Welcome to my new guide to FREE family-friendly things to do and places to go in Bristol and North Somerset. It’s packed to the rafters with indoor attractions which won’t cost you a penny to enter. I’ve also included some fabulous outdoor spaces: fun parks, favourite beaches, family-friendly walks and perfect picnic areas.
To help you make the most of visiting Bristol, without breaking the bank, this guide features:-
- Free things to do indoors in Bristol and North Somerset with kids.
(See below for an amazing list of free places to go in Bristol when it’s raining!)
- Free things to do outdoors in Bristol and North Somerset.
Fabulous North Somerset beaches, Bristol parks and open spaces to explore.
You might also like this article on Best Things to do this Summer in Bristol with Kids
Check out these aqua feature boxes for the latest opening times, booking information and info on venues with COVID restrictions still in place.
FAB FREE THINGS TO DO IN BRISTOL AND NORTH SOMERSET
As always, please check with the destination or organiser for up to date information before you travel. I’ve added website links wherever I can to make this as easy as possible for you.
And refer to the Government website for up to date Covid guidance.
Wishing you a happy and safe summer 2021. Enjoy the guide!
FREE INDOOR PLACES TO GO IN BRISTOL & N. SOMERSET
Looking for free things to do in Bristol with kids when it’s raining? This section features under-cover days out and indoor attractions and they can all be done at no cost or for just the price of travel, parking or a small donation.
ARNOLFINI – HARBOURSIDE, BRISTOL
Go all cultural and explore an art exhibition at the Arnolfini!
The Arnolfini is an inclusive and innovative centre for contemporary arts, located in a prominent Grade II listed building on Bristol’s harbourside.
Booking is available along with some walk-ins
BLAISE CASTLE HOUSE MUSEUM – HENBURY, BRISTOL
Visit Blaise Museum and peruse their collection of toys, games, train sets and dolls houses or marvel at the household contraptions which have been used by Bristolians over the last 300 years.
Blaise Museum is set in a late eighteenth-century mansion on the Blaise Castle Estate in Henbury.
Open for the summer from 24 July 2021
BRISTOL ARCHIVES – CUMBERLAND BASIN, BRISTOL (via Create Centre)
Book a visit to the Bristol Archives’ searchroom.
Bristol Archives look after the records of the city of Bristol and the British Empire & Commonwealth Collection. While you’re there you could:-
- Find out about famous Bristol families, such as the Smyth family of Ashton Court
- Access records and documents relating to well-known companies, such as Frys and Harveys
- Peruse historic diaries and letters
- Explore city records dating back to medieval times
What a way to bring a school project to life. Or a perfect outing if you just fancy a bit of a nose!
The searchroom is open Tuesday – Friday, 9.30am – 4.30pm
Visits must be pre-booked.
BRISTOL BLUE GLASS – ARNO’S VALE, BRISTOL
Watch the glassmakers in action at their studio in Bath Road.
Why have we never done this?!
Normal glassblowing times are between 10 and 4 (with breaks).
BRISTOL CENTRAL LIBRARY – BRISTOL
Pop into our beautiful Central Library building and enjoy your surroundings while reading a book!
Open every day.
BRISTOL CATHEDRAL – COLLEGE GREEN, BRISTOL
Take a peek inside Bristol Cathedral.
Admire the architecture and read about the history of the building.
Take a seat and soak up the atmosphere.
Or join a service.
Click through to learn more about fun and free things to do when visiting Bristol Cathedral with children. (written pre-pandemic)
Visitors are asked to continue to wear masks in the cathedral, except in the garden or when seated in the café, and to continue social distancing.
BRISTOL MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY – CLIFTON, BRISTOL
Explore the collections of art, nature and history on display in the impressive building in Queens Road, Bristol.
Click the link above for Bristol Museum’s opening hours and special events.
Bristol Museum is still limiting visitor numbers so they recommend booking in advance to guarantee entry. They’re asking visitors to continue social distancing and wearing face coverings.
CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE VISITOR CENTRE – CLIFTON, BRISTOL
Learn about the history of Brunel’s iconic bridge at Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre.
The permanent exhibition and shop are both open with free weekend tours and outdoor family events for the school holidays.
While you’re there, admire the spectacular views across Bristol and Avon Gorge and look down at the tiny cars and people below. Crossing the bridge is free for pedestrians.
And you might just want to take a photo of this most famous of Bristol landmarks!
Pre-booking at Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre is necessary and social distancing measures remain in place.
CREATE CENTRE – CUMBERLAND BASIN, BRISTOL
Visit a purpose-built Ecohome.
Or visit one of the exhibitions at the Create environment centre and discover how to make greener choices.
Create Centre and gallery open Mon to Fri 9 – 5
Ecohome Mon to Fri (open on request)
THE GEORGE MÜLLER MUSEUM – BISHOPSTON, BRISTOL
Explore The George Müller Museum!
The museum celebrates the incredible story of how George Müller cared for and educated over 10,000 orphans in Victorian Bristol.
