10 Free Family Summer Days Out in Wakefield

From being transported 140m down into England’s last deep coal mine to experiencing the world’s first nature reserve there is something for the whole family to do and enjoy throughout the district.

By Sophie Mei Lan, Digital Editor

From being transported 140m down into England’s last deep coal mine or experiencing one of modern England’s most terrifying castle dungeons, to venturing outdoors experiencing the world’s first nature reserve or into one of the Wakefield district’s many walking story trails, there is something for the whole family to do and enjoy throughout the district.

Whether you’re a visitor venturing into the ‘centre of Yorkshire’ or a local exploring the district with the kids, there are plenty of free days out to experience this summer.

Here are 10 free family days out in the Wakefield District:

Newmillerdam Country Park

Room On The Broom Trail at Anglers Country Park

1. Newmillerdam Country Park

Come rain or shine, there are lots of walks to do around Newmillerdam which has a brilliant access path looping the lake which is suitable for little ones and pushchairs as you explore the wildlife and natural surroundings of this country park. The park also has plenty of picnic spots and a café too, as well as nearby pubs and an ice cream van, which is normally located in one of the two car parks. A great child-friendly walk to get those legs moving is the Gnome Roam where the whole family can find the gnome sculptures and use an activity sheet to complete the challenge.

You can pick up your free leaflet from the dispensers in the car park or download one here from the website.

2. Anglers Country Park

Anglers is a vast country park, with clear paths, toilet facilities, picnic spots and a play area next to the car park. It has the Room on the Broom story trail as well as stunning scenery and a nice café. Don’t take our word for it… Angler’s has been awarded Green Flag status because it is one of the best parks in the country.

Angler’s Country Park, like Pugneys and Newmillerdam, has a stunning lake as the focal point which is surrounded by grassland, woodland and a wetland area known as the ‘Pol’.

Hemsworth Water Park & Playworld

Pugneys Country Park & Sandal Castle

3. Hemsworth Water Park & Playworld

We love coming to Hemsworth Water Park in the summer as it’s perfect for little ones, being slightly smaller than the other country parks. It’s great to walk around the lake, stop for a picnic or try a water activity. It also has a brilliant outdoor play area called Play World for the kids, a café and small indoor play area too if the weather isn’t great. The latter all come with a small charge.

4. Pugneys Country Park & Sandal Castle

A gem straight off the M1 is Pugneys Country Park complete with mini ‘beaches’ on the lake, a pirate ship themed playground, an outdoor gym, water sports, a Blown Away story trail and don’t forget to check if Pugneys Light Railway is running as it’s worth a quick ride on the steam train! There’s also plenty of facilities to hand by the car park including toilet, cafe, and buggy hire.

Climb the steps of the medieval ruins of Sandal Castle which has stunning views of Pugneys Country Park, the River Calder and the rest of Wakefield as well as a cafe, toilets and car park.

Sandal Castle is a place not to be missed in its own right, famous for the Battle of Wakefield and a popular spot for a short walk around the path which loops through the ruins – ideal for dog walks and small children.

Pontefract Castle

Thornes Park

5. Pontefract Castle

It’s just a short walk up a steep cobbled hill to discover the ruins of Pontefract Castle and is well worth a walk around the site, with super friendly staff and plenty of free family events. We also took a guided trip down the dungeons which is a must, although this does come with a small £3 fee.

Go underground to hear about the prisoners in the dark who were locked down here and etched their name into the stone, with only candle light to see through the pitch black. It’s also the place King Richard II was killed, said to have acted as inspiration to William Shakespeare.

There’s a nice visitor centre above ground with a café, child-friendly activities and a gift shop.

6. Thornes Park and Clarence Park

Wakefield is home to some amazing parks and playgrounds. Two of our favourite are Thornes Park and Clarence Park that are attached, complete with a bandstand, aviary, duck pond, rose garden, playground and an athletics stadium.

The park itself has an outdoor gym trail, a small steam railway and a nice little Stork Cafe near the duck pond. There are two car parks if you’re traveling by car, one is next to the duck pond and aviary, and the other is on the other side of the park next to the playground. There’s plenty to do throughout the park including a “secret garden” and lots of events are held here including the free Park Run every Saturday, which is suitable for families too.

Joana Vasconcelos, I'll Be Your Mirror (2019). © Unidade Infinita | Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Wakefield Museum

7. Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a fabulous day out to explore “art without walls,” complete with some indoor galleries and creative spaces and cafes. There’s an abundance of places to explore within YSP, it is a challenge to do it all within one day!

From internationally renowned sculptures to indoor exhibitions and a family area, you can roam outdoors, seeing the fascinating sculptures that young ones will be amazed by! Or there are plenty of indoor spots including galleries, a stunning gift shop, family activity areas, a visitor centre, cafes to eat-in or grab on the go, picnic areas and an upmarket restaurant inside the Weston Visitor Centre. We prefer having a picnic indoors or the café on the first floor of the main visitor centre is more suitable for families with younger children.

8. A museum loop of The Hepworth Wakefield and Wakefield Museum

The striking grey building which is The Hepworth Wakefield, next to the River Calder, has become a landmark amongst tourists as well as locals, it is a place not to be missed. The Barbara Hepworth inspired gallery has a range of free crafts on during the school holidays and weekends, as well as family activity packs which encourage all the family to explore the stunning spacious galleries and learning rooms. There’s an indoor and outdoor picnic area, as well as stunning views from inside the café overlooking the River Calder and Chantry Chapel (which has free heritage open days on selected dates).

Wakefield Museum, located a short walk from Westgate train station is a favourite spot of ours as it has a fascinating hands-on gallery perfect for families to play dress up, take part in crafts or even visit the spacious and colourful library upstairs. As well as exciting temporary exhibitions, there is also a caiman (part of the alligator family) and you can find out more about the history of Wakefield, the infamous prison and explore the Extraordinary World of Charles Waterton, a pioneering Victorian eco-warrior who created the world’s first nature reserve at Anglers Country Park.

Tip: Hop on the Free City Bus in Wakefield which takes you on a loop round Wakefield including stopping outside Wakefield Museum and The Hepworth Wakefield.

Walton Colliery Nature Reserve

National Coal Mining Museum

9. Walton Colliery Nature Reserve

Walton Colliery is home to grassland, unique plants and a visitor car park or it can be accessed via bus or a short walk from Sandal and Agbrigg train station. Whilst it is one of the lesser known green spaces in Wakefield, it is still not to be missed for those who want to explore even more of the district and this hidden gem or as my children call it “our secret garden and pond.”

Complete with a lovely path which is a two mile loop for walkers, mini explorers and horse riders to take in the countryside setting, lake and view of all the wildlife on offer.

10. National Coal Mining Museum for England

Whether you venture 140m underground to experience England’s last deep coal mine or you want to visit the pit ponies, take a ride on the railway or play in the adventure playground, there’s loads to do at the National Coal Mining Museum. There’s plenty indoors too from an indoor play area for tots, an interactive gallery for all the family, knowledgeable former miner volunteers sharing their passion for the place, as well as a spacious cafeteria and events space.

I’d not realised until recently just how much there was to the museum especially outside and deep down the coal mine. The museum is based in Overton on the outskirts of Wakefield with so much to do and plenty of free family activities, including a woodland trail and a chance to meet real life blacksmiths creating works of art out of metal or you can even pretend you’re miners and go inside the old shower and locker area.