There are lots of great playgrounds in and around Hitchin – see my guide to find your local one, or try somewhere new.
Sometimes you want to make more of a day of it though, so I’ve written this guide to where the kids can play and, more importantly, you can get coffee or cake as well!
Local parks with a bit extra
These are larger parks where you can easily make a day of it – they are all free to visit but you might need some pennies for car parking and ice cream if the weather is being kind.
Howard Park and Gardens, Letchworth Garden City
In the centre of Letchworth Garden City, Howard Park and Gardens offers a splash park (May-September) that doubles as a great scooter park in autumn and winter! There’s a refurbished adventure playground and sandpit plus a large green space with shade from mature trees. In addition to public toilets being available, in the Summer months there is also a refreshment kiosk.
Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage
Fairlands Valley Park is a large green space of around 120 acres in the heart of Stevenage. There is a large gated play area as well as a small wooden play area. There is a fenced splash pad consisting of three separate areas that is open from May – September as well as a refreshment kiosk serving drinks and ice creams.
Costello’s Cáfe adjoins the sailing centre and is open seven days a week. Check out The Sailing Centre too – it offers a variety of wet and non-water based outdoor courses and activities for adults and children from 8 years upwards.
Cassiobury Park, Watford
Cassiobury Park and Paddling Pools in Watford make a fantastic free day out. There is a large playground near the Hub for children up to the age of 12 and a further playground by Cha Cafe for younger children. There’ is also a miniature railway (open weekends and school holidays if the weather is fair) and a bouncy castle in summer (charges apply).
From April to September, the newly renovated paddling pools and splash pads are open. This water play park has 30 state-of-the-art splash pads, water jets and fountains and is situated next to the two new paddling pools.
You can read more about Cassiobury Park in my review here.
Verulamium Park, St Albans
Verulamium Park is set in 100 acres of beautiful parkland close to the city centre. The park includes a children’s playground, tennis courts, crazy golf, the Adizone outdoor gym, basketball court and a lake which attracts a wide variety of wildlife. There is also a gated splash park which is open from May to September and is free to use.
Inn on the Park is situated between the playground and splash park and offers breakfast, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, and cakes as well as a children’s menu. It’s also licensed if you fancy a cheeky glass or Prosecco in the sunshine!
Play for free, or pay for more
These are venues where you can visit the playground and cafes for free but there are other things to see and do that incur additional charges.
Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton
Stockwood Discovery Centre is one of my favourite places to go with the kids – rain or shine. There are a whole host of permanent and temporary exhibitions and additional events such as kids theatre and puppet shows, throughout the year.
Some exhibitions and events incur an extra charge but there’s lots to see for free (though donations are welcome) including the extensive gardens and recently refurbished adventure playground. We also love the on-site cafe with indoor and outdoor seating although there is lots of space to take a picnic too!
Wrest Park, Silsoe
Wrest Park is a English Heritage site consisting of extensive grounds, sculpture gallery and various structures to discover around the gardens. Although you pay to enter the grounds – and it’s worth it, especially with a picnic – you can visit the playground and cafe free of charge. The wooden play structures are fantastic and even include a pavilion to climb, and even a zip wire too!
Shuttleworth, near Biggleswade
Shuttleworth is home to the Shuttleworth Collection of vintage aircraft, cars, motorcycles and agricultural exhibits. It’s also where you’ll find the fantastic Swiss Garden complete with resident peacocks!
Although both are worth a visit, you can visit the play area and watch planes taking off and landing on the airstrip for free on non event days. There is also a fantastic restaurant as well as a refreshment stand by the play area entrance. The play area is actually several play areas offering fun for children of all ages set in an attractively landscaped garden.
Moggerhanger Park, Bedfordshire
Moggerhanger Park is a Grade 1 listed Georgian Historic House set in 33 acres of parkland and woodland. The grounds are free to visit. They are home to the The Woodland Nature Trial which takes you through the garden woods where you can see bluebells or snowdrop depending on the season.
The Garden Rooms Cafe is open daily serving light meals, cakes and drinks. Next door to cafe is a lovely woodland play area suitable for children aged 4 to 12 years olds. The grounds and cafe are open daily between 10.00am to 4.00pm. There is ample car parking and dogs are permitted on leads.
Playgrounds worth getting annual membership for…
These places are not free but offer reasonably priced annual membership meaning you can use their fantastic playgrounds whenever you like!
Standalone Farm, Letchworth Garden City
What do you mean you’ve not got your membership for Standalone Farm yet?!
If you are a parent/carer of a preschooler, chances are you are already a member at Standalone Farm. The annual membership is fantastic value and in addition to the seeing the animals, the sandpit, playground and tractor rides are a particular highlight for my family. There are daily animal feeding sessions and additional activities in the holidays which are usually included in the admission price.
The cafe offers sandwiches, salads and stone baked pizzas as well as hot and cold drinks. There are lots of picnic spots as well as an indoor barn for picnics on less nice days. They also sell takeaway hot drinks!
You can read more about Standalone Farm in my review.
National Trust Wimpole Hall, Arrington
The Wimpole Estate consists of Wimpole Hall, it’s extensive grounds and gardens and Home Farm. If you aren’t a National Trust member you can buy tickets for the Farm and Gardens or the whole Estate. Membership is good value, however, and we regularly visit other National Trust sites both nearby and when on holiday around the UK.
Home Farm is a large rare breed centre with cattle, pigs, sheep and more. There is a small play area next to the cafe in the farm grounds including ride on tractors. In the woodland next to the Farm, there is also an adventure playground for older children with climbing frames, balance beams and swings.
You can read more about Wimpole Hall in my review.