Free and Frugal 2019 - 42 Free or Cheap Days out in the North East

Entertaining kids can be so expensive, especially in the six weeks holidays. Whilst I balk at the idea of spending more than £30 on an item of clothing for me, we will regularly end up spending that if we head out for the day with the kids. We are really lucky in the North East to have so many options for free days out, from out beautiful beaches to the fantastic parks in the area. But sometimes it's hard to think of them all, so I've had a brainstorm and put as many as I can think of in this list. I considered frugal to be less than £10 in total for the cost of an activity for an adult and two kids (it was £7 last year but so many things have gone up in price!). I've come up with 42 so that’s one for every day of the school holidays. Hopefully this might be a page that you return to a few times over the summer holidays to get some ideas that won't leave you eating baked beans for dinner 6 nights a week. 

Most of the free/cheap ideas are available every day, but there are some which are specific events, so where that is the case I've highlighted the date. Right this post is a long one - so lets get to the ideas. 

I’ve compiled this list based on publicised info. Please please please double check with the organiser before heading out for the day in case there have been any last minute changes. 

1.Go trampolining!(23/7/19 or 24/7/19)

Newcastle have a new initiative to get kids healthy, called Newcastle’s Best Ever Summer and it includes some fab activities. They are still updating their website with the specifics, so navigating it is a nightmare at the moment. Anyway one thing that really caught my eye were the trampolining sessions at Newcastle Trampoline Centre And Gym for only £2 each! It’s a proper trampolining park and prices usually start at £6. Sessions are only on 23/7/19 either 5pm-6pm or 6pm-7pm, and 24/7/19 4-5:30 (this session states its girls only). Info at the moment on their website is sparse. It looks like it’s a drop in session, but I would think it’s going to be popular, so please check it before you set off. To find the sessions click here and search for either ‘family’ (they are on page 2) or ‘streetgames bounce’ or ‘girls trampolining’.  

2. Get your lego on at the Discovery Museum

The discovery museum is somewhere we call into pretty regularly as it’s a great space for the kids to explore. It’s got to be said that some of the exhibitions are looking a bit tired (especially the science maze where some of the great interactive pieces don’t always work), but it’s free entry and they have a lovely schedule this summer and none of it is too pricey. For younger kids we’ve always loved the Play Tyne area where they can get wet playing with the funnels, boats and ducks along a big model river tyne. At £1.50 entry it's a real bargain as my kids have played in there for hours at times. The main attraction this summer is the Lego Brilliant Bricks exhibition which showcases innovation through lego bricks. We’ve seen this last year at another venue and really enjoyed it. Some of the the models move and there were some interactive bits too. Entry to Brilliant Bricks is free of charge, and for £1 kids can follow a lego trail around the museum to spot the hidden figures. Crafts including slime and lego are on Tuesdays and Thursdays for £1.50, and The Play and Invent space also £1.50 is on Wednesdays.

3. Go Plodging At Plessey Woods

Plessey Woods is a great place to visit for a walk out with the kids. Don't forget your wellies as it does get seriously muddy, but along the way the kids can look for things on the art trail, including a drum set made from tree stumps, fairy doors, and an ogres house. If you have a net handy then there are lots of areas with shallow streams perfect for plodging or 'fishing'. A brand new play park opened this year too, so it’s a great day out. There is a charge for car parking first hour is free, and an all day ticket is £3.

4. Join a sandcastle competition (4/8/19)

Don't forget the bucket and spade for the 12th annual Whitley Bay sandcastle building event on Sunday 4th August . Where hundreds of people gather to test their sandcastle building abilities in return for prizes. Check out the link above for some pictures of the brilliant entrants from previous years. The event is FREE and starts at 10am with judging early afternoon. I would budget some money as there are other activities on at the same time, like shuggy boats, face painters and a bouncy castle, plus a Punch and Judy show. It all takes place on Whitley Bay beach in front of the Rendezvous Cafe. Whilst you are in Whitley Bay don't forget to check out the newly restored Spanish City and prom. The prom is perfect scooting surface and its a gorgeous walk along the seafront. 

