We live in West Yorkshire, and while I’m not born and bred (originally from the Midlands), Bee is. West Yorkshire will always be where she was born, and for the time being, where she will grow up.
At 18 months, she soaks everything up. The smallest thing warrants detailed inspection. So many things are new. Never seen before. She shows me the world through her eyes. Exciting. Scary. Big. There are so many things I want to introduce Bee to. So many experiences I want her to have.
I began a list, that grew and grew and grew. I asked for suggestions. It grew bigger. I trimmed, and whittled, and I have finally chosen.
Here is my list of 25 things to do in West Yorkshire before you’re 5 years old. Bee’s ticked a few off already, but she still has plenty to discover.
∀ = free thing to do
Eat a windy picnic at the Cow and Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor ∀
Voted as one of Visit England’s top ten picnic spots in the UK. The Cow and Calf rocks are great to scramble around, and on clear days offer spectacular views over Ilkley and the surrounding countryside. Theres plenty of parking and some lovely, accessible walks.
Ride in a steam train on the Worth Valley Railway
A 4½ mile line between Keighley and Oxenhope. With a rover ticket you can hop on and off all day, exploring each of the restored stations (6 in total) and towns. Find a carriage near the rear of the train, so you can appreciate the engine through the window. Adult rover ticket £16, under-fives free.
Eat a fat rascal from Bettys Tea Rooms, Ilkley
This plump, fruity scone is Bettys best-loved and most popular speciality. With its cheeky, cherry and almond face, the fat rascal is best enjoyed warm and buttered. £8.20 for a box of four.
Pond dip at Oakwell Hall Country Park ∀
Spread over 100 acres, the park is home to a visitor centre, nature trail, picnic sites, countryside centre, ponds and a playground, as well as Oakwell Hall. Take a net and a bucket, and see what can be found in the stream. Entry to the park is free.
Meet the meerkats in Tropical World, Leeds
Hidden on the edge of Roundhay Park, Tropical World is home to a huge range of exotic creatures. Discover butterflies, reptiles, birds, fish, and of course meerkats. There’s free parking nearby or its reachable by bus, and there’s always the park to play in as well. We took Bee at 10 months old, and she watched the meerkats run around for ages. Just remember (because we didn’t) that tropical = really hot. Dress in layers, so you can strip off inside, and layer back up for home time. Under 5s are free, and adults £6.
Fly a kite on Castle Hill, Huddersfield ∀
With wonderful views over Huddersfield and beyond, Castle Hill is a popular kite flying spot. It can get pretty breezy, and kite flying is not recommended in high winds, but even on a quiet day there’s nearly always enough oomph to launch your very first kite. There’s free parking at the bottom and top of the hill, and if you want to explore Victoria Tower (open April – October), a family ticket is £3.75.
Ride the miniature railway in Northcliffe Woods, Shipley ∀
One of our favourite activities. A community run, narrow-gauge railway hidden away in the woods, with steam, electric and petrol engines. Open on Sunday afternoons, from April – September, volunteers offer rides around the two tracks, for free (or a small donation). There’s a cafe and picnic area, with a track through the woods, and paths up to the neighbouring Northcliffe Park. A lovely afternoon treat for small folk with a penchant for locomotives.
Brush a guinea pig at Hesketh Farm Park
Possibly our favourite farm for a day out, Hesketh has something for most ages, but is small enough to not be too overwhelming. There’s plenty of animals to see, indoors as well as outside, and lots to do. The tractor ride around the farm is thrillingly bumpy, and the many play areas, sand-pits and ride-ons are enough to keep everyone entertained. Theres a small cafe and plenty of picnic tables. Adults £5.50, children £6, under 2s £3, and under 1s are free.
Watch a film on the IMAX, Media Museum
Immerse yourself in the IMAX experience, at the first screen of its kind in Europe. Take in a feature film, or catch one of the documentary shorts in 3D. Adult tickets from £8.50, children from £6.
Take on a role at Eureka! Children’s Museum
Indulge in imaginative play in the Town Square at Eureka. With endless role-play opportunities, be a shop cashier, a bank clerk, a postal worker or a mechanic. Or play in the Eureka house, complete with an upstairs. Don’t forget to have a play in the under 5s Sensory Garden and Desert, and have a barefoot explore along the outdoor Wonder Walk. There’s so much to see and do, you won’t be able to fit it all in, which means you’ll just have to go back. Adult and child tickets £12.95 each for an annual pass.
Ride the tramway up Shipley Glen
Britain’s oldest funicular tramway, tucked away behind Roberts Park, transports you up 400 metres to the little sweet shop. Once the entrance to an Edwardian fairground, sadly long gone, the tramway continues to ferry passengers up and down the glen. Open weekend afternoons, adults £2 and children £1, for unlimited travel.
Build some outdoor art at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
With 500 acres of woodland and rolling hills, 5 galleries and both permanent and visiting outdoor sculptures, you won’t run out of things to see. Join in one of the special events, attend the Little Explorers sessions, or simply roam free on the 18th century estate. There are several cafes, picnic areas and an adventure playground too. Free entry but parking is £8 per car.
Watch aeroplanes from Otley Chevin ∀
The Chevin is open all year round, with 5 free car parks. There are walks, bridleways, orienteering and geocache sites, rocks and crags for climbing, and spectacular scenery. From Surprise View you can look down over Leeds Bradford airport runway, and while away an hour, watching the planes take off and land.
