Wow, what’s a year it’s been! This will be a big post jam packed of our top, best, favourite days out and trips from 2018. Grab a hot drink before sitting down to read this and don’t forget to SAVE it, too, to refer back to throughout the year!
Writing this was a big bag of emotions, let me tell you that! I’m not sure if it’s the pregnancy or what! I just love my family. I’m so passionate about going on trips and holidays with them, it’s what makes me happiest in life.
This is what we do, and hope you enjoy reading it. x
Things to remember about this post:
- All of these trips are done without a car! So if you don’t drive, or thinking about using the car less this year these trips are all suitable!
- Eric’s birthday is 26th October, so he was 2 years old by January 2018 and turned 3 at halloween this year (just so you know how suitable for what age most things are).
- Even though we have done lots this year, we are on a low budget financially. All the accommodation is affordable/cheap (we are members of YHA), we use railcards for train discounts, do as much free as we can, book/plan in advance and live simple the rest of the time! We might not have much money, but doing this is what we love, so if it mean we are skint the rest of the year so so be it.
- If you have any questions about any days out or trips we have done, would like some advice on planning or anything like that please comment or get in touch and I’d be happy to help.
Manchester- Museums & Lego
We’ve been to Manchester 3 times this year, each time staying overnight. The first trip was New Years Day and we went to Legoland Discovery Centre for the first time. A combination ticket with Sealife centre. We revisited in November 2018, but just for Legoland Discovery Centre this time. Eric loved it, his favourite bit is the Duplo area and Build & Test ramps/slides for cars.
Legoland is a great place at a reasonable price if you can make it on a week day during term time where they offer toddler tickets for £8 parent & toddler.
Our other trips in Manchester were to cover all of the museums. This year was definitely the year we discovered how great Manchester is for FREE museums… we’ve done MSI (museum of science & industry), Football Museum, People’s History Museum and Manchester Museum all FREE. Yet to visit is Imperial War Museum (free) and Museum of Transport (small cost).
In the summer we really enjoyed doing the Bee trail across Manchester and that was definitely a highlight. My favourite museums in Manchester are MSI, People’s History and Manchester Museum. I rate these all 5/5 and interactive, family friendly (and free).
For accommodation we have stayed in a few budget hotels and YHA Manchester. YHA Manchester is definitely our favourite choice.
Hull was brand new to us and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but had done some research and found out about the museums quarter. as a family who loves free museums it seemed like the perfect trip for the winter months. Lots of museums close together, all for free. And it was fantastic!
I don’t hear much about trips to Hull for the museums so definitely think they are underrated. We particularly loved the Streetlife Museum and Hull & East Riding Museum and I would definitely recommend those for toddlers. There’s also a dinosaur museum but it’s small and privately run and only open on weekends.
Walking around the harbour was fun, lots of regeneration around there is great to see with independent cafes, restaurants, funky bars and it all looks fantastic. Hull was definitely better than I was expected and we didn’t even make it to The Deep.
We struggled to find budget accommodation in Hull so had to settle on a hotel near the station which wasn’t fantastic (or especially cheap) and still wasn’t great but the only thing we could find. The train ticket aren’t the cheapest, either, but it’s all worth it as everything you can do there is free.
Haven Primrose Valley
Haven was our first ‘proper’ holiday of the year in March. We always seem to go to Filey/Scarborough in the cold months! This is not a coincidence; Haven is the cheapest at these times so budget direct is great on a budget. We stayed for a week at Primrose Valley, the ‘flagship’ of the Yorkshire Haven sites & it was fantastic. I loved the facilities especially Lakeside complex with playgrounds, swimming, boating lake, sandpits & restaurant. Out of 4 Haven sites it’s the best I’ve been to yet.
We were lucky to get some really nice sunny days whilst we were there and enjoyed the trips to the beach. In Scarborough we found a museum and art gallery: Rotunda Museum and Scarborough Art Museum. The Rotunda Museum had some toddler friendly bits like a dinosaur exhibition.
Wakefield was a surprise find this year; not the actual place as we live close and know where it is, but finding so many great things to do there was definitely a highlight of 2018.
I really fell in love with Hepworth Gallery this year and have been a few times. It’s free entry and they do fantastic free family workshops/activities, usually school holidays but some during term time as well. It has a fantastic cafe and good playground.
Also in Wakefield is National Coal Mining Museum (with a brand new adventure playground, and nice little indoor play area), Wakefield Museum: a new find for us in early 2018, free entry and a fantastic victorian play room with kitchens, dress up and activities (plus a library and cafe in the same building), Room on the broom trail at Anglers Country Park and more.
Clifton Park & Museum, Rotherham
This place is free AND really popular in summer as it has a really good splash park, playgrounds and sandpits. But we have been there all year round because in colder months, the playgrounds are still great and there is a good museum (free).
