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With a spot on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and lots of things to see and do, Harrogate is ideal for a child-friendly getaway that will keep every member of the family happy.
You’ll find pretty parks and gardens that are dotted around this stylish spa town along with a collection of family-friendly cafes, restaurants and tearooms where you can call in for refreshments after a day of exploring the surrounding Nidderdale countryside.
To help you plan your next family-friendly adventure, this guide is full of our favourite things to see and do in Harrogate during a half term break or summer holiday.
Family-friendly Harrogate attractions
The mystical Mother Shipton’s Cave is located in the ancient spa town of Knaresborough, which is just 4 miles from Harrogate on the edge of the Nidderdale countryside. At the heart of this family-friendly attraction is a petrifying well which turns everyday objects to stone and the large site also includes pretty parkland walks and an adventure playground for children.
There’s a range of activities for children during school holidays with enchanted trails through the park and a cast of characters to bring various fairytale themes to life.
- The postcode is HG5 8DD
- Admission costs are £10 for adults and £8 for children over three.
- Mother Shipton’s Cave is a dog-friendly attraction that’s open between April and October.
Valley Gardens are public free-to-enter gardens that are located in the heart of Harrogate. The gardens are open throughout the year and include a wide selection of flowers, plants and trees as well as a range of footpaths and seating areas for visitors to enjoy.
A range of outdoor games can be played in the park from April to October with tennis courts, crazy golf and a boating pool amongst the available facilities. A children’s playground, summer paddling pool and park cafe are also all ideal for a family day out.
- The postcode is HG1 2SZ
- There are no admission costs
- Valley Gardens are dog-friendly and open all year round.
This beautiful Royal Horticultural Society garden is filled with things to spark children’s interest in the natural world with colourful flowers to spot, garden-themed crafts to try, and a range of special activities for school holidays including special trails and storytelling sessions.
Streamside is the best-known garden at RHS Harlow Carr and is a real feast for the eyes with waterside paths, lush landscapes, a vast variety of plants and a range of wildlife living there including voles and weasels.
Little ones will love exploring Harlow Carr’s giant treehouse and watching the garden chickens have fun in their special chicken run.
- The postcode is HG3 1QB
- Admission costs are £12.15 for adults and £6.10 for children over five.
- RHS Harlow Carr is open throughout the year but is not dog-friendly.
The wonderful Stockeld Park is the stuff of dreams for children and there are activities and adventures lurking around every corner of this grand country estate. The popular attraction is just 20 minutes from Harrogate and features an enchanted forest, a magical maze and a range of adventure playgrounds with a variety of fairytale themes. Stockeld Park is open during school holidays with a range of seasonal activities and shows to keep kids happy all day long. There’s also an outdoor skating rink.
- The postcode is LS22 4AN
- A day pass ticket excluding ice skating is £10.50 and a ticket including ice skating is £15.50.
- Stockeld Park is open during school holidays throughout the year, including half terms, Easter, summer and Christmas. Dogs are not permitted at Stockeld Park.
Known as nature’s playground, Brimham Rocks is a collection of rock formations that are set within 40 acres of Nidderdale moorland near Harrogate. It’s the perfect setting for a family adventure in the great outdoors and you’ll find lots of ideas of things to do from the National Trust Explorer Backpack which you can pick up from their on-site visitor centre.
Family-friendly activities to try at Brimham Rocks include geocaching treasure hunts, nature trails or simply just climbing up some of the smaller rocks.
- The postcode is HG3 4DW
- The National Trust car park at Brimham Rocks is £6 for 4 hours.
- Brimham Rocks are dog-friendly and open throughout the year.
The Studfold Adventure Trail features fairies, enchanted villages and secret dells which can all be found by solving clues and exploring this magical woodland setting near Pateley Bridge. Studfold has been specially designed for primary and pre-school children and there are lots of interactive challenges for little ones to solve and exciting discoveries for them to make along the way including a giant hedgehog, a story-telling chair and fun go-karts.
Children will be given a special trail map which will lead them to the Studfold Fairies and can even dress the part thanks to fairy wings and pixie hats which are available to borrow. A secret swap box means kids can take home a gift as long as you bring along something to add to the collection.
- The postcode is HG3 5SG
- Admission costs are £6.50 per adult and £5.50 for children over three.
- Studfold Adventure Trail is open during weekends and school holidays from Easter to the end of September. Dogs on leads are welcome.
Family-friendly Harrogate walks
Swinsty Reservoir and Fewston Reservoir
The Swinton and Fewston Reservoirs sit right next to each other in Harrogate’s Washburn Valley so it’s up to you whether you walk around one of them or decide to tackle both. Each of the reservoirs have family-friendly pathways to follow, places where you can stop for a picnic and an array of wildlife to spot including herons, squirrels and even deer in the surrounding woodland.
There’s a car park in the middle of the reservoir where you’ll find ice cream vans for a post-walk treat and a nearby duck feeding area that children will love.
Knaresborough is a lovely market town that’s nestled alongside the River Nidd and framed by an iconic viaduct - an idyllic setting for a family stroll.
