We love a free day out. National Coal Mining Museum For England in Wakefield has been on our list for some time, and we finally decided to go there a few days ago. I always wondered what was actually there for kids and if it was a good family day out. If you’re the same, here’s a complete review of what we did so you know what to expect before you go there. 🙂 National Coal Mining Museum For England in Wakefield
National Coal Mining Museum For England in Wakefield
Watch this video to see all there is to do at the National Coaling Mining Museum, including inside the play areas and adventure playgrounds:
Things you need to know
Opening times & Price – Open daily 10am-5pm, free entry
Parking – Yes
Public Transport – Yes, buses from Wakefield are approximately every hour and stop 5 minute walk away around the corner.
Cafe – Yes, with hot and cold food, kids boxes, highchairs
What is there for kids? – Kids over 5 can go on an underground tour. There is an under 5’s play area indoors in the museum, adventure playground outside, nature trail and pit ponies. Wacky Wednesdays is a toddler group with activities every Wednesday during term time, and school holidays there are always activities on. The Christmas “Santa Underground” even is always popular.
Pushchair friendly – yes
What we did
Having never been before, I checked the website to see what there was to do there before we went. Eric is just nearly 2 and a half but with most days out with some outdoors aspect he is pretty easy to please. It was a rainy day, though, so I was a bit worried about how much time we would actually get to do the playgrounds, pit ponies and nature trail with it being wet and a cold January afternoon.
Firstly, we headed straight inside and headed to the cafe. I didn’t see any indoor picnic room, only outside, and it was raining. There are lots of spaces outdoors to have picnic there, either by the nature trail or in the designated picnic areas.
The museum galleries were not very interactive for kids and the museum itself is quite small. There are just two main rooms inside and it was mostly historical information about coal mining with objects, artefacts, boards, etc., Eric did some rubbings, looked at an old coal mining village area which had a shed, table and chairs and a projected (fake) bunny rabbit in a cage.
The best part indoors was definitely the “Little Diggers” play area for under 5’s… it was great with lots to play with, puzzles, gardening shed, picnic set, slide and ball pit in a soft play area, dress up corner and colouring. Eric spent about 45 mins here and could easily have been in there longer. We were the only ones in there.
On our visit, there was no special activities or anything on for him to do. Most of these seem to be only in school holidays but he is only 2, so he’s not school age and so we tend to avoid going to attractions during school holidays because they are busier and he gets easily overwhelmed. They do have a toddler group session with activities on Wednesdays but it starts at 10am, and it takes about an hour to get there by public transport (or longer with waiting as the train & bus is only once an hour) so it would be a huge rush to get there on time.
The museum galleries were not very interesting for him at all, so besides the under 5 play area he didn’t want to stay long. I’ve found out from their website that during the holidays they have daily arts and craft activities and the hope pit object store is open.
Now, Eric likes big machines, engines, trucks, diggers and all that sort of thing so outside he loved looking at those in yards. We even saw a big real digger drive past us whilst we were at the adventure playground, and inside the The Coal Interface Gallery he touched big old coal mining machinery and climbed through a little tunnel. In general, there could have been more for children to touch, interact and play with, I think.
The pit pony area was cute and Eric did ask to go back there before we left. We saw 4 ponies but you can’t touch or feed them. You can get close to them, though. One of them was called Eric!
A nature trail looks really lovely there, we love nature and being outdoors but it was raining on and off all day and so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we could have. We spotted a picnic area and potential places to paddle, I think on a dry nice day you could definitely spend some time there. The adventure playground was our first port of call to do outdoors whilst we waited for the rain to clear up.
The playgrounds are a new addition to the museum, free and honestly, it’s really fantastic! Very impressive, there were lots of equipment, swings, slides, climbing frames, poles, zip wire (not working when we went), toddler section, bigger section, rockers, assault course, places to picnic. That and the nature trail alone is a good option for a free day out in summer – and throw in a visit to see the ponies and the indoor play area. We were the only ones in the playground so had it to ourselves.
Unfortunately it started to rain even more and did get cold, plus, I looked at the time and realised that we had managed to spend 3 hours there!
We don’t drive and live in Sheffield so we had to use public transport to get there. It was a short train journey from Sheffield to Wakefield Westgate (trains are once an hour) about 25 minutes, and then a bus for about another 25 minutes. The bus is once an hour and stops just around the corner from the museum. It was a bit miserable but the wet weather didn’t help.
Lots of picnic areas outside for nice weather
New, fantastic adventure playgrounds
Free indoor play area for under 5’s, very fun!
About an hour on public transport from Sheffield – in total over £10 a person to get there
Museum galleries not very interactive or fun for kids
No activities, etc., on during term time for toddlers
Would I go again? Hmmm… yes, probably, but in good weather. I think you need to at least have some dry weather so you can enjoy the nature trail and adventure playground because for kids that’s more than half of what there is to do. Without the outdoors things all there is to do is the indoor play area or if they are over 5, the underground tour. I wouldn’t say the museum galleries are interesting for toddlers at all.
It is free admission, though, and we did spent 3 hours there. There is clearly things to do there to enjoy a day out and we did like it. The best parts for me were the outdoor areas and the fact it is free. I’m easy to please with attractions and I think when something is free, you really can’t complain especially when there are things to do to keep everyone entertained. If there were more activities on, like they have in holidays, it would have been the cherry on the top.
If you’re looking for somewhere to go that has 2 play options – in and out, ponies to see and a nature trail with picnic areas then yes, it is worth a visit. And if you drive, I think you could easily combine this with something else as there are lots of things to do in Wakefield. You could visit the Wakefield museum and library, free Room On The Broom adventure trail or The Hepworth Gallery.
Have you been to the National Coal Mining Museum For England in Wakefield? What do you think?
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