The six week school holiday break can feel like a long time to entertain the kids and you might worry about how much it’s going to cost you. Well I’m a big believer that you can still have lots of fun on a budget and the best days out can be right on your doorstep. So this is a personal guide to 30 free days out to help you survive the summer holidays in 2021. You do pay to park at some of them. They are all within a one hour drive of Milton Keynes give or take a five minutes or so. There’s a couple of places you need to book in advance, otherwise most of them you just turn up. I’ve put this together in my spare time, purely because I want you to create some awesome memories with your children and I want to make a difference. If you do find this list useful, and you do save money, please do consider buying me a coffee to support the costs of running this website. Unlike other days out websites, I don’t run this as a business, it’s very much a labour of love, so thank you! A few tips for going on the days out featured…. Go early, a lot of people tend to arrive at places around 10am, so get there by 9am for a good parking space and to enjoy facilities before they get busy. If you can’t get somewhere until later then make sure that if parking is limited, you have checked social media sites before travelling, car parks will close at the most popular country parks. Take a picnic and lots of water to save spending money when you get there. Have a back up plan for every place you go to. Sometimes somewhere might be too busy, facilities might be closed, or you might encounter other problems, so have a look at my map before you go for alternatives. Keep an eye on the weather. Some places will be much quieter when it’s cloudy or drizzly, they can often be the best days to go.
Irchester Country Park, Northamptonshire, NN29 7DL
1. Irchester Country Park – This country park in Northamptonshire has become one of our top days out in the last year. It’s great fun to visit and about 35 minutes from Milton Keynes. There’s an ants nest themed climbing frame and large eagle frame hidden in the woods. There’s a few dinosaur bones in the woods as well as a big play area and trails. Free entry. Just pay to park. Take cash. NN29 7DL. There are loos. It can get busy at peak times so keep an eye on their Facebook page before travelling. Free to visit, pay to park, no booking required.
Stanwick Lakes, Northamptonshire
2. Stanwick Lakes, Northamptonshire– With a fun adventure trail, sand and water area and obstacle course, Stanwick Lakes in Northamptonshire is a great cheap days out for kids. Many of you might have heard that the huge climbing frame was burned down in April 2020 so that is obviously not in use. However even without that, it’s a great place to visit. They announced as I was writing this feature that there’s also a new beach area for the summer. Arrive early on hot days – they do close the car park once it’s full, so check their social media before travelling. Take bikes and scooters too if you want a bigger adventure. Just pay to park. NN9 6GY. There are loos. Do NOT park in the nearby village if the car park is full. Free to visit, pay to park, no need to book.
Bancroft park, Milton Keynes
3 – Bancroft park – A lovely play area in Milton Keynes that was revamped in 2019 – there’s a cool wooden climbing frame which is great fun – then walk around to explore the remains of a Roman villa as well as the concrete cows in North Loughton Valley Park. MK13 0QB. No loos and it’s a residential area. But there is a cafe with loo that’s not to far away, look up Me Julies.
Leighton Buzzard Splash Park, Bedfordshire.
4. Leighton Buzzard splash park – If the weather is hot you could easily spend a whole day at Leighton Buzzard splash park – it’s the closest free splash park to Milton Keynes. (There is a paid splash park at Willen Lake). There’s also a beach and a play area and it’s completely free to visit. Best to go early on hot days. LU7 1SD for Duncombe Drive car park. If it’s full park in the town centre and walk. Pay to park, free to enter. There are loos. It’s about 20 mins from MK. Keep an eye on the Parsons Close Recreation Ground Facebook page for info and updates. Free to visit, pay to park, just turn up.
Emberton Country Park, Milton Keynes
5. Emberton Country Park – With a big pirate ship, two big slides, sandpit and stones area, there’s plenty to do at Emberton Country Park in Milton Keynes. You can take bikes – just watch for the road that runs through it. MK46 5FJ. You do pay to park. It can get busy on hot days. Free to visit, pay to park, no booking needed.
Ampthill Park, Bedfordshire
6. We had an absolutely fabulous time at Ampthill Park in Bedfordshire in July 2021. There’s some new play equipment including water play with a TAP, good-sized climbing frame and another fun wooden sculpture. There’s plenty of other play equipment too including lots of swings, smaller frames and floor trampoline – it’s a big park! We used the postcode MK45 2GU. There are car parks which at the time we visited were free, but do check for any changes. Get there early if you want to park near the cafe. FREE to visit, free to park, no need to book.
Loughton pirate park + walk to horse park or stepping stones, Milton Keynes
7. Pirate park in Loughton – With a cool wooden pirate ship set in sand and big climbing frame for older children, the pirate park in Loughton, Milton Keynes is great for all ages. It’s set behind a residential area although there’s a car park nearby. Free to visit and free to park. The address is Linceslade Grove, Milton Keynes, MK5 8DJ. There’s a cafe which has a loo. It’s called the Grumpy Cook, check their Facebook oage for opening hours. From there you can walk to both the stepping stones in Loughton Valley Park and the horse park in Loughton. Free to visit, free to park, no booking needed. I wouldn’t suggest the stepping stones are a place to paddle . They’re more a quick stop for jumping from stone to stone.
Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire
8. Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire – It went under a £4.5 million makeover a couple of years ago and now Wendover Woods in Buckinghamshire is well worth a visit with the kids. There’s an excellent play trail with some fab wooden equipment. There’s also the Gruffalo Orienteering trail and a Zog trail too. Take bikes if you fancy a long cycle. HP22 5NQ. Just pay to park. You can pay by card. There are loos. It’s about 40 minutes from MK. The only downside is the parking charges. As of July 2021 it cost £10 for over four hours, so if you’re only planning a shorter day, then keep an eye on the time and look to leave before your four hours are up as then it’s £5. Free to visit, pay to park, no need to book.
Stanton Low Park, Oakridge Park, Milton Keynes
9. Stanton Low Park, Milton Keynes – This is the biggest park in Milton Keynes that you don’t pay to park at, but in turn lacks some of the facilities that the country parks have. Stanton Low Park is set behind a residential area in Oakridge Park very near to Asda. There’s a zipwire, bike / scooter track and lots of wooden play equipment in a big area. There’s the canal too and the remains of one of MK’s oldest churches. It’s big so you do need to keep an eye on the kids and there’s no loos. MK14 6FF is the best postcode then park at the local centre, or at the car park off Newport Road to avoid annoying residents and you can walk from there. Free and free to park. Take a picnic and drinks. There are no loos.
Royal Air Force Museum, London
10. RAF Museum, Hendon – This is the museum in North London that most people can’t believe is free to enter. Loads of planes to see as well as an indoor play area with interactive displays. There’s an excellent outdoor play area too that wasn’t there when we last visited. Just pay to park. NW9 5LL. There are loos. About 50 mins from MK. You do need to book in advance via their website. Free to visit, pay to park, book in advance.
Winnie-the-Pooh Park, Browns Wood, Milton Keynes
11. Winnie-the-Pooh park – The Winnie-the-Pooh park in Browns Wood, Milton Keynes opened in 2019 and is now one of the best parks locally. There’s some lovely sculptures for little ones, a big climbing frame and a pump track – so take scooters and bikes. There’s a big playing field too with lots of space to run around as well as a multi-use games area for football. Completely free and free to park. MK7 8DX. It’s set in a residential area. There is a large car park. There are no loos. Free to visit, free to park, just turn up.
Daventry Country Park, Northamptonshire
12 – Daventry Country Park – With a brand new castle-themed play area for 2019 and at only £2 to park, Daventry Country Park in Northamptonshire is probably the cheapest country park we have visited. There’s a lake and sensory garden too. NN11 2JB – about 40 minutes from where we live in Milton Keynes. Free to visit, pay to park, just turn up. Cash only at the parking machine. Make sure you have £2 in coins.
Rushmere Country Park, Bedfordshire
13. Rushmere Country Park – Huge woodland area in Bedfordshire with a giant slide, spider, fairy doors and a giant chair as well as a number of sculptures dotted around the Oak Wood area. Great for good walks and shaded areas. Just pay to park. LU7 0EB. There are loos and it’s about 20 mins from MK. The cost of parking did increase in July 2021 to £6 for the day, but it’s still a good day out even with the cost of parking. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for parking updates, it can get busy. Free to visit, pay to park, just turn up
Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire
14. Natural History Museum in Tring – This place in Tring, Hertfordshire always completely divides people – you either love it or find it completely odd. Known as ‘the dead animal museum’ this building houses 4000 taxidermy specimens of almost every animal you can think of. It’s completely free to visit and free to park. HP23 6AP – about 40 minutes from Milton Keynes. There are loos. You do need to book in advance via their website. Free to visit, free to park, book in advance.
Nene Wetlands, Rushden Lakes
15. Rushden Lakes – There’s a big retail park at Rushden Lakes, but there’s also a fab play area and lake with sculptures dotted around it that form the Nene Wetlands areas. Free and free to park for five hours. NN10 6FH – about 35 minutes from where we live in Milton Keynes. There are loos. You can queue to park as lots of people go their to shop. There’s also paid attractions there too like a cinema and soft play. Free to visit, free to park, just turn up.
Flowers Park, Bletchley, Milton Keynes
Willen Lake, Milton Keynes
Sywell Country Park, Northamptonshire
18 – Sywell Country Park. This country park in Northamptonshire has an excellent sand and water play area as well as sculptures and a big slide in the woodland area. There’s a big reservoir to walk, cycle or scoot around too. About 40 minutes from where we live in Milton Keynes. NN6 0QX. There are loos. Just pay to park.
Caldecotte Lake, Milton Keynes
Leavesden Country Park, Hertfordshire
20. Leavesden Country Park is in Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire – not too far from Watford or the Harry Potter Studios. It’s a relatively straightforward journey from Milton Keynes down the M1 and off at junction six. It took us about 40 minutes to get there in no traffic. The best postcode is WD5 0NX. It has a fantastic play area, excellent art trail with wooden plane and another play area at the bottom end. When we last visited the cafe was open as were the loos but at the time of writing it was being refurbished. It might be worth waiting until it’s announced on the One YMCA Facebook page when the cafe has re-opened.
