Cumbria, the county in which the Lake District is located, has been a family favourite for decades, come rain or shine, and children have always been warmly welcomed. You may not all be dreaming of Helvellyn Summit, but even on a short sail across the water, visitors of all ages will appreciate the vastness and beauty of this greatest of the great outdoors.
Best of all, the Lake District’s main attractions are free: whether you head for the hills or explore the shores, you’ll find walks suitable for families of all ages and abilities, while some of the lakes themselves – Windermere, Ullswater and Derwentwater – offer the chance for you to set sail by launch or pleasure boat.
That said, you’ll also find some great family attractions that mean there’s more to the Lake District than muddy boots.
Things to do with kids in the Lake District
Go walking and hostelling in the Lake District National Park, and try out a whole range of adventure activities in the region, from mountain-biking, horse-riding, kayaking, scrambling and rock-climbing to sheepdog handling.
Explore Windermere and the South Lakes. Start with a Windermere Lakes Cruise then head to the southern tip of the lake for a ride on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. On sunny days, the National Trust's Fell Foot is a great place to hire a rowing boat or let kids loose in the adventure playground while you enjoy the views over the lake, while at the Lakes Aquarium you can discover the UK’s largest collection of freshwater fish, including the fierce and scary pike and more than 30 displays featuring the weird and wonderful aquatic life of the Lake District. Little ones love the World of Beatrix Potter, a re-creation of the Lakeland landscape where the world-famous stories of Beatrix Potter are brought to 3D life. To see the farm where Potter wrote many of her most famous kids’ books, head to the National Trust's Hill Top near Sawrey in Ambleside. Or take your little monkeys to Treetopnets Adventure in the High Trees, with a network of giant trampolines, walkways, slides and tunnels, all made from netting, suspended between trees up to 9m off the ground within lovely oak woodland.
Venture west of Windermere, to Coniston Water, where you can ride on the Victorian steam yacht Gondola and take part in adventurous outdoor activities at nearby Grizedale Forest, including a Go Ape treetop adventure course.
Head east to Kendal, where you’ll find more than just the famous mint cake – lose yourself in the Lakeland Maze Farm Park or step back in time to get in touch with Lakeland heritage at the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry.
Discover the wider South Lakes region with its animal attractions, which make for great days out. South of Kendal, stroll through the reeds at the RSPB's Leighton Moss Nature Reserve or head south of Windermere for innovative bird-of-prey and reptile encounters at Predator Experience. Further afield, younger kids can get close to the animals at the Flookburgh Indoor and Outdoor Adventure Park. The South Lakes Safari Zoo continues to be dogged by controversy regarding its welfare standards.
Heading north to Keswick and the Northern Lakes, enjoy family-friendly attractions including the famous Keswick Pencil Museum and the Puzzling Place, a small museum full of enough holograms and optical illusions to keep puzzlers of all ages entertained. On the shores of nearby Bassenthwaite, the Lake District Wildlife Park on Armathwaite Hall Estate has more than 100 species including zebra, gibbons and anaconda.
Also close to Keswick, Whinlatter Forest Park is another great place for outdoor activities, with a second Go Ape course (see above). Pony-trekking is a great activity to try out in the North Lakes too: Foot Park Trekking Center by Lake Ullswater offers treks for over-5s.
For lake cruises on the northern lakes, try Ullswater Steamers or the Keswick Launch.
Heading north, attractions close to Penrith include the fantastic Upfront Puppet Theatre.
Out to the west, the beautifully restored Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway winds from the coastal town of Ravenglass through the Western Lakes to the region’s highest mountain. Further north along the coast, the area around the seaside port of Whitehaven also has a number of family-friendly attractions including seafaring tales at The Rum Story, exhibitions at The Beacon Museum and fishy fun at the Lake District Coast Aquarium at Mayport.
The World of Beatrix Potter.
Enjoying local produce is one of the pleasures of holidaying in the Lake District, with cosy tea-rooms and pubs offering hearty Cumbrian specialities, including great sausages. Local farmers’ markets are great for stocking up for picnics in stunning surroundings.
On your way into or out of the Lake District by car, don’t miss Cumbria's award-winning Tebay Services, a family-owned services on the M6, just north of Junction 38, famous for the excellent home-made food and award-winning farm shops.
Tree Top Nets, Windermere.
When to go to the Lake District
The Lake District is worth visiting any time of year. In spring and autumn, without the tourist crowds, the roads are clearer and so are the walking paths. But bear in mind that some attractions are only open in peak season – school holidays from Easter to October.
The steam yacht Gondola.
Unless you stay at the swankiest hotels and dine at top-end restaurants, you shouldn't leave the Lake District too out of pocket – remember that the best things, the fells and the views, are free!
Self-catering cottages in Cumbria start at around £250 per week. B&Bs are also a great-value option, or this is a good place for camping.
Competition of the weekEnter now for your chance to win a 7-night family holiday for up to 6 people with Eurocamp.
A goat at the Lake District Wildlife Park.
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A bird of prey at the Predator Experience.
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