If you want to create great family memories and spend a weekend getaway with your kids, the following combinations include:
- beautiful city
- outdoor fun
- Visit Britain’s first railway city and the wonderful railway museum
- Blockbuster movie locations
- great place to eat
- A world-famous living museum
- Beautiful, historic buildings and engaging activities for kids
Then look no further than Durham….
I just returned from a long weekend getaway to Durham with my husband and three kids and we had a great time.
This trip was done in collaboration with This is Durham and we created some short videos from our gorgeous weekend in Durham. If you’d like to see them, check out our ‘This is Durham Memorable Moments’ page.
My mom is from Durham, so it’s an area I’m familiar with and I was really excited to head to the North East with my family.
This was our family of five’s first city vacation, and it felt like the beginning of a new era in our family life. Up until now we’ve stuck to easy beach and cottage getaways, but here we’re going out to dinner at a city center hotel, sneaking around a cathedral, and even getting an education. I was also able to learn about the past at the museum. This was definitely a new style of family vacation for us and we loved it.
This is Durham created a wonderful bespoke itinerary for us. I would like to share it with you today. Because it’s his 3-day Durham itinerary that’s so great and family-friendly!
Where to stay in Durham with kids
Radisson Blu Durham – perfect for city center convenience
Number 9 in Lanchester – Relaxing luxury and self-catering
Derekcroft Glamping – perfect for summer fun
We stayed at the Radisson Blu Durham and it was wonderful. We had a spacious family room and also a large pool. The hotel overlooks the River Wear, is a 5-minute walk from the city center and has plenty of parking.
The swimming pool was a big bonus for us. It made the kids feel like they were on vacation and gave them a place to de-stress (and tire them out before bed!)
The buffet breakfast was also delicious and a great option for relaxing and getting through the day.
If you plan on spending most of your day being out and exploring, I highly recommend the Radisson Blu Durham. It’s simple, easy and makes a great base for exploring Durham city and the rest of the county.
Day One in Durham with kids
Our weekend in Durham started at Locomotion, the wonderful railway museum in Shildon.
The museum has over 70 rail cars and is set up perfectly for families, allowing children to explore and learn in a fun environment.
Shildon was the world’s first railway town, so it’s no surprise that it has such a huge and impressive railway museum.
If you have a little train lover, you can’t miss this!
We also had lunch at the Locomotion Cafe, where you can sit at a table on the train. This definitely made lunch even more fun!
Locomotion also has a huge outdoor playground. Unfortunately it was raining so I couldn’t use it.
Travel Hack Tip: Locomotion is a great first stop in Durham as it has a play area so the kids can run around on long car trips.
Entry and parking at Locomotion is free and the cafe is small but has everything you could want to eat, including sandwiches, salads, soups, cakes, chips, pies, sausage rolls and other hot food.
Our second stop was Hamsterley Forest in the Durham Dales. At 2,000 hectares, this forest is Durham’s largest.
There’s something magical about a forest this size and luckily we arrived in between rain showers so it was very quiet and felt like we had the whole forest to ourselves.
There are plenty of activities to do in the forest, including mountain biking, walking trails, wildlife viewing, and stargazing.
We walked the Gruffalo Trail. This is a short toddler-friendly walk with plenty of play areas along the way. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen so much of a play park during a short walk!
The kids loved it so much that my husband and I enjoyed the opportunity to grab some coffee at the cafe, take a deep breath, relax, and soak up the peaceful forest atmosphere.
The Food Pit
After our adventure in the woods, we headed to Durham city center and checked into our hotel.
We had a quick drink before heading back to the food pit for dinner.
The Fire Pit is Durham’s first street food market, with six bars and restaurants inside.
- bubble waffle association
- food pit bar
- greek style kitchen
- holy guacamole
- manao thailand
- taste and feast
Sam and I had Mexican food from Holy Guacamoley, and the kids had chicken nuggets and chips from Taste & Feast (as expected?) followed by ice cream from Bubble Waffle Society.
We then headed back to the hotel for a quick swim and some wine while watching Strictly before everyone got ready for bed!
As for Saturday, it was a perfect family Saturday.
Day Two in Durham with kids
Beamish, The Living Museum of the North
Our second day in Durham was all about Beamish, the world-famous living museum. Visiting Beamish Museum is like stepping back in time and visiting an actual village. Not only will you be able to time travel, but you will also be given permission to enter homes, businesses, shops and cafes and talk to all the people living there. It’s like time travel for meddlesome people!
Learn how coal mines work by asking questions about the ducks and chickens, visiting the vegetable garden, and watching the people working in the mines. You can step inside a dentist and learn the gory details of dentistry in the 1900s!
Different areas of Beamish show what life was like in the North East in the 1820s, 1900s, 1940s and 1950s. Spread over 300 acres, you can get around by vintage buses, trams, and other vehicles. Each area is like a mini-village, with costumed people cleaning ducks, checking on newborn piglets, tending gardens, building fires, and hanging out at the kitchen table. I am working on my own work, such as making crafts.
We could have spent a weekend just at Beamish Museum, but if you want to make the museum the main reason for your visit, Beamish Hall Hotel is nearby.
That evening we took a walk around town before heading to the Kingslodge Inn.
Kingslodge Inn is a family-friendly restaurant/gastropub located 10 minutes from Durham city centre. It was in the woods and had a country pub feel and cozy atmosphere, but it was conveniently located close to our hotel!
After a busy day, we all enjoyed a hearty meal and headed back to the hotel for a final swim.
Day Three in Durham with kids
On our last morning we had a leisurely long breakfast. We’re a three-course breakfast kind of family, so it was great to have a large buffet to choose from.
We then took a final walk around the city, stopping at a cute coffee shop before heading to Durham Cathedral.
Parts of Durham Cathedral were used to film blockbuster movies such as Avengers: Endgame, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, so it’s especially popular with children. I was so excited to visit Durham Cathedral!
The cathedral is part of Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a beautiful place to visit. Guests feel very welcome and there is a very peaceful atmosphere as they wander through the cloisters, admire the stained glass windows and look up at the vaulted ceilings.
Ushaw Historic House Chapels and Gardens
Our last stop before heading home was Ushaw Historic House Chapel and Gardens on the outskirts of Durham City. The kids ran around the gardens, we learned about the history of the buildings within the building, and then had a wonderful lunch in the cafe ‘Café.
Usho is a former Catholic priest seminary and two of my uncles actually attended boarding school here, so it feels special to walk around the house and chapel and see where they once lived was.
Usho does a great job of educating people about the past while using these impressive buildings for modern-day activities. People regularly see babies visiting to see the Singing Bunny, toddlers enjoying forest school, adults joining the choir, art lovers practicing their skills with professional artists, and bookworms taking library tours. There are many events and exhibitions where people gather. It’s simply friends meeting for coffee in an impressive cafe.
We also have plenty of events and seasonal activities for kids, so be sure to check out our website before you visit!
Before leaving, we took one last look at the wooden animal carvings as we drove through the woods (and drove around one more time!) and reluctantly left Durham after a wonderful weekend.
Useful info for your weekend in Durham
We would like to say a huge thank you to This is Durham for creating such a wonderful family itinerary for us. I made some videos during my trip that you can watch here. You can also see other videos created by other bloggers and creators on the “Memorable Moments” page!
Here is a Google map with all the places we visited. Save this to your phone:
Here are some links that may be helpful if you plan to follow this itinerary:
Radisson Blu Durham
The Kingslodge Inn