PEAK DISTRICT WITH KIDS: things to do and best days out
The BEST family days out and things to do
Planning a family trip to the Peak District? Even on a rainy day (and there are a fair few of them), there are lots of things to do in the Peak District with kids, including some free activities!
The Peak District with kids makes for an idyllic weekend away or a week long holiday, and is perfect for outdoor loving families. With the kids dressed in puddle suits and wellies, we love nothing better than a long family walk in the Peaks. But there are also so many other things to do in the Peak District for kids, including exploring underground caverns, riding old trams, meeting farm animals, and some super fun theme parks!
So here are our top family days out in the Peak District with kids. Whilst not all of these are within the National Park boundary, some are just outside and very easy to get to if staying in the National Park and include ideas for things to do with kids in Derbyshire.
1. Go for a family hike
Our number one thing to do with kids in the Peak District is hiking. With hundreds of public footpaths criss-crossing the National Park and gentle rolling hills that aren’t too taxing on little legs, it’s the perfect free activity.
Both the Monsal Trail and Tissington Trail offer a traffic free route for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair users through some of the Peak District’s most spectacular limestone dales. These are old railway tracks that have been transformed into gravel footpaths.
We tend to do the Monsal Trail more as it’s closer to home. Hassop Station (which has a cafe and playground, as well as a cycle hire) is a good starting point. It’s a short 1km cycle into Bakewell to pick up a Bakewell tart, or it’s an 8km cycle to the cafe at Millers Dale. It’s slightly uphill going towards Millers Dale, making for an easy cycle back to Hassop Station after an ice-cream at the cafe.
Just outside the National Park, Carsington Water is another option for a bike ride. There is a cycle path that loops around the lake, as well as a big playground and restaurant. It’s also the place to come for water sports.
3. Heights of Abraham
Heights of Abraham is perhaps one of the best day out in the Peak District with kids. A cable car takes you up to Heights of Abraham for some stunning views, and your ticket also gives you entry to two caverns where you venture deep under ground and learn about the history of lead mining in the area. You can also hunt for fossils and there are two adventure playgrounds. On our last visit, we were here for a good 6 hours, so plan to spend a full day if visiting with kids.
Check the website for opening times and ticket prices. Heights of Abraham closes for winter. You can buy tickets in advance online, but you still have to queue in the same queue on entry, so you don’t really save any time. Also, note that the only parking is at Matlock Bath Station. You have to pay extra to park here and it does get busy at peak season, so get there early.
Our personal favourite Peak District kids attraction. Enjoy unlimited rides on the electric vintage trams, woodland walks with kid-friendly activities, and an indoor and outdoor playground.
There is also a large exhibition hall of old trams, although you’re only allowed inside a couple of these, and a stroll along the recreated period street is a must. Many of the buildings along the street have been rescued from towns and cities across the UK, such as the Derby Assembly Rooms façade which came to Crich after a tragic fire, and the Red Lion Pub and Restaurant came all the way from Stoke and was re-built brick by brick.
Check the website for opening times and ticket prices. Adults are £18 and children are £11. Children under the age of 4 are free. Also note that your ticket includes FREE return admission for 12 months! Crich Tramway Museum is also closed over the winter months. There are also regular period events that are worth checking out.
5. Peak Rail
Ride an old steam train on this preserved railway line between Rowsley South Station and Matlock Platform 2.
There are special events running through the year from dining experiences to Santa Specials and an Easter Treasure Hunt, and they also have Kids Go Free Days throughout the year.
For an all day unlimited ticket price, adults are £9.50, children aged 3-16 are £4.50, and children under 3 are free. Check the website for up to date ticket pricing and timetables. A return trip takes 50 minutes.
6. Explore underground caverns
The caverns and caves of the Peak District are fascinating and unique places to visit, with their amazing rock formations, rare stones and amazing atmospheres. They are also a good option for a rainy day activity for visiting the Peak District with kids as you are underground and the weather doesn’t matter! Although do wrap up warm for the caves and wear footwear with a good tread, as it does get rather chilly down there even in the height of summer.
In addition to those at The Heights of Abraham, The Castleton caves are some of the best show caverns in the country, and is home to Peak Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern. In the latter two, you will find deposits of the rare Blue John stone. And fun fact for the kids – Peak Cavern is also known as The Devil’s Arse, so called because of the flatulent-sounding noises from inside the cave when flood water is draining away.
But if you asked us which is the best Cavern in Castleton, I’d have to say have to say Speedwell Cavern. Visitors descend 105 steps from the almost hidden cave entrance, down to an underground canal to board a boat to take you deeper into the cave system.
There are also the vast limestone caves of Poole’s Cavern, outside Buxton, to explore. Above ground here you’ll find some lovely walks along marked footpaths to Solomon’s Temple viewpoint, as well as GoApe (although this GoApe is for kids aged 10+). Check out the website for tickets prices and opening times. Poole’s Cavern is open all year round.
7. Matlock Farm Park
On weekdays during term time, there are structured times for events such as small animal handling, meerkat feeding and pony grooming (with lamb bottle feeding from Spring to mid-summer too). At the weekends there is ferret racing, wallaby encounters and short pony rides for the little ones available too!
They also have a riding school that is also open all year round and offers lessons or hacking for all abilities.
Check out their website for opening times and ticket prices, and also the Facebook page to see what events are on.
8. Blaze Farm
Blaze Farm is another one of our favourite places to visit in the Peak District with kids. Entry is FREE and there are lots of farm animals to meet (cows, peacocks, donkeys, geese, ducks, sheep). If you’re visiting during the lambing season you may even be lucky enough to see a lamb being born in the lambing shed (arrive early).
