“Are we there yet?” We’ve all either heard it or said it as children ourselves, or both. And whether we’ve answered with “We’ve only just left!” for the umpteenth time or not, we still admire this endearing yearning for discovery that causes this adorable impatience in our children. If you’re heading to the Lake District with the toddlers, get ready to experience this loveable enthusiasm in spades.
Whether you’re looking for child-friendly walks in the Lake District or indoor children’s activities, Lake District attractions for families or just somewhere to plop yourself down and enjoy a homemade picnic, we’ve got ten great options for things to do with toddlers that will undoubtedly thrill them and most likely tire them out.
If you too are weary at the end of a fun-filled day in the Lake District, be sure to find your perfect cottage stay, from remote getaways and pet-friendly retreats to luxury cottages with hot tubs for that special treat late into the evening.
Lakeland Maze Farm Park
Open during, and a little either side of, the summer months, this farm park has everything to keep your little tots (and you!) entertained for the day. Set on a working farm, you can hand-feed the animals, some of which include goats, alpacas, llamas and ferrets, as well as your traditional farmyard animals. After this, try not to get lost in the Maize Maze, which changes its theme and pattern every year, enticing you back. Then there are trampolines, go-karts, tractor rides, a sand pit, indoor and outdoor play areas…in fact, maybe you’ll need more than one day here!
South Lakes Safari Zoo
If the kids enjoyed feeding the animals at the farm park, step it up a notch at this safari zoo where guests can stretch up to feed giraffes as well as kangaroos. Become a junior zookeeper for the day and get hands-on helping feed a big cat or looking after the penguins – just choose your animal and away you go. As you explore, you’ll see all the animals roaming their huge enclosures and, when the children begin to tire, eat your picnic before sending them out onto the adventure playground to use up the last of their reserves. Children under 3 go free. For more animal magic, see here.
Don’t let the British weather put you off having a fantastic family outing. Pop your raincoats on and head over to the shores of Lake Windermere, where the National Trust’s Wray Castle gleefully awaits. When the castle was bequeathed to the trust, it came with no furniture or fittings. Seeing this as a great opportunity, it was converted into a wonderous indoor utopia for children, with a different activity in each area of the castle. Be it table tennis, dressing up, or arts and crafts, the kids will be sure to love it here. And if the sun does pop his hat on, there’s a woodland area with a nature trail, or you can head down to the lake to get your toes wet.
The Rheged Centre
Set in a former quarry and under a grass roof, Rheged, named after the mysterious Celtic kingdom of the Middle Ages, is a top destination for any Cumbrian tourist itinerary. Boasting an indoor play area, a 3D cinema showing family-friendly films, a welcoming cafe and a children’s toy shop that actively encourages noise and play, this is a great stopping point if you find yourself outside when the heavens open. After filling their bellies in the cafe, why not let the children show off their creative side and see what masterpieces they can produce in a ‘Paint a Pot’ session? See more rainy-day ideas here.
Fell Foot Park
Mountain backdrops, refreshing water lapping the shore, grassy park space – what more do you need? The lakeside at the National Trust’s Fell Foot Park is a wonderful way to spend the day with the family. You can get active and have a wild swim or hire a kayak or paddleboard and take the little ones out on the water. Alternatively, you could sit back and feed the ducks as you tuck into your picnic yourself. Afterwards, play ball with mum or head off on a meadow walk with dad. If you time your visit right, you might want to book tickets to one of many open-air theatre performances or workshops – the children will truly revel in this quirky way to enjoy a show…as well as letting off some steam during the interval running around!
Boat Trips and Waterfalls
If, during your holiday, you’ve been longing to get out on the water, but you’re concerned that the tots will find it a little uninteresting, fear not, we’ve got a solution for you. From Glenridding, board the Ullswater Steamer, which will take you on a boat ride no longer than 30 minutes to Aira Force, home to a great Lake District waterfall. A mere 20-minute walk (maybe a bit longer for littler legs) from the pier through woodland is the crashing Aira Force waterfall, a near 20-metre-tall cascade of unabated watery power that tumbles into the plunge pool below. The children will love trying to match the deafening roar of the falls, and you can entice them back with the promise of cake at the National Trust tearoom. For more outdoor activities, read our guide.
Meet Peter Rabbit and Friends
Enter the magical World of Beatrix Potter where children can marvel at their make-believe bunny buddy and maybe even you could re-live your childhood. Creep through Mr McGregor’s Garden and meet Peter and his friends, Lily, Benjamin and Jemima Puddle-Duck; and maybe some of his foes, Mr Tod and Tommy Brock. There’s an activity trail if you have slightly older children, and you can book a tea party with Peter or watch a theatre production. Now run along, and don’t get into mischief.
Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
This is certainly one of the best things to do in Eskdale if you’ve little lads and lasses who are train buffs. Locally known as La’al Ratty (little railway), this 15-inch narrow gauge railway begins in the beautiful coastal town of Ravenglass and snakes its way across the estuary and through 7 miles of verdant Cumbrian countryside. The children will get a thrill of excitement as they travel along in this miniature train (open top or under cover), trying to spot red squirrels and buzzards along the way. There’s a cafe at your final destination, Dalegarth Station, and dogs are welcome on board too. See our guide to the railway here.
The Great Outdoors
Lake District Visitor Centre – Brockhole
We would probably need a separate guide just for the Visitor Centre at Brockhole, such is the plethora of activities on offer, but we’ll try our best. Mini tractors; Woodland Faerie Trail; outdoor adventure playground (separate under 7s area); mini golf; Go Wild workshops; splashing in the lake; kids’ bike hire…and breathe! The garden and grounds are beautiful too if you just want to wander, and you won’t find many nicer settings for a cafe lunch on the terrace overlooking Lake Windermere. If the weather turns, head inside for soft play or the dedicated learning space for under 5s.
Visit a Forest
Of course, there are a number of forest districts in Lakeland, but we’ve chosen just a couple. Grizedale Forest, in between Lake Windermere and Coniston Water, offers you and the children a chance to spot red squirrels, roe deer and otters as you pass by sculpture after sculpture in the woods. You can hire bikes and even trailers to pop the toddlers in if their legs are too tired.
Whinlatter Forest is a slightly different beast, in that it is the only true mountain forest in England, rising over 300m above sea level. This results in spectacular views across Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwentwater, but whilst you’re taking in the vistas, you’ll feel the tug of tiny hands on your coat, as there’s plenty of fun to be had. The 600m-long Whinlatter Play Trail has nine separate play zones; there’s an Archimedes screw to try and get water to move uphill and a fairy kingdom with a secret path. This and much, much more.
We’re sure that no matter what you choose, the toddlers will have the time of their lives, come rain or shine. All that’s left to do is carry their weary forms back to the car and head toward your beautiful Sally’s holiday property.
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