Summer In Wakefield

Find the perfect family day out in Wakefield this summer holiday.

by Eleanor Taylor, Experience Wakefield

Welcome to Summer!

The sun is shining (mostly), ice cream vans are circling like sharks, and the kids are already talking about how bored they are. Yes, the summer holidays are beginning to bite.

But never fear! Experience Wakefield is here – and believe us, there is SO much going on, you might just manage to banish the dreaded boredom for good this summer holiday…

© Sue Billcliffe

A World Of Good

Underground at National Coal Mining Museum

With thanks to the Royal Society of Marine Artists

The big event this summer is Wakefield Festival of the Earth. Taking place all summer, and all over the district, there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy. Get ready for lift off with a 3-day opening event, Earth Rise, in Wakefield City Centre from 20-22 August. There’ll be various performance acts, shows and workshops across the event, including sand sculpture and sand art workshops, walkabout acts (including an animatronic tortoise), an eco-themed speciality market selling sustainable, local produce and handmade crafts, and “Plastic Ocean”, an interactive play featuring an 18-ft inflatable whale!

Another must-see is Luke Jerram’s Gaia, at Wakefield Cathedral: see our planet floating in three dimensions, accompanied by a specially made surround-sound musical composition, and experience a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life. There’s also a whole bunch of fun things happening around the installation, including film screenings, story telling, concerts and more.

Visit WX (the Former Market Hall) to see Fire and Ice, an immersive sound and light installation enabling visitors to experience the dramatic changes already happening to Earth’s climate and the impact our actions are now making on the planet. And while you’re at WX, why not have a go at the interactive science labs?

Step inside Wakefield Museum’s A World Of Good, an emotional, multi-sensory, exhibition highlighting the climate crisis through the work of Victorian eco-warrior Charles Waterton, complemented by paper sculpture and animation, accompanied by specially-commissioned readings from Sir David Attenborough, Michael Palin, Chris Packham, and Liz Bonnin.

Oh, and find out how you can “do a world of good” for our planet, too. 

This is a tiny, tiny fraction of the whole festival. You can read more about EarthFest – and take a look at the associated events – in our dedicated guide

From the earth in space to heading deep underground, the National Coal Mining Museum’s underground tours are BACK (how exciting is that!?). And that’s not all: this summer is full of fun with Summer @ Pit: The Grand Day Out. Grab your bucket and spade and find out how miners spent their summer holidays with changing weekly themes! Get digging at the beach, discover the history of Gala Day, get hands-on with pop-up crafts and even challenge yourself to do one of the museum’s trails. Then head down to the new Pony Discovery Centre for a chance to get up close to the horses and ponies that call the museum home.

Speaking of buckets and spades, have you visited Pontefract Museum? You’ll find bustling beaches, bathing belles and bold Art Deco design at their newest exhibition, Bracing Air, Abundant Amusements: The Travel Posters Of Charles Pears. Admire peaceful scenes from the banks of the Thames, enjoy the bright lights of the city and soak up plenty of sun, sea, sand and sky.

And if you’ve still not got your seaside fix, head up to Pontefract Castle (or your local library) for Seaside On Tour, a puppet show tale of piracy and adventure for families with children of all ages.

© Kevin Blake

Courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo © Jonty Wilde

National Trust Nostell is a great place for a family day out this summer. Embrace your inner Georgian and take part in lawn games on the vista, including boules, skittles and quoits, every day from 11am-3pm. Or awaken your senses and connect with Nostell’s nature with a wander along their summer sensory trail. Look out for hints and tips to inspire all five human senses amid the great outdoors.

And if you’re feeling creative, take part in Nostell’s Nine Worlds competition. Submit your painting, poem, photo or drawing of your favourite thing about Nostell and the winner will be featured in a special exhibition, and on new posters for years to come.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park has loads going on this summer, especially for kids. Family Sculpture and Nature Walks are a chance to awaken your senses and get out in the fresh air on artist-led interactive sculpture nature walks every Friday. Sculpture Adventures in the Hidden Forest let under-5s get creative and enjoy relaxing under a canopy of trees in the magical Hidden Forest. Find the ArtCart to pick up a free bag of ideas to get your family thinking and playing together, with creative challenges inspired by amazing sculptures. Explore a different making skill and get curious about nature, inspired by thought-provoking sculpture, with Creative Nature Labs, and be captivated by spellbinding storytellers as they take you on a journey of imagination and wonder with Tales From Nature. And grownups will love the Sculpture Park’s summer exhibitions, including Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds. Part of The Oak Project (a pioneering partnership which aims to motivate people to protect the environment by creating a kinship with nature), and responding to the question, “Can art save us from extinction?”, this sculptural space is made of natural materials and aims to create solitary communion with the natural world.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Speaking of sculpture, have you visited The Hepworth Wakefield recently? Celebrate the gallery’s 10th anniversary with a visit to Barbara Hepworth: Art and Life, the largest exhibition of Barbara Hepworth’s work since the artist’s death in 1975. While you’re there, pick up an Explore and Draw kit, and use the playful activity cards to guide you and your family through the gallery spaces. Have fun moving, imagining, and creating new artworks together inspired by what you find. Then head outside to The Hepworth Garden, and take part in Garden Play, a chance to stack and build, experiment, draw and imagine with your family in the open air. 

And if you’re really looking for open-air adventures, take a trip to Farmer Copleys and get lost in the Corn Maze. One of the largest Corn Maize Mazes in Great Britain, there’s also a mini maze for smaller children to enjoy, plus the Jumping Pillow, Mini Wagon Ride, Bale Mountain, Pedal Carts and much more. 

And if this outdoor adventure has given your kids the bug for nature, they’ll love Big Wild Summer at RSPB Fairburn Ings. Grab a kid’s activity bag for £3.50 – this includes a Big Wild Summer activity booklet, a Pollinators trail sheet, a pencil and a certificate – and head into the nature reserve for some amazing wildlife challenges. 

Oh, and speaking of wild, don’t forget the Summer Reading Challenge at Wakefield libraries. The theme this year is Wild World Heroes, and it encourages your intrepid little explorers to sign up for a summer of reading fun (perfect for those not-so-sunny days) and get inspired to stand up for the planet. Find out more here

And there you have it: the district is absolutely packed with things to do this summer holiday. So the next time you hear the ominous words, “I’m so boooored…” you’ll know exactly where to go, won’t you?

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