Best cheap and free things to do with the kids this summer holiday around the UK

Finding cheap and free things to do with the family over the summer holiday needn't be difficult. Here are our top suggestions for having fun on a budget.

Even if you don’t go on holiday, keeping your kids entertained this summer will cost you £594.

That’s according to the Post Office, which added up the costs of activities, childcare, driving to destinations to come up with the depressing figure for weary parents.

To help out, we've put together a list of cheap and free days out to make this summer holiday loads of fun for the whole family.


Get the kids away from their screens and outdoors by taking them to watch horse racing.

Under-18s can get in free with a paying adult to hundreds of race days this summer as part of Great British Racing’s Under 18’s Race Free campaign.

There’s also a range of family days with extra activities to keep the kids occupied.

Find a racecourse and fixture near you by clicking here.

Many horse racing events are free for kids this summer (image: PA)

If you would prefer to take your clan somewhere more educational, members of Heritage England and Historic Scotland can visit hundreds of remarkable sites free of charge. If you’re a member you can take the kids free to paid attractions also.

Are you a family of music fans? Have a look around for some free music festivals, take a picnic and chill out in the sunshine.

Or go fishing, with a free fishing taster session, courtesy of The Canal and River Trust. Pick the brains of professional angling coaches or just partake in a spot of canoeing.

On rainy days

For rainy days (and there will be quite a few), you could head over to your nearest free museum.

You'll find loads of exhibitions covering local history, natural history, science and famous figures. More interested in your own history? You can trace your family tree with the kids using library resources as well as online research done at home.

Odeon cinema is running Odeon Kids screenings all summer, with tickets priced at £2.50 or less. Check the website for showings.

Alternatively, you could try Mini Mornings from £2.49 at your local Vue Cinema.

Sports and activities

And for the brighter days, how about something a little more athletic? There's cheap holiday football coaching in England and free tennis coaching on offer throughout the UK.

If you've got bikes at home, check out some kid-friendly cycle routes that won't tire their legs out, courtesy of the National Trust.

What's more, local councils offer certain residents free swimming at their nearest pool. Check your local council website to see if you are eligible.

For something outdoors that's less physically challenging, why not try geocaching? Basically, you go out with your GPS and find a ‘cache’ which has been left by another user. 

It’ll usually contain little trinkets that you can exchange, so if you have any miscellaneous bits and bobs like badges, Christmas cracker gifts or Kinder egg toys, now’s the time to dig them out. They’ll often contain a pen and paper for you to leave a message as well. The National Trust has a rundown of 10 places to go geocaching. Have fun!


Alice’s Day, Oxford – 7 July

This annual celebration of Alice in Wonderland brings together a huge number of weird and wonderful events, many of which are free for children. Join a ‘Lobster Quadrille dance’, marvel at Indian circus performers or learn to play croquet in Christ Church college.

Alice's Day in Oxford (image: The Story Museum)

Teddy Bear Picnic, Hertford Castle – 15 July

This free event includes a teddy bear hunt, parade and water activities, accompanied by a brass band.

Bristol Harbour Festival – 20-22 July

Baby racing, balloon tossing and a range of music events are all completely free as part of this three-day festival.

Sunderland International Airshow  27-29 July

If you’re around Sunderland at the weekend, pop over to the Sunderland International Airshow. There’s a whole weekend of stunning displays and entertainment on offer.

British Firework Championships, Plymouth – 8-9 August

Be dazzled by one of the biggest fireworks displays of the year at the British Firework Championships. In between displays you can check out the funfair and food stalls on-site.


Scottish Highland Games, across Scotland throughout July and August

Tossing the caber, tug or war and dancing on show in these various free events over the summer (full guide available here). Bagpipes not optional.

Edinburgh summer festivals  throughout July and August

This wouldn’t be a decent guide if we didn’t mention the summer festivals Edinburgh has to offer:

What’s wonderful about these festivals is that you don’t necessarily have to pay anything to enjoy your day. Just wander down the Royal Mile to find free shows, readings, music and street theatre.

Merchant City Festival, Glasgow  2-12 August

This year, Merchant City Festival is putting on a programme of street arts, music, food and drink, comedy, dance, fashion, design and more.

Get involved in a carnival procession, family zone fun and disc golf.

Don’t forget the European Championships which are also taking place in Glasgow this summer.

Tour the backdrops behind your favourite films and TV shows  all year round

Explore castles, beaches, mountains and towns from the likes of Outlander, MacbethSkyfall and Brave.

A historic castle (image: Shutterstock)

Doune Castle, near Stirling. One of the key locations in Outlander.

Read more at the Visit Scotland website.


Isle of Fire, Barry  21-22 July

Isle of Fire is returning to Barry for another weekend.

The Island Gardens become a fiery landscape over the free two-day event, with a flaming Viking ship, fire dancers from Flame Oz and a beating mechanical heart with light and music.

Entry is free and the event starts at 8.30pm each day. Definitely one for the older kids!

Knight School, Gwynedd  every Tuesday from 31 July to 28 Aug

No more toys – now your child can learn the skills of a knight at the medieval Harlech Castle. £6.90 for adults and £4.10 for children.

Bog Snorkelling Championships  26 August

This August bank holiday sees the 33rd World Bog Snorkelling Championships, held in Llanwrtyd Wells. It’s been described by Lonely Planet as one of the 50 “must do” things around the world. 

Competitors will don their snorkels and flippers, making their way through two lengths of peat bog without using any conventional swimming strokes.

It starts at 10am and there’ll be food and drink stalls, crafts, a bouncy castle, live music and a real ale and cider bar. Entry is £15 for adults and £12 for 14-18 year olds; under-14s go free.

A competitor at the bog snorkeling championships (image: PA)

Rhyl Air Show, Rhyl – 25-26 August

Two days of incredible aerial displays and some events on the ground, all of which are free to attend.

St Govan’s Chapel – all year round

For something a bit more adventurous, make the descent down St Govan’s Head to find the chapel, which is built into the side of the limestone cliff, measuring 20 by 12 feet. It’s a hermit’s paradise.

There are 52 steps to get to the chapel, but legend says it’s a different number coming back up...

Northern Ireland

CastleCourt’s Kids Club, Belfast  every weekend until 27 August

Get involved with fun activities every weekend at CastleCourt's Kids Club including face painting and crafting workshops as well as colouring-in competitions. Head along for exclusive giveaways and freebies too.

Rose Week, Belfast  16-22 July

Chill out with some music in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park to celebrate Rose Week 2017. Performances include jazz, flute and fiddle bands as well as a daily harpist between 2pm and 5pm.

You can even use a free shuttle bus to get there.

Ulster Rugby Family Fun Day, Belfast – 3 August

Meet the team at the Kingspan Stadium and learn rugby skills with live music and entertainment. For the less sports-obsessed, there’s face painting, archery, laser tag, a climbing wall, petting farm and bouncy castle. Starts at 3pm, £5 for adults and £3 for children.

EastSide Arts Festival, Belfast  2-12 August

Enjoy some music, comedy movies, theatre, talks, workshop, exhibitions and poetry from east Belfast’s hottest talent at the EastSide Arts Festival. There are various community events and heritage tours to get stuck into as well.

This is a classic loveMONEY article which has been updated


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