Russell Park, Bedford
21. Russell Park – This big park in Bedford is brilliant with a couple of big climbing frames. It’s set next to the embankment in a fab location. Free to visit. We parked on George Street MK40 3SG and walked up – the park was easy to find. About 25 minutes from Milton Keynes. Free to visit, free to park, just turn up.
Dunstable splash park, Bedfordshire
22. Dunstable splash park and play area – There’s a big adventure play area open at Bennett’s Rec in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. There’s a free splash park too. Pay to park. LU6 3SN – about 25 minutes from Milton Keynes. Free to visit, no need to book. Keep an eye on their facebook page for updates – the splash area can be temperamental. Use the use Ashton Square car park just off Bull Pond Lane. Free to visit, pay to park, just turn up.
Houghton Hall Park, Bedfordshire
23. Houghton Hall Park – Cool wooden play equipment, beautiful gardens, den building and a lovely walk – Houghton Hall Park is a lovely big park in Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire. Completely free and free to park – although in their main car park you now need to display a ticket. We park near LU5 5FU and go to the village green play area too. There’s a loo in the play area cafe. About 25 mins from MK. Free to visit, free to park, just turn up.
Rocla Art Trail, Redhouse Park, Milton Keynes
24. ROCLA art trail – There’s a lovely free art trail and park set in the Redhouse Park estate in Milton Keynes. There is a fairy bench, bugs on lampposts as well as a pretty butterfly mosaic. Start at the play area MK14 5FD – free to park and do but please park considerately as it’s a residential area. There are no loos. Free to visit, free to park, just turn up.
Dragon Park, Great Linford, Milton Keynes
25. Dragon park and Little Free Library. This is a lovely little mini adventure. Park at Great Linford Local Centre where there’s a Little Free Library that you can either donate books to or take some home. There’s also a pond and delivery robots to see. Take a walk then 5 minutes away to the dragon park. MK14 5HA – click on blue words above for full feature on how to find the park. Free and free to park.
Wind in the Willows Park, Great Holm, Milton Keynes
26. Wind in the Willows – There’s a lovely themed free park in the residential area of Great Holm in Milton Keynes. There are Wind in the Willows characters as well as lots of fun wooden play equipment. More aimed at younger children. It’s in Petworth in Great Holm. If you put the street name into your GPS then you’ll come down Holyrood then you need to turn left and you’ll see the entrance to the park. Alternatively the closest postcode we’ve found is MK8 9DH. Do bear in mind this is a residential area so do park considerately.There are no loos.
Ferry Meadows Country Park, Peterborough
27. Ferry Meadows Country Park – Huge country park in Peterborough with three play areas. There’s an excellent miniature train which you do pay extra for. Take cycles or scooter. About an hour from Milton Keynes. PE2 5UU – there are loos. As of July 2021 they’re building another play area too, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates. If you want to make the most of your journey head into the city centre where there’s a free museum and cathedral.
Free play sessions, various locations, Milton Keynes
28. The Milton Keynes Play Association runs some excellent free play sessions over the summer holidays in different locations across Milton Keynes. You do need to book in advance. They are free, but as it’s a charity you may wish to donate £1. The activities include things like climbing over a van, obstacle courses, sports and craft activities to take home. The sessions are only usually 30 mins so it’s not something to do for a whole day but they’re good fun.
Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire
29. Looking for a lovely place for a walk? Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire has several good trails. The play area isn’t really suitable for toddlers. There are a number of small wooden houses they may like along the elephant walk though. The car park really needs a revamp so get there early for a good space. There’s very little phone signal there, so if you don’t have cash for parking, make sure you download the correct parking app before you go. NN7 2HX is the best postcode. For those who remember it, there was a tree top trail there, it’s still shut after closing in 2018 for safety reasons. Parking is £6 for the day as of July 2021.
Howe Park Wood, Milton Keynes
30. A lovely wood for walking around with young children, Howe Park Wood is a good one to visit if you’re also look for somewhere with a cafe and a loo. There is a tiny play area for little ones. If you want to extend your walk for older children then you can walk from here to Tattenhoe Valley Park. There are no facilities there, but there are a number of stepping stones and play areas dotted around. Best postcode for Howe Park Wood is MK4 3GG. Free to visit, free to park, just turn up.
Want more ideas?
I hope you’ve found this list useful. If you looking for even more ideas please do like the Milton Keynes Kids Facebook Page where I’m always posting lots of pictures and videos. Do follow me on Instagram as well. There are loads more parks you can visit on the parks section of this website. And if you’d prefer somewhere different for a local walk make sure you visit that section too.
I'm Laura, mum to two boys aged seven and five. I run this website independently and free from advertising in addition to my day job. If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, here are some ways you can say thanks and support Milton Keynes Kids.
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