The long stretch of the school holidays are just a week away, and parents up and down the country are already beginning to panic about how they’re going to entertain the kids! This year our already-lengthy six week holiday is actually a seven week holiday. We’re planning to spend two of those weeks in Kos (Greece), and are taking a three night break in London. I’ve also booked the boys onto an intensive week-long swimming course, and we’ll be keeping up with their twice-weekly football training, to run off some of their energy. But that still leaves four and a half weeks to entertain them and, because of our other holiday expenses, I’d like to keep the costs low! We also want to stay outside where possible, because exposing ourselves to Covid right before our flight would be a very bad idea.
If you’re in the same boat then here are some of the free school holiday activities in Norfolk that we have planned or booked to get us through the summer. I tend to book in one paid for day out a week as standard, then fill the rest of the week with these kinds of activities:
- Brick Dinos at the Forum. Lego and dinosaurs? This exhibit is a dream come true for our boys! We visited the previous Lego exhibit here by the same artist in 2018, and the boys really enjoyed seeing the models and playing with the bricks, so we’re excited to see what they do with the new theme. The exhibition will be in situ from 19th July to 30th August; although the event is free, to manage numbers (and covid safety) you will have to pre-book a slot here. Spaces are going fast, so hurry to ensure you got a spot.
- Go to the Library. Whilst you’re in The Forum, stop by the children’s library, which is inside the Millenium Library. We love it here: it’s such a calm space, whilst simultaneously being bright, colourful and welcoming. We choose and borrow books, read stories to each other, and spend a happy hour in the library every time we go to the city. You can also sign up to the summer holidays reading challenge here: if you read a book a week throughout the holidays you will be rewarded with stickers and certificates.
- See Dippy at the Norwich Cathedral. Dippy the Dinosaur has left his home in London’s Natural History Museum, and has been taking a tour of the UK. This tour was interrupted due to Covid, meaning that instead of landing in Norwich last summer, he is finally visiting us this year instead! Norwich Cathedral is the only cathedral on his tour, and is a lovely place to visit even without the extra excitement of dinosaur bones. You can see him there from 10am-4pm throughout the summer: you don’t have to pre-book this one, unless you’re visiting as a party of larger than 8. We are combining this with our booked tickets to the brick dino exhibition, to make a full dino day out!
- Redwings Horse Sanctuary. The Redwings horse sanctuary is home to more than 90 rescued animals. As you can imagine, the vast majority of these are equestrian, including horses, Shetland ponies and donkeys. Usually there is a play area, as well as the animals to enjoy, but it isn’t clear if this will be open due to it being a small site, and covid regulations being difficult to enforce. Even without this, it’s a fun trip out: as well as seeing the animals the sanctuary also offers a lovely nature walk. The site opens from 103.0am to 4pm from Friday to Monday. Entrance is free, but donations are welcomed. Pre-booking your slot, using the link above, is essential.
Find the sanctuary at: Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Spa Lane, Aylsham, Norfolk, NR11 6UE
- Whitlingham Country Park. Whitlingham country park is a lovely place to walk, around a man made Broad. This is a great place to go for a nature walk: bring your binoculars and your magnifying glass and see what you can see! We love to stop for a picnic half way round too, to make it even more of a fun day out. You can read my post about Whitlingham country park here.
- Spend the Day at the Beach. One of the best things about living in Norfolk is just how close you are to the beach! If you’re hoping to visit the seaside on a budget then visit one of the many beaches that don’t have arcades/attractions/chip shops etc. Just pack a picnic, and your buckets and spades, and enjoy some old-fashioned family fun. You’ll find us on the beach at least twice a week when the sun is shining! You can read my picks of the best beaches in Norfolk here.
- The Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park. The Sainsbury Centre is a large, modern art gallery based at UEA (the University of Easy Anglia). As part of this gallery, its grounds have been transformed into a sculpture gallery, featuring 20 large and dramatic sculptures from some of the UK’s most significant sculpture artists, including more than one piece by Anthony Gormley. Access to the sculpture gallery is free, and you can park here for free too. You can also download a child-friendly map of the site from the Sainsbury Centre website, allowing the children to tick off each sculpture as they see it.
- Enjoy that Park Life! It’s a classic for a reason – kids love going to the park, and it’s an easy (and free) hour out of the house. Norwich is blessed to have an abundance of brilliant parks. We particularly enjoy Eaton park, which has a huge skate boarding park, as well as a large playground and numerous football pitches. There’s something for everyone. Waterloo park is also popular thanks to its splash pad/water park, which is a great place to cool off on a hot day.
- Break’s GoGo Discover T Rex trail. We’re back on those dinosaurs again! From Monday 12th July until Saturday 11th September 2021, 21 individually designed and painted T Rexes will land in Norwich for children to hunt for and explore. You simply download the trail map from this link and take yourself off on a day out to find them all. Each T Rex has been painted with a microbial varnish which stops 99% of germs spreading, meaning that the trail is relatively Covid safe too.
- Feed the Swans in Wroxham. We love walking around Wroxham, and the waterways here offer more swans than we have seen anywhere else in Norfolk! You can bring your own bread/feed from home to ensure this fits the category of a free trip out, or you can buy a bag of feed from the water edge for 50p a bag. Here is a post about our last trip to Wroxham, to give you a taste of just how pretty it is.
- The Hillside Animal Sanctuary. Based in West Runton, the Hillside Animal Sanctuary has such a wide variety of animals that it is a fully fledged farm. We visited last summer and enjoyed a very happy couple of hours out. Usually you pay an admission charge to visit this sanctuary but during 2021, visits are free. You can find out more here.
- Norwich Museums. This one isn’t free but is cheap enough that its worth mentioning! Norwich Castle and the museums in Norwich (we particularly love the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, which has loads of interactive exhibitions) offer twilight tickets for £2, allowing you entry 1 hour before closing. When you’re visiting with a 5 year old, one hour is plenty of time in a small museum, so we did this relatively frequently pre-Covid, and this saves us a fortune!
That’s everything I’ve found so far, but with the paid-for activities I’ve also booked, it should be plenty to keep us entertained all summer long! Obviously I’ll be popping up reviews of all these activities as and when we enjoy them. I also want to acknowledge that free doesn’t always mean free and with the cost of petrol and parking/public transport usage, as well as the cost of either buying food or packing a picnic, many of these activities won’t be accessible to everyone.
If you have any other free or cheap activities and days out that you’d like to share please leave them in the comments: we’re all in this together!