50 free things to do in the summer holidays in Gloucestershire

Don't miss SoGlos's 50 FREE ideas for keeping the kids entertained in and around Gloucestershire this summer holidays. From engaging exhibitions to popular family attractions, how many will you tick off?

By Annabel Lammas  |  Published
Free fun for the kids during the summer holidays in Gloucestershire – and more pennies for ice cream!

SoGlos has hunted high and low for a whopping 50 fun and completely FREE things to do in and around Gloucestershire while school’s out for the summer holidays.

From fruit picking and farm parks to exhibitions and family festivals, SoGlos’s hot list is jam packed with inspirational ideas to set you up for a memory-making, action-packed six weeks.

Free attractions in Gloucestershire this summer

Discover Gloucester Cathedral’s best-kept secrets

Home to the only monarch’s tomb in the south west and a Whispering Gallery full of secrets, Gloucester Cathedral is packed full of exciting discoveries for families seeking fun. Visit the interactive Tribune Gallery for the chance to dress up, learn about medieval stone masonry and even design your own gruesome gargoyles.

Kids go free at Westonbirt Arboretum

Offering free entry for children up to 18-years-old from Saturday 23 July to Sunday 3 September 2023, families can enjoy days out at one of Gloucestershire's best-loved attractions for less during the summer holidays. There's also free activity days on selected dates, where kids can have a go at a tree tower building challenge or try a blindfolded texture trail.

Discover Stroud’s secret garden at Museum in the Park

Peek inside the walled garden at Museum in the Park in Stroud’s Stratford Park, with plenty of outdoor space and floral features to explore. Inside, the museum's collection spans dinosaur bones to the world's first lawnmower, with kid-friendly elements throughout – including interactive toys, accessible peep holes into the cabinets at child-height and free museum quiz trails.

Kids go free at Dean Heritage Centre

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Dean Heritage Centre is welcoming little visitors for free on Wednesday 16 August 2023. Delve into the history of the Forest of Dean, discovering interactive exhibits, including a replica Victorian schoolroom and free mine; hunt the woods for hand-carved Gruffalo sculptures; and blow off steam on the recently-revamped play area.

Kids eat free at Gloucester Quays hotspots

Visit Gloucester Quays for fuss-free family dining during the summer holidays – and save some pennies, too, with The Real Greek and Bill's running a 'kids eat free' offer to keep the children well-fed while they're off school.

Search for sculptures in the Forest of Dean

Children can burn off some energy along the four-mile Sculpture Trail in the Forest of Dean, with plenty of impressive woodland-inspired sculptures to see. What's more, there's a fantastic play area and picnic site at Beechenhurst, the trail's starting point, where families can follow up adventure with a bite to eat.

Wave to the prisoner at Tetbury Police Museum

With a sleeping prisoner in the cells, a magistrates' court in action and the largest collection of handcuffs in the whole country, little law-abiders are sure to love Tetbury Police Museum. There's even the chance to have a go at solving mysteries and read cold case files of real crimes that have taken place in the quaint Cotswold town.

Head to the city farm in Gloucester

Offering an escape from the hustle and bustle, St James City Farm in Gloucester invites local children to meet its menagerie of domestic and farmyard animals, from cheeky goats to cuddly bunnies and guinea pigs.

Wander through Tewkesbury Abbey

Free to visit, the gorgeous Tewkesbury Abbey has a rich architectural history with fascinating stories to discover within. There’s a pop-up shop and tea room for refreshments and, if you’re lucky, you might spot its resident peregrine falcons which nest in the tower.

Step into Beatrix Potter’s world in Gloucester

Wander into the wonderful world of Beatrix Potter at the House of the Tailor of Gloucester, the tiny little home to rare displays and memorabilia, set within the same building that inspired the author’s magical tale.

See sky-high exhibitions at the Jet Age Museum

Promising pilots will be delighted at the Jet Age Museum, where visitors can marvel at a replica of Britain’s first jet aircraft, the Gloster E28/39 and other original Gloster-built planes. The museum is free of charge to enter and open at 10am to 4pm on weekends.

Play at Primrose Vale

Families can enjoy a few hours of free fun at Primrose Vale near Cheltenham, which has a brilliant outdoor play area, complete with a jungle gym and obstacle course, and well-stocked café for parents! There’s also the chance to pick your own strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and seasonal vegetables, although you’ll need to pay for the produce, of course.

Explore the new Tinkley Gate site at Woodchester Park

A brand-new gateway into Woodchester Park, Tinkley Gate is an attraction in its own right. Taking over the former Thistledown Farm site, the new National Trust spot has its own nature trail along its grassy paths and lawn games like Jenga and badminton for families to challenge each other.

Go on an Iron Age adventure in the Cotswolds

Greystones Farm Nature Reserve in Bourton-on-the-Water is home to wildflower meadows and rivers bursting with wildlife, as well as working dairy cows, Neolithic fortifications and a replica Iron Age roundhouse. Travel back in time or get closer to nature, exploring the site by its two themed trails — both of which cover flat ground and have no stiles, making them suitable for the littlest of explorers.

