30+ Totally Free Activities in Harrogate

Rock engraved with the word wonder by Coldstone Cut

Do you like to have a list of free activities and days out ready and waiting for when the kids are climbing the walls and need entertaining? If like me you love a day out in Harrogate that doesn’t make a huge dent in your purse, keep reading…

We have tried and tested each one of these; some of them will take all day, some just an hour, so why not mix and match to plan plenty of free days out in Harrogate?

This is the 2nd blog in my ‘Harrogate on a Budget’ series. Read the first here and keep an eye out for the 3rd ‘Days out in Harrogate under £10’ coming soon.

Harrogate Street Art Trail

Our newly launched street art trail is a great activity to do with the kids in tow. We’ve kept it relatively short so it’s suitable for everyone.

Head to the Harrogate Street Art Trail page to download a copy. Don’t forget to tag us in your pictures!

Knaresborough Painted Windows

I love these so much they have a full write up on the blog here. Can you find them all?

I’m fairly sure we haven’t discovered them all yet!


Just a few minutes drive from the town centre, and on the 36 route if you fancy going car free, is the gorgeous village of Ripley.

This is one of our go to places when we have a free afternoon and need to take it easy on the spends! Just beware the council have now introduced parking charges in the public car park *rolls eyes* but the roadside parking is still free.

Take a walk to the edge of the village to the play park or wander down the path on the outskirts of the castle for some great views and explore the woodlands.

Depending on the time of year, we love conker picking at Ripley, finding the bluebells in the woods and standing on tippy toes spotting deer over the wall.

Crimple Valley Viaduct

I like to tie this in with a walk around the Yorkshire Showground and exploring Hookstone Woods. Parking available at the woods (HG2 8PN) or just past Fodder (HG2 8NZ).

Take the bikes if you can as there’s plenty of open spaces at the showground and a course of ramps and jumps in the woods.

Make sure to take in the views and marvel at the viaducts. You’ll find plenty of woodlands and streams to play in too.

Valley Gardens

OK OK I know that if you live in Harrogate this is a pretty obvious suggestion but here me out….yes we all love a walk around the gardens and a play in the park but when is the last time you ventured to some of the lesser used areas?

  • Set sail on the boating lake
  • Taken your bike or scooter to the skate park
  • Played pooh sticks in the streams
  • Fed the ducks
  • Made a wish in the fountain
  • Explored the Japanese garden
  • Tried to find all the well heads

The Coldstone Cut

Izzy and I only discovered this amazing place in covid times, where you had to stay close to home but be outside as much as you could.

The Coldstone Cut is Yorkshire’s biggest and highest public artwork! There’s a slight hill to climb to get there but once at the top you can explore the spiralling pathways which lead to two viewing platforms with 360 degree views of Nidderdale.

There is also a viewing area where you can look onto the neighbouring working quarry which is fascinating as well as a big hit with little ones who love diggers and trucks.

Use postcode HG3 5BJ to get you close and then follow the brown signs to the free car park.

Harrogate Walking Tour

I don’t know about you but I love playing tourist in my home town and one of the best things I’ve ever done was join one of Harry’s famous walking tours.

The tour takes 1 hour and 20 mins and sets off from the cenotaph at 10.30 & 12.00 Friday and Saturday (Oct-May). Head to the Harrogate Walking Tour website for more details on dates and times.

Even if you think you know all there is to know about Harrogate I promise you will learn something new.

Harrogate Street Art

Over the last few years more and more street art has popped up in the town centre. Why not get the smalls to help you find them all.

There’s the huge mural just off James Street and the portrait of the Queen in Montpellier, the mosaic letters leading from Cambridge Street to Oxford Street and the photo opportunities on station parade. There’s plenty to find if you just know where to look.

Try the Sulphur Water

When I was younger it was one of those things that we all did…dare each other to try the water at the Pump Rooms!

I remember visiting on a school trip and there would be 30 shot glasses ready for us all to take a sip but thanks to todays health and safety madness they are no longer allowed to do that! You can however, still press the button on the outside of the building and sample the smell and taste of the water that made our town famous!

