Famous for its geese, lace, and rebels, Nottingham boasts a wide array of family-friendly parks and attractions, making it definitely worth a visit. From splashing around at the National Water Sports Centre to walking in the steps of Robin Hood, Nottingham is full of fun things to with kids.
1. Wollaton Hall & Deer Park
No trip to Nottingham is complete without a visit to Wollaton Hall, a majestic 16th century house bursting with stories. Wollaton Hall not only played host to generations of aristocracy, and featured as Batman’s manor in The Dark Knight Rises, but it currently houses Nottingham Industrial Museum as well as Nottingham Natural History Museum. These two museums are home to thousands of birds, insects and mammals on display. Residents of Nottingham Natural History Museum include a duck-billed platypus, an octopus and George the Gorilla.
The latest arrival to stomp through the museum’s rooms is a Tyrannosaurus rex – the first real one on display in the U.K. for over a century. This unmissable, interactive exhibition is only on display for a limited time. Tickets are available now.
Wollaton Hall is surrounded by 500 acres of beautiful parkland, which means it is an ideal place for a family picnic, especially if you want to bring the dog. (Dogs are allowed off their leads except in the fenced areas where the deer graze.) After lunch, take a walk – or bring your bikes – and cycle around the peaceful lake. Take a break and see if you can spot a flash of mahogany over the horizon! There are over 200 wild deer at Wollaton and they are a breath-taking sight to witness in their natural habitat. By following one of the park’s family trails you can hunt as a herd for clues and track down a prize. There are also two play areas in Wollaton Park for the fawns of the family to explore.
2. Nottingham Winter Wonderland
Sadly this annual Christmas market had to be cancelled last year due to Covid, but plans for 2021 are well underway. The exact opening date is yet to be confirmed, but the market usually opens in early December on Old Market Square and Long Row. With dozens of food and drink stalls, it’s a fantastic experience for the tastebuds and if you’re looking for a more unique, hand-crafted gift for Christmas you’re sure to find it here. In 2019, Nottingham Winter Wonderland opened a 1100 square metre ice rink. What better way to get into the festive mood than gliding past twinkling lights to the sound of Mariah Carey and the smell of roasting chestnuts?
3. Nottingham Theatre Royal
Built in 1865, the theatre is a stunning example of elegant Victorian architecture. Step through the tall, white pillars, then settle down in the ornate, four-tiered auditorium and into a world of top-class entertainment. The theatre hosts a variety of performances, from touring West End plays to the nation’s best-loved comedians to musical theatre classics. There’s something for everyone. Upcoming shows to entertain the family include Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Shows for littler kids include Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever and Milkshake! Live.
4. Nottingham Castle
After a £30 million renovation, the recently reopened castle is a must-see for history lovers. Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, the castle has been at the centre of many bloody battles: it’s walls have been besieged, captured, destroyed and re-built many times. Most famously, the castle was a stronghold for parliamentarians during the Civil War in the mid-17th century – it’s owner, John Hutchinson, signed the death warrant for King Charles I. And in 1831, after the Electoral Reform Bill was voted down, angry workers set the castle alight!
Visit Nottingham Castle and learn more about its rich and thrilling history. Explore the galleries, or dive deeper still and journey through the castle’s network of underground caves. The famous tunnel, Mortimer Hole, was reportedly used as secret passage way by Edward III in the 14th century to arrest the lovers Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer. You can also experience life as everyone’s favourite green-clad rebel in the digital and interactive Robin Hood Adventures. Pre-booking is required.
5. Holme Pierrepoint Country Park
Adventure seekers look no further! For an unforgettable, action-packed day, visit Holme Pierrepoint Country Park, home of Nottingham Water Sports Centre. Try your hand at a round of Mini Golf, perfect for all ages, or battle the whole family, Robin-Hood-style, in a fast-paced game of Archery Combat in a merry band of up to twenty people. Anyone eight or over can play.
For even more excitement, take to the skies and pilot your way around the Sky Trail, a high ropes course for both adults and children. Starting with a fifteen minute safety briefing and harness fitting, the Sky Trail is a safe way to challenge yourself and boost confidence. Build up your nerve on the 12ft level, before braving 24ft. Could you close your eyes and a let a friend or family member guide you around the course with only their voice?