Starting at the impressive remains of Knaresborough Castle, you can take a walk along the banks of the River Nidd to nearby Conyngham Hall before crossing a bridge and heading back along the other side. It’s worth extending your walk by looking around the grounds of Knaresborough Castle and taking a stroll around the Conyngham Hall gardens. If the weather is nice you can get an ice cream on your return at the riverside Marigold Cafe before hiring a rowing boat there to head onto the water.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Water Park
Fountains Abbey and Studley Water Park is a breathtaking World Heritage Site with acres of gorgeous grounds and water gardens that are ripe for exploring. Special activity sheets will help children make the most of a visit and there are a variety of walking routes that start from the Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre including an easy 2.5-mile trail through the site’s ancient deer park.
There’s lots of space for children to run around and after your walk, they can burn off any remaining energy at the site’s adventure playground which you’ll find near the visitor centre.
Druid’s Temple walk at Swinton Bivouac
The Druid’s Temple is a circular collection of stones that was created as a folly during the 18th century. The stones sit within woodland on the Swinton Estate and there’s a trail you can follow through the trees where you’ll uncover a range of standing stones before reaching the Druid’s Temple. Children will enjoy a game of hide and seek among the stones and you can make the most of wonderful views over the surrounding countryside before heading back to the nearby Bivouac Cafe for refreshments.
Family-friendly places to eat
Vanilli’s - best for a sweet treat
A gourmet ice cream parlour in the popular Cold Bath Road area of Harrogate where you enjoy a range of homemade gelato flavours, luxury hot chocolate and decadent desserts. There are also a range of soya and coconut milk ice creams to cater for anyone in the family with a dairy intolerance.
Tilly Peppers - best for lunch
This cosy Harrogate cafe serves delicious homemade food with lots of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu. They will happily make any dish smaller for children and have a range of books and toys to keep kids happy.
Bettys Cafe and Tea Room - best for tradition
No visit to Harrogate is complete without a trip to Bettys - a traditional English tea room that’s been a feature of the town since it opened in 1919. Luckily Bettys has a children’s menu with a puzzle on the back to keep them happy while you enjoy a classic afternoon tea.
Gino D’Acampo My Restaurant - best for an Italian feast
You’ll find lots of classic Italian dishes on the menu at Gino D’Acampo’s Harrogate restaurant made with fresh seasonal ingredients. The extensive bambino menu includes a range of small-size pizza and pasta dishes for children along with classics like cod nuggets and chips.
Fodder - best for fresh farm fayre
Fodder is a farm shop and cafe that stocks food and drink from over 400 Yorkshire farmers. There are on-site butchers and a team of chefs to create everything from a full Yorkshire breakfast to a tasty roast dinner. There’s a special ‘Young Farmers’ menu for children and it’s all set on the edge of the Great Yorkshire Showground.
Other things to do in around Harrogate
Make friends with a llama (or alpaca)
For something a little bit different you can get up close to a friendly llama or alpaca. Nidderdale Llamas have been featured on the Yorkshire Vet and offer a range of experiences for children aged 7 where they can meet the animals before taking them for a walk and stopping for a photo opportunity.
Attend an event at The Great Yorkshire Showground
The Great Yorkshire Showground is the setting for a range of Harrogate shows throughout the year including Springtime Live in March and Countryside Live in October. These family-friendly events feature CBeebies characters, a variety of farmyard animals for children to get up close to and fun interactive strange shows.
Take a town trail
A fun way to learn more about Harrogate is by taking a self-guided murder mystery treasure trail around the town. The trail starts and ends at the Tourist Information Centre and takes in many of Harrogate’s historic buildings and famous parks. There are clues to solve and interesting stories to unlock along the way making this a fun day out for the whole family.
Hit the shops
There are some great children’s shops in Harrogate including Tiger Fifty 7 which has a range of quirky items for little ones, Milk and Honey which specialises in boutique clothes for under 16s and Games Crusade which is an independent toy shop with everything from teddy bears to board games. Read our guide to shopping in Harrogate.
Family-friendly Harrogate places to stay
Hopefully, we’ve provided some inspiration for your next visit to Harrogate and there are lots of family-friendly apartments and holiday cottages where you can rest your head after a day of exploring. Here are just a few of the places you can stay:
A traditional Nidderdale barn that has been transformed into a luxury three-bedroom country retreat with heated stone floors, a cosy wood burner and a private lake within the grounds. Sleeps up to six people and one dog.
This two-bedroom ground floor apartment has a central Harrogate location with private parking and an enclosed garden. Sleeps up to four people and two dogs.
This spacious three-storey townhouse is located in the popular Cold Bath Road area of Harrogate and is a perfect base for larger families. Sleeps up to seven people and one dog.
This traditional two-bedroom stone cottage is located on a Nidderdale farm with an outdoor hot tub and far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside. Sleeps up to five people and two dogs.
Browse the full range of family-friendly Harrogate holiday homes and find the perfect base for your next Yorkshire holiday.