The Nidderdale Greenway

The 4 mile cycle route between Bilton and Ripley is a great way to see some amazing scenery and get the kids outside for some exercise.

You can park at the bottom of Bilton Lane and head left which will take you all the way to Ripley, can you spot all the copper sculptures? It also takes you over the Nidd Gorge viaduct (featured in the Paddington 2 movie, you can see clips on my TV and Film locations blog). Is it just me or does that last guy look like Ant McPartlin?

Swinsty and Fewston Reservoirs

Another couple of places to get some fresh Yorkshire air and great places to feed the duck and skim stones. Just beware of the brave and cocky geese lol!

They can be walked separately or for a longer walk you can do both in one go. Use LS21 2NP for Swinsty parking or HG3 1SS for Fewston.

We aren’t massive walkers here at The Harrogate Fam so for much more detail and some other amazing suggestions make sure you check out The Reluctant Explorers page.

Ripon Cathedral

One of the most stunning structures in the area (IMO), Ripon Cathedral is beautiful both inside and out.

The kids always love looking at all the carvings in the wood. Can you find one of a griffin chasing a rabbit down a hole?

Lewis Carroll lived in Ripon as a young boy and his father was the canon of Ripon Cathedral, could this carving be the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland?

Knaresborough Riverside and Castle Gardens

I sometimes choose to do these as separate days out when I can’t face the steps from the bottom to the top!

If you’ve visited the blog before you’ll know that we like to take advantage of the free parking at St James Retail Park and walk along the riverside from here. (Check how long you are allowed to park because they keep changing it) Stopping around the viaduct for a coffee and ice cream before retracing our steps.

Along the way you can stop at St Roberts Cave and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag plus you might see some carved sculptures along the way too.

If you don’t fancy the climb up to the castle you can always parking the Castle car Park which is pretty cheap compared to Harrogate parking prices.

The views from up here are famous for a reason, I can’t help but take pictures every time I’m here, even though I have taken the same photo dozens of times before.

See I wasn’t kidding! Make sure you check out Bebra Gardens whilst you’re up here, if its a nice day there’s a little paddling pool for the kids too.

Spofforth Castle

Spofforth was the main seat of the Percy family – one of the most important and influential families in northern England – until the late 14th century. William de Percy, a favourite of William the Conqueror, built a manor house here in the 11th century, and it was reputedly here that rebel barons drew up Magna Carta in 1215. The surviving remains are those of a fortified manor house, dating mainly from the 14th and 15th centuries.

So basically it’s not a castle lol but still if your little legs like exploring ruins then this is a great place to visit for free in Harrogate.

There is no car park but parking is free along the roadside in the village.

The Stray

I can’t not mention The Stray when talking of free things to do in Harrogate can I?

We are so lucky to have such wide green spaces all around us here in Harrogate. Beautiful at all times of the year but you are always in for an extra special treat in spring when we see the crocuses (or is it croci?), followed by the daffodils and finally the cherry blossoms.

Grab the kids, a picnic and some outdoor games and let them run free!

Mercer Art Gallery

The Mercer Art Gallery is 200 years old and started it’s life as the Promenade Rooms, this magnificent building was a place for spa visitors to socialise. Later in it’s life it became a theatre, then a town hall, before finally reopening as the Mercer Art Gallery in the early 90’s.

You will find a wide range of ever-changing exhibitions, perhaps a national touring show of painting, photography, sculpture and crafts, or an exhibition drawn from the Harrogate District Fine Art Collection, and contemporary work by regional artists.

Keep an eye on their website to see what exhibitions are on, they do quite a lot which would interest the kids.

Further Afield

As much as we love a free day out in Harrogate and we are truly spoilt for ideas, if you fancy a bit of a drive don’t forget we also have The Royal Armouries, Leeds City Museum, National Science and Media Museum and the Railway Museum all around a 30 minute drive away.

Phew! I know that’s a lot to take in but I hope it’s been helpful to inspiring. As always I keep adding to my blogs as I discover new places so please let me know if there is anywhere else I should feature in this or my under £10 blog.