Is Nottingham Worthy Of A Mini-Break with Kids?
Parking itself right in the middle of the country, Nottingham definitely gets 10/10 for location – only 2 hours from London or Manchester, a mere 3 from Newcastle or Bristol, what’s your excuse not to make a trip? Recently awarded a UNESCO City of Literature and named by The Times and Metro in their list of best cities to visit, the reasons are stacking up. But, what is the crack with Nottingham – why should you come, and what can you cram into a couple of days here?
When I arrived here 22 years ago, a wet-behind-the-ears student, I was blown away by the history and architecture of this beautiful town, and I was sucked in by its multi-cultural warmth and hospitality. Even back then Nottingham offered endless possibilities. Over two decades on and I am still well and truly in love with this place I call home. I love to show it off to any visitors that descend upon us, and we’re constantly trying out new venue’s to eat and drink as they pop up around the city.
But, as you will discover for yourself, the restaurant and bar scene aren’t all Nottingham has to offer. So I will attempt, as a local, to compile a list of the best things to do and see with kids if you’re a tourist here for just a couple of days and you want to get a real feel for the place. It’s by no means a comprehensive story but I’d like to think you’d leave loving it as much as I do!
Top Five Things To Do With Kids In Nottingham…
1. Wollaton Hall and Deer Park
This place is always at the top of my list. This little gem has given us so many great days and evenings that I feel blessed that we have it just on our doorstep. I never take it for granted and I would love everyone to see it for themselves. Although that said, if you’ve watched the Batman film, Dark Knight Rises, you’ve actually seen it already, better known as Wayne Manor. The park is beautiful, FREE, and teeming with Deer, the play park is recently refurbished and not actually naff like so many of its peers, and there are some great geocaches. The Hall is stunning too and full of interesting stuff, read my review here for some further information. And this Summer, on my bucket list, you can watch an outdoor movie – remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad choice of clothing! Check out Nottingham City Council‘s website for dates of events.
Top Tip : if you park on the road named Parkside you’re right next to Wollaton Park’s side entrance and you can avoid paying to park inside. It’s also a perfectly proportioned walk to the Hall past the lake from this point.
2. Green’s Windmill, Sneinton.
Again, not city centre exactly but rent a ‘city bike’ and pedal the half-mile for a glimpse of this beautiful working mill. Built by a local baker 200 years ago and still to this day producing award-winning organic flour which you can buy from the little shop. If the sails are sailing this really is a great way to kill an hour or so with the kids, all the mechanics are on show and it’s quite clear to little inquisitive minds how the process of flour-making unfolds. The steep steps add a cute thrill to little kids too – you can just feel their sense of accomplishment when they reach the top.
It’s all free and there’s a little museum attached with a few hands-on experimental Sciences in honour of the baker’s son who was, in his day, a leading mathematician. Check their website for what’s on too, as they often have bread-making days and other activities on weekends.
Top Tip. When it’s time to leave, spare an extra 5 minutes for the little play-park next door. Blink and you’ll miss it but it does have a pretty good slide (the kind most Councils deem unsafe, but maybe they figure if you can handle the steep steps in the Mill you handle this slippery bad boy)
3. Playing Games In Nottingham
Perfect for rainy days in Nottingham, the city has a number of places you can go indoors for a bit of fun. First of all there’s the Lost City Adventure Golf at the Cornerhouse – a crazy golf experience indoors! But we particularly like spending time at Ludorati Cafe on Maid Marian Way with a great big cup of coffee and a good board game – the walls are stacked high with dozens and dozens of options whether you’re a Monopoly or a Risk kinda player. If you prefer to raise your adrenaline a bit more Nottingham also has a few options for Escape Room games at SI5 or Cryptology.
4. Visit The Nottingham Caves
No visit is complete to Nottingham without learning a bit about the underground shenanigans of yesteryear. Nottingham has more man-made caves than any other place in Britain and they date back to the Dark Ages. There are various cave tours around the city centre ie. The Castle or Brewhouse Yard (open weekends and Bank Holiday’s), but the main attraction starts in Broadmarsh Shopping Centre (see website) and takes you on a guided tour around a network of tunnels, wells and sess-pits, telling stories from bygone days. It’s fun and informative and well worth doing. The kids will love it! A family ticket costs £25.
Top Tip – Download the cave app and conduct your own private walking cave tour for free – a circular walk around the town with snippets of Historical information and 3D photos of what’s below your feet. Look out for the paddling pool!
5. Nottingham Castle
Last but not least! For only £20 (a family ticket for up to 5 people) you can learn so much about this city’s richly coloured history through the tales of these castle walls. It’s story has been shaped by celebrities such as William the Conqueror, Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, Richard III and of course our own local VIP Robin Hood! Nowadays it’s a museum and art gallery – the latter holding some very prestigious pieces and this year I am bouncing in my seat with excitement over the fact that it’s borrowing 10 drawings from the Royal Collection by Leonardo Da Vinci *squeals*. From 30th July to 9th October some of the finest drawings, selected to show this left-handed genius’ extraordinary scope of interests, will be displayed for me to stare and drool at. I for one can not wait! (‘Thank you’ to my Royal readers!)
One of the highlights of a visit here is the interactive gallery. Incorporating Augmented Reality Technology (think Pokemon Go) there is a section of the castle which takes you through the terrifying events that took place at Nottingham Castle in 1831. It’s an excellent display and I hope it’s foregleam of the quality we can expect from the upcoming refurbishment and new installations in the near future!?
*N.B. The castle is currently closed for refurbishment, check their website for up to date information.*
Also included in your ticket price is access to the Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard, just around the corner from the castle. Unfortunately, this museum is only open weekends and Bank Holidays but it’s well worth a stop off to see their collection bygone gadgets and paraphernalia.
Top Tip – Next to Brewhouse Yard is England’s oldest inn (1189AD) Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem – don’t deny yourself a beverage here (it’s very child-friendly too), just sit and imagine the tales these walls could tell. A pivotal piece of traditional Nottingham.
So there you go – my top 5 things to do with the kids whilst in Nottingham for a mini-break. There are plenty of other things too though, like ice-skating, craft workshops at The Malt Cross, paddling in Old Market Square’s fountains, take my free self-guided walking tour, visit the Galleries of Justice or the Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery (which also has regular events for kids).
And if you need ideas for places to eat or drink – check out some of my restaurant reviews and suggestions here
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