Family-Friendly Things to Do in Peterborough
24 Mar 2021
On the edge of the Fens sits one of Cambridgeshire’s biggest cities, Peterborough. Emerging as a prominent industrial city in the mid-19th Century when a major railway junction was constructed, today it’s an exciting, multicultural city of interest, with plenty to see and do for both the locals and visitors.
Not sure what the city has to offer? Or simply looking to try to experience something new on your next free weekend? We’ve compiled a list of our top things to do in Peterborough (Covid-permitting of course). Take a look at them below and get planning your next free weekend or adventure.
What is There to Do in Peterborough Today?
There are so many things to do in Peterborough, with activities and attractions available for the whole family to choose from! Take a look at our pick of 12 of the most popular and see where you and your family could be exploring next time you’re in Peterborough!
1. Visit Peterborough Cathedral
Soak up the city’s fine architecture at Peterborough Cathedral, with a history that dates back over 1,000 years. Having survived numerous invasions, two world wars, and even King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of Monasteries, it’s hardly surprising that today it’s revered as one of the finest Norman Cathedrals to exist in the UK. But it’s also one of the most significant Cathedrals in British history, having been the burial place of two queens - Catherine of Aragon and Mary Queen of Scots (who was later moved to Westminster Abbey).
If you’re looking to visit Peterborough Cathedral soon, then take a look at their upcoming events over on their website. The building stands as a centre of worship and education, with a varied calendar of programmes designed to teach local residents, schools, and visitors about its history. Of course, you can book tickets to just browse what the building has to offer, but it’s always worth checking to see if they have any exhibits on display which may interest you.
2. Walk or cycle through Nene Park
Photo credit: nenevalley.net
For families looking for things to do in Peterborough this weekend that will get them out the house and into the fresh air, then a trip to Nene Park is a must.
The park sits in the centre of the city, encompassing more than 2,500 acres of greenery that stretches 3.5 miles along the banks of the River Nene. Within it, there are circles of walking and cycling pathways that draw you through beautiful wild meadows and fresh woodland walks.
The park is easily accessible via Orton Mere, where you can park up and follow the large, rectangular rowing course that the local teams train on. Orton Mere is also a stop on the Nene Valley Railway, making it the perfect destination for a picnic for the family.
Alternatively, you can keep on walking through the 10km stretch where at its heart you’ll discover Ferry Meadows Country Park, offering refreshments and leisure activities for the whole family to enjoy.
3. Or spend the day at Ferry Meadows Country Park
Photo credit: tripadvisor.co.uk
As mentioned, above, Ferry Meadows Country Park makes up a significant portion of Nene Park, offering plenty of green space for you and your family to see and enjoy in the spring and summer months.
There’s so much to do at Ferry Meadows, making it a place to visit time and time again. For example, at Gunwade Lake, there’s an opportunity to rent pedal boats, rowboats, canoes, kayaks and paddlebaords and spend the day out on the lake. While in the visitor centre you can watch footage from nest cams or collect a map which contains all the walking routes that will have you passing the bird hides overlooking Ham Mere.
The country park also has plenty for children to enjoy, including a miniature steam railway, three children’s play areas, and horse-riding stables. There’s usually plenty of visitor events and activities to sign up to as well, which you can browse fully on the Nene Park website.
4. Take a ride on Nene Valley Railway
Photo credit: peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Located in the centre of the city, Nene Valley Station is the eastern terminus of a preserved steam railway line which runs for 7.5 miles through Nene Valley and into the village of Yarwell.
Nene Valley Railway exists today as a fragment of a line that once operated between Peterborough and Blisworth, running 45 miles into southern Northamptonshire. The railway line opened in 1847 and closed just over a hundred years in 1966. This small stretch was later purchased in the 1970s as a visitor attraction and has been restored to its former glory over the past couple of decades.
Generally, visitors will travel on a train carriage pulled by a steam locomotive, making it an exciting and historical ride for children. There are also plenty of free activities and exhibits at the station to further inspire young minds after travelling on the train. Tickets for the railway can be booked over on their website, where you’ll also find a full list of events and site information.
5. Catch a show at the Cresset or Key Theatre
Photo credit: housetheatre.org.uk
As one of the biggest cities in the region, Peterborough is a popular destination for local communities to gather and enjoy some of the best live events in the UK. From touring shows and musicians to local community projects, there’s always a busy calendar of events to be enjoyed in the city.
The Cresset is Peterborough’s foremost multi-purpose venue, hosting a mixture of live entertainment, community activities, corporate and private hire events. Located in Bretton with easy access via the city’s main roads, it’s been a popular community hub since its opening in 1978, when the Queen and Prince Phillip toured the building and unveiled a commemorative plaque in the reception.
Closer to the hustle and bustle of the city’s centre, the Key Theatre, located on the River Nene’s northbank is Peterborough’s main destination for live culture, booking popular touring musicals, dance shows, and bands. The building also houses the Key Studio, a more intimate 112-seated theatre where many local community productions are performed.
6. Visit John Clare’s Cottage
Photo credit: clarecottage.org
Fans of the beloved Romantic poet, John Clare, will be pleased to know that you can visit the humble thatched cottage where he was born in the nearby village of Helpston in 1793. Tucked away between Stamford and Peterborough, Clare lived in this quaint little cottage for the first forty years of his, up until 1832.
Purchased in 2005 by a trust for the poet, the past decade has seen them revert the cottage back to its original rustic appearance and how it would have been in the 18th Century for fans and tourists to visit today. There are examples of Clare’s work available to view, as well as information about his life and ongoing battle with mental illness.
