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Five free family-friendly museums and galleries to visit this summer

Published 30 July 2014 by Daniel Griffiths

With so much time to kill over the summer holidays, keeping the whole family entertained for the full six weeks can be quite difficult. The mention of a museum or art gallery visit might bring on a surge of moans and groans, but many of these educational goldmines are going to great lengths to get kids involved and interested – so it’s likely they’ll love it once they’ve arrived!

Plus, there are loads of free options to choose from, and we’ve hunted around to find five fantastic family-friendly choices all over the country. There’s usually plenty to do at these places so why not make a day of it?

1) World Museum Liverpool

Featuring a spectacular Planetarium, Aquarium and Bug House, this museum is bound to keep both you and your kids enthralled as you embark on a little adventure of your own. You can get lost exploring the vast reaches of space, take a peek at what’s lurking in our oceans and rivers and even see live creepy crawlies. There are also loads of exciting artefacts and displays.

Boasting a very child-friendly atmosphere, the museum features baby changing facilities, pram storage, high chairs, and eating areas and cafés with children’s menus. St. Johns Gardens is just outside too, so there’s room to have a picnic and a play if it’s sunny - and there are places to picnic in the building itself, so you can save money and bring your own lunch with you.

There are events hosted frequently throughout the summer that are sure to catch your kids’ interest, including:

  • Animating the museum: Here you can meet with an animator, create your own creature and learn how to film it moving.
  • Hands on Fossil activity: Learn about different kinds of fossils and have a go at making your own.
  • RSPB Helping Wildlife: For passionate bird and wildlife fans who want to learn about conservation and protecting them.

You can head here to see the full list of events and activities.

2) Manchester Art Gallery

There’s plenty to see at Manchester Art Gallery, and enough to keep your kids interested too. Various workshops are held over the course of the year aimed at children of different ages, including one for four-year-olds and under held on Fridays and Saturdays, and workshops for five to 11-year-olds held on several Saturdays. So no matter what age your sprogs are, there’s sure to be something to keep them occupied.

Similarly to Liverpool World Museum, there are baby changing facilities and children’s menus available and the whole building is very accessible for families with young children.

The ‘Baby Art Club’ is hosted on the first Friday of every month at different times during the day, and provides an opportunity for you and your baby to play and explore the artwork together. More details can be found here.

3) Royal Armouries Leeds

Historic armour and weapons can be a fascinating topic for children, and while we obviously don’t encourage the use of weapons, learning about their history safely might be something that perks their interests. At the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds, the whole family can enjoy looking at ancient weapons and armour – without the risk of being hurt!

You can learn the history behind some of the ancient armour and weapons on display and marvel at the incredible advances technology has made in this area, and the way different weapons vary across the world.

Also, fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit might be able to catch the ‘Swords of Middle-Earth’ exhibition; showcasing weapons used in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. This exhibit runs until 28th of July, so you should still have time to catch it.

Daily activities run all through the summer too, allowing you to get up close and personal with some historic armour and weapons (safely of course), and to experience live performances by the staff. ‘Pow!’ might be something to mark on your calendar if any of your children (or young-at-heart relatives) are avid comic book fans, as you will get the chance to meet some favourite characters like Iron Man and Batman and have a go at creating your own comic book art. This event is free and runs on the 12th, 13th and 14th of August.

4) Coventry Transport Museum

You don’t have to be a hard-core car fanatic to have fun here, as there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy. With over 240 cars, vehicles and buses, 94 motorcycles, 200 bicycles and 25,000 vehicle models on display, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied for the full day.

One of the main highlights of the museum is the presence of the two fastest cars on the planet. The Thrust2 and ThrustSSC are both on permanent display there and are the fastest cars ever driven, with the latter reaching a speed of over 750mph in 1997.

There are also loads of events going on this summer for children, such as storytelling and scavenger hunts. Some activities cost a small amount but others will be free.

Some major redevelopment works are being carried out on the museum up until next year, but it’s still open to the public most of the time. It’s a good idea to check in advance here to see when is the best time to visit with the least disruptions to your day.

5) Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Combining artwork, artefacts and nature; this historical hub in Glasgow is a sure way to keep the kids entertained for a day over the summer. With a number of displays, including Ancient Egypt, natural history (featuring dinosaurs and prehistoric beasties), Scottish history and archaeology and a real working beehive – there’s something to keep everyone entertained.

In terms of activities, there are a fair few things on offer in August, such as folk music performances and Kelvingrove pond wildlife exploration. For some activities, a charity donation of a couple of pounds may be expected.

They also host daily tours of the museum, which start at 11am and 2.30pm every day, so they can be a great way to get the most of your trip.

Keeping your kids entertained over summer can be draining, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s why we’re dishing out some summertime advice to help you and your kids make the most of your time off. You can check out our five ways to cut costs on theme park trips article here too.