48 Hours in Leeds - things to do in Leeds with kids
Once the industrial heart of West Yorkshire, now a city more often associated with student life and festivals, Leeds may not be your first thought for a family weekend away – I’m here to tell you why you should think again.
From water taxis & jousting to ancient mummies & crazy golf, I’ve putt together (see what I did there?) a 48-hour itinerary for things to do in Leeds with kids, that the whole family will love.
Thorpe Park Hotel
Thorpe Park Hotel is to be your base for the weekend, this hotel caters brilliantly for kids with it’s VI little P package. This gives the kids a hotel experience just like the adults – mini robes and VI little P menus. They have a program of events during the school holidays and a regular bean bag cinema club. There’s plenty of room in and around the pool for kids to enjoy and plenty of relaxing lounge areas to work their way through the activity packs. Check in and get your bearings, then it’s a 5-minute drive to The Springs for some first-class crazy golf at Puttstars.
Puttstars has 3 different courses, winding and cranking, whirling, and flashing, that will keep kids entertained for ages, including one course that caters specifically for the younger members of the family. The upstairs putting greens are full of weird and wonderful contraptions, it’s a challenge to finish some of them, let alone get a hole in one! Enjoy the golf and have fun in the arcade full of games like basketball, pool tables and there is even and the old-style ‘tipping point’ coin game, the type that my kids used to love at the seaside. When you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time for dinner.
There is a hidden gem in this retail park, serving traditional family oriented Italian food – Francos. Franco himself is something of a Leeds legend, founder of the Flying Pizza restaurant, the son of Tuscan farmers who moved to the UK in the 60’s and he’s still cooking up a storm now. It’s so unexpected to get this quality of authentic food in a retail park, it would be much more at home on a fashionable strada in Rome! The stroganoff and Tuscan sausages with nduja are both highly recommended, but for me the pizzas are absolutely the best thing about this place, the bases are just the right amount of crispy and doughy, with delicious toppings – vegetarian and vegan options are clearly indicated.
Eat your fill then it’s back to the hotel for a great nights sleep as you’ve got more things to do in Leeds with kids tomorrow!
Enjoy an early swim and breakfast at the hotel and get ready for a day of fun in the city centre.
Park up at The Light, so that you are nice and central, your first stop is at City Museum that opens at 11am. Saturday mornings are host to Rory’s Saturday club – crafting sessions that keep the youngsters entertained. Visit the Leeds mummy, discovered in Karnak, Egypt and brought to Leeds in 1823 and made to ‘speak’ by the wonders of modern science in 2020. The museum has lots of interactive exhibitions and a stunning display of fossils. The Life on Earth gallery is my favourite with 800,000 specimens dating back to prehistoric times. The kids will love the moa skeleton, one of the largest birds to ever roam the earth, and absolutely terrifying!
When you have explored the museum, you’ll head to Banyan where you’ve booked in for lunch, just down the street in City Square. Here you will find great food for the adults, a £6.50 kids menu, plenty of seating and outdoor space which is a glorious suntrap if the weather is nice. While you’re there, get the kids to talk to the statues using your phone!
Banyan is nice and handy for you to make your way down Bishopsgate Street to Granary Wharfe to get the water taxi – either Twee or Drie, £2 per person, under 5’s go free – to your next stop, The Royal Armouries.
The Royal Armouries
Definitely one of the best things to do in Leeds with kids, this impressive museum offers a unique and immersive experience for visitors of all ages. There are always so many exciting and engaging children’s activities going on. From hands-on workshops to interactive exhibits, kids can step back in time in the craft workshops and create costumes, swords and shields to become knights, royal courtiers, or daring warriors themselves.
The school holidays have an action-packed schedule inside and outside with combat demonstrations, dramas, and storytelling. Every day is different and who knows which characters and heroes from history you’ll meet on your visit. This summer there are also two free horse shows daily, as well as jousting events (which are bookable and to be paid for).
I love the Royal Armouries, but it does get busy, that’s why I’ve timed your visit for the afternoon which is normally quieter. You can pre-book to guarantee entry – entry to the Royal Armouries is free but do book online if you want to catch the jousting, it’s incredibly popular.
Once you’ve had your fill of the fun at the armouries, head back to your hotel for dinner at The Restaurant & Bar. The supper menu is served until 9pm and offers a fabulous range of options, gluten free and vegetarian dishes are on the menu, dishes can be altered to be made vegan. The VI little P menu is wonderful with three courses for less than £10, the spaghetti meatballs come highly recommended.
The adults can even finish off with a couple of speciality cocktails!
After breakfast in the hotel, there is one more stop before you head home, a ten minute drive to Temple Newsam.
Temple Newsam is one of the great houses of England, and it is absolutely bursting with treasures and tales. With over 500 years of history, it has been home to so many interesting characters. I remember visiting as a child, the Chinese drawing room absolutely blew me away, the silk wallpaper is exquisite.
If you’d prefer to be out in the fresh air, Temple Newsam has some beautiful nature trails, perfect for a Sunday morning stroll. There are plenty of picnic spots by the lakeside gardens and the kids will love the adventure playground. Add a fun element to your walk and download the ‘Love Exploring app this will let you use augmented reality to create interactive games, including the Dinosaur Safari and Mega Mini-beast Hunt.
Temple Newsam is a Rare Breed centre, in fact, one of the largest rare breed centres in Europe, and you can visit the animals at Home Farm. The team are working hard to ensure the continuation of some of the oldest breeds of animals in the country, many of which are critically endangered and vulnerable to extinction.
You can walk the grounds and lakeside for free, tickets to the house and farm can be bought separately or you can buy tickets for both, there’s a family ticket (up to 2 adults, 3 children) that works out cheaper and 4’s and under go free.
It’s such a beautiful and interesting place, there’s plenty to fill your day and the Courtyard Café is a lovely spot to grab a snack before you set off back home, happy and with lots of stories to tell!