24 things to do in the Peak District with kids (Autumn 2020)
Planning some family days out in the Peak District this Autumn? Thankfully there are lots of Peak District attractions still open, and 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 Peak District activities for families!
Or are you already planning your Christmas festive fun? Check out this up-to-date guide: A Peak District Christmas 2020, detailing which events are going ahead and how to book tickets.
The Peak District, the UK’s oldest National Park, makes for an idyllic weekend away or a week long holiday, and is perfect for outdoor loving families. With our hiking boots on and a picnic in our rucksack, 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, wild swimming, canoeing, 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. In fact, a handful of these activities in the Peak District are around the Matlock area, and if you are holidaying in or near to Matlock, have a read of our top things to do in Matlock.
I’m aiming to keep this page updated with advice on what is open and social distancing measures in place for the attractions. However, please check the attraction websites for up to date information if you plan on visiting. With regards the hiking, cycling and wild swimming, please arrive early or late in the day to avoid crowds. Please respect social distancing at all times.
There are no restrictions in place for hiking. However, tourist hot spots such as Dove Dale and Edale have been extremely busy. Plan to start you walk early in the day.
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.
Or if you’re after something a little more strenuous, head to one of the prettiest Dales in the Peak District on our Lathkill Dale walk from Monyash, or perhaps take on the iconic 14km hike from Hayfield to Kinder Scout. This is where 500 walkers trespassed en masse to secure access right to open country for all to enjoy forever in 1932.
There are no restrictions in place for cycling. However, the Monsal Trail and Tissington Trail have been extremely busy. Plan to start you cycle early in the day.
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
Open. Due to limited capacity currently in operation it is essential to book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. Face coverings must be worn inside the cable car and in the caverns (though not including kids under the age of 11).
Heights of Abraham is perhaps one of the best days out in the Peak District for 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.
Open every day except Mondays and Fridays until the 1st November. Pre-book your tickets online (although you can buy on day if you need). Face masks are needed for tram rides, and timed tickets are issued on arrival for tram rides. You may only get one tram ride and boarding and alighting will only be possible at Town End. There is a one way system in the Exhibition Hall. The Woodland Walk and adventure playground are open, but the depot and indoor play are closed.
Our personal favourite Peak District attraction for families. 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.
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
All the caverns are now open. Pre-booking online is essential. Face coverings must be worn on tours and tour guides will be wearing full face visors.
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 perhaps one of the best things to do in the Peak District when it rains 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 detailed above, The Castleton caves are some of the best show caverns in the country, and is home to:
Treak Cliff Cavern – OPEN. With an App previously downloaded onto your Smart phone, you follow a marked route through the cavern, with the information delivered to your phone via Bluetooth Beacons as you move along(Adults from £10 • children (age 5-15) from £4.50)
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+). Poole’s Cavern is open all year round. Check out our full review of Poole’s Cavern here.
Peaks and Paddles are open for bookings. Your instructor is in a separate canoe from you, and on the rare occasion he needs to come close to steady a canoe, a face covering is worn.
The River Derwent offers some fantastic canoeing opportunities for absolute beginners through to advanced rapids! For families and beginners, try out the Flat Water Canoe Adventure with Peaks and Paddles on the Cromford Canal though. Here the water is shallow (kids can stand up in it) and it’s very flat with barely any current.
All equipment is provided, including expert tuition and games. Learning proper paddle technique is fascinating and makes for much easier work, and the games introduced along the way keep the kids engaged.
There are no COVID restrictions on wild swimming. But please be respectful to social distancing.
The Peak District may be pretty land locked, but when it comes to wild swimming spots, there’s plenty to offer. Unless it’s a scorching hot day, pack the wetsuits as this is cold water therapy! The huge advantage of this activity is that it’s one of the free things to do in the Peak District for families!
Youlgreave – there’s a man made designated swim area in the river (read about out experience here)
But our favourite for young kids has to be Youlgreave swimming on the River Bamford where a designated section of the water that has been carved out for swimming, with fresh water running through. There are even large stone slabs that acts as levels for very small kids. To the side is a grassy bank inviting you for a picnic. If you follow the river upwads, just 30 metres, the water is much shallower and perfect for a paddle.
Get your abseiling adrenaline rush jumping off Millers Dale Bridge! The challenge here is to abseil over the arch, which is above the River Wye. This gives you an 80 foot abseil of which 70 feet is free hanging! There is no age limit as it’s really down to the parents. But age 8 and above is recommended. Check out Abseiling in Derbyshire for more information and pricing.
OPEN every day 10am to 5pm. No pre-booking necessary. A one way system in place and lots of hand sanitisers. Pony rides are taking place. But the indoor play centre is closed.
With so many farms dotted around the Peak District, you’d be surprised to learn that the only place where you can actually feed farm animals is Matlock Farm Park. Technically, it is situated just outside the National Park boundary, but it’s a fantastic day out if you’re visiting the Peak District or staying near Matlock, especially for younger kids.