Soak up the sunshine at Cotswold Water Park

With more than 40 square miles to explore, even the most energetic children will be tired after a day spent discovering Cotswold Water Park, with footpaths and cycle routes boasting lovely lake views, picturesque picnic spots and the chance to spot some wildlife at the bird hides.

Free events in Gloucestershire this summer

Join children's film club at Stroud Brewery

Catch a family flick at one of Stroud's coolest venues, with free movie screenings taking place at Stroud Brewery every Thursday of the summer holidays, starting at 2pm.

Craftival at New Brewery Arts

Encouraging families to get crafty in Cirencester this summer, New Brewery Arts's Craftival event takes place until Saturday 2 September 2023, with a kid-friendly programme of arty activities running throughout the school holidays – including free Lets Make Art sessions, where children can create everything from big masks to decorative vases.

Play with colour at Cheltenham Paint Festival

With big wall murals and colourful artworks to discover all over town, watch world-renowned street artists at work during the colourful Cheltenham Paint Festival, taking place from Saturday 29 to Sunday 30 July 2023 – or take a stroll along the five-mile arts trail to discover graffiti new and old after the paint has dried.

Scale the pop-up climbing wall at Kings Square

Kids can push themselves out of their comfort zone by reaching the new heights on Gloucester's mobile climbing wall, coming to Kings Square from Thursday 3 to Sunday 6 August 2023. Under the watchful eyes of skilled climbers, anyone's welcome to take on this free climbing experience from 10am to 4pm daily.

Forest fun days at Beechenhurst

Every Thursday during August 2023, woodland explorers can join in with free family activities hosted by the ranger team at Beechenhurst. Pop by the main lawn anytime between 11am and 2pm to play with all sorts of forest treasures – from leaves to deer antlers – with colouring-in, stickers and activity sheets following a new woodland themes each week.

Go retro in Gloucester

Travel back in time when Gloucester Goes Retro returns to the city on Saturday 26 August 2023. Westgate, Northgate, Eastgate and Southgate Streets will all be themed around different eras, with highlights including live music, vintage fancy dress, historical vehicles and more.

Free fitness classes for girls

Encouraging girls to keep moving into their teenage years – as well as helping them to build strength, confidence and meet new friends – Nuffield Health is running free weekly fitness classes for girls aged 11 to 16. Gloucestershire sessions take place on Wednesdays at 4.30pm at Churchdown Methodist Church and can be booked online.

BIG Cricket Celebration at Cheltenham Racecourse

Mini cricket fans can get involved in a mammoth session at this year's BIG Cricket Celebration, hosted by Gloucestershire Cricket Foundation at Cheltenham Racecourse on Tuesday 8 August 2023. Free to attend, there's 1,000 places up for grabs for children aged five to 11.

Take on The Library Challenge in Gloucestershire

This summer, Gloucestershire Libraries has a brand-new reading challenge with a musical theme, encouraging three to 12-year-olds to engage with everything their local library service has to offer by completing special tasks – from borrowing books to taking part in musical crafts and storytelling events. Join in from Saturday 15 July to Saturday 16 September 2023.

Play at Cheltenham's pop-up board game cafes

Kids can challenge their friends to roll the dice at a board game cafe, with pop-ups coming to Cheltenham every Wednesday of the summer holidays. Sessions take place from 10am to 12pm at the CNC Emmanuel Church, with the exception of Wednesday 16 August 2023 which is at St Christopher's Church on Warden Hill.

Hunt for artisan treasures at The Faddle Fair

Coleford's fantastic Faddle Fair is back for another day of local food, live music and shopping opportunities on Saturday 26 August 2023, with face painting and fun family entertainment to keep the children entertained.

Head to The Suffolks on a Sunday

Reclaiming the streets twice during the summer holidays, The Suffolks Sunday Market is taking place in Cheltenham on Sunday 30 July – with a dog show! – as well on Sunday 27 August 2023 for bank holiday weekend fun. The popular market features delicious food and drink, alongside stalls selling everything from vintage goods to arts and crafts.

Free adventures in Gloucestershire this summer

Tick something off The Gloucestershire Family Bucket List

Spanning outdoor adventures to cultural experiences, SoGlos's definitive list of 100 ways to make magical memories in the county is your one-stop shop for inspiration for family days out this summer. Pick up a free printed copy from the venues featured, or see The Gloucestershire Family Bucket List for the digital version.

Fly to Hogwarts

Film fans big and small can hunt down some famous filming locations in Gloucestershire. Whether it's walking in the footsteps of Harry, Hermione and Ron at Gloucester Cathedral or soaking up scenes from Peter Rabbit 2 at Gloucester Docks, many of the county’s film spots are free to visit.

Spot birds of prey at Symonds Yat

Take a trip high above the River Wye to Symonds Yat Rock, a popular Gloucestershire viewpoint where budding birdwatchers can catch a glimpse of peregrine falcons nesting on the neighbouring cliffs.

Get a personal best at Cheltenham’s junior parkrun

Suitable for youngsters aged four to 14, the junior parkrun takes places every Sunday morning at The Park in Cheltenham, inviting young runners to take on the 2km route and have fun. Run entirely on grass, the free weekly event is marshalled, with the whole course visible from the starting area.

