The sun is shining and the great outdoors is calling.
Pack a picnic and prepare to make your way through the list of the best things to do in the North on a sunny day.
From the coast to city breaks, rooftop eateries to daredevil fairground rides, there’s truly something for everyone. Whether you’re flying solo or with the kids in tow, check out our top tips below…
For pleasure seekers: Blackpool
Let Northern whisk you away to the UK’s most famous coastal resort. Made for sunny days, explore Blackpool’s famous promenade, take a walk from the South to the North Pier, jump on a few fairground rides on your way or just simply breathe in the ocean air.
Ideal for adrenaline junkies
Thrill seekers can satisfy their urges on one of Blackpool Pleasure Beach‘s 125 rides and attractions.
Just a short walk from the train station, and open weekends throughout February and March, as one of the UK’s most famous amusement parks and home to the only Nickelodeon land in the country, it’s the perfect place to take the family for a day of fun and memories. Who wouldn’t love SpongeBob SquarePants, Avatar Airbender, Dora’s World Voyage, and Rugrats Lost River!
If you’re feeling extra brave why not ride the hair-raising Icon rollercoaster. Dubbed ‘the world’s most interactive rollercoaster’ this white-knuckle ride will take you up to speeds of 85km per hour and is sure to get your adrenaline pumping.
A short walk away is the iconic South Pier, home to the Adrenaline Zone. The rides in the fairground are designed to take you out of your comfort zone and set your heart rate sky rocketing.
A walk on the wild side
If rollercoasters aren’t your cup of tea but you’re still seeking adventure, head on over to Blackpool Zoo. Just a short bus ride away from the station, you’re sure to be wowed by the lions, entranced by the tigers, and spellbound by the snakes. With over 1000 exotic animals on site, get involved with a whole host of activities from feeding the giraffes to becoming a zookeeper for the day - this fun-filled family attraction is a must.
Explore the other side of Blackpool by foot
If all this sounds a bit too high octane and you would rather just take in the sights and get the wind in your hair, we recommend you take a walk along the Golden Mile. The 1.7 mile walk from the South Pier to the North Pier will give you the opportunity to see Blackpool’s best attractions including the many fairgrounds, amusement arcades, fish and chip shops and endless golden sandy beaches.
For a slice of Yorkshire history: Bradford
Bursting with culture, Bradford boasts the magical combination of incredible architecture, stunning landscapes and unrivalled history. Perfect for exploring on a sunny day.
Sit back and soak up the sun
In the heart of Bradford, a short stroll from the city’s two train stations, you’ll find City Park. Situated in front of the photo-worthy town hall, which is often the backdrop to tense court scenes in Coronation Street and the popular BBC Drama, Peaky Blinders. Let the kids blow off some steam while you relax by the mirror pool, or treat yourselves in one of the many cafes or restaurants lining the park
Experience Bradford by foot
Learn about the history of Bradford and top up your steps with a circular city centre walk. Bradford is one of northern England’s most multicultural cities yet was once a small provincial town, so has quite a story to tell. The development of Bradford has been influenced by many different countries, taking it from the ‘wool capital of the world’ to ‘Britain’s Curry Capital’ now. Explore the Bradford motto Progress, Industry, Humanity and discover Bradford’s connections with places from around the world with this Discovering Britain Walk.
Take the train to Saltaire
If you’re looking for a relaxing wander in the sun, catch a Northern train to Saltaire and head to Roberts Park, just a minute’s walk from Saltaire train station. The 14-acre public park is an integral part of the Saltaire World Heritage site and was opened in 1871 by Sir Titus Salt. Sit ack and enjoy a picnic in the park or visit to The Boathouse Inn, a contemporary restaurant set in a refurbished, riverside Victorian boathouse. If you’re wanting to make the most of Saltaire, pop into Salts Mill situated directly opposite the train station and have a leisurely stroll through the impressive converted mill, full of galleries and shops.
For northern culture vultures: Hull
As a recent UK City of Culture, the port city of Hull has undergone something of a renaissance of late.