5. Unlimited jumping at the Jungle Wipeout

Open every day in the school holidays (although they'll close in rain or high winds so check with them before setting off) the jungle wipeout in Tynemouth Park is made up with bouncy castles and bouncy slides. With a Baby Wipeout and an area suited for older children this activity is available for children aged 14 and under. Coming in at £3.50 for ages 4 and under, and £5 for kids up to age 14 it's the top end of the ‘frugal’ budget but I wanted to include it as because you can stay as long as you like it feels like it's decent value in comparison to the bouncy castles or slides where you are paying per go or for a certain period of time. Tynemouth park has a great play park, and lovely lake, so nice place for a picnic.

6. Join the Rock Hide and Seek game held across the whole of the North East

Rock painting, hiding and seeking took the North East by storm for the past two summers. When you are out and about with the kids keep your eyes peeled, and you could be the lucky recipient of a Tyneside Rock, the painted rocks that are hidden around the North East. The idea came from the USA and the general gist is that you decorate and hide your own rocks, and hopefully spot some that others have made. The lovely idea hopefully promotes positivity and community spirit. If you fancy it, I would highly recommend heading to Facebook using this link where you can request to join the Tyneside Rock group. Here you'll find out what areas people are hiding rocks, and if yours are found people often post photos of the happy recipient. Such a simple concept, but my kids have been buzzing when we have found some. Brilliant idea for the whole of the summer.

7. Get the family cycling (29/7/19)

Each month volunteers set up a car free track in Exhibition for Lets Ride Pop Up sessions. The track is 1.1 miles long and you can do it as many times as you fancy. The event is open to all ages and abilities and the circuit is easy to ride, with volunteers on hand throughout, ensuring peace of mind and safety for all cyclists. The event is free, but follow the link above as you need to register.

Excitingly at this month’s event there is also a Ready Set Ride balance bike drop in sessions, which are aimed at kids who want to learn how to ride a pedal bike. Coaches will assess kids then help parents with tips about teaching them to ride. These are really popular events. Both my 5 year old and 3 year old were riding independently within a week of our session. The session is drop in, but follow the link as you are meant to register your details in advance.

Once they have mastered cycling, then there is a great bike track at Northumberland Park in North Shields, which often isn’t too busy, and our 5 and 3 year old will either cycle around or go on their scooters. If kids are ready for a longer ride, then I really recommend the Newburn to Wylam and back cycle. There is a decent park in both villages, and it’s car free the whole way.

8. Splash about at Chester Le Street Riverside Park

Having visited most of the water features within parks in the North East, I think that the splash pad at Chester-le-Street is the best one out there, although it’s probably the busiest too. It's like something you'd find on holiday with loads of features and fountains. The park is absolutely massive, all really spread out and they have lots of areas for older kids, as well as big pre-school area. Cafe is a bit naff (it doesn't sell cake!) but you can't have everything. There are loads of walks to do around this park, and you can feed the ducks and swans if you take some seed with you. There are parking charges for this park - and there is often a bouncy castle too, so either take some change or try and distract the kids whilst you are passing it. 

9. Catch a film and(Hopefully)some sunshine at the Screen on the Green or North tyneside parks

We are twice as lucky this year with a whole host of family films on outdoor cinema. The schedule for Screen on the Green (outside Eldon Sqaure) looks brilliant. 84 films, from family classics to new releases are planned across the summer including Peter Rabbit, The Lego Movie 2 and some sing-a-longs. For the first sing-a-long (the film Sing) there are even face painters (not clear whether you need to pay for these). There is no cost to attend, just grab a deckchair set up on the Green outside Eldon Square or bring a picnic blanket in case it's busy, and settle down to watch the FREE films on show. Between 26th August and 1st September North Tyneside are showing two family films a day in their parks. The full schedule for that can be found here.