Clare Cottage is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays, with prices starting from £4.20 for children under the age of 16. Their website lists a full range of events and calendar dates, as well as further information about directions for getting there and details about the on-site cafe.
7. Shop in Queensgate
Photo credit: queensgate-shopping.co.uk
As one of the largest cities in the region, Peterborough acts as a regional shopping hub, and is home to the popular Queensgate shopping centre. Drawing in thousands of visitors each weekend, Queensgate is currently being renovated with significant financial plans in place to enhance it over the next few years, including the introduction of a multi-screen cinema.
For things to do in Peterborough on a weekend (and in particular, a rainy one!) there are worse things you could be doing than enjoying browsing through the shops in Queensgate. The centre has all of the mid-market brands you would hope to find on the high street, including Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Superdry, Primark, and Boots, to name a few.
For dining options, there’s a number of cafes and fast-food hubs available, including popular chain restaurants on the nearby streets. Parking is in its abundance, with several multi-storeys and pay-and-display units available next to the centre - making it quick and easy to access your favourite shops.
8. Go swimming at Peterborough Lido
Photo credit: letsgowiththechildren.co.uk
On hot summer days, Peterborough’s iconic lido (open between the months of May and September) offers the perfect day out for the whole family.
With heated outdoor pools for both lane and open swimming, children’s play areas, and large open terraces for relaxing, there’s plenty here to while away an afternoon in the summertime. And don’t worry if you forget your picnic - there’s also an on-site lido cafe which serves snacks, drinks and (most importantly) ice cream!
Peterborough Lido is located in the city centre, with ample parking within easy walking distance. There's also on-site changign facilities, lockers, and showers - so you can head off and enjoy the rest of your day exploring even more of the city!
9. Explore Longthorpe Tower
Photo credit: english-heritage.org.uk
In the western suburb of Longthorpe sits a stunning three-storey manor house, dating back to the 14th Century. Longthorpe Tower as it is known, is a Grade I listed building and preserved by English Heritage. Inside, the team have preserved its incredible collection of murals which were painted around the year 1330, covering most of the tower’s first floor. These were later covered with whitewash during the Reformation and only founded again in the 1940s.
Today, these intricate paintings are some of the most unique in the UK, and depict tales of religious, moral, and secular themes. If you look closely you’ll see musicians, saints, kings, and even strange mythological beasts featured in them.
But there’s also so much more to see and enjoy at Longthorpe Tower. Exhibitions recount the history of the building and the family that constructed it, while other pictures teach the Story of David and the Nativity for children. It really does have so much to read and learn about!
10. Dive into history at Peterborough Museum
Photo credit: visitpeterborough.com
Hidden within an 18th Century stone townhouse in Priestgate sits Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, offering a wealth of immersive stories and history to enthral the whole family.
Peterborough Museum is home to more than 200,000 relics, recounting the human and natural history of Petebrorough and its surrounding Fenland area. Interactive displays and unique objects make it an exciting day trip for those of all ages, with exhibitions showcasing everything from Jurassic sea-monsters to original manuscripts by the poet John Clare, who was born not too far away in the nearby area of Helpston.
General admission is free, with special events kept at a low-cost for the whole family to enjoy. This makes it the perfect thing to do in Peterborough on a weekend, especially when you want to get out of the house on a rainy day.
11. Take a walk through history at Flag Fen Archaeology Park
Photo credit: bbc.co.uk
On the eastern outskirts of the city, you’ll find an pre-historic Bronze Age village, which has existed for over 3,500 years. Known as the Flag Fen Archaeology Park, this 14th Century location will introduce you to the region’s prehistoric past, sitting as the only place in the UK where original Bronze Age remains can be seen in situ.
In terms of things to do in Peterborough, it’s certainly a great place to visit with the kids and teach them more about local history. Wander through the village and interact with the reconstructed roundhouess, and immerse yourself in the same place that our ancestors would have once stood.
Most recently, excavations on the site have revealed details of a wooden platform and post alignment that stretch for nearly a kilometre across the fen. These were constructed between 1350 and 950BC and are of great historical engineering significance. And fortunately, due to the waterlogged nature of the Fenland area, this unique monument has been remarkably preserved and is still available to view today!
12. Explore the wildlife at Railworld Wildlife Haven
Photo credit: visitpeterborough.com
Conveniently located next to Peterborough’s Nene Valley Railway Station is the Railworld Wildlife Haven, a dedicated outdoor space next to the railway’s museum which has been preserved by local volunteers and communities to encourage better environmental awareness
Over the past 20 years, volunteers have transformed this area into a wildlife park, attracting more than 250 native species. Much has been done to preserve the creatures that have habited the Fenland for centuries, including the creation of beehives, bird boxes, hedgehog hotels and an on-site pond. There have also been more than 250 trees planted to better house all these birds and creatures.
Open on select days between the months of February to October, it’s an exciting thing to do in Peterborough with children, where they can learn more about the local wildlife species as well as catch sight of a 2,000 sqft model railway with hands-on exhibits.
Coach Hire in Peterborough
Looking for coach hire in Peterborough for your private or corporate event? With a depot located in central Cambridgehsire, we are ideally situated for those looking to find reliable coach hire in Peterborough.
Over the past 60 years, we have provided reliable coach hire in Peterborough, as well as its surrounding areas in Cambridgeshire. We pride ourselves in ‘doing it well’ and always strive for a safe and reliable transport service for all our passengers.
Our fleet of vehicles can service any group size, with coaches anging from 29 to 57 seats. From vintage coaches for weddings and special events, to large, luxury coaches for more exclusive travel, we have something to suit every occasion.
Get in touch with us today for a competitive quote for coach hire in Peterborough and find out more about the vehicles we can offer.