Check out the new, vibrant side of the city at the Fruit Market Quarter, which is a burgeoning hipster hangout full of quirky cafés selling Yorkshire’s finest coffees, artisan food and local designer goods. Just a short stroll from the city centre, the Fruit Market is the place to be seen and is sure to have something for everyone. Check out Thieving Harry’s for a hipster brunch that will leave you wanting more – our favourite is the cauliflower brunch bowl.
Another great start to any day in Hull is to retrace the steps of the Seven Seas Fish Trail, a three-mile-long walking trail that encompasses the city. Pop into the tourist information office on Queen Victoria Square and pick up the map that points you in the direction of your first ‘fish’ clue. Follow them around the city and mark them off while you go, taking in the sights and sounds of Hull along the way. If you’re feeling peckish, you can always stop for a famous Hull fish and chips at one of the many chip shops the city has to offer.
Those in search of something more relaxing and willing to travel slightly further afield can hop on the bus at the train station and take the ten-minute bus ride to East Park, an impressive 130 acre Victorian park on the outskirts of the city. Keep the kids entertained at some of the best Hull attractions, including an onsite animal park, which is home to everything from alpacas to tarantulas. There is plenty of room to stroll, spread out for a picnic or enjoy afternoon tea in the park café. East Park is well worth going the extra mile for when the sun is out.
For foodies and night owls: Leeds
Leeds comes into its own on a sunny day, with a wide range of relaxing and adventurous things to do outdoors, all easily accessible from the train station. There are always things to do in Leeds, from exploring the city centre by foot or visiting a nearby suburb on the Northern line.
Work up an appetite – by foot or bike
Directly behind the station, you’ll find the start of the Aire Valley Towpath. Following the scenic River Aire all the way to Bingley, the path is perfect for a sunny stroll or is a great place to start a cycle tour of Leeds. Fuel up for your adventure with a pizza at nearby Water Lane Boathouse, before heading in the direction of first Kirkstall Marina and onwards in the direction of Bingley. Stop for some refreshments along the way at the Kirkstall Bridge Inn. The route is 26km in length and runs adjacent to the trainline so should you get tired, you can just hop back on the train to the city centre.
Picnic in the park
If you’re after a more relaxing sunny day, you can catch the Northern train to Headingley station and stroll to the impressive Kirkstall Abbey. Established in 1152, the ruins of the Abbey are situated in a beautiful grassy park that are a perfect place for a picnic. As well as housing an excellent interactive visitor centre, the Abbey is also home to an outdoor market on the last weekend of every month from March to November, making it the perfect place to bring all the family.
For a spot of sunny sightseeing: Newcastle
As an industrial powerhouse, Newcastle has wealth of history and characterful buildings to draw on. Plus, its sprawling surrounds are the perfect place to spend a sunny day exploring. Located on the River Tyne and just off the North Sea, there are plenty of outdoor activities in Newcastle, all within walking distance of the train station.
Soak up Newcastle’s ancient past
Take a walk along Hadrian’s way, heading east towards the sea or west inland and see vestiges of Newcastle’s ancient past along the way. The 20km route is ideal for walkers and cyclists and takes you by the iconic Millennium Bridge towards Segedunum Roman Fort on one side and the Tyne Riverside Country Park at the other, making it the perfect place for a fair weather stroll.
Discover old Newcastle by paying a visit to the grounds and fortress of Newcastle Castle. Located right in the heart of the city centre, it was from this castle that the city got its name. The exhibits at the castle tell Newcastle’s military past and the castle also boasts some of the best views of the city from its lookout point. Check out the Black Gate and the nearby Castle Stairs to catch a glimpse into Newcastle’s turbulent historic past.
Fun for all the family
One of the most popular places to visit in Newcastle when the weather is good is Pets Corner Newcastle in the leafy Jesmond Dene. A fun family day out, here you’ll find all kinds of creatures from alpacas to pot-bellied pigs - keep an eye out for a peacock roaming around too!
