The school summer holidays aren’t cheap, but with a little bit of planning you can enjoy day trips you’ll all love for just the price of a train fare – even better when that train fare lets kids travel for just £2 and under-fives go free! This summer, Thameslink and Great Northern ticket deals give you the chance to save 20 per cent when you purchase Super Off-Peak weekend tickets with routes in and out of London – to Brighton, Cambridge, St Albans and beyond – you’re bound to find the perfect adventure to suit your brood. Pack a picnic and head for one of these free days out.
Free things to do with the kids in Cambridge
There’s something to amuse all ages in this laidback countryside city. Inspire curious young minds with a trip to the Fitzwilliam Museum where the kids can gaze on weird and wonderful ancient artefacts and join drop-in family activities. Got a little explorer on your hands? The Polar Museum tells you all about the North and South Poles, with exhibits recounting the stories of great expeditions, displays dedicated to the landscape and wildlife of the Arctic and Antarctic, and summer holiday activities for families. If bedtime in your house wouldn’t be the same without a story about a certain honey-loving bear, make a visit to the Wren Library where they have author AA Milne’s real Winnie the Pooh! And if the older ones are getting restless, the skate park on Jesus Green is a must.
Free things to do with the kids in Brighton
First things first – dipping your toes in the sea doesn’t cost a penny, so pack a towel. Afterwards you can take a stroll on Brighton Pier, which has free admission – though be warned, the fair rides might tempt your little thrill seekers, and these are not so free… Walk along to Brighton Marina, where older kids can challenge each other on the free ping pong tables and the giant chess boards. The gardens of Brighton Pavilion are free to wander. If you have budding artists, take some pencils and paper and explore the exotic flower beds to seek inspiration for an afternoon’s drawing under the shade of an elm tree? What better landscape than Brighton Pavilion itself! When you want to cool off, there are four (yes, four) free paddling pools and play fountains beautifully landscaped along the sea front in Brighton and Hove, complete with sandpits and playgrounds. We like.
Free things to do with the kids in St Albans
Traces of St Albans’ past as the Roman outpost Verulamium are dotted around the modern town, and if you head straight for Verulamium Park, you can seek out some of the ruins that survive today. The remains of Sopwell Nunnery (Lee Hall) date back to 1140 – positively modern by comparison! However, the gardens and ruins here make the perfect setting for a picnic followed by a game of hide and seek. Or why not make the most of the countryside on your doorstep? You can take your bikes on off-peak train journeys, so head for nearby Harpenden (on the same Thameslink line) and join one of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust all-ages nature trails being held on Harpenden Common throughout the summer (free, but donations to the charity are welcome).