This post is regularly updated for things to do in the Peak District with kids, Peak District days out, and Peak District family attractions.
If you are visiting the National Park this October, check out our guide to Peak District October half term and Autumn events 2021.
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.
Please check the attraction websites for up to date information if you plan on visiting. With regards the hiking and cycling, please arrive early in the day to avoid crowds, if visiting at weekends and school holidays, and only park in designated car parks and spaces. Also, take all litter home with you, and keep dogs on a lead around livestock. Please respect social distancing at all times and adhere to current UK government guidelines.
Click here to join our Facebook group! We have over 11k members sharing ideas and tips for exploring the Peak District with kids.
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.
Check out our tried and tested family walks:
Our favourites for little ones are The Roaches or Padley Gorge. Or perhaps take them on our 5.4km Lud’s Church Walk which leads you into a deep chasm, believed to be where Robin Hood and Friar Tuck would hide from the authorities!
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.
2. Get on your bike
There are lots of old railway tracks that have been transformed into traffic free routes for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair users through some of the Peak District’s most spectacular limestone dales. As these are traffic free and relatively flat, they’re a great place to go for a family bike ride.
Our top tried and tested Peak District family bike routes are:
3. Heights of Abraham
Check out our full review of Heights of Abraham.
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.
4. Crich Tramway Museum
Check out our guide to a family day out at Crich Tramway Museum.
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.
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 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:
- Peak Cavern
- Speedwell Cavern
- Blue John Cavern
- Treak Cliff Cavern – 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.
Castleton makes for a lovely family day out in the Peak District. Check out our post about things to do in Castleton.
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.
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.
8. Wild swimming and paddling
The Peak District may be pretty land locked, but when it comes to wild swimming and paddling 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!
Some of the best Peak District wild swimming spots for a paddle or dip are:
- Padley Gorge
- Three Shires Head
- Youlgreave – there’s a man made designated swim area in the river (read about out experience here)
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 upwards, just 30 metres, the water is much shallower and perfect for a paddle.
If you’re needing some warmer waters though, head to the heated outdoor pool in Hathersage (which is open all year round). There are also indoor swimming pools in Matlock, Buxton and Bakewell.
Have you got little adrenaline junkies who thrive on adventure? Well kids as young as 5 can abseil the 90 feet drop from Millers Dale Viaduct in the Peak District under the extremely professional instruction of Chris at Peaks and Paddles.
10. Matlock Farm Park
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!
11. Thornbridge Gardens and Café
Sat just off the Monsal Trail between Ashford-in-the-Water and Great Longstone, Thornbridge Gardens has become the must visit place for those visiting the Peak District with kids. 12 acres of quirky and quintessentially English gardens surround the grand Thornbridge Hall, dotted with statues and temples, and bursting with colour.
But why is it so special for kids? Well first and foremost is the splashingly fantastic fun paddling in the fountain and catching ducks with a net (rubber ones, not real ones!) Honestly, this keeps the kids entertained for hours. As parents, it’s fascinating watching kids of all ages meticulously line rubber ducks along the sides and search for ‘special ones’.
Encircling the fountain, marked with coloured festival bunting, is the outdoor kids play area; including a den, hammocks and swings, blocks to play with, chimes, and painting easels. Lots to spark imaginations! There are even pop up badminton nets (complete with rackets and shuttle cocks) and a basketball hoop for older kids nearby.
Plus there’s the extensive gardens to explore (with a few more games along the way including croquet) and also Quackers Café serving lots of scrummy food!
12. Blaze Farm
Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 5.30pm
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. This walk is also detailed in our short Peak District walks.
On return to the farm, head to the cosy tea room and treat yourselves to some Peak District ice-cream made from the farm – it’s amazing! Behind the tearoom you’ll find a slide and a tractor to play on.
Check out some photos and more information on Blaze Farm here.
13. Matlock Meadows
Open Saturdays and Sundays noon – 4:30pm.
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.
14. 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.
Read our Peak Wildlife Park review.
Adult tickets are £12.95, children aged 2-16 are £10.95, and under 2’s are free. Check the website for opening times.
15. 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 and one of the best pram friendly Peak District walks is the Baslow to Chatsworth walk. Or you may want to try our Chatsworth Hunting Tower and Aqueduct walk – a truly magical walk for all ages, and this section of the estate is also free to explore.
16. 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.
17. Gulliver’s Kingdom
Gulliver’s Kingdom Matlock is a theme park aimed at children aged 3 to 13 just outside Matlock. There are 17 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.
Click here to read our top ten tips for visiting Gulliver’s Kingdom Matlock.
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.
18. 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.
19. 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. This is currently closed.
Check out our guide for things to do in Buxton with kids.
20. Visit the Plague Village
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.
Read: 12 things to do in Eyam
21. Eat Bakewell 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.
22. 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.
23. Eat home-made ice cream
With all the diary farms in the Peak District, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that many farms sell their own homemade ice-cream! A scoop of the freezing, yummy stuff is a fantastic reward after a Peak District walk or an extra treat after a day out with the kids. And Peak District ice-cream is not just a treat for the warmer months; kids (and adults!) enjoy ice-cream in all weathers!
So where are the best places to go for a taste of real Peak District ice-cream? Click here to find out.
24. 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 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.
25. 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 best playgrounds in the Peak District are found at Heights of Abraham and Chatsworth House. However, you have to pay to enter these. If you’re looking for a free Peak District playground, then check out our guide to the best playgrounds in the Peak District.
26. 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.
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.
Also check out our top things to do in the Peak District when it rains.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these suggestions for days out in the Peak District with kids, and it’s given you some ideas for days out with kids in Derbyshire.