This is the Milton Keynes Kids guide to our top ten CHEAP OUT in Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire that you can take your kids on during 2017. You don’t need a lot of money to have a great day out with the kids. All you’ll need is some change for parking, a picnic and possibly some spare clothes for the children if it’s muddy or wet. This is a list of 10 cheap places you can visit at any point of the year so you can keep coming back to it. All of them are within 45 minutes driving distance of Milton Keynes. Do check with each place for up to date opening times. If you do go to any of them, let me know what you think and send me some photos – email email@example.com. At peak times like hot days during the school holidays, some of them get really busy, so do plan your trips and don’t leave it too late to get there. Click on the blue writing for a full review of each place.
1 – Stanwick Lakes has a HUGE adventure playground, a smaller play area for toddlers and a sand and water area. Definitely take a bucket and spade, waterproofs, towel, wellies or flip flops and a change of clothes if they love splashing. There’s an adventure trail with two climbing rocks, a rope bridge over the water, hexagonal swing and climbable animal structures and zip wire. My eldest loved climbing up into the big bird hide. If it’s wet there’s a lovely visitors centre and small soft play area (additional charge applies). It’s in Northamptonshire approximately 40 minutes from Milton Keynes and can get really busy in the summer. Parking charges vary from £2.50 to £5.50 depending on how long you stay for and what day of the week you go. NN9 6GY is the best postcode.
2. Salcey Forest is great fun for young children. It’s located in Northamptonshire and has a brilliant tree top trail and a Gruffalo Spotters Trail (until October 2017). The structure rises to 15 metres above the woodland floor, with a crow’s nest platform at 20 metres reached by steps. It offers stunning views across Salcey Forest and the adjoining woodlands of Yardley Chase. It’s a bit wobbly! The Gruffalo Spotters Trail is really good and takes you on a mile walk. Do download the app and read my guide to the Gruffalo Trail for information before you go. There’s a nice play area – my son, aged three but closer to four – is at an age where he’s just starting to feel confident on part of it but it is more suitable for slightly older children. It costs £4 to park at Salcey Forest all day and it’s about 25 mins from MK. Take coins! NN7 2HX
3. If you don’t want to travel too far from Milton Keynes then Rushmere Country Park is a must visit. It’s in Bedfordshire but is only about 20 minutes from Milton Keynes. There’s a HUGE slide, a big swing and a small but nice sandpit play area near the entrance to the park. We love to search for the fairy doors, big spider, giant’s chair and carved wooden chairs – it’s an easy circuit suitable for little legs. There’s a café if it rains. A £3 car park charge is payable on exit.
4. Sywell Country Park has a sand and water play area called the filter bed which includes a water pump (my eldest loved this), a climbing frame, a smaller pirate ship style climbing frame and lots of sand for digging. Take waterproofs and / or spare trousers. We loved the animal sculpture trail. It wasn’t huge but plenty big enough for young children. There’s a big slide there too. If it’s wet there’s a small indoor soft play area suitable for little ones – additional charge applies. We’ve walked around the lake – bigger than it first appears so wear good shoes. £3 to park. It’s in Northamptonshire and is approximately 35-45 mins from Milton Keynes. NN6 0QX
6. Stockwood Discovery Centre is one of the best completely free days out we’ve been on recently. It doesn’t cost anything to visit or to park your car. With it’s lovely play equipment, beautiful gardens and lots of galleries with historical artefacts, there really is something for all ages. My little boy enjoyed the toddler park area with its house, slide and ride-ons. There’s also a larger climbing frame for older children. I liked wandering around the gardens – there’s lots of different ones and they’re all themed. FREE to park. Time from MK – 30 mins approx. LU1 4LX
6. Emberton Country Park – With its impressive pirate ship, cool slides and fun play equipment, Emberton country park is a really fun place to visit. My eldest loves the pulleys in the area with lots of stones as well as the big sandpit. Only disadvantage is that cars do drive through the middle of the park. £4.10 to park. MK46 5FJ
7. Irchester Country Park in Northamptonshire has one of the biggest playgrounds we’ve ever visited with a number of climbing frames, a snake swing and a sand pit digging area with train, bridges and slides. There’s also a separate dinosaur play area in the woods as well – it’s quite small but my 3 year old had fun finding the dinosaur bones in the lovely wooded area. If your son or daughter likes trains then it’s worth walking down to the railway museum (only open Sundays). There’s one train you can sit in. There are plenty of trails if you want to go for a nice walk. If it’s wet there’s a café. There is a jungle high ropes adventure course but charges apply. It costs £3 to park. NN29 7DL
8. We’ve been to Willen Lake a lot since we’ve lived in Milton Keynes as it’s on our doorstep. It has a fab wooden play area for children with a dragonfly and pirate ship. There are two toddler play areas which include smaller climbing frames, swings, a see-saw, a little house and rockers. We also go there to feed the ducks and go for a walk. There are loads of other things you can do but you do pay extra for them… a miniature train, pedalos, hamster zorb, segways, bike hire etc. All of the details are on their website. There is also a new splash park which costs £3 for 25 minutes and is open 12pm-6pm – you can read all about it here. When we visited to park it cost 50p for up to 30 mins, 90p for up to 1 hour, £1.40 for up to 2 hours, £2.40 for up to 4 hours, £3.80 for up 8 hours. The new car park is £3 for the day. MK15 0DS.
9. The Natural History Museum in Tring in Hertfordshire is a weird and wonderful collection of 4000 animal and insect specimens that Sir Walter Rothschild collected during his life. It’s both impressive and quirky… and nothing like we’ve been to before. It’s on a number of levels and there’s so many animals to look at. My toddler enjoyed peering through the windows and asking me about them. It’s one of the best alternative indoor places to go if you’re fed up with soft play. But a couple of things to bear in mind, when the weather is bad then it’s really popular and can be difficult to park. Buggies are allowed in but if it’s busy then it’s better to carry your baby in a baby carrier. The café is really small. HP23 6AP
10. Wendover Woods – With a cool Gruffalo Spotters Trail, Gruffalo statue, den-building area and play area, Wendover Woods in Buckinghamshire is well worth a visit. The play area isn’t as good as other country parks but apparently it’s going to be updated at some point. We went some time ago, it was really muddy so definitely take wellies unless it’s the height of summer. There is a parking charge per car, £1.70 for 2 hours, £3.30 for 4 hours or £6.10 for an all day stay. HP22 5NQ
I'm Laura, mum of two boys - aged six and four. I started this website at the end of Sept 2015 whilst on maternity leave. I now work four days a week and do this blog late at night once the little boys are sleeping. It's won several awards over the last four years and I continue to run it for free and mostly focus on free, cheap, and good value days out. Do drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to contact me. Don't forget to follow all of our latest adventures on facebook, instagram and twitter and have a look at all of the videos of the places we visit on the Milton Keynes Kids YouTube Channel - subscribe to it for notifications every time I add a new place. And remember... you may been reading this post months after we visited, do check with the destination you're visiting for up to date opening times and prices. If you find this blog useful then please do comment on my posts and leave me a Facebook review - it makes doing this all the more worthwhile.