The photography site for sore eyes. With extra writing because I'm also a writer.
I fell into the trap. It was freezing on the third day of our half-term holiday. Being outside, at risk of sudden-shower soaking syndrome was not an option.
My nine-year-old wanted to go to the aquarium. So I caved in. After scouring the internet for voucher codes and cheap deal offers I managed to knock a whopping £3.25 off the general admission price.
And then we were off. For a £30 adventure at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Tynemouth. We got there at 11am. And could have left by 11.30am. That the walk-through shark section was closed made little difference. This is not the way to spend £30 on your kids.
The thing is, I know better. I’ve written a book about free days out in Lancashire. It has photographs and hand-drawn maps of some of the most amazing places to go that won’t cost you a penny (bar the occasional car park charge).
And I could easily write another book about free days out in Durham, Tyneside, Wearside and Northumberland (if someone would pay me to do it). Or: Your advert in this blog post could be here.
But sometimes, I guess, you have to make the mistake to reinforce the belief that: FREE DAYS OUT ARE BETTER THAN ANYTHING ELSE.
Paying £30 to stand in the freezing cold watching grumpy sea lions flap their arms for fish was the mistake.
It’s free days out all the way for my family from now on. And until I write a book called FREE Days Out in the North East (of England), this blog will have to do.
And this is how you should do it:
The day after the aquarium fiasco we put things right with the greatest Easter egg hunt ever – at the North East’s most iconic location: the Angel of the North.
That we – my son, his granddad and me – were also able to play football in the Angel’s shadow only served to add extra sparkle to a magical morning (where even the car park is delightfully free).
And I’m telling you, the North East has so much more to offer by way of unforgettable family-friendly free days out than just the Angel. Here is a quick fire list:
Marsden Grotto (between South Shields and Sunderland)
Best-kept secret in north east. Sensational rock formations. Caves and rocks. Tidal.
Northumberlandia (Near Cramlington, Northumberland)
Magnificently massive man-made sculpture where you can walk across a lady’s body.
The Baltic (Gateshead side of the Quayside, Newcastle)
One of Britain’s best arts venues.
Jesmond Dene park (Newcastle)
Lovely park, nature trail, animals for younger kids.
Rock pooling (Whitley Bay)
Needs bucket and net.
Derwent Walk Country Park (Derwent Valley, Gateshead)
Easy walking, fabulous views. Red kites all over the shop.
Bloody hell – one of the most fantastical buildings anywhere ever is free to visit? Yes.
Hamsterley Forest (County Durham)
Walks, mountain biking, kids playground.
Herrington Country Park and Penshaw Monument (Near Houghton-le-Spring)
Great for cycling in safety, skate park, kids playground. Walk up to the monument is pretty good too.
NOTE: Why is it so hard to find free days out from tourism websites?
That’s a good question, even if I did ask it myself. And the short answer (which is the same as the long answer) is that tourism websites are paid to promote destinations by the venue owners. So amazing outdoor destinations are reluctantly promoted. So anyone looking for a free day out has to look harder to find suitable places. Or read this blog.
And this blog is just the start. There are dozens of free destinations and free days out in Durham, Sunderland, Newcastle and Northumberland.
All photos Copyright Garry Cook.