10. Visit the animals Ouseburn Community Farm

Ouseburn Farm is pretty small but lovely, its free to visit (although any donations are gratefully received) and is a great place to pop in to while away an hour. There are sheep, pigs, cows,  geese and chickens. There are loads of lovely free events on over the summer, including bunny grooming, reptile pampering and helping to get the chickens back in their coop at the end of the day, full details are here. Take cash as there is a cafe on site and you can buy vegetables from the garden too.

Clockwise from top left - Chester Le Street Riverside Park, Plessey Woods, Richardson Dees Park, Discovery Museum

Clockwise from top left - Chester Le Street Riverside Park, Plessey Woods, Richardson Dees Park, Discovery Museum

11. eyes to the skies at the Sunderland Airshow (26-28th July)

The huge and iconic Sunderland Airshow returns with performances held over three days. It’s a massive event, with fairground rides, music and performances. Entry is free. Full schedule of timings can be found here.

12. Eat ice cream made on site at Wheelbirks Parlour

The ice cream is lovely at Wheelbirks, but for us it isn't the main attraction. We love a little drive out to Stocksfield to see what animals we can find (usually cows, chickens and horses around), the indoor play area with a play house and other pre-schooler toys, and to stretch our legs out in the orchard, where there are loads of picnic benches along with a slide and swing. Entry is FREE for any customers of the cafe. It'll cost you the price of refreshments, but you get a lot more from Wheelbirks than most cafe trips. 

13. meet dippy and rex the dinosaurs at great north museum (21/8/19 and 23/8/19)

This will always be known as the Hancock to me. This museum is my little boy's favourite. He loves the dinosaur skeletons, stuffed animals to look at and having so much room to run around in. This summer you can visit Dippy, the Diplodocus skeleton who usually resides in the National History Museum but is currently touring the country. Dippy is in Newcastle until October, and you need tickets to see him, but these are free and availability is good.  Excitingly Rex the dinosaur will also be at the museum on Wednesday 21st and Friday 23rd August. Rex is an 8ft T-Rex and is honestly brilliant. He will be walking around the museum and doing some tricks. Its free to meet Rex, but you need tickets and I think it’ll be popular, so don’t book up straight away if you fancy it.

Pre-schoolers aren’t left out either, FREE story times with Dippy for under 5s are on during the holidays. Numbers are limited so you need to book here. Make sure to call into the Mouse House afterwards where there are books, dress up clothes and area for little ones to discover. 

14. Explore Exhibition Park and take a FREE ride on their mini train (3/8/19)

Exhibition is such a great park. It's huge with different areas to visit. Take some seeds to feed the swans and a bit of cash for the cafe. The cafe is in a great spot - right next to the kids play area so you can probably sit on the terrace and watch your kids play if they are a bit older. As well as the two play parks (one for older and one for younger kids) you can also play tennis or have a visit on the small train which is on the first Sunday of the month and its FREE. Details of that and lots of pics on this post from North East Family Fun. They have a little water play feature to spash about in too.

15. Hunt out the animal sculptures at Thornley Woods

This is such a canny walk for little ones. I’ts about a mile long circular walk with about 10 animal sculptures carved into the trees. Perfect for pre-schoolers, but if you head down the steps half way around the trail then you can extend the walk towards the River Derwant.  I have it on good authority from my readers that there are often ponies grazing down there. You can see a video of our last visit here. We are always just content to spot the wildlife carved into the trees as we go, but if you get there when the cafe in the car park is open you can get an activity trail too to mark off the animals as you see them. The car park is pretty small though, so on busy days it will be difficult to get a space. 

16. Take in the best views of the Tyne,  play and create in the baltic

The Baltic is great for exploring. My two love the Quay on the second floor, where there are lots of games and books for kids to play with. This year they opened a sensory room with lights and tactile toys to play with, so really good for babies and pre-schoolers. They have regular FREE craft activities on Wednesdays and Sundays.

