Ford & Etal Estates
This vast estate in north Northumberland offers a huge range of activities, including nature reserves, castle tours, and if you’re feeling adventurous, try horse riding, mountain biking or canoeing on the River Till. Kids will love the Heatherslaw Light Railway, a steam railway which runs 6.4km from Heatherslaw to Etal.
Near Cornhill-on-Tweed 01890 820338 www.ford-and-etal.co.uk
Learn all about Bede, the seventh-century monk, and Anglo Saxon life in Northumbria at Bede’s World. There’s a museum, demonstration farm and wattle and daub buildings, constructed using the same skills that would have been used in Bede’s time and an interactive display explaining how Bede linked the tides to the movements of the moon.
Jarrow, South Tyneside 0191 489 2106 www.bedesworld.co.uk
Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
One of the top modern and contemporary art galleries in the country, with lots of family activity too, including the art trolley, children’s workshops and a family area. There’s also a café with a children’s menu. Oh, and did we mention the exhibitions?
Central Square, Middlesbrough 01642 726720 www.visitmima.com
Discover the artwork of The Pitmen Painters, see what coal mining was really like and explore the pit buildings in The Colliery Experience. Also see some pieces inspired by the stories and history of the Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives in the Into The Light exhibition from 7th March to 14th June.
Queen Elizabeth II Country Park, Ashington 01670 624455 www.experiencewoodhorn.com
Take in the history of the city at Castle Keep, where new exhibitions have just been fitted to foster a hub for heritage and learning in the castle. Make your way to the rooftop for views of the river and the seven bridges after taking a virtual tour of the castle’s Black Gate. Reopening 21st March.
Castle Garth, Newcastle 0191 232 7938 www.newcastlecastle.co.uk
Ocean Beach Pleasure Park
This amusement park in South Shields has more than 40 rides and attractions. There are amusement arcades, 10-pin bowling, dodgems, thrill rides and much more. Experience the thrills of surfing or snowboarding without getting wet or cold at Urban Wave, the surf simulator.
South Shields, Tyne & Wear 0191 456 1617 www.oceanbeach.co.uk
Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience
This superb recreation of an 18th century seaport is a great place for families. Travel in the mari-time machine to experience life on a British naval frigate, and explore period shops and houses. You can hop aboard HMS Trincomalee, the oldest British warship still afloat, and see the towering masts and thundering cannons.
Maritime Avenue, Hartlepool 01429 860077 www.hartlepoolsmaritimeexperience.com
The National Centre for Children’s Books is spread over seven floors, hence its name, and you’ll find loads of exhibitions, a creative workshop, café, great book shop and the jewel in the crown which is the magical attic for reading time.
Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle 08457 271 0777 www.sevenstories.org.uk
Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens
Part of Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall Campus, this zoo is an educational training facility as well as a great place to visit. It boasts more than 130 types of animals, reptiles and birds including alpacas, marmosets, wallabies, snakes and lizards. Meet the zookeepers and get the chance to hold reptiles. There are also some great adventure areas for older kids, including plenty of climbing.
Kirkley Hall, Ponteland 01670 841235 www.kirkleyhallzoo.co.uk
Blue Reef Aquarium
Bored with only seeing dogs, cats and pigeons? Head to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Tynemouth to gawp at sea lions, seals, sharks, stingrays, lionfish, pufferfish, clownfish and, slightly incongruously, monkeys. Stick around for ‘encounter’ sessions after the sea lions are fed.
Grand Parade, Tynemouth 0191 258 1031 www.bluereefaquarium.com/tynemouth
At this former fort step back in time to AD122, when Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of his famous wall. Explore the interactive museum, full-scale bath house reconstruction, and climb the 35-metre viewing tower.
Buddle Street, Wallsend 0191 236 9347 www.twmuseums.org.uk/segedunum-roman-fort
Whitehouse Farm Centre
At Whitehouse Farm Centre children (and adults!) can hold, feed and pet animals including geckos, tortoises, rabbits and ducks. You can also visit cows, sheep, meerkats and pigs. There are also go-karts, a spectacular adventure playground, soft play barn, trampolines, pedal tractors and much more.
Stannington, Morpeth 01670 789998 www.whitehousefarmcentre.co.uk
Tarzan wannabes can tackle a two-hour high ropes course in the tree tops, including rope bridges, swinging tyres and four zip wires. The course ends with an awesome free-fall experience. Don’t worry about taking part – as long as you can climb a rope ladder, you’ll be fine.
Stanley, County Durham 01207 233733 www.beamishwild.co.uk
Escape the norm and do something different by joining a cruise down the river Tyne with the leading cruise company on the river – the trip includes informative commentary and unique views.
The Quayside, Newcastle 01670 785666 www.riverescapes.co.uk
Venture to Tynemouth Station any Saturday or Sunday and you’ll find yourself in one of the busiest markets in the North East with antiques, jewellery, crafts and much more. Every third Saturday there is also a farmers’ market.
Tynemouth Station, North Shields www.tynemouthmarkets.com
Remember what life was like 100 years ago? Of course not, which is why this living history museum is rather interesting. The 300-acre site includes houses, shops, a dentist, pub, bank, bakery, railway station, colliery, pit village and a farm, though the thing people never stop talking about is the sweet shop.
Beamish, County Durham 0191 370 4000 www.beamish.org.uk
Take a walk along the picturesque coastline of Northumberland to reach this dramatic 14th century castle. Built on an outcrop of the Whin Sill, the grassy surroundings are perfect for kids to play all kinds of games and let their imagination run free in this historic setting.
Craster, Northumberland 01665 576231 www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/dunstanburgh-castle
Discover other English Heritage properties in the North East including Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Hadrian’s Wall, and Tynemouth Castle and Priory at www.english-heritage.org.uk