Play with the water in Manor Heath Park ∀
An award-winning, 19 acre park of woodland and wild flowers on the edge of Halifax. With an all-abilities children’s playground, sandpit and water play park (open April-October), there’s plenty to see and do. Work the water-mill, damn the flow or race boats down the waterway. If the weather turns, head into the tropical oasis of the Jungle Experience (£1 entry, under 5s free), where you’ll find fish, butterflies, and terrapins amongst the botanical gardens.
Visit the owls at Harewood House
Leeds has an owl thing. Just as Leicester (my hometown) has a fox thing. The eagle-eyed will spot owls all over Leeds. Harewood House, set in large grounds just north of Leeds, boasts its very own owls – as well as penguins, flamingoes and parrots – in its bird garden. Stroll around the enclosures before visiting the pot-bellied pigs and pygmy goats in the farm. Theres also an adventure playground, cafe, ice cream kiosk and picnic area. And if you fancy even more owls, then head into the house. Princess Mary, wife to the 6th Earl of Harewood, was an avid collector of owls, and Harewood House is home to her beautiful collection of miniatures. They are worth a look for any small fascinated with collecting…or owls. Adult tickets £12.50 (£16.50 including the House) and children under 4 are free.
Feed the ducks at St Ives Estate, Bingley ∀
A 550 acre country park with woodland, wildflower meadow and pond. A lovely spot for a picnic and a stroll. There are plenty of ducks to be fed, and a brilliant adventure playground. Even the smallest folk can enjoy the giant sandpit and sensory walkway. Bee especially enjoys the musical floor chimes. The estate is open 365 days of the year, and is free.
Sing Christmas carols around Saltaire Living Advent Calendar ∀
Every year, 25 homes (plus a few extra) around the Victorian model village of Saltaire, decorate a window for the Living Advent Calender. Each day, in the run up to Christmas, a new one is unveiled. By far the best time to see them is on December 24th. Join with many voices singing carols at the windows, before warming up with a hot chocolate around the village Christmas tree. A magical, heart-warming way to spend Christmas Eve.
Go open air swimming in Ilkley Lido
Open for just three months of the year, if it’s a sunny day head on over to the Lido and grab your spot on the grass. Built in the 1930s, and one of only 127 surviving lidos in the UK, make the most of the Yorkshire sunshine, be brave, and jump in (14° – 22°). Adults £4.50, children £2.35.
Stumble inside a story book at The Rainbow Factory, Leeds
This creative arts play centre aims to inspire a love of reading, through play, storytelling, theatre, craft, music and dance. Days are themed, and children can meet their favourite storybook characters, listen to tales, and join in craft and role-play activities. It’s a unique experience, perfect for little dreamers. Adults and 1-2 year olds £4, children £8. For younger children, the Babies and Beyond sessions (just £3) provide sensory stories, music and messy play, with the run of the centre for just the smallest of small people.
Splash about in the fountains of City Park, Bradford ∀
On a hot, sunny day, the mirror pool in Bradford’s City Park is full of children and families cooling off. The water varies in depth (25cm at its deepest) and there are over 100 fountains to splash in – from low-powered play fountains to the large central feature. The water comes from a huge underground tank and is filtered and treated (like swimming pool water) every day. Bee had her first visit after she started walking last summer. Just remember a towel and change of clothes.
Watch the sunrise over Baildon Moor ∀
A small moorland, overlooking Baildon, this is the perfect vantage point for a spot of stargazing or cloud spotting. Or head out early on the summer solstice, and watch the sunrise. Theres nothing quite as exciting as getting up when the world is asleep and going on a little adventure.
Ride the water taxi in Leeds ∀
A little known, and very scenic, route from Granary Wharf to Leeds Dock. Jump on board one of the yellow water taxis, for a 15 minute trip down the canal, from the train station to the Royal Armouries Museum. One of the best ways to travel through the city, and completely free.
Make a mud pie in the mud kitchen at East Riddlesden Hall
The gardens of this 17th century hall are perfect for some mucky, natural play. Little ones will love the hobbit house and perfectly proportioned mud kitchen, fairy doors, bug hotels and bird hide. Build a den, cook something muddy and uncover mini beasts and fairy folk. Entry is £6.55 for adults, including entrance to the Hall, and children under 5 are free.
Pick your own Halloween pumpkin at Farmer Copleys, Pontefract ∀
Create a Halloween tradition, with an annual trip to Farmer Copleys Pumpkin Festival, the biggest of its kind in the UK. Enjoy tractor rides, storytelling, corn cannons, creepy crawlies, and of course pumpkin picking. Search for the perfect pumpkin, from over 20,000 in the patch – orange, yellow, green, white and even blue ones. Entry is free, pumpkins are charged by size and activities are extra. Be prepared for mud, lots of it.
Say hello to Felix the Huddersfield Station cat ∀
Huddersfield train station has a very special feline Senior Pest Controller. Facebook legend Felix, can be found patrolling the platform or chasing pigeons, when she’s (Felix is a girl cat) not snuggled up sleeping in the Information Office. Featured on several television shows, including CBeebies’ My Pet And Me, Felix has become a worldwide phenomenon, she even has her own calendar and book. So next time you’re passing through Huddersfield station see if you can spot Felix at work, or maybe make a special trip to see the famous cat in action.
There are many other things in West Yorkshire to do, that I just couldn’t fit into my list. And some slightly outside the West Yorkshire border that, although we visit regularly, will have to be saved for my 25 Things To Do in North Yorkshire Before You’re Five post.
What would you include in your list of things to do in West Yorkshire?