The activities are a great value for the price. You can take on all three activities, Mini Golf, Archery Combat and the Sky Trail, as well as Lagoon Flat Water Activities for £20 if you buy an Adventure Day Pass. Make sure to keep an eye on age and height restrictions when booking.
If you’re a family of adrenaline-junkies, you can turn the thrill-level up a notch and climb, slide and balance your way around the Lagoon Wipeout course. Take full advantage of the world-class water sports facilities at Holme Pierrepoint Country Park by trying something new like kayaking or paddle boarding. And for those daredevils aged fourteen or over, book some White Water Rafting and brace yourself for a wild ride down 700 metres of rapids.
6. Kitty Café
Animal-lovers, what more could you want? A café – with cats! Sit back, relax and have a bite to eat in the company of some adorable felines. Kitty Café is part human-café, part cat-hotel as it cares for rescues and strays until they find their ‘forever home’. The café is family friendly with a range of hot food, drinks and deserts, all prepared in a hygienic and clean cat-less kitchen.
7. Pot ‘N’ Kettle
Located in the small, friendly town of Beeston, Pot ‘N’ Kettle is a ceramic café. It’s brilliant if you want to indulge in some arts and crafts on a rainy day or want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre for a couple of hours. (It’s a short tram ride from Nottingham City Centre to Middle Street, Beeston). Pick from a wide range of blank pots, plaques, frames and figurines and get painting! Create memories as you create special keepsakes. If you are travelling from further afield, please be aware that you will need to return to pick up the items and it takes up to a week for Pot ‘N’ Kettle to glaze the items.
Groups of five people or less can drop in on the day. Pot ‘N’ Kettle welcome group bookings and offer children’s birthday party packages. There also baby changing facilities and facilities to heat up food and milk. The café doesn’t currently offer refreshments due to Covid, but there is a lovely café a few steps away on the same street. Pop into Christine’s Delights, a delicious Greek patisserie for lunch, a cup of coffee and a mouth-watering cake. There is also a good choice of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
8. Goose Fair
Once a trade fair renowned for its thousands of geese, the Goose Fair is now an annual funfair with over 500 attractions. The fair is held in the first week of October at Nottingham Forest Recreation Ground. Challenge your family to a good old game of Dodgems or see who screams the loudest on the Waltzers. And, of course, don’t forget the candyfloss!
There is no public vehicle parking at Nottingham Forest Recreation, apart from access for Blue Badge Holders. However, the Goose Fair is easily accessible by tram or bus. Nottingham has excellent public transport; a tram Day Ticket or Group Ticket is a good choice for those exploring different areas of the city.
Unfortunately the Goose Fair was cancelled last year due to Covid, but organizers are hopeful for its return in Autumn 2021. Other reasons for cancellations over its 700 year history include the Bubonic Plague in 1646 and both world wars.
9. Red Kangaroo Nottingham
This large trampoline park includes a wipeout game, battle beams and a dodgeball court. All ages and abilities are free to hop around as the Red Kangaroo offers different sessions such as Kanga Family for adults with children aged 2-12 and Kanga Tots for those aged 1-5 (adults go free with a child bouncer). The park also offers quieter, more relaxed sessions, Kanga Calm, for adults and children with sensory needs, autism, anxiety or any other requirements.
10. Highfields Park and Lakeside Arts Centre
For a serene afternoon, take a stroll around the lake nestled in Highfields Park. Located next to University Park Campus, Highfields’ 21 acres of greenery is a popular destination for dog walkers and families with young children. Overlooking the lake is Lakeside Arts Centre, a museum, art gallery and theatre that runs a range of events. Past events include Easter Dance Workshops and outdoor Shakespeare for over sixes. This summer, there’s s a pay-what-you-want puppet-show and Drawn from Nature: Art in the Park Outdoor Exhibition, a week-long course for children to express their natural creativity.
Lakeside Arts Centre also has a café and outdoor playground. It is located next to a 18 Hole Adventure Golf course and 9 hole Foot Golf course.