The splash park is really good and open during rotherham school holidays, although they do put on special openings especially for toddlers a few times in the run up to summer, and on super hot days they sometimes open an “extra” session, all of these are last minute and announced on their Facebook page.
Grimm & Co is just down the road from here and a really good find in rotherham, too, especially if you love magic.
Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife & Falconry Centre
Both me & Ollie both agreed that one of our best days out of the year has been here. We’ve had some great times at Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife & Falconry centre all year round. Eric is really a big fan of the place as it has everything he loves; animals, tropical house, dinosaur trail, fairies, crafts, adventure playground, sandpits and outdoor play.
I’ve had an annual pass for this year so I haven’t had to pay for myself but I won’t be renewing this year; we just don’t have the money. It is quite pricey otherwise which is why, during term time, it’s so quiet. They don’t (as of yet) offer any term time deals or cheaper prices throughout the year which is a really big shame as lots of other attractions do. It really is worth the money but having the money to begin with is a problem for most families.
We’ll still be going a few times in 2019 but with no annual passes and a very long journey time (over 2 hours door to door each way) we can’t go as often as I wish we could. It’s still a favourite of mine, though, and I really applaude them for all the work they do; every time we go there is something new to do/see.
Chatsworth House (specifically adventure playgrounds)
It’s a real shame we didn’t make it to the gardens this year and due to our finances had to scrap off the idea of going to visit for christmas (would have totaled up to over £60) but we have had some fantastic days out in the adventure playgrounds/farm.
Chatsworth adventure playgrounds is somewhere which, every time we go, I see how eric has grown because he’s able to do something else and take on a more advanced frame. The playgrounds are so good that there’s something to do for little ones (I used to take eric when he was just about walking) right up to teenagers. I won’t waffle on about how good it is, you can read my latest review here.
Top 5 Sheffield playgrounds & parks
One of the best things about living in Sheffield is all the amazing outdoor places to go, specifically fantastic playgrounds & parks. We loved to Hillsborough early in 2018 and being so close to two favourites within walking distance has really been the cherry on the top.
Rather than list them all individually my top 5 parks and playgrounds in Sheffield this year have been: Rivelin Valley Park, Hillsborough Park, Norfolk Heritage Park, Gell Street playground in city centre and Forge Dam.
Countryside – Lodge Moor, Longshaw Estate & Low Bradfield
We didn’t manage as many countryside walks this year as I’d like to, compared to 2017. Reason being Eric got more and more mobile this year and into the pram, less with the sling, so going on long walks dependent on the sling just wasn’t doable.
Saying that though, we did a lovely walk at Lodge Moor which in one of my favourites (in Sheffield), Longshaw Estate (a few times (National Trust, free, in Sheffield & fantastic), Padley Gorge in the summer (the best place for paddling close to home!) and Low Bradfield (10 minutes from Hillsborough, walking at Damflask Reservoir, paddling in the village, ducks & playground).
York – Web Adventure/Creepy Crawlies, National Railway Museum & Piglets Adventure Farm
3 trips were made to York this year, twice staying overnight. My favourite place to stay is YHA York & has awe have membership I always find this super good value for money.
National Railway Museum (free) is always a family favourite but this year Eric really got into it and enjoyed every visit. Highlights include all the big old trains, land train to York Minster & live demonstrations.
Web Adventure/Creepy Crawlies was a really good day out. A bus journey from York but not far at all, good value for money, good indoor and outdoor play options.
I was really impressed how much there was to do for what we paid (not much more than normal entry at soft play). Including farm, outdoor play with sand and water play, bridges and slides, ride ons, indoor big soft play, play village and free activities.
One of my most favourite days out of the entire year was summer at Piglets Adventure Farm. Not sure if we will make it in 2019, sadly, as it’s so far from York city centre and no direct bus; but it was fantastic. Very new, modern, clean, good place areas and fantastic live circus show. Indoor play area in a barn, tractor rides, farm, fairy trail and nice staff.
I think we must have been to Leeds about 4 times this year… and stayed overnight at least twice. Once for Ollie’s birthday in the most loveliest hotel Park Plaza, and the rest budget hotels. One time I jumped on the train and took Eric to Tropical World!
We love the free water taxi from Leeds Dock, Tropical World, Leeds City Museum, Trinity Kitchen and close connections to Bradford/Halifax. Not one trip sticks on to me but rather just a collection of all our trips there over the year so it deserves to be included.
Matlock Bath is soooo nice. In June for my birthday, we stayed in Cromford in a really nice hotel called Willersley Castle. I’d really recommend it. It was so boiling hot during our trip, we couldn’t be in the sun for long periods of time, but really enjoyed a day out at Heights of Abraham. Walking in Cromford and along the river in Matlock Bath was also really nice.
Heights of Abraham is where the cable cars in Matlock Bath live. There’s so much more than just cable cars though, it’s a whole country park up there with playgrounds, caves, woods, museums and more.
