Best cheap and free things to do with the kids over the 2023 summer holidays around the UK

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

Even if you don’t go on holiday, keeping your kids entertained over the Summer will cost you £635 on average.

That’s according to research by Trustpilot, which found that one in three parents are concerned about the cost of activities, unsurprising given the ongoing cost of living crisis. 

To help you keep costs under control, we've put together a list of cheap and free days out to make this Summer holiday loads of fun for the whole family.

UK-wide

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 the majority of The Jockey Club’s race days. There’s also a range of free activities to keep the kids occupied.

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 have the right membership for Heritage England or Historic Scotland, kids can get admission free of charge.

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 fishing.

Rainy day activities

For rainy days (and there may be 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.

Are you more interested in your own history? You can trace your family tree with the kids using library resources and online research at home.

Odeon Cinema is running Odeon Kids screenings all Summer, with tickets priced from £3.25. Check the website for showings at your local cinema.

Alternatively, you could try Mini Mornings as you can get tickets priced from £2.49 per person at your local Vue Cinema.

Cineworld has its own programme called Movies for Juniors, with ticket prices starting at £2.50.

It’s also worth checking out your local arts theatre, as many show films at a cut price during the school holidays.

Sports and activities

And for brighter days, how about something a little more athletic? There are free tennis sessions 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, some 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 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 with a list of events, which you may have to pay for. Have fun!

England

Riverside Festival ‒ 28-29 July

Get yourself down to Charlbury in Oxfordshire for a free music festival at the Riverside Festival.

It’s a family-friendly event, with plenty for the kids to do.

South Tyneside Festival ‒ Throughout July and August

There’s free live music at the amphitheatre ‒ featuring tribute acts to Abba and Boyzone ‒ throughout July, as well as a dedicated ‘fun fest’ for the kids during August at the South Tyneside Festival.

The British Firework Championships, Plymouth – 16-17 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.

Notting Hill Carnival ‒ 27-28 August

The famous Notting Hill Carnival is taking place over the August bank holiday.

The carnival itself is free to attend, with a special children’s parade taking place on Sunday 27th.

Scotland

Scottish Highland Games – various dates and locations until 9 September

Scotland’s Highland Games are usually one-day events that take place in various places across the country.

You can expect traditional Highland sports, including tug of war and the caber toss, as well as dancing, music and food stalls.

It’s worth checking individual Highland events as you may have to pay for entry.

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 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.

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.

Read more at the Visit Scotland website.

A historic castle (image: Shutterstock)

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

Wales

Knight School, Harlech Castle, Harlech – every Tuesday from 25 July to 22 August

No more toys – now your child can learn the skills of a knight at the medieval Harlech Castle.

Admission to the castle costs £8.70 for adults and £6.10 for children between the ages of five and 17.

Rhyl Air Show – 26-27 August

At the free Rhyl Air Show expect spectacular aerial displays and lots of land-based entertainment.

The Red Arrows will be appearing on both days.

Bog Snorkelling Championship – 27 August

The World Bog Snorkelling Championships is held in Llanwrtyd Wells.

It was described by Lonely Planet as one of the 50 “must do” things around the world back in 2014. 

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 around 10am and there’ll be food and drink stalls, crafts, a bouncy castle, live music and a real ale and cider bar.

Entry is £20 for adults and £12 for 14-15-year olds, while under-14s go free.

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 20ft by 12ft.

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

EastSide Arts Festival, Belfast  27 July-6 August

Enjoy some music, movies, theatre, talks, workshops and exhibitions 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.

Holiday beach (Image: lovemoney - Shutterstock)

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