For an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, pack a picnic and head for Exhibition Park. Located just north of the city centre, the park and adjacent Town Moor are the perfect place to take a walk in the sun. Exhibition Park is home to an extensive play area to keep the kids happy and is also home to the Wylam Brewery, housed in the old Palace of the Arts, which features an excellent range of craft brews that are sure to keep the adults happy.
For treasure hunts and one-of-a-kind finds: Sheffield
On a sunny day you really are spoilt for choice for outdoor activities in Sheffield. The city is buzzing day and night, so take advantage of the good weather and go exploring.
Explore more of the city
The Sheffield Treasure Hunt is a great way to get to know the city a little better or find out something new about the town. The trail takes around two hours to complete and is perfect for small groups and there’s also the opportunity to get clues via text if needed. Just download the PDF from the website and you’re ready to go!
If you fancy walking further afield, take a self-guided walk with Curious About Sheffield. Whether you’re a visitor or resident, there’s plenty of hidden gems to uncover in the city and the CA booklet is a great way to get outdoors and breathe in the fresh air.
Go further on two wheels
You don’t have to stray far from the city centre to find some lovely green spaces for picnics and bike rides. You can hire bikes from outside Sheffield train station from Russell’s Bike Shed and before you know it you’ll be riding around one of South Yorkshire’s fantastic parks. Ecclesall Wood can be reached via a scenic cycle route from the city – the 12 mile round trip is a challenging one, but is a great way to see the South Yorkshire greenery.
How about a spot of twitching?
If you fancy a day away from the city, Kiveton Community Woodland is a great spot for wildlife walks and picnics on a sunny day. Take a short train journey on the Northern line from Sheffield to Kiveton Bridge station, and you’ll find a lovely playground, plenty of paths to explore and some interesting insects hiding among the wildflowers.
Al fresco dining for all taste buds
On the hunt for an outdoor eatery in the city? Look no further than Marmaduke’s on Norfolk Row. The café has an extensive menu, all of which can be enjoyed in the sunshine in the outdoor seating area. Put on some sunscreen and enjoy brunch in the sun.
If you’re a coffee connoisseur, be sure to stop by Tamper in the city centre. The New Zealand-inspired café has a lovely outdoor area, perfect for a catch up with friends. Want to improve your coffee knowledge? The café also hosts coffee tasting sessions suitable for beginners and experts alike. Check the website for more information
For train spotters and picnic spots: Preston
Visit Preston by train for a summer day out and escape the hustle and bustle of bigger metropolises in a place that runs at its own pace. There are lots of thing to do in Preston and unexpected places to discover, all within walking distance of a Northern train.
Enjoy a picnic in the park
One of the most popular places to spend a summer day is Avenham and Miller park (aka Preston park). Located just south of the city centre, Avenham and Miller Park is a pristine Victorian setting that is home to exquisite Japanese gardens, all overlooking the picturesque River Ribble. Neighbouring Miller Park is slightly smaller but features beautiful bedding displays, a Rose Garden and the regal Derby Walk. Pack a picnic and enjoy this oasis right in the heart of the city.
Circle the city - by foot or on two wheels
Another way to enjoy the surrounds of Preston is to take on the Preston Guild Wheel, a 21km greenway that encircles the whole city and is a popular route for cyclists and walkers. Starting in the city centre, the route travels along the banks of the Ribble before heading out in the picturesque Lancashire countryside and circling back again to bring you back into town.
Alternatively, stretch your legs and embark on the Preston Parks and Gardens Spy Trail Mission. A fun way to see the sights, you can follow the map around the city, taking in the highlights and finding clues along the way.
Learn about the history of trains
A popular family day out in Preston is a visit to the Ribble Steam Railway, home to a wide array of steam and diesel locomotives. The museum offers visitors an insight into the workshop, where trains are restored, as well as telling the history of trains in the UK and ending with an exciting trip on a steam train, giving you scenic views of the city.
Kick back and relax
After a busy day of activities, what better way to refuel than to kick back and relax at Coco’s Soul Food. A very popular local eatery, Coco’s offers up a menu of tasty, flavoursome Caribbean inspired dishes that are packed with delicious tastes and aromas.
