Rainy days can be tough for parents and kids, and here in the verdant northwest we get more than our fair share of them. We’ve rounded up 21 ideas for ways to fill a rainy, damp or drizzly day, with plenty of free options as well as more expensive days out.
*FREE! 1. Head to your local library. There are plenty of books (obviously) plus they often have a variety of toys and jigsaws which are magically more exciting than the ones at home just by virtue of being in a different place. Many libraries also run rhyme and story sessions, which often run through the school holidays, plus other events throughout the year. Pick up a DVD or two while you’re there and that’s the afternoon sorted too …
The library also runs a Summer Reading Challenge during the summer holidays which offers stickers and other rewards for visiting the library during the long summer break, plus special events such as craft and cookery sessions.
Borrowing books and the Summer Reading Challenge are both free; there may be a small charge for DVD hire.
*FREE! 2. The Grosvenor Museum in the centre of Chester has various Roman artefacts to keep your little gladiators entertained, plus there’s a natural history room with colouring and lots of stuffed animals to look at, and a period house with the rooms decorated in different period styles and various activities such as costumes to try on. They run free drop-in activities most days during the holidays based on different exhibits in the museum. While you’re there, why not head to the Wesley for a mug of tea and some cake; there’s a play area for children and they also do a kids’ lunchbox plus other food. Admission to the museum and all activities are free.
*FREE! 3. If you fancy a trip over to Port Sunlight, a little way outside Chester, the Lady Lever Gallery has family rooms in the basement which include books, puppets, art supplies and fancy dress. If you fancy a stroll around the galleries then there are story bags you can borrow and occasional interactive displays, plus a large cafe in the basement and an indoor picnic area at the weekend. There are also events including messy play, crafts, performance and dance. Entrance to the museum is free. Our review will be added shortly.
*FREE! 4. Travelling further afield, we love the superb World Museum in Liverpool city centre. Free to enter, there is plenty to keep children entertained on even the wettest of days, including a planetarium (pick up a ticket on your way in), dinosaurs, insects and an aquarium. There are lockers including space for buggies on the ground floor (take a £1 coin), a café on the top floor and indoor picnic areas. There’s an NCP car park a few minutes’ walk away, or take the train to Liverpool Lime Street, which seems to add to the excitement for little ones. Our review will be added shortly.
*FREE! 5. Next door, the Walker Gallery has a dedicated gallery for children aged up to 8, called Big Art for Little Artists, which is free and open daily from 10 am to 4.30 pm. There’s plenty to do, including puppets, fancy dress, books and, of course, art projects. There are also often free art and craft activities for children in the main gallery, which relate to current exhibits.
6. Closer to home for arty kids, Totally into Art in Vicars Cross runs drop in sessions on Saturdays during term times (and possibly during the week in the holidays, see the website for details) where children (and grown ups!) can make a character, decorate an ornament or paint a tshirt, while parents enjoy a hot drink. There’s a small play area too.
7. Children can paint a mug, plate or something else at the Spotty Pig in Chester (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in term time, parking is pay and display so take change) or Charley’s Ceramics in Ellesmere Port (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays) while parents enjoy a cup of tea.
8. While you’re in Ellesmere Port, why not take a wander around the National Waterways Museum aka the Boat Museum? As well as lots of boats and related items to look at, there’s a small soft play area, plus you can take a 30 minute boat trip in Centaur the canal boat. Admission charges apply. Please note the museum is closed for refurbishment until 1st April 2017.
9. At the Cheshire Workshops, children can make a candle or enjoy a drop-in art session, whether it’s painting a pot, making a magnet or creating some sand art, plus there’s a playground too in case the rain lets up (or head over to Beeston Castle if you’re feeling particularly optimistic about that break in the clouds). Workshop activities are open from 10 am to 4.30 pm every day and there’s no need to book unless you’re taking a large group. There’s a large cafe plus an excellent pub, The Pheasant, next door.
10. Most kids seem impervious if not actively drawn to rain, so why not don wellies and waterproofs and head outside for some puddle jumping? If it’s too wet for the playground, Topsy Tumbles sessions run at different Brio leisure centres throughout the week, offering an indoor playground with soft play, climbing frames, trikes, bouncy castle, balls and other toys (equipment available may vary from site to site – usually £2.50 plus 50p per additional child). Sessions usually run through the holidays as well, sometimes with additional craft activities for older children.
11. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em – go swimming and get properly wet. We’ll be adding a list of local swimming pools to the site soon.
