How to spend a day with family in Darlington

With the school holidays quickly approaching, you might be looking to plan some family-friendly days into your diary. No matter if you’re looking to entertain toddlers and small children or teenagers, there’s something to suit everyone in Darlington. From creative activities and theatre shows, to reconnecting with history and nature, there are so many ways that you can spend a day here!

We’ve put together some ideas to help you build an itinerary that fits your family best, so take a look and start planning your trip.

For the creatives

If you and your kids love to make and get creative together, there are a couple of amazing options in Darlington town centre. The first is Create and Paint on Grange Road, a studio that welcomes people of all ages and abilities to show their artistic side. There are several different activities to choose from, including foam clay, decopatch, build your own teddy and ceramic painting. It’s a haven for the whole family and your children will love making something that is completely unique to them.

Have you ever tried your hand at making fresh pasta? Head to The Happy Place Next Door, owned by The Pasta Shop, where you and your kids can have a go at making pasta dough from scratch and use a pasta machine to stretch it out. Running on Saturdays or in small group private sessions, these classes are brilliant for pasta making beginners, and you’ll get to walk away with your own creation and some homemade sauce. The classes are amazing fun and a great way to learn new skills!

For the theatre lovers

For large-scale shows and productions, look no further than the Darlington Hippodrome. This award-winning venue plays host to big name touring shows and events, they also have plenty on for families throughout the holidays. This includes film screenings, workshops and activities for children of all ages to get involved with. You can also pop into the Hippo Lounge for a drink and a bite to eat to round off the visit, making it a great spot to spend a couple of hours.

Theatre fans will also love the Majestic Theatre on Bondgate. This is a small-scale theatre that’s home to amateur dramatics performances, comedy nights, pantomimes, live music and so much more. There’s always plenty of family-friendly shows on, but also lots to book on your child-free nights too. And if you have little ones, they’ll love Gi Gi’s soft play on the ground floor too!

For the budding historians

The North East’s newest visitor attraction, Hopetown, will be opening on Tuesday 16 July for everyone interested in the local railway history. This 7.5 acre site is home to the North Road Station Museum, an exhibition hall, a railway-themed digital media experience, a café, a shop, a play area and so much more. Admission is free, but some exhibitions, events and activities carry a separate charge, so booking via the website ( is recommended. Alongside all of the railway memorabilia and information, the first exhibition on opening is Brick Journeys, a transport-themed LEGO showcase, complete with brick hot air balloons, rocket and submarine. This is definitely going to be a hotspot for families over the school holidays.

You can find another piece of history in Darlington at Tees Cottage Pumping Station on Coniscliffe Road, which is a Victorian water pumping station at Broken Scar. This spot is open on select dates throughout the year where you’ll get to see the machinery in motion, see blacksmith demonstrations, miniature railway rides, and the opportunity to find out more about how this vital building in revolutionising the local water supply.

For the gamers

Gaming fans will love Sim King Gaming on King Street, whether they’re teens, tweens or younger. From Xboxes to PlayStations and even a virtual reality headset, this place is perfect for gamers to spend a couple of hours. They’ve got hundreds of games on offer, including top names and old classics, and potentially some you’