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19 cheap and free things to do in the 2018 summer holidays

Keep the family entertained on a budget

School holidays are finally here, with this summer set to be one of the hottest on record – but that’s no reason to burn through your cash. 

If your kids are looking for entertainment, take advantage of one of the many cheap or free activities happening across the UK.

Here, we round up 19 budget-friendly options from around the country.


1. See a movie for less than a fiver

A number of cinema chains are offering low-cost tickets to kids movies this summer.

Both Vue’s Mini Mornings and Odeon Kids screenings have tickets every day of the holidays from £2.50, while Cineworld’s Movies for Juniors are priced at around £3.20.

2. Meet the animals at a City Farm

If you’re a city dweller, you might be surprised at how easy it is to find your local farm.

London has a number of city farms offering kids the chance to experience animals up close, including Hackney City Farm and Mudchute Park and Farm.

Alternatively, you can visit Newcastle upon Tyne’s Ouseburn Farm or Edinburgh’s Gorgie City Farm, or search for one in your local area.

3. Take a free tennis lesson

Sports charity Tennis for Free is offering free lessons at locations around the UK.

Children of all ages and abilities are welcome to book in.

4. Get creative at an art gallery

Foster creative talent at the National Gallery’s family workshops, offering free art classes to kids aged 5 to 11.

Alternatively, the National Gallery in Scotland is offering daily activities with visiting artists.

5. Watch cartoons at the Disney store

Visit your local Disney store for Magical Mornings, featuring free games and screenings of popular shows.

6. Enjoy London’s parks

Over 280 events are being held in London parks between 21-29 July to celebrate London National Park City Week, including arts and crafts, guided walks and more.

7. Buy one, get one free theatre tickets

Children under 16 can get free theatre tickets to selected performances at West End shows during August, as long as they’re accompanied by a full-paying adult.

You can search for popular shows and book on the Kids Week site.

8. Visit a horse sanctuary

If your child is horse mad, a visit to a sanctuary will help them learn more about equine care and animal welfare.

Hall Farm in Norfolk has an open day with pony grooming and horsey events every Wednesday this August, while Penny Farm in Lancashire is holding a Family Fun Day on 1 August

9. Learn to fish

Aspiring anglers can take free fishing lessons from the Canal & River Trust, with events held throughout England this summer.

10. Bring stories to life

The Robin Hood Festival in Sherwood Forest, now in its 34th year, will return with storytelling, street theatre, traditional music and performances.

11. Go for a bike ride

There are cycling routes across the UK that suit all levels of riders.

You can find safe cycling routes from the National Trust.

12. Discover local traditions

Scotland is famous for its Highland Games, which are once again being held this summer.

Or for a more quirky local tradition, check out the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Wales.

13. Check out your local authority

Local authorities around the UK are running free activities this summer holiday, so check out what’s on offer in your local area.

Glasgow, for example, has a free kids camp on selected weekdays throughout the summer.

14. Explore British history

Introduce the next generation to Britain’s history with free digital workshops at the British Museum.

The Bristol Museum, meanwhile, has a full program of summer events for kids, including trips on the world’s oldest steam tug.

15. Up your football skills

Get some exercise with low-cost football coaching from FA Skills.

Sessions charge a small fee for venue hire, though not normally more than £3.

16. Soak up some culture

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival offers something for everyone, including the littlest audience members – and many of the family events are free.

A number of other towns are hosting festivals throughout the summer, so you can check out what’s on in your local area.

17. Take flight at Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport is running a series of workshops for kids aged 3-12 to introduce them to the wonders of aviation.

For around £7 a session, the Flight Academy workshops teach kids about flying and lets them explore classic planes.

18. Go to a Carnival

The Notting Hill Carnival is a vibrant multi-day event, and your family can get involved on 27 August for the Children’s Parade and Family Day.

Meanwhile, Manchester holds its own Caribbean Carnival every summer.

19. Visit a heritage-listed home

Grand houses throughout England and Scotland are open to visit during the summer months, and many host events to keep the whole family entertained.

Visit the Heritage England or Historic Scotland to find out what’s on near you.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article reported Ouseburn’s Farm location as Birmingham – it is, in fact, in Newcastle upon Tyne.

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