled parking only onsite.
2 minute walk from Haymarket Metro and Bus station
Newcastle upon Tyne
2) Discovery Museum, Newcastle
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.
Limited parking outside the museum
5 minute walk from Central Station
Newcastle Upon Tyne
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.
Parking available 1 minute away at Civic Centre multi storey
2 minute walk from Sunderland Central Metro.
4) Woodhorn Museum, Ashington
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
5) Preston Park Museum and Grounds, Stockton on Tees
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
6) Locomotion, Shildon
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.
Free parking onsite
7) Herrington Country Park, Sunderland
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 parking on site
Toilets on site
A183 Chester Road
Houghton le Spring
8) Saltwell Park, Gateshead
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.
Limited on site parking
Good public transport connections
East Park Road
9) Druridge Bay Country Park, Northumberland
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, cafe and play area. The park also has direct access to miles of gorgeous sandy beaches.
Parking on site (charges apply)
Druridge Bay Country Park,
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.
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.
11) Roker & Seaburn, Sunderland
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.
Various car parks available along the seafront. (charges apply)
10 minute walk from Seaburn Metro station
Sunderland SR6 9NX
12) Long sands, Tynemouth
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
13) Bamburgh Castle beach, Northumberland
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)
14) Redcar Beach
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
15) Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland
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.
16) Holy Island, Northumberland
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.
17) Edlingham Castle, Northumberland
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,
Limited free parking
18) Norham Castle, Near Berwick
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.
Limited free parking
Not suitable for wheelchairs
19) Kielder Forest, Northumberland
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
20 ) Hamsterley Forest, Near Bishop Auckland
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.
Plenty of parking (charges apply)
21) Chopwell Wood, Gateshead
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.
22) Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle
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
23) BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
Housed in a converted 1950's flour mill, BALTIC hosts frequently changing exhibitions, various events and family activities.
Parking available onsite (charges apply)
South Shore Rd
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.
24) Rainton Meadows, Houghton le Spring
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.
Houghton le Spring
25) RSPB Saltholme, Seaton Carew
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)
Seaton Carew Rd
26) Low Barns, Bishop Auckland
A large wetlands reserve, on the banks of the River Wear, with visitors centre, shop, cafe, large, accessible hides and toilets.
Free parking (suggested £2 donation for non members)
27) Shibdon Pond, Gateshead
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 parking (at Blaydon Youth and Community Centre)
No other facilities
28) St. Peters, Sunderland
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.
5 minute walk from St. Peters Metro station
29) St.Pauls Monastery, Jarrow
Remains of the once powerful monastery, lie in the shadow of the present day church.
No other facilities
30) Durham Cathedral
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.
Other Free entry attractions
31) Ouseburn Farm, Newcastle
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.
Newcastle upon Tyne
32) National Glass Centre/Riverside Sculpture Trail, Sunderland
Sculpture trail open.
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.
5 minute walk from St' Peters Metro station
33) 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.
Berwick upon Tweed
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