For al fresco eats and art: Manchester
They say the sun rarely shines in Manchester, so when it does make the most of the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful city in all its glory. There are plenty of things to do in Manchester when the sun is shining and with the entire city centre relatively compact and easily accessible by train, there is something for everyone.
Experience Manchester by foot
The best way to soak up the sun and get to know the city of Manchester is by going on a walking tour – there’s a lot to see so wear comfy shoes! The Free Tour is a very popular choice, taking you around some of Manchester best loved sites, as well as visiting a few quirky spots along the way. If you want to see more of Manchester’s edgy alternative side, try the Skyliner Street Art walking tour, which takes you around alleys and back streets to check out the best street art the city has to offer. This tour takes you through the Northern Quarter, which is packed with lots of great places to grab a coffee, like Home Sweet Home - take our advice, try the pancakes while you’re there!
Take in the arts
The Whitworth Gallery is a fantastic place to visit, whatever the weather. Housing a collection of internationally important works, the Gallery is famed for its progressive collection and its stunning contemporary architecture. If you want to spend an arty summer’s day with your family, pack a picnic, head along to the Whitworth and borrow one of their art hampers. Enjoy the perfect day of creativity in the beautiful leafy surrounds of the gallery. And, if you don’t fancy bringing your own food, the Whitworth Café is reknowned for its tasty seasonal fare, produced by ‘The Modern Caterer’ Peter Booth.
For foodie lovers
For an amazing Manchester hidden gem foodie experience, look no further than Mackie Mayor, a bright and airy grade II listed building that is home to ten stalls to fulfil every foodie’s dreams. Grab an Honest Crust Pizza to go and find a nearby bench to continue soaking up the rays, or else sit at one of Mackie Mayor’s long, communal tables and just enjoy the atmosphere. If you want to really treat yourself to a special dining experience to finish off your sunny day in Manchester, book into the acclaimed 20 Stories. Its beautiful roof terrace is the perfect place to watch the sun go down before indulging in an exquisite meal made from the finest British produce.
For making a weekend of it: Nottingham
Discover the leafy beauty of the East Midlands this summer with a trip to historic Nottingham. There is a wide range of things to see and a whole host of outdoor activities Nottingham has on offer, all easily accessible from the train station and great value with an Advance Purchase ticket.
Explore the city by bike
Start your day off with Nottingham Cycle Tours, a fantastic way to get your bearings and find out more about the city’s history. Tours start in the Old Market Square and from there you’ll cycle by the deer park, River Trent, Lace Market and many more picturesque locations and landmarks. If you fancy going off the beaten track and a little further afield, the group also offers bespoke tours.
An underground adventure
One of the most popular things to do in Nottingham is pay a visit to the City of Caves Nottingham, attached to the National Museum of Justice. The caves are part of an underground network of over 500 caves buried beneath the streets of Nottingham where you can take a tour to learn what the caves were used for, from ancient tanneries for making leather goods to air raid shelters in World War II.
Enjoy the city and surroundings by foot
If you just want to take in the atmosphere of the city, take a stroll to Hockley and the Lace Market Nottingham, which make up the city’s creative quarter. Here you’ll find a maze of picturesque streets and you’re sure to stumble upon a hidden gem, selling locally produced items, all in a very quaint setting.
The oldest park in Nottingham, Arboretum Park is a real haven in the city and is the perfect place to relax after a long day of discovering the city. The park is home to over 800 types of trees and often hosts events in the summer, meaning you never know what you might find when you visit. There are tree trails you can follow and plenty of space to spread out, have a picnic and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
For getting away from it all: Windermere
Uncover some of Windermere’s hidden wonders, as well as exploring its famous sights on a sunny day in the Lakes. Jump on a Northern train and explore everything the Lake District has to offer.
