When you are thinking about great destinations for a city break with kids, Newcastle might not be the first place that springs to mind, but if you’ve never taken a trip to the toon, you don’t know what you are missing! The city and surrounding areas provide a plethora of great things to do, you just need to know where to look!
Newcastle City Centre
For starters, Newcastle is a lovely city to explore, with a famous skyline and lots of famous landmarks to see (I’m looking at you Tyne Bridge!) not to mention the lesser-known Newcastle Castle, who’s name alone had my boys in stitches every time we passed it! You can take a stroll along the River Tyne, with lots of places to stop to eat or drink along the banks of the Quayside area. No matter what the weather or time of year, this area seems to be a hive of activity and a great spot for a bit of people watching!
If you fancy taking in a bit of history, why not try one of the city’s museums or experiences? Probably the number one child friendly experience of this kind would be the Victoria Tunnels. Lying underneath the city and stretching all the way from the town Moor to the Tyne River, it started out its life as a method of transporting coal in the 1840s – 1860s. It had a new lease of life during WWII, when it was transformed into an air raid shelter. With guided tours, led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides, it is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon in the toon!
If you are there for more than a day or two, I can’t recommend highly enough a trip to Alnwick castle. Based in Alnwick, a small town just a 40-minute drive from Newcastle city centre, Alnwick castle has been featured in a number of movies and TV shows, most notably forming part of Hogwarts in the early Harry Potter Films.
Before we arrived, I wasn’t sure how long it would keep my boys entertained…at 9 and 12 (at the time) they can sometimes be difficult to please! However, the answer is, all day! We arrived at around 10am and finally dragged ourselves away when the castle was closing! There was a huge range of different activities going on throughout the day, most of which were included in the ticket price.
As you approach and enter the castle courtyard there are schedules for the day showing which activities can be found where and when, allowing you to plan a little when to take in each. Guided tours run through the day, but each with a different take on the tour. For example, for the history buffs there is a historical tour (more aimed at grown up visitors) and even an “Alnwick On Location” Film Tour, which my boys particularly enjoyed, getting to take a peek behind the curtain and see exactly where their favourite scenes from Harry Potter were filmed!
Activities change with the seasons, but some of the other activities we were able to enjoy during our visit in the summer included a falconry show, a compilation of medieval music and a highly entertaining performance by the court jester! If your kids (or you!) would like to take ‘broomstick flying’ lessons, you do need to pre-book and pay an additional cost, as this is often booked up well in advance and not available to book on the day.
For the football fans amongst you, a visit to St James’ Park is a must. My eldest son is obsessed with football and loves to visit the local stadium in any city that we go to, so St James’ Park was at the top of his list of things to see. Just a short walk from the shopping centre, it is easy to stroll to, even with kids in tow.
For the more avid fans, you can book an all-access stadium tour, giving you a chance to get pitch side, with options for the “Magpie’s View” rooftop tour, or autism friendly tours, to name just a few.
Depending on which direction you arrive at the city from, you may well pass by Hadrian’s Wall on your way. Travelling from the northwest brought us alongside Hadrian’s Wall, and after seeing a signpost to the famous landmark, we decided to make an impromptu stop to take a look. We parked up near the visitor centre, before setting off on a short walk up to join the wall itself.
Depending on the age of your children and their stamina for walking, you can tailor your walk to suit. As it was a hot day (yes even that far north!) and it was an unscheduled stop on our journey, we spent about an hour strolling up to the highest point we could see, where the boys enjoyed clambering and climbing the hillside and the wall itself, before turning back to continue our journey.
We spent our stay in the always budget friendly Travelodge, on the Quayside, which was in a fantastic location right in the heart of the city and within easy walking distance of all of the shops, bars and restaurants that the city has to offer. Complete with underground parking and a decent breakfast (with kids eating free) we were able to fill ourselves up before heading out for the day. The handy location also meant it was easy to pop back to the hotel for a rest if the mood took us!
All in all, Newcastle was a fantastic place to spend a few days with the kids and I would highly recommend it.
Amy loves nothing more than travelling and exploring new places. She has two boys who also love an adventure, and have a long bucket list of places yet to see! They can often be found in a cafe enjoying a spot of people watching in any new place they go.