It’s all too easy to assume you need to head abroad for a fun family holiday, but there are actually plenty of destinations right here in the UK. One of my favourites is Newcastle, largely because there’s just such a wide variety of things to do and see here for all ages, from visiting amusement parks to exploring museums.
I’ve put together a list of some of the best family attractions in and around the city. But first, I thought I’d talk quickly about why I’ve chosen Newcastle – aside from its aforementioned wealth of attractions.
Firstly, it’s a pretty convenient choice, owing to its excellent transport links. As well as being much easier to reach than destinations overseas, it’s simple to get around. And those coming from more distant corners of the UK can always opt to fly to avoid a long drive – and there are plenty of hotels near Newcastle airport too.
Similarly, it’s a cost-effective choice for families – something that’s down to savings on travel compared to going abroad and its brilliant range of free attractions.
Ocean Beach Pleasure Park
My first suggestion is the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park, which is in South Shields. Free to enter, this brilliant park has attractions for all ages – think white-knuckle rides for teens, kids’ rides for little ones, and games and prizes.
Ocean Beach works on a token basis, so while it’s free to enter you’ll need to purchase tokens, which are then exchanged for entry to the various rides and attractions. Some of the highlights include Scream, a new ride that jettisons you 37 m into the air before dropping you back down again (not for the faint-hearted!), Air Diver and Urban Wave.
Moving on to Gateshead for my next recommendation, I suggest taking the kids to Namco Funscape, which you’ll find in the Yellow Mall in the Metrocentre. Spanning some 38,000 ft, this funfair-style attraction is home to rows upon rows of amazing arcade games, as well as 18 lanes of bowling and a softplay section for younger visitors.
There’s also a decent bar and pool area where mums and dads can relax – though I reckon it’s safe to say the selection of arcade games make keep you as occupied as the kids!
Life Science Museum
Over in Times Square in central Newcastle is one of my personal favourites – the Life Science Museum. As well as being educational, this attraction is heaps of fun, being home to everything from traditional exhibits to a planetarium and hand-on Curiosity Zone.
One of the top things to do here, though, is have a go on the 4D Motion Ride, which uses movements, images and even smells to give you a really immersive experience. By the way, kids need to be at least 4 ft / 1.2 m tall to go on this ride.
There’s also an area dedicated to under-7s, which is a nice touch. It’s similar to the Curiosity Zone (where older kids can interact with the exhibits) but for a younger audience, offering little ones the chance to have a go at day-to-day adult activities, like growing veg and going to a cafe.
Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum
My final suggestion is the Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum in South Shields. This is the best reconstruction of a Roman fort you’ll find anywhere in Britain, and was originally built back in 160 AD, forming a key part of the defences of Hadrian’s Wall.
Kids visiting here today can learn all about the fortification, as well as be wowed by the historical exhibits on display in the museum and have a go at digging for artefacts at Time Quest.