Follow in the footsteps of gladiators

Discover Gloucestershire’s Roman heritage at the Cirencester amphitheatre, located just outside the historic Cotswold town, which was once known as the great city of Corinium, second only to London in size!

Pick some summer berries across Gloucestershire

Offering buckets of tasty fun in the great outdoors, head to one of the best places in Gloucestershire to go fruit picking. Many fields are free to enter – but you’ll have to pay for the fruits of your labour, of course!

Wander around a famous farmers’ market

As one of the biggest and busiest farmer’s markets in the UK, Stroud farmers’ market hosts local traders every Saturday morning, selling a variety of treats for hungry children to sink their teeth into. While SoGlos has also rounded up 14 must-visit farmers' markets in Gloucestershire to browse this summer, too.

Explore Robinswood Hill Country Park

With woodland walks and nature trails aplenty, Robinswood Hill Country Park is a brilliant family outdoor attraction in Gloucester. Let the kids run free while exploring historical and geological sites, taking in the stunning scenery along the way.

Walk through Roman ruins

Families can visit the Great Witcombe Roman Villa to uncover a piece of Roman Britain on their doorstep. Dating back to around 250 AD, the building was once one of the largest villas in the Cotswolds, complete with a bathhouse complex and at least one shrine to an unknown god.

Count the trees at Painswick Church

Get some numeracy practice in at Painswick Church, trying to count all of St Mary’s famous yew trees. Little ones can have fun by weaving their way through the maze of trees, working from one to 99 — and making sure not to miss any on the way!

Step back through time along the Tewkesbury Battle Trail

Follow in the footsteps of 15th century soldiers during an excursion along the Battle Trail in Tewkesbury, a waymarked route that leads through the key battle areas. 

Spot some of Britain’s rarest bats

Treat the little ones to a late night and head to Woodchester Park after hours for the chance to see rare Greater Horseshoe bats flying through the twilight sky. Many other bat species also call the site home, with plenty of chances to spot them soaring through the woodland.

Create shapes at Selsley Common

Parents and kids can take inspiration from the local family that used quarry rocks to bring dinosaurs to life at Selsley Common and create some rock formations of their own this summer holiday. The Stroud beauty spot is a gorgeous place to enjoy a family picnic, too.

Get walking

From the fantastic Forest of Dean to riverside paths, a walk amongst wildlife is fun for the whole family – not to mention the perfect way to blow off the cobwebs after being cooped up in the classroom. And there’s a whole host of beautiful walks to enjoy in Gloucestershire, too.

Roll out the picnic blanket

With plenty of picturesque picnic spots in the county, summer is the perfect time to eat alfresco. From Frampton on Severn to Crickley Hill, discover the best picnic spots in Gloucestershire for some inspiration.

Run wild on adventure playgrounds

Let the little ones loose on one of Gloucestershire's best children's playgrounds, many of which are completely free to visit. With some incredible play areas in the Cotswolds too, enjoy playing on tyre swings, climbing castle turrets, whizzing along zip wires and zooming down slides — all while getting a spot of fresh air.

Get pedalling in the Forest of Dean

Hop on your bike and head to the sign-posted Family Cycle Trail in the Forest of Dean, a scenic route along the old Severn and Wye railway line, starting from Cannop Valley, with plenty of picnic spots along the way. Or, discover more of Gloucestershire's best cycling spots, with plenty of family-friendly tracks for kids to practice their pedalling.

Become a cycling pro

If the Forest of Dean’s bike routes weren’t enough, children can become better cyclists with Forestry England, too. Download the Cycle Superstar Challenge from its website to record your progress as you build confidence while learning to ride in the forest — with mini challenges to complete along the way.

Find King Arthur’s Cave

Little knights can discover the stuff of legends just over the Herefordshire border, hunting for King Arthur’s Cave in the Great Doward. Cloaked in local superstition, the limestone cave has been dated back to the Late Stone Age, with flint tools, woolly mammoth bones and supposedly even the skeleton of a giant human discovered there.

Take a day trip to Pittville Park

Kiddies can go wild at Cheltenham’s most exciting outdoor play area in Pittville Park, with plenty of fun equipment to keep them entertained. Not to mention its aviary, which is home to a whole host of fluffy and feathered friends.

Discover Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons

From its famous limestone grassland to its eclectic herd of cattle, this protected site is home to some of Britain’s best wildlife. A popular beauty spot with locals and tourists alike, it’s ideal for a summer family adventure — and totally free to explore.

Stroll through Severn Ham

Get back in touch with nature at the stunning Severn Ham water meadow. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing family walk, with plenty of open space for little ones to let loose, just a stone’s throw from Tewkesbury town centre.

Catch sight of beautiful butterflies

Take a stroll through Prestbury Hill Butterfly Reserve, surrounded by colourful butterflies. With around 30 species calling the reserve home, see how many you can count while admiring the gorgeous views over Cheltenham Racecourse and beyond towards the Malvern Hills.

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