17. Cool down at Ridley Park in Blyth

Another great park where they also have a splash pad which is mega popular with kids of all ages. I love the cafe here, they serve lovely food, and even have some ball games and toys outside for the kids to play with. The older kids play area is more memorable than the pre-schooler one. For older kids there are lots of big play equipment, and a giant slide that my toddlers loves even though they are probably too small for it. For lots of photos you can check out my first ever blog post which was about Ridley Park - proper cringeworthy though so promise to only look at the photos and ignore all of my chuntering on. 

18. Hale Bay Jumping, play castle and farm animals at Broom House Farm in County Durham

Broomhouse farm in County Durham is the best farm shop and cafe that I have visited in terms of kids activities. More farm animals than I would expect somewhere that is FREE to visit (If you are using the cafe). There are ride on tractor toys, loads of play equipment and the huge enclosed field is perfect for kids to explore. Check out our photos from our last trip here (the forest adventure isn’t free, but the play area and facilities are next to the cafe).

19. be brave and try shiremoor adventure playground

Shiremoor Adventure Playground is like nowhere else I've ever been. A bit like a youth club (memories of Byker Grove came flooding back) and fair to say it is rough around the edges, it is a huge play park. More for older kids than toddlers, although there are lots of pre-school toys there too. There are scooters, roller skates and some terrifyingly huge play equipment. There was even a big paddling pool out when I visited two years ago. Its FREE to get in, but check the opening times before you go. There is a cafe, and the food is so cheap - less than £1 for a toastie. It's really hard to describe, so check out this post from last year as it's easier to imagine once you've seen the photos. 

20. Buckets and spades at the ready for a day at the beach

We are so lucky in the North East that we've got so many beautiful beaches to choose from. For a full day out then parking at Craster and walking to Embleton will take you past some stunning scenery including the beautiful Dunstanburgh Castle. The sand dunes at Druridge Bay are fab for rolling down, and it's usually far quieter than the more local beaches. Roker beach and pier has had a total makeover recently and whilst I haven't visited yet, this post from Out and About with the Baileys had definitely put it on my radar, the play park, miniature railway and  pier look like a great day out. 

Clockwise from left - Broom House Farm - Durham, Moorhouse Farm - Morpeth, Bouncy castle at Saltwell Park, Gruffalo Spotting in Kielder Forest

Clockwise from left - Broom House Farm - Durham, Moorhouse Farm - Morpeth, Bouncy castle at Saltwell Park, Gruffalo Spotting in Kielder Forest

21. Soft play and a bouncy castle for all ages at Dunston Activity Centre

This is the only 'soft play' on the list, partly because lots of them max out frugal criteria budget, but also because this one is a little bit different. Every Saturday morning 10am-1pm at Dunston Activity Centre they have a mix of floor soft play, bouncy castles and gymnastics equipment for kids of all ages to use. Hard to explain but this post shows what is available. Beware if you have toddlers that there are quite a few older kids, but we went last year and didn't find it too manic. £4 per child and there is a very cheap cafe on site too - think the teas were less than £1. I think this is a good shout for a rainy day activity and or if you have a range of kids' ages to entertain.

22. Explore Cheeseburn Sculpture Gardens on it's open weekends

I get really excited by Cheeseburn as its open so infrequently. We had such a lovely day when we visited two years. Lots of sculptures amongst the grounds of a beautiful home. I'm no art buff and can't claim that I understood them all (or any) but they were all really interesting and my kids enjoyed spotting the different things along the route.  A real hidden gem in the North East. Open August 24th/25th/26th and  August 31st/Sept 1st. It’s officially free, although the website heavily suggests a donation of £5 per adult.

21. SPot all of the elmers across the region

We can’t wait for Elmer’s Great North Parade. My kids were too young to really appreciate the Snow Dogs from 2 years ago, but are already excited to spot the 50 big Elmers and 115 smaller ones, decorated by local community groups and artists. On everyday from 21st August 2019, it’ll be a great activity to go spotting towards the end of the holidays.