It’s not cheap but a real FULL day out with lots to do and once up there everything is included, even the cave tours. I would say it’s best for kids starting at Eric’s age but then it’s suitable for children right up to adults.
Cleethorpes & Haven Thorpe Park
Cleethorpes is the closest beach by train so I went 3 times in the summer. One of those was a weekend holiday at Haven Thorpe Park. Not our first time staying there; we’d previously been in October 2018. This time it was full on summer, hot, Haven was busy, and we went swimming in the sea!
We stayed in an owners caravan (booked on Facebook) very cheap for friday to monday. Thorpe Park is a great Haven site so as well as Cleethorpes itself, and the beach, we enjoyed the shows, playgrounds and swimming facilities on site at Thorpe Park. We’re definitely going back this summer for another seaside break. Besides food (we didn’t eat out once.. well, we did get chips on the seafront!), trains, accommodation (£86) we didn’t pay for anything else so it was definitely budget friendly.
Aww, I’m happy and sad to be including this one. It was such a good day out so definitely deserves to be here but annoys me so much that it isn’t public transport friendly (I’m so sorry if you’re reading this and don’t drive, I’m just as annoyed as you are!). I got there as I’d arranged a couch trip on our community group, and I’ll be sure to arrange one in 2019, too, otherwise not sure how I’d get there ever again!
Going to Sundown was like going back in time to when I was little. It’s so old, you just have to laugh, but it’s just fantastic, too. And well maintained. Kids love it. Everything there is especially for under 5’s, loads of rides all you can go on with your child, hardly any restrictions, playgrounds, soft play, interactive little ‘worlds’ and villages, play houses, etc., Oh it’s just great and worth the price if you think what you’re getting included.
Big trip- Best parts Liverpool, Thinktank & Birmingham
This trip was fantastic. In 6 days we went to 5 different cities. Going Sheffield > Leicester > Birmingham > Liverpool > Blackpool > Leeds.
You can read about planning the whole trip here, but I’m not going to lie it was a bit scary, especially as 3 places we had never been before so was out of our comfort zone. The whole trip was fantastic, I’m so glad how well it went… we either planned it just right or got lucky!
My highlights from the whole trip were a day out at Thinktank Museum in Birmingham (still the best museum I’ve been to all year), Blackpool (good park, amazing beach, fun attractions) and Liverpool (fantastic vibe, unique, lots to do free and cheap, good YHA, 5/5).
I can’t believe I nearly forgot to include this one especially as it was such an amazing trip! This was a bit of a spontaneous one and especially after all we did this year we very nearly didn’t make it to London in 2018. But as one of my favourite places ever, I really had to scratch that itch! So in October combined for Eric’s birthday, we went to London for 4 days and Nottingham for 3.
The accommodation in London was great; budget apartment next to Finchley Road tube station. The whole 4 days were great and you can read about it all in detail here, but my highlights of the trip were: Chelsea Physic Gardens, Southbank, River Boat to the Emirates, Princess Diana Park and bussing around central London. Really lovely memories from this trip <3 (and eric doesn’t stop talking about it).
Our second to last trip of the year was a good one; Harrogate! I’ve never been and really, really wanted to go to RHS Garden Harlow Carr.
We stayed overnight in Harrogate & whilst Harrogate itself isn’t the highlight (it’s a nice place but not loads to do) Harlow Carr is definitely up there as one of the best days out of the year. Fantastic playgrounds, woodlands, lovely gardens, decent price. We will 100% be going back in 2019 and I can’t wait.
There has been so many good days out this year that if I mentioned them all it would be a post I’d have to seaparate into months, lol. You might realise that not many things in Sheffield or South Yorkshire are on this list, but that’s just because of big trips have been further away.
Here’s some more of our favourite, local days out:
- Theatre and shows. We’ve seen Gruffalo’s Child, Tiger Who Came To Tea, Mother Goose, Dinosaur Live, The Snowman Live and Christmas Quackers this year all in Sheffield.
- Swimming. Not one of my favourites but something Ollie & Eric do together is go swimming at Hillsborough Leisure Centre and they love it. Eric always asks for it and it’s definitely one of his top 5 favourire things to do in general.
- Medieval Mayhem. I’m not a big fan of soft play and although Eric likes it, it also gets overwhelming fast and so we have to really plan it well. Medieval Mayhem though has been our favourite this year, we love Lindy’s Story S.A.C. sessions, Construction & deconstruction term time activity, and I do a book club which meets every month.
- 5 more favourite places/things in Sheffield from 2018: Botanical Gardens, City Centre, Heeley City Farm, Sheffield General Cemetery and Kelham Island Museum.
Coming soon is ‘Eric’s favourite things to do from 2018’ which includes more local, activity based and simple ideas (including the above list). Look out for that. Subscribe so you don’t miss anything!
Thank you for reading, following and using my blog for ideas! It’s been fantastic to have you following our journey and all our trips, so here’s to another great year (and a new baby!) in 2019!