Family Fun coming to Leeds
Gone are the days of Leeds graduates bidding farewell to the city to find jobs in the big smoke. With more tech, media, business, and finance firms relocating here than ever, Leeds is attracting tonnes of talented young professionals just itching to put down roots. And why wouldn’t they? Great schools, housing, places to visit, and family-friendly eateries make for a tip-top place to raise a brood!
So far in 2022, Leeds has already hosted events like Leeds Young Film Festival and the Bunny Egg Hunt (a free family-friendly Easter-egg trail brought to the city by LeedsBID, Welcome to Leeds, and partner Lindt). But there’s lots more exciting stuff on offer…
Pop-Up Circus Returns
After the massive success of the Pop-Up Circus in February, performers will be bouncing back to Briggate for the May half-term holiday (28th May – 4th June 2022, 11am-4pm daily). A week of free family fun, including workshops and kids’ activities, is on offer courtesy of LeedsBID in association with Yorkshire Circus and Super Friendz.
Young would-be clowns, acrobats and jugglers will have the chance to try their hand at parkour, hula hooping, stilt walking and more, using Leeds city centre as their stage. Daily story-time sessions, arts and crafts, face painting and free candyfloss for those taking part will keep little people amused for hours. Useful, when you’re surviving the school holidays!
Leeds Jurassic Trail
The Leeds Jurassic Trail started life back in 2019 and has appeared in Leeds each summer (though the pandemic did make it extinct in 2020!). These free trails, normally running for a 6-week period, enable families to discover all-new life-sized animatronic dinosaurs across a host of city-centre location and the chance to pose for some roar-some selfies. Great days out for dino-fans.
Located at The Tetley (a pioneering centre for contemporary art in Leeds), the Tiny Tetley Studio is a novel new play space for kids under 5. Created by artist and early years specialist Stephanie Jefferies, the facility offers a quirky approach to igniting creativity in an immersive environment where little ones can touch, climb, and even slide. Adults attending will be guaranteed to wish they were small again!
Tiny Tetley Studio is on the second floor of the building, with the lift located at the rear of the building for pushchair access. There are baby change facilities on the ground and second floors. Even better, you can sign up for a free Family Pass that gives you access to the space as well as special offers in The Tetley Bar & Kitchen, access to the wealth of other free family activities throughout the year, and updates on upcoming events too.
Sparks! at Thackray
Another haven for under 5s is Sparks! play area at the Thackray Museum of Medicine, bookable on arrival. Free for children of adult museum ticket holders (or £2 per child visiting Sparks! only), this roleplay medical centre lets children explore the five primary senses with “Feelgood Friend” characters. Who wouldn’t want to crawl through a digestive system and come down the soft play “poo slide”?! I mean, come on!
Thackray Museum of Medicine has been inspiring children for years, but since a recent £4m development, there are even more galleries to explore. From grimy mock-Victorian streets to medical innovations that changed the world, there’s plenty to get small minds pondering.
During May half term holidays (30th May – 3rd June 2022), kids can also have a go at making a potion or pomander to take home as part of the Tranquillity Season – Pop-Up Potions exhibit. Alternatively, decorate a fabric leaf and tie your thoughts to a bough of the Wish Forest.
Did you know Leeds city centre is home to the UK’s first mathematical discovery centre?
Venture into the mathematical wonderland of MathsCity, located inside Trinity Leeds shopping centre, offering an innovative experience for a family trip out. Escape into the fascinating world of maths and get hands-on with over 20 absorbing exhibits to explore and discover how much fun maths can be. Climb inside a giant bubble or a kaleidoscope, explore different shapes in the laser ring of fire, or take up the challenge of an amazing array of puzzles.
And with special events and school holiday activities, this interactive space provides plenty of scope to enjoy and appreciate the power and importance of maths for understanding the world in which we live.
Admission costs apply.
City Centre Culture
Leeds is lucky to boast some of the best art galleries, museums, and theatres… and all within a stone’s throw of each other. Check out the packed events programmes at Leeds Art Gallery, the Henry Moore Institute, and Leeds City Museum (see Rory’s Saturday Club for regular family craft sessions, with more events found at Leeds Museums and Galleries outside the city centre).
You can also find out what kid-friendly performances are on at the Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, and Leeds Heritage Theatres – incorporating City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds Grand Theatre, and the Hyde Park Picture House cinema.
Leeds Kirkgate Market
This is the place where high-street giant Marks & Spencer famously started as a penny bazaar in 1884. Today, this Leeds institution is a bustling hive of enterprise and a feast for the senses. Having undergone several multi-million-pound facelifts and opening a new street-food and events space, Kirkgate Market is a great destination for all ages.
Aside from the endless warren of stalls to explore for pocket-money purchases, Kirkgate promotes a timetable of specialist markets and events, from indie food delights to kids’ movie screenings on the 8-metre LED screen. Keep your eyes peeled for the latest activities on offer.
Light Night Leeds
Dates for the UK’s largest multi-arts and light festival for 2022 have been confirmed as 13th and 14th October. One of the biggest free family-friendly events in the city, Leeds Light Night lets visitors “experience art in the dark.” Indoor and outdoor spaces are transformed by specular light illuminations, projections, installations, and performances.
For the last 18 years, Leeds has attracted regional, national, and international visitors and artists to this incredible festival of light. Guides with zone maps can be purchased for a small fee at many city centre and local outlets in the lead up to the festival which help plot a route to all your must-see attractions. Occurring just once a year, this one is not to be missed. Keep an eye on the socials for the latest updates.
Child Friendly Leeds/Breeze
With over 180,000 children and young people calling this city their home, Leeds has the ambition to become the best place for children to grow up in – a Child Friendly Leeds. Collaborating with a network of passionate partners, Leeds City Council is ensuring young people are at the heart of the city’s success.
An excellent place to find child-friendly activities is through BreezeLeeds.org – the website for all children and young people aged 0-19 from Leeds (and their families) looking for positive things to do. Although Breeze is run by the Council, activities are organised by all sorts of organisations across the city with stacks of events during the school holidays.
Royal Armouries Museum
Watch history come to life at The Royal Armouries by Leeds Dock – the UK’s national collection of arms and armour. Unlike stuffy museums with displays you can’t touch, this free attraction has fascinating permanent exhibits (like Henry VIII’s armour), historical re-enactments, and hands-on activities for children. It even features prop weapons from films, including blasters from Star Wars, swords from the Lord of the Rings, and a pulse rifle from Aliens!
The packed what’s on schedule always includes lots of kid-focussed activities and exhibitions in the school holidays. This ranges from International Jousting Tournaments, birds of prey displays, and Roman Chariot Racing (2nd – 5th June 2022) in the Tiltyard, to shows perhaps aimed more at older children. At the Sharp End is a hard-hitting temporary exhibition tackling violent crime and police operations, running until 20th June 2022. As an extra bonus, you can even arrive by water taxi!