12. Sometimes parents just need some grown up conversation while the kids entertain themselves for a while, or at least a hot drink while some one else’s room gets messed up. We’ll be adding a list of all the local parent and child groups soon.
13. A perennial favourite, the Ice Cream Farm has an indoor play barn which runs toddler sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, plus a fantastic indoor sand and water play area, plus outdoor attractions for when the sun comes out. The Twirl of Hay in Vicars Cross or The Rake near Cheshire Oaks both offer soft play fun for kids while parents can have a drink or meal. We’ll be adding a list of local soft play soon.
16. Go underwater without getting wet at Blue Planet aquarium near Cheshire Oaks or the head to SEA LIFE Manchester at the Trafford Centre, which also has the Legoland Discovery Centre next door; both often have special web offers, so check online before you go.
17. Norton Priory, near Runcorn, is another great family location that has plenty of room for running about when the weather’s fine, plus regular craft activities – perfect for those days that can’t quite make up their minds.
18. Vue at Cheshire Oaks and Cineworld at Broughton both run reduced price children’s films on weekend mornings and daily during the holidays, so stock up on the popcorn and enjoy – peace and quiet (sort of) and you might even be able to fit in a covert nap while they’re engrossed in the movie.
*FREE! 19. If your kids love cars, bikes, buses and other things to go, head to the Wirral Transport Museum in Birkenhead, which has a wide range of vintage vehicles plus the chance to ride on a tram (free entrance to the museum, fare payable for tram ride). Open Saturdays, Sundays and bank holiday Mondays during term time, Wednesday to Sunday during the holidays.
20. National Trust properties such as Speke Hall and Chirk Castle have old and interesting buildings to explore if you don’t mind the dash from the car park, while further afield Quarry Bank Mill near Wilmslow has several floors of indoor things to look at, learning all about the cotton trade and how the mill worked.
21. Another great Liverpool attraction, Underwater Street, offers masses to fire young imaginations, including a street of shops for imaginative play, a building site, a physical zone including climbing wall, crafts, science, a reading wigwam, water play, a sensory zone and much more. It moved to a new location in January 2017 (opening date 21st January) so we look forward to seeing the new pad.
22. This time last year we’d never even heard of trampoline parks, now there are over a thousand (rounded up) of them locally, from titchy to ginormous and everthing in between. We’ll be bringing you a full list shortly.
23. Another new attraction is the lovely Coffeetots play cafe in the centre of Chester. Grab a hot drink, home made cake, health smoothie or toddler friendly finger food platter while under 5s play in the small play area (there are board games available for older kids). There’s a nominal £1 charge for the play area if your food bill comes to under a tenner. Parking is awkward – you can park for free for an hour on City Road or longer if you’re shopping at Waitrose or Tesco and then walk along the canal; they sell food for the ducks as well. Another option for kid-friendly tea and cake in the centre of town is the Wesley Church cafe opposite Pizza Express, which has a large selection of toys.
24. Yet another new(ish) attraction, heading back to Liverpool again, is Mattel Play!, where you can hang out with your playtime favourites including Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank.
25. And another, this time closer to home – Paradise Island Adventure Golf in Cheshire Oaks will transport you to tropical beaches and forgotten jungles.
*FREE! 26. Most playgrounds are off limits in the rain, but Cheshire Oaks also boasts a completely undercover one which is perfect for the days you just have to get outdoors. It’s just a short walk from the Krispy Kreme stand too, just saying.
27. Not content just being wet, want to be cold too? Head for Manchester’s Chill Factore, where there’s loads of fun in the snow park including toboggans and luges. The hot chocolate is supposed to be good when you’re ready to warm up and there’s also a pub directly next door. You can also do indoor skydiving and climbing in the same location (age limits may apply).
28.Youngsters with a head for heights can also have a go at climbing at the new Clip n Climb at the Flip Out trampoline park close to Costco (minimum age 4) or at the Boardroom in Queensferry (minimum age 5).
29. At Knowsley Safari Park you can view rhinos, zebras and lions (sometimes alarmingly close) from the comfort of your car (there’s also a fun fair and more animals to see on foot if it clears up). Look out for their £10 per car special offers.
30. Head for the bowling alley.
31. At Spavens sweet shop in Mold, kids can decorate a jar before filling it with sweets from their dizzying selection; the price includes pancakes and drink plus a hot drink for parents. If the sun comes out, head over to nearby Alyn Waters to run off the sugar high.
Have we missed your favourite? Let us know!