Visits must be booked in advance:
Call The George Müller Museum on 0117 9245001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
45-47 Loft House, College Road, Bristol BS7 9FG
THE MATTHEW – BRISTOL FLOATING HARBOUR, BY M-SHED
Step aboard The Matthew of Bristol.
The ship is a replica of the 15th-century caravel that John Cabot sailed from Bristol to discover Newfoundland in 1497. You can look around, climb the steps to the upper decks, and learn more from knowledgeable guides.
If you’re interested in learning more, about the build, launch and inaugural voyage of the replica of John Cabot’s famous ship, watch our Matthew Video
(Click through for a round-up of our entire Bristol History Series which is also currently free to watch.)
Booking is not required to visit The Matthew ship when at her mooring.
Visiting is free but donations are always welcome.
M-SHED – HARBOURSIDE, BRISTOL
Admire the cars, trains, buses and planes which are part of Bristol’s transport history.
Learn about how Bristolians endured WWII.
Meet our very own dinosaur!
Edward Colston’s statue forms part of a new display at M Shed to start a city-wide conversation about its future. Will you voice your opinion?
M-Shed asks visitors to continue social distancing and wearing face coverings to keep everyone safe.
NEW ROOM BRISTOL: JOHN WESLEY’S CHAPEL – BROADMEAD, BRISTOL
Visit the oldest Methodist building in the world.
Learn about John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism, who promoted a faith rooted not just in prayer and worship, but in practical outreach designed to change society for the better.
Entry to the chapel is free. (Charges apply for museum entry).
All visitors are encouraged to wear face coverings when at the New Room.
Test and trace continues to operate for visitors to the site.
ST NICHOLAS MARKETS, BRISTOL
See unusual, undercover stalls and enjoy the aromas of street food at St Nicholas Markets.
A short walk from the modern shopping quarter, against the backdrop of historic architecture of The Corn Exchange and surrounding buildings, St Nicks Market has been trading right at the heart of the old city since 1743.
Is that cash you’ve been saving burning a hole in your pocket? Bristol’s largest collection of independent traders offer a range of wares and services to tempt you – from vintage fashion and vinyl records to key cutting and arts and crafts.
St Nicholas Indoor Markets are open Monday to Saturday: 9.30 am to 5 pm
Check their website for details of current traders
SPIKE ISLAND, BRISTOL
Visit the dynamic arts centre at Spike Island.
Spike Island helps support artists by offering affordable studio space and presents contemporary art exhibitions to the public.
The centre aims to be as accessible to as many people as possible and is just a short distance from the SS Great Britain and the M Shed.
Staff are available to answer questions and there’s a café and baby changing facility.
Galleries are open Wednesday to Sunday, 12–4 pm (with exceptions)
Exhibition entry is free and you do not need to book.
Social distancing measures are in place.
Please refer to their website for further information.
WESTON MUSEUM, WESTON-SUPER-MARE
Pay a visit to Weston Museum.
Learn about the unique story of Weston-super-Mare through objects from the North Somerset Collection.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am – 4 pm
Social distancing measures are in place.
Please refer to their website for further information.
FREE OUTDOOR THINGS TO DO IN BRISTOL & N. SOMERSET
In this section, we cover all sorts of outdoor outings. Looking for a fabulous walk in North Somerset? The perfect park or woodland for a picnic? Want to know where to find a beach near Bristol? You’ll find them all here.
ABBOTS POOL, ABBOTS LEIGH, BRISTOL
Get back to nature at Abbots Pool.
On the outskirts of Bristol. Abbots Pool features woodland with a large pond. Check out our Abbots Pool video for more info.
Free car parking but no other facilities.
Some closures lately and swimming restrictions are in place at the time of writing, so please check before visiting.
ASHTON COURT ESTATE – LONG ASHTON, BRISTOL
See the deer at Ashton Court Estate!
Come along to one of the amazing free events held here – most notably Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.
Take your pick of 850 acres of woodland and grassland for walking, cycling or having a picnic.
If you’re feeling energetic, you could join one of the free park runs which are held here every Saturday at 9 am. Register here
If you DO want to put your hand in your pocket, you could play golf or ride on the super-cute miniature railway. See the Bristol Model Engineers website for railway days.
Free entry (except during certain special events) but there is a small £1.20 per day parking fee for vehicles.
Ashton Court Courtyard Café, Golf café and toilet facilities are available.
BLAISE CASTLE ESTATE – LAWRENCE WESTON, BRISTOL
650 acres of parkland with extensive children’s play areas as well as a museum, castle and café.
Admission is free, however, access may be restricted on major event days.
Blaise Castle Estate is open every day from 7.30 am.
Closing times vary throughout the year
Blaise Castle Estate, Kings Weston Rd, Lawrence Weston, Bristol BS10 7QS
BRANDON HILL – BRISTOL
Climb up Brandon Hill and admire the views over Bristol.
Brandon Hill is a popular, hilly park with fabulous views from Cabot Tower. Facilities include a dog-free play area for under twelves, a nature park, toilets and outdoor exercise stations.
