The best things in life are free…. Well some of the best places to take the kids are free. You’ll just need to pay to park your car… and have a car… and pay for the petrol. Oh and probably take a picnic because you’re likely to be there for a few hours. Anyway, assuming you do have transport (and sandwiches for everyone… and some fruit…and maybe some chocolate fingers if you’re lucky) then there are some wonderful places to go to within 45 minutes of MK.


We love Stanwick Lakes. Why? It has a big adventure playground with sand. The climbing frame is quite possibly the biggest we’ve ever seen. There’s also a toddler area as well. The sand and water area is such good fun for little ones. There’s a fun adventure trail with a cool tree house on the way round. The visitor centre is very modern and there’s even a small soft play and craft area for when it’s raining. Just £3.50 to park at weekends – £2.50 on weekdays and all the time from Nov to Feb.

Closer to home is Emberton Country Park. It has a couple of lovely play areas – one has a wonderful pirate ship which toddler loves. There’s a huge slide and lots of different play equipment. There’s a sandpit and diggers. If you fancy keeping fit yourself there’s an outdoor gym. Just £4 to park.

If you have a head for heights then Salcey Forest is well worth a visit. It’s £3 to park – remember to take cash as you may not get a phone signal to pay by phone. Brilliant tree top walk – accessible to both wheelchairs and pushchairs – apart from the high platform. There’s a good play area – better for older kids. We enjoyed the elephant trail and discovering the little wooden houses.

The cheapest of the lot is Rushmere Country Park costing £2 to park. We liked the play area opposite the car park – sandy with a digger and wooden house. There’s a few cool things like a big spider and giants chair to discover. We did get a bit lost though! So have an idea of where you’re going – and take a buggy for tired toddlers – it’s quite big.

Bear in mind all these places are better in the sunshine – still enjoyable if the weather isn’t so good but take wellies if it rains. Car park charges were correct at the time of writing. Watch this space for a part 2 – there are more places where you just pay to park!

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