Get the wind in your hair
No trip to the Lake District is complete without hiring a boat and hitting the open waters of Lake Windermere. Windermere Lake Cruises offer one and two-hour sessions where so you can hire a motor or rowing boat and explore the beautiful sights of Windermere at your own pace. With no boating experience necessary, you will be provided with full safety instructions and life jackets, so you can just sit back, relax and get the sun on your face and wind in your hair whilst enjoying the stunning views.
A floral paradise all year round
A trip to Windermere doesn’t just have to be about spending time on the lake, for a beautiful day with stunning surroundings take a trip to Holehird Gardens. With breath-taking views of Windermere and the fells beyond, these gardens offer a floral paradise all year round thanks to its flowering trees in spring, to its walled gardens which are taken over by herbaceous borders in the summer months. With constantly changing shades through to the end of the year, we would recommend you take a trip in the spring to take in the magnificent daffodil fields.
Learn about the life of Beatrix Potter
Did you know Beatrix potter wasn’t just a children’s storyteller, she was also a farmer and champion of the local herdwick sheep, making her very important to the Lake District. Why not book a place on a Beatrix Potter Tour and learn all about her fabulous life? Follow the secluded back roads and take in your surroundings including visiting her home with its beautiful gardens and original furnishings, as well as taking a trip to Tarn Hows a small mountain lake and beautiful views over Yewdale- don’t forget your camera as the photo opportunities are priceless. You will also get to see Yew Tree Farm, once owned by Beatrix Potter herself and the setting for the film Miss Potter and see the stunning lakeside views of Coniston Water. Tours take place February to October from Windermere Station, but don’t forget to pre-book your tickets for this fabulous day out.
Get your chocolate fix
After a busy day out in the sunshine, you may just be about ready for a sugar fix and to sit back and relax with a cold drink and bite to eat. One place that’s not to be missed, summer or winter is Windermere’s Choccobar. This contemporary hot chocolate and coffee house will wow your taste buds thanks to its unique, thick and luxurious hot chocolate blend which is mixed with interesting and unique flavours. While you’re there its also worth trying one of their delicious waffles, Churros or savoury treats – it’s hard to choose we know!
Where past meets present: York
York is a city that really comes alive on a sunny day, with bustling streets filled with buskers, performers and performers, it really is fun for all the family. Take a stroll through the winding streets to discover what quirky outdoor activities York has to offer on a sunny day, all within walking distance of the train station.
Food, drinks and shopping under one roof
The place to be this summer is Spark: York. A community based project which sees 23 shipping containers transformed into eateries, entertainment stages and arts and crafts spaces. With a wide range of food and drinks on offer, Spark is the ideal place to hang out, people watch and enjoy the sunshine. Another York staple is a stroll through the Shambles market, where you can pick up the finest quality Yorkshire foods, produce and gifts, and you’re sure to encounter music and entertainment along the way.
Explore the city by boat
See a different side of York by discovering the city from the River Ouse. York boat hire agencies, like City Cruises York, offer a wide range of different crafts, from the excitement of a self-drive boat to the decadence of afternoon tea on-board one of their captained cruisers. Their daytime trips also include an informative guided tour, giving you interesting information from the most picturesque settingAll aboard!
Explore the city by bike
York Cycling Tours are another popular way of discovering the city when the weather is good, and you’re sure to be taken off the beaten track with these tours. The tour is suitable for everyone, travelling safely on cycle lanes and designated paths to York’s most popular tourist attractions, as well as visiting some hidden gems, with local knowledge coming from an entertaining, yet informative guide. If you fancy following your own path, you can also hire a bike for the day and discover the secrets of the city for yourself.
Keep the kids active and happy
For a kid friendly tour, download the Curious about York map and discover the city by foot at your own pace, using two walk routes that have a treasure hunt along the way for the kids.
One for the foodies
After all that sight-seeing, you’re going to need some refreshments. Check out the Dark Horse Espresso bar cart at the Shambles Market which offers delicious espresso, gourmet toasties and homemade baked goods, as well as an outdoor seating area where you can soak up the sun. You can also grab a table outside Mannion & Co, famed for their mouth-watering sausage rolls and irresistible cheese and meat platters.
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