Cabot Tower is closed at the time of writing but Brandon Hill is always open
CLIFTON NATURAL ROCK SLIDE
Slide down this natural rock slide.
It’s fairly steep and generations of Bristolians and visitors have worn the rock smooth with their bottoms. There are more textured sections that can slow you down too, so join the sliders at your own discretion!
Clifton natural rock slide is set back from the road. It can be found near Clifton Observatory and The Suspension Bridge.
LEIGH WOODS – BRISTOL
Go on a Wild Woodland Adventure at Leigh Woods!
Alternatively, you can walk, run or mountain bike in this attractive National Trust woodland and SSSI near Clifton Suspension Bridge.
You could make a day of it and eat your lunch in the picnic area. You might even get to sit on the carved wooden sofa.
– The composting toilet at Leigh Woods has been closed for staff and visitor safety during the Covid-19 outbreak.
– You can walk dogs at Leigh Woods, however, the woods are home to grazing animals such as cows and deer, so do keep your dog under control.
– There’s a dog poo bin at the North Road entrance.
OLDBURY COURT AND SNUFF MILLS – FILTON/STAPLETON
Take a walk down by the riverside.
There’s a lot to do at Oldbury Court, Snuff Mills and Vassals Park. Enjoy parkland and woodland with The River Frome running through it, plus sports areas, children’s play park, café facilities and toilets. Great for picnics, riverside walks and socially distanced fun.
Car parking at OIdbury Court Estate (BS16 2JH) and Snuff Mills (BS16 1DL)
Admission is free and Oldbury Court Estate is open at all times.
Car parks are closed on Dec 25th.
Meet the pigs at the small-holding at St Werburghs City Farm.
While you’re there you could also check out the community gardens and allotments or spend some pennies in the farm café.
Free to enter but a £3 donation is welcomed, if possible.
Limited opening hours at present.
Cycle along The Strawberry Line from Yatton Station.
The whole 9-mile long track takes you from Yatton to Cheddar. The majority of it is traffic-free and fairly flat.
We found that cycling a short section of The Strawberry Line was a great introduction for younger riders. You would of course need to make your own judgement about the abilities of your party and exercise caution. If you chose to complete the whole route, there are sections where you’d need to ride or cross busy roads.
Look out for the cider apple orchards, Cheddar Gorge and refreshment stops along the way!
Parking is available for a small fee at Yatton Station.
Here you’ll also find a café, toilets and Strawberry Line Cycles which offers a range of traditional and adaptive bikes to rent.
WESTON-SUPER-MARE, CLEVEDON AND PORTISHEAD BEACHES
Visit one of our beaches on the North Somerset coast.
Being beside the sea is one of my favourite free things to do! Read about our visit to one of the beaches in Portishead.
There’s still so much uncertainty about travel, how about staying local and enjoying some of the free things to do in North Somerset instead?
Explore the coastal path between Clevedon and Portishead. There are several beaches to stop at along the way but bear in mind that there are no facilities on this stretch.
(The ground is uneven, sloping and narrow and there are steep drops in places, so you’ll need to judge whether your party is capable of tackling this safely. Parts of the route aren’t suitable for pushchairs or anyone with limited mobility.)
For safety advice when visiting a beach or coastal path, check out the government’s Coastguard Safety information.
FREE BUT CLOSED AT TIME OF WRITING
Cabot Tower is currently closed, due to coronavirus. Check the website for updates.
“Closed for the foreseeable future”
In the meantime:
You can view this free Georgian House 360 tour.
Explore Kings Weston Roman Villa and glimpse back to a time when Romans lived in Bristol!
Kings Weston Roman Villa is free to enter but you’ll need to pay a deposit for the key. You can pick this up from Blaise Museum on the Blaise Castle Estate in Henbury.
It looks like the villa is currently closed due to COVID, so keep an eye on the website for details on when it will be open again.
“Closed for the foreseeable future.”
In the meantime, check out Red Lodge 360 virtual tour
Phew! So there we have it. I hope you find our guide to free things to do in Bristol and North Somerset helpful. I’ll continue adding more to this article so please let me know if you have ideas of anywhere else you think I should include.
I’ll be adding to this guide over the next few weeks, as I have much more to include. If you’re interested in MORE FREE PLACES TO VISIT IN AND AROUND BRISTOL, do make sure you bookmark it!
Please share with your friends and help them discover more free places to visit in and around Bristol too!
Don’t fancy cooking after all those activities? Then check out the following articles!
Ultimate Guide to Afternoon Tea in and around Bristol
Portishead Takeaway Ultimate Guide
Portishead Restaurants: Where to Eat in Portishead and Nearby
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Many thanks to COBEN ASSOCIATES ACCOUNTANCY PRACTICE (AKA the husband), for sponsoring our 2021 guide to free things to do in and around Bristol with kids.
(Drop me a line if you’d like to sponsor one of our roundups and be featured on Practically Perfect Mums.)
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