22. Work out the clues at A Scarecrow Festival (29/8/19-2/9/19 shadforth or 24-26/8/19 rennington

Bit of a random suggestion here, but I love scarecrow festivals. Choose from Rennington Scarecrow Festival where you can walk around the village guessing what each of the scarecrow scenes are showing. Stalls and refreshments are also available. Or Shadforth Scarecrow Festival where this year’s theme is fairy tales and pantomimes. We go to Shadforth every year and absolutley love it. On the Sunday they have games on the village green, and people make such a great effort with the scarecrows. 

23. A Year full of fun at Preston Park Museum

We love Preston Park, we visited twice last year, its a bit of journey - about 50 minutes from Gateshead, but we loved it. Potentially the best bargain on the list, entry is £5 for a family and lasts a whole year. They have loads of different activities on during the summer including weekly rhymes, dancing and crafting sessions all included in the annual admission charge. The play park is massive, and the Victorian street has quite a Beamish vibe to it. Definitley worth a trip out if you haven't visited yet. 

24.Visit the animals at Kirkley Hall Zoological gardens

This is a new addition to the frugal list, as normally a trip to Kirkley Hall would blow the frugal budget. But there is a great deal available here where a family ticket is only £10 when the voucher is bought in advance. Admission is for up to 2 adults and 3 children. It isn’t as big as a proper zoo, but there are loads of exotic animals, and you can easy be there all day. They have some really good play spaces too.

25. Waterfalls, walks and farm animals in Jesmond Dene

Jesmond Dene is always a go to for us when we are thinking of where to visit. Pets Corner has got animals like sheep, goats, chicken, rabbits and birds to look at. There are lots of areas to explore including a waterfall, and lots of green spaces. The play park is pretty small really, but it will entertain really small kids. There is a cafe and ice cream van for refreshments. 

Clockwise from left, The Baltic, Thornley Woods, Broom House Farm - Durham, Chase Park - Whickham

Clockwise from left, The Baltic, Thornley Woods, Broom House Farm - Durham, Chase Park - Whickham

26. Find fairydoors and hidden treats at beamish hall

Beamish Hall woodland adventure is my favourite play trail. There is so much for kids to do, a big mud kitchen, games, places to hide, tree swings, and a low ropes course. It’s amazing that it is free. No cost to park either. It’s in the grounds of Beamish Hall Hotel. Check their website before you travel as they sometimes close the trail. Here is a video of our visit.  

27. Find the giant wicker Gruffalo at Hardwick Park

Another one that we'll be visiting for the first time this year. Hardwick Park offer a Gruffalo trail with clues to follow, ending up at the giant wicker Gruffalo. Parking is £3 for the day, and it's £1.50 for the trail. We’ve been a couple of times now but haven’t had a chance to buy the activity trail yet, even so it’s a lovely day out with a nice walk around the lake with lots of swans and nests, some Alice in Wonderland themed sculptures and a good sized play park. We haven’t had the chance to use it yet, but apparently there is a time trial area too that kids should enjoy, 

28. pull up a deckchair on the Quayside beach

We love popping to the quayside beach, particularly on a Sunday when we try our best to eat our way down the tyne (Our recommendation will ALWAYS be to go for the Gyros from the greek vans - delish). Whether you are stocking up on carbs or not, the quayside beach is a lovely free place to spend an hour or two. There are deckchairs, fake beach huts, a slide and some kids games. Tie it in with a visit to Ouseburn farm which is less than a 10 minute walk away. 

29. Giddy up for a pony ride

If you think your kids would like to try pony riding then there are a few stables where they can have a go without breaking the budget. Firtree Farm Riding school is frugal budget friendly on certain dates (25th July) when if you call in you can get a short pony ride for only £3.50 per go. Stepney Bank Stables in Ouseburn is even cheaper at £3 for a 10 min taster ride every Tuesday of the school holidays. 

30. Try out North Tyneside’s summer festival

North Tyneside have produced a brilliant schedule of free and cheap family events. There are free family days in most of their parks, water fights, nature events, treasure hunts and a free bubble show. All of the dates, times and info can be found here.