There is a short and long nature walk following the way-marked footpath around Blaze Farm. The short walk is only 1km, and crosses the meadows, through the woodland (where you’ll come across carved animals in the wood and a den) and back up to the farm. Just follow the signs.
On return to the farm, head to the cosy tea room and treat yourselves to some ice-cream made on the farm from A2 milk. Behind the tearoom you’ll find a slide and a tractor to play on.
Blaze Farm is open 10am to 5:30pm Tuesday-Sunday all year round and Bank Holiday Mondays. Check out some photos and more information on Blaze Farm here.
9. Matlock Meadows
Matlock Meadows is similar to Blaze farm in that it is a farm open to visitors with a play area and cafe. As they are both similar, your decision as to which one you visit may be down to where you are staying in the Peak District. Indeed the homemade ice-cream is equally delicious at both.
However, whilst Blaze Farm offers a lovely nature trail and the lambing shed in season, Matlock Meadows has a bigger outdoor and indoor play area. The indoor play area includes a small soft play for toddlers, a large wooden train track set up in the cafe, and small pedal tractors. So if it’s a wet day, perhaps head over to Matlock Meadows. Read more here.
10. Peak Wildlife Park
Come face to face with exotic and endangered animals from across the world at this small and manageable wildlife park just to the south of the Peak District in Staffordshire. There are penguins, lemurs, meercats, zebras, deer and lots of farm animals, many of which you are able to feed. Plus there are walk through areas meaning you get walk amongst the animals without being separated by a fence.
You can also book in, at extra cost, for ‘Be a Keeper’ Experience. Work alongside animal keepers at the park, behind the scenes feeding and caring for the animals.
The play areas are fantastic. The outdoor play area includes a large bouncy castle and giant sandpit, and there’s also a brand new indoor soft play area.
Adult tickets are £11.95, children aged 2-16 are £9.95, and under 2’s are free. Check the website for opening times.
11. Chatsworth Farmyard and Adventure Playground
Chatsworth House is a grand estate in the heart of the Peak District. Set in expansive parkland where wild deer roam and backed by wooded hills, it’s been chosen as Britain’s favourite country house several times.
Whilst the interior of the house is boasts impressive galleries and stately rooms, it’s likely to be the farmyard and adventure playground that your little ones will appreciate more. The outdoor adventure playground is one of the best we’ve ever been too, complete with water and sand play area, a huge zip line, and rope park. My boys also love feeding and petting the farm animals.
There are children’s activities and trails set throughout the year, as well as beautiful gardens to explore, and lots of eateries.
Check the website for ticket pricing. But note that walking through most of the grounds is totally free.
12. Gulliver’s Kingdom
Gulliver’s Kingdom is a theme park aimed at children aged 3 to 13 just outside Matlock. There are 20 rides across 6 themed areas, including a log flume, a Drop Tower, Dino Explorer Cars, and a Cycle Mono Rail. Climb high above the Crows Nest Quest or take a ride on the log flume, 300ft above Derwent Valley.
The theme park is set upon a steep hill side. To save an uphill hike, most visitors start at the top and work their way down. There is then a cable car to bring you back to the top.
There is also themed accommodation available within Gulliver’s Kingdom Resort at The Explorers Retreat and Fairytale Retreat, which include pirate, princess and wizard themes. Family cabins can sleep up to five people and packages include access to the main theme park.
Opening times are seasonal, so check the website for up to date information.
13. Alton Towers
Just 4 km south of the Peak District boundary is the UK’s biggest theme park, Alton Towers. Open from mid-March to early November, there are thrills galore, as well as more sedate rides for smaller visitors.
There is also a water park open year round, themed accommodation available (the CBeebies Land Hotel is very popular with little ones), and a spa for parents to retreat to if it all becomes a bit too much.
There are events on throughout the year, so it’s worth checking out the website in advance of your visit to the Peak District with kids. The website also details ticket pricing and opening times, although there are often offers on UK cereal packets and online, so it’s worth looking around.
14. Buxton Pavilion and Gardens
Demonstrating the Victorian splendour of Buxton, The Pavilion Gardens is a beautiful historic venue dating back to 1871. Set within 23 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens you will find play areas, a boating lake, and on weekend and school holidays, a miniature railway.
Inside the Pavilions there are two cafes (The Pavillion Cafe has a small soft play area for toddlers), The Retail Arcade with items sourced from local suppliers and craftspersons, and The Conservatory, which houses beautiful plants, several of which are extremely rare to find anywhere else in the UK and feels like a small indoor rainforest.
Next door is the Buxton Opera House, which operates as a cinemas and showcases both old and new films.
15. Head to the pub
Now this isn’t the most obvious things to do in the Peak District with kids. There are some charming pubs in the areas, but it’s unlikely little ones will sit long enough for you to finish your pint of Peak Ale. So check out these pubs with a playground in the Peak District and keep all the family happy.
16. Go camping!
Visiting the Peak District with kids is all abut exploring the great outdoors, and what better way to do that than by camping!
Check out these favourite family campsites in the Peak District and suggested by members in our Peak District Kids Facebook Group. There’s a range of campsites, from basic ones by a river where you just rock up and pitch your tent in a field without prebooking, to more managed site that have shops, playgrounds and WiFi on site. The higher end sites do get booked up quickly in the summer and bank holiday weekends, so booking ahead is advised.
17. Indoor Play for a rainy day
The Peak District is stunning, but it is also prone to unpredictable weather. You can expect four seasons in one day, and often there are very grey and wet days. Whilst the caverns and Buxton Pavillion and Matlock Meadows are good options for wet weather days, sometimes you just need to let the kids go wild at an indoor softplay.
Hello! 'Peak District Kids' is a central resource for parents both visiting and living in the Peak District run by local Mum, Jenny. Find out the top things to do, where to go, and up coming events for families in the area.