But there’s more to Matlock Farm Park than just feeding the farm animals. There are no less than three outdoor play areas, pony rides and horse riding lessons, go karts, an indoor play area (which is currently closed due to COVID-19), as well as meerkats and wallabies to meet!
Check out their website for opening times and ticket prices, and also the Facebook page to see what events are on.
11. Blaze Farm
Open Wednesday to Sunday: 10am – 5.30pm. The nature trail and facilities are all open and you’re able to see the animals. There is a one way system through the cafe. The slide from the courtyard remains shut.
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.
12. Matlock Meadows
Open Wednesday to Sunday: 10am – 5.30pm. The nature trail and facilities are all open and you’re able to see the animals. There is a one way system through the cafe. The slide and tractor on the courtyard remain shut.
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.
13. Peak Wildlife Park
Pre-booking essential and a one way system is in place.
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 £12.95, children aged 2-16 are £10.95, and under 2’s are free. Check the website for opening times.
14. Chatsworth Farmyard and Adventure Playground
Tickets must be pre booked online for a specific time slot. There is a temporary suspension of the tractor trailer tours and animal handling sessions, a temporary closure of the indoor picnic room and no food or drink in the playground. There are three two-hour sessions each day beginning at 10am, 12.30pm and 3pm. There is also no pass out/re-entry for the farmyard. Once visitors have left the farmyard, they will not be able to return without a new booking
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. You can even go wild swimming at Chatsworth with the kids!
Check the website for ticket pricing. But note that walking through most of the grounds is totally free.
15. Haddon Hall
Just 2 km outside of Bakwell, Haddon Hall is a 900 year old stately home which retains many original features and is open to visitors. Explore the medieval kitchens, chapel and chambers before wandering around the exquisite Elizabethan walled gardens. Family events are often held in the school holidays, including archery and treasure hunts. Traditional English Tea is served in the cafe and there’s also a restaurant on site.
Entry for adults is £18.50, but kids under 16 are free. Parking is £2 per car and is a little walk away from the main entrance (366 metres). Check the website for further details, including opening times.
16. Gulliver’s Kingdom
Pre-booking essential here. Face coverings are mandatory on all rides and play attractions (except for children under 3 years of age), and some rides remain clsoed. Your temperature is checked on arrival.
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.
It’s been closed during lockdown, although they did open up their T-Rex Treks.
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.
17. Alton Towers
Pre-booking essential here, and there is reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. Guests will be required to wear a face mask in order to go on a number of rides and rollercoasters. Visitors will have temperature checks. Contactless card payments only on purchases around the park.
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.
18. Buxton Pavilion and Gardens
The gardens and play areas are open.
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.
In 1665 a flea-infested bundle of cloth arrived from London for the local tailor of Eyam. This single flea led to the spread of the bubonic plague throughout the village. To prevent the spread of the disease, the entire village was quarantined (a rather apt topic considering the events of 2020).
The plague ran its course over 14 months and at least 260 villagers died, with only 83 surviving out of a population of 350. However, the plan worked and the plague was contained.
The tragic history of this village has not been forgotten. However, as the topic here is rather bleak, parents will need to decide if it is a suitable topic for their children. Plaques by houses and grave sites dotted around the village are a stark reminder of those who lost their lives, and inside Eyam Parish Church of St Lawrence, which dates back to Saxon times with an eighth-century Celtic Cross, there is a book with all the names of those deceased from the plague. Eyam Museum is a good place to visit to learn more about this tragic time, and there’s also a small free information centre next to the village stocks.
It’s also worth taking the 1km walk out to the Boundary Stone, which affords stunning Peak District views. This acted as a marker by separating the residents of the plague affected village of Eyam from the non-affected villagers of nearby Stoney Middleton. Here, money soaked in vinegar (believed to kill the infection) was placed by the villagers of Eyam in exchange for food and medical supplies.
Bakewell is open, as are the bakeries to pick up a Bakewell Pudding. You can even buy a coronavirus themed pudding!
Idyllically situated on the banks of the river Wye, Bakewell is a lovely market town for an afternoon stroll, and is the place where Bakewell Puddings originated! There are a handful of bakeries selling the pud. Grab one to enjoy along the river, or perhaps head to Bakewell Recreation Ground where there’s space for the kids to go wild, kick a ball, or play in the playground or splash park.
A visit to the Farmers Market on the last Saturday of each month is also worthwhile. There are over 70 stalls selling foods and artisans, but the best bit is watching the livestock being auctioned.
Most pubs are now open, however some play areas may remain closed.
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.
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 pre-booking, 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.
Camping not your thing? Fancy a bit more luxury and comfort? How about Mongolian yurt with a log burner and hot tub? Check out these Peak District glamping sites for families.
23. Head to a playground
Whilst we believe that nature is the best playground, and that there is no end of fun to be had dipping toes into streams, bounding off boulders, or running down hills on a Peak District family walk, sometimes a good playground just makes parenting life easier.
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.
The below map shows the indoor play areas in the Peak District. Our personal favourites are Peak Adventure in Rowsley (also known as Peak Village soft play), and Little Monkeys Play Centre in Matlock.
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.