31. Visit the new and improved Chase Park, Whickham

You can see some photos and videos from our trip to Chase Park here, we were so impressed with the rejuvenation. There are lots of play equipment to choose from, including quite a bit for older kids. There is also a small water feature for cooling down when it's hot outside. 

32. Watch the Gladiators combat at Segedunum (18/8/19)

Segedunum is meant to be a great day out for kids, and at £5.95 for adults with under 16s free, it's a bit of a bargain. Visit every day to see the excavated fort with exhibits, kids crafts and Roman role play, and small park. The big event this summer is a chance to see The Historical Combat company enter the arena as the Gladiators to undertake training. Visitors even get a chance to a go at archery or get involved in the hands-on craft activities all from historical tents. On 18th August and it is included in the admission price

33. Paddle at Carlisle Park in Morpeth

This park in Morpeth is great on a sunny day. The main draw is the paddling pool is huge, with a little island in the middle to jump off, and a fountain to stand under. The park itself is really big, with play equipment for pre-schoolers as well as older ones,  and some nice areas for picnics or a kick about. Parking in Morpeth is free, but you need to buy a parking disc for £1 - list of places that sell them is here. 

Clockwise from left - Great North Museum, Chester le Street Riverside Park, Quayside Beach, Shiremoor Adventure Playground

Clockwise from left - Great North Museum, Chester le Street Riverside Park, Quayside Beach, Shiremoor Adventure Playground

34. TOy Tractors, water play and very good cake at MoorHouse Farm

Moorhouse Farm near Morpeth is such a great cafe and farm shop for families. It covers a relatively small space, but there is lots to keep little ones entertained whilst you enjoy a coffee. Check out a few pics from our last visit here.

35. head to the cinema (on a Sunday)

With this brilliant hack, you can get cinema tickets on a Sunday for £2, valid up until the end of August. You need to buy bags of sweets, advertised with ‘Cinema Sunday’ vouchers. Put a couple of codes in their websites, and you can take your pick of any 2D film. Valid at Cineworld in the Gate and Boldon. Full info about how to do it here.

36. Feed the deer at Whitworth Hall

Local blogger New Girl in Toon visited Whitworth Hall last year, where there are loads of deer on the grounds. You can buy food for them for £1 or you get it FREE if you check in at Whitworth Hall on facebook. 

37. Sci-FI Extravaganza at Invasion X at Woodhorn (21/7/19)

This annual event at Woodhorn looks amazing for any sci-fi fans. You can meet a host of science fiction characters ranging from Daleks to Doctors, Jedis to Jawas and many more! Sci Fi, Comic & Super Hero outfits are encouraged! There are sci-fi crafts and food and drink stalls on site. Admission free. Parking £5

39. Burn off some energy at south tyneside play tots

This option is only for under 5s, but i've included it as I think its a bit of a bargain, and it's a bit of a bargain. On every weekday, 10am-11am or 2pm-3pm at South Tyneside Gymnastics & Wellbeing Centre which is just behind Temple Park Centre in South Shields. I haven't been to this session yet, but been to others like it, and they are excellent for toddlers. For only £2.40 per child, during the hour session they can use the gymnastics play equipment like the bouncy track and sponge pit, as well as more traditional toys such as ride on toys. Songs and dance are also said to be included. 

40. Do your best dad (or mam) dancing at south tyneside’s music events

The whole family  are invited to South Tyneside’s summer festivals, held every Sunday. Check out this link for the line up, but acts include Gabrielle and The Lightening Seeds. Free entry, no need for a ticket, just turn up. You can choose to pay for priority tickets to get in a bit earlier, but that would be slightly over the £10 budget for these frugal activities.

41. Stay Home

Well done for making it to the end of this monster post. I think we all deserve a lie down after that. Stick on a film for the kids and hide on the toilet with your phone. Seriously it's all well and good having a list of places to go, but sometimes the kids will be just as happy at home, and its one of the only ways to have a properly FREE day out. I've recently started following a great page on facebook called 46 Days of Summer, who post a different free or low cost idea for activities with the kids each day. It's a great page for tips.