Family-Friendly Leeds – Arts and Culture
11th August 2021
Leeds family days out come in all shapes and sizes, from action packed sports and activities, to creative and inspiring destinations with chances to learn slipped in under the radar. Luckily, there are places to visit in Leeds that tick all those boxes – and more! We’ve already run through some of the thrilling outdoor family attractions in Leeds city centre and beyond, and now it’s time for family friendly arts and culture.
But it’s not all boring exhibitions and dusty galleries. There are museums that do everything differently, with jaw dropping offerings to inspire young minds. Or art spaces that turn the subject on its head, perfect for getting those creative juices flowing. Just take a look…
Sharpen your skill at Royal Armouries
Families could easily spend a day at Leeds’ famous Royal Armouries, home to the largest display of arms and armour in Europe. There are more swords and shields than you could shake a spear at, covering centuries of warfare bound to get kids excited. Where else can you find a piece of armour made especially for Henry VIII, or a suit of armour worn by a giant elephant? Don’t miss the live reenactments too, from the thrilling jousts in the yard to WWI soldiers telling their story. Plan your visit.
Step back in time at Abbey House Museum
Whilst some museums just tell you about the past, Abbey House Museum lets you step back in time and walk amongst it. Visitors are transported back to the 19th century via a street of authentically recreated shops, pubs and houses.
To academics, it might be classed as social history – but for kids it’s a thrilling way to come face to face with history, as if it were a film set. Plan your visit.
Get a little gothic at Kirkstall Abbey
The ruins of Kirkstall Abbey have played host to all sorts over the years, from the original contingent of medieval Cistercian Monks to open air performances of Frankenstein’s Wedding. It’s a fantastic place to get outside and explore, with historic nooks and crannies to discover in a beautiful setting beside the River Aire. If you time your visit right, you might catch a local food market, a group tour or just a patch of sunshine for a stroll with an ice cream. Plan your visit.
Explore a city’s history at Leeds City Museum
Leeds has been around for a while now, but we often don’t look further than Victorian architecture and 20th century sporting triumph. Leeds City Museum gives a full picture of the settlement’s history, from prehistoric hippos basking in the River Aire to the cultural links of Leeds’ immigrant communities. It’s a proper hands-on affair for kids and families, whether that’s trying on Chinese festival masks or exploring the huge map of the city in the central gallery. Plan your visit.
Travel in style at Middleton Railway
Middleton Railway is the world’s oldest continuously working railway, with engines and carriages gracing the rails from 1758 to the present day. It’s also a great family outing, with the chance to take a ride in some historic locomotives and explore the engine shed museum. The railway also has Middleton Park as its leafy neighbour, so you can combine your trip on the line with a chance to stretch your legs after. Plan your visit.
Uncover the gory details at Thackray Museum of Medicine
Fresh from a recent £4 million redevelopment, Thackray Museum of Medicine encourages visitors to explore the story of medicine and health. The exhibitions are truly out of the ordinary, and unlike anything you’ll find at a traditional museum.
Wander the grimy streets of Victorian Leeds, take in a gory 19th-century operation and see how the world responded to 20th century health crises. Plan your visit.
Find island life at Thwaite Watermill
Alright, so it might not be the Caribbean, but Thwaite Watermill can be found on a hidden island of its own – right in the middle of the River Aire and the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. There are all kinds of creative ways to bring history alive, including craftspeople using historic skills and equipment, and a fleet of vintage vehicles to view. Plan your visit.
Learn by the river at Leeds Industrial Museum
With such a storied industrial past, it’s no surprise that Leeds hosts its own industrial museum. But in keeping with the rest of the city’s museum scene, it’s very much a hands-on affair. Leeds Industrial Museum can be found on the banks of the River Aire, housed in a restored mill with all the equipment, wheels, boilers and buildings ripe for exploration. Plan your visit.
Brighten up your life at Leeds Art Gallery
It’s hard to ignore the vibrant entrance hall at Leeds Art Gallery, with huge and colourful artwork by Lothar Gotz brightening up the stairway. The contemporary piece provides a distinctive contrast with the historic Victorian building, and that’s something to be found throughout the gallery. Where else can you find iconic 19th century masterpieces face to face with a dissected Damien Hirst sheep? There are plenty of intriguing artworks to occupy young visitors, combined with enough culture for grown-ups too. Plan your visit.
Take culture outdoors at Artspace
Connected to Leeds Art Gallery, Artspace is all about taking culture on the road. For summer 2021, the project is popping up on Cookridge Street – right next to the gallery – with an artist in residence to curate family friendly activities.
Participants can create an outfit inspired by magical beasts, transforming designs from activity sheets to a real life garment! Plan your visit.
Do art differently at The Tetley
Though there’s plenty of historic art on offer in Leeds, contemporary pieces are often more likely to inspire budding young creatives. So The Tetley could be just the place. Alongside a family-friendly cafe and bar, there’s a collection of modern works that do things a little differently. Plan your visit.
Hit the road with Leeds Street Art Trail
If you want to get out and about and explore the city, then culture is a great facilitator. Leeds has a vibrant street art scene, with pieces of all scales and locations dotted around. Leeds Street Art Trail gives you a handy way to find some of the best, including the dramatic Athena Rising – one of the tallest in the UK. For directions and to see how many creations you can snap in a day. Plan your visit here.