Although we do love going abroad as a family, we also love a good UK staycation and with two children we now find that this is a much more cost effective way to holiday. We can go away a few times a year and we have just as much fun as if we were to go away abroad for 1 or two weeks. One of our favourite places to go is Windermere in the Lake District. I have so many special memories from my time there and it seems to play a significant role in my life. As a child I visited with school and canoed on the lake for part of my GCSE sport assessment, as a teenager I visited with my family and stayed in some beautiful cottages dotted around Windermere and Ambleside. Then as a young adult I returned with my then fiancé whilst pregnant with our first child and then again for our first wedding anniversary when pregnant with our second child. I also retuned once again to complete the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere, despite it not being the closest event to me. It therefore seemed fitting that I share some of our special places with you, so here is our guide for things to do in the Lake District with kids for those of you that are planning on visiting any time soon.
Things to do in the Lake District with kids
Water Sports and boat rides
You can’t travel all the way to the Lake District and not get on or in the lake, you simply can’t! It is one of the min attractions and an absolute must. There are so many fabulous options from a relaxing boat cruise to an open water swim, just be sure to take all the correct precautions when near water.
If you are wanting a boat ride then we recommend heading to Windermere where you can have a boat cruise across the lake or hire your own boat and explore the water at your leisure. The companies set up on the shore line are very informative and will help you choose which option is best for you and your family.
If you prefer to take the kids paddling, swimming or stone skimming then we recommend that you head to Ambleside waters edge.
Fell Foot Park
Fell foot Park is a national trust lakeside park with mountain views. It is absolutely stunning and definitely worth a visit, especially if you are near Windermere as it isn’t too far up the road from there. You can use your National Trust membership to park in their carpark and then access to the park itself is free. It has a brilliant play park suitable for all ages as well as an adventure play park that is great for the older children. You can also go for a walk by the lake or through the fields or stop for a coffee at the cafe. If you are feeling more ambitious you can even hire a boat on the lake. You can easily spend the full day Fell Foot Park if the weather is nice and it is a great place to let the kids let of some steam.
The Derwent Pencil Museum
The Derwent Pencil Museum is a lovely activity to do with the kids. It is situated in Keswick and is a family friendly, educational, day out. You can learn all about the origin of pencils and how they are made as well as enjoying some interactive activities and colouring in sessions along the way. The Derwent Pencil museum will take an hour to an hour and a half to complete and has free parking outside. Perfect for those rainy days in the lakes.
Beatrix Potter House
The Beatrix Potter house is situated between Hawkshead and the ferry to Windermere in Near Sawrey. It is the perfect place to stop if you are travelling between the two places but is also worth a special visit if you are in the area. You can use your National Trust membership to gain entry to the house and gardens. It is full of interesting facts about Beatrix and her books and you will get to see where she wrote some of her stories too. It has a magical feel to it that makes most grown ups all nostalgic and children intrigued about the inspiration behind the stories.
The Beatrix Potter House is not to be confused with the Beatrix Potter museum which is a a tourist attraction aimed at younger children based in Windermere, another great thing to do in the Lake District with kids.
Hawkshead is a beautiful little village on the other side of the Lake to Windermere. If you can I recommend you get the ferry across and drive up to Hawkshead as it is all part of the adventure. However, if you do not like ferries then you can drive to Hawkshead via Coniston. When you get to Hawkshead you will need to park in a pay and display car park but then you can have a look around all the little shops and wonder around at your leisure.
They have a really good selection of home grown produce and handmade items and crafts as well as a couple of clothes and toy shops. Our favourite store is Hawkshead Relish which sells the most amazing jams and chutneys. I highly recommend the strawberry and black pepper jam! There are also plenty of cafes and a couple of pubs too so be sure to leave enough time for a coffee break or even a meal. As well as shopping and eating you can go for a walk and explore the old church grounds and cute houses.
Grizedale Forest and Go Ape
A bit further up from Hawkshead is Grizedale forest. This in itself is worth a visit, especially if you are a keen walker. But if you are looking for things to do with kids then they may be more excited about getting on the high ropes course at Go Ape where they can explore the tree tops with views of Coniston Lake.
Just remember to book in advance as it does get busy.
LakeLand Maze Farm
If you are staying near Kendal then the Lakeland Maze Farm Park is a brilliant day out for the whole family. There is so much to do including a Maize Maze, farm animals you can meet and greet, play areas and tractor rides. You can easily spend the whole day here, especially if the weather is nice. You can take a picnic and enjoy it at one of the numerous outdoor tables or buy food from the onsite cafe. It is one of our favourite things to do in the Lake District.
Family friendly accommodation in the Lake District
There are plenty of beautiful places to stay in the Lake District from boutique hotels to camp sites. There is something for everyone regardless of the occasion, who you are travelling with or your budget. On our last two stays in the Lake District we have booked with the YHA.
The first time we slept in a teepee near Troutbeck, where we had an amazing time pretending we were Indians and playing in the fields that overlooked the lake until the sun went down. The second time we stayed at YHA Ambleside in the main house right on the waters edge, both were equally as good.
With so many things to do in the Lake District I would definitely suggest that you stay for at least one night if not more.
If you have a car and like to explore further a field then check out our list of things to do in Kirkby Stephen which is less than an hour from Windermere and has loads of fun things to do with the kids.