Keeping the family entertained can get expensive, especially during the school holidays. However, there are lots of free things to do for families in Northern Ireland. Here at the Family Travel Pro, we’ve rounded up some of the best free days out in Northern Ireland for you to enjoy!
With such beautiful natural landscapes on the doorstep in Northern Ireland, it’s unsurprising that many of the top things to do for free in NI are outdoor activities. Grab your wellies or pack the sunscreen (sometimes both!) and enjoy forest parks, gardens and play parks. Here’s a round-up of our favourites…
Forest Parks and Gardens
Come rain or shine, Northern Ireland delivers with its natural heritage and we are lucky to have a great selection of forest parks across the country.
Just outside Newry sits the Ring of Gullion and Slieve Gullion Forest Park. With the Giant’s Layer trail, adventure playground and sensory trail, this is a superb free day out for the whole family. The Giant’s Layer trail takes you on a walk through a fairy tale story of giants, fairies, witches and dragons that delight the whole family. An award-winning adventure playground with maze and wishing chair adds a further dimension to this already great day out. A sensory trail in a quieter part of the park is also available for those with additional sensory needs.
The Chronicles of Narnia come to life on the Narnia Trail within Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor. Along the trail you’ll find features from C.S. Lewis’ famous stories, including the beavers’ house, the lamppost and the wardrobe door. If you’re looking for a free activity to do with kids in Northern Ireland, this will tick a lot of boxes!
Crawfordsburn Country Park, just outside Bangor, is two worlds in one country park, with both forest and beach to enjoy. Bring your fishing net or a bucket and spade and enjoy a walk around this beautiful stretch of the North Down coastline. You won’t find a big play area here, but there are some lovely natural play areas, including a dinosaur themed play area in the woods. There’s a good café and a small visitor centre too.
If you enjoy Crawfordsburn, you’ll also enjoy Carnfunnock Country Park in Larne, which has lots of additional attractions and activities for kids during the summer months too.
An Creagan is also worth a visit. Between Omagh and Cookstown, there are some great country walks, play areas and learning opportunities about the bronze age and ice age history of the area.
For an outdoor experience in the centre of Belfast, the Botanic Gardens in the Queen’s Quarter of the city are great to wander around. The Tropical Ravine and Palm House are home to a vast array of species of plants, including banana and cinnamon plants and birds of paradise flowers. Why not combine a free visit to the Botanic Gardens with a free visit to the Ulster Museum just close by?
Everyone has their favourite local playgrounds but if you’re looking for free days out for families in Northern Ireland, you might want to travel a bit further for some of our favourites.
Pickie Park, in Bangor, is kiddie heaven. With the famous Pickie Puffer train, splash pads in the summer months, pedalo swans, a great play park and mini-golf, Pickie will entertain your kids for hours. A lot of the attractions are free, but some incur a small charge.
Near Stormont in Belfast, the newly renovated Mo Molam Play Park is great for kids of all ages and is another free day out for kids in NI. It has lots of different play areas, including a castle-themed play structure, a multi-sensory zone and inclusive play area, a toddler zone and a natural play area. This playground is definitely worth travelling for.
Playtrail, in Derry-Londonderry, is another great option for kids. With an adventure play area, a junior play park, sensory garden and a fairy trail through woodlands, you’ll find activities to delight younger family members. Only a voluntary donation is suggested. Check the opening hours before you travel for Playtrail as they vary throughout the year.
Northern Ireland has a host of great places to get up close with animals, but there are a couple of free options that great to visit.
The Riverwatch Aquarium, just outside the city centre of Derry-Londonderry, is a fun free day out for families in Northern Ireland. With 8 different habitats found in the local area, you’ll be able to see lobsters, crabs, starfish and a host of other fish and shellfish, and all for free!
One of the best-kept secrets in the Carrickfergus area, the Kilcreggan Farm is open to the public for free. Part of a social enterprise scheme, Kilcreggan Farm works with adults and young people with a learning disability to operate a community open farm. Well-worth a visit – this is definitely one of the best free days out for families in Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Museum in Belfast is free to visit and is home to an impressive collection of exhibits that children will love. From its famous Egyptian Mummy, to dinosaurs and Peter the Polar Bear, you’ll find hours of free entertainment and learning opportunities here. Make sure to check out the Discovery Centres where kids can get hands on with some of the exhibits!
The North Down Museum in Bangor is also free and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and woodlands. The museum charts the development of Bangor and the local area from the bronze age right up to present day. If you take a walk through the woodlands towards the Aurora Leisure Centre and Walled Gardens, you’ll also find a lovely play park.
Libraries and The Arts
Libraries are a great free resource throughout Northern Ireland and there are often lots of events going on both during term time and the school holidays. Check out Libraries NI Events page for details of events on at your local library.
Up in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast, you’ll find some great free activities for families. If you’re in the local area, make sure to drop into the MAC and visit their Family Room. This free-to-enjoy room has a host of books, toys and creative activities to delight younger children (and adults can enjoy a superb café too!). Make sure to check out their great programme of arts events on throughout the year too.
One of the Family Travel Pro’s favourite weekend activities is Acoustic Picnic at the Oh Yeah! Music Centre in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. These music-themed family events take place regularly on Saturdays throughout the year and are free to attend. You can find the latest dates over on the Acoustic Picnic Facebook page. Why not combine with a visit to St George’s Market, where you’ll find great live music most Saturdays too!
Free Days Out in Northern Ireland – Weekly Events
There are lots of free events on every week for families across Northern Ireland. You can find out what’s on in your local area here.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of free days out for families in Northern Ireland. If you have any suggestions of other free local activities, please leave us a comment below. If still looking for inspiration of things to do though, why not check out our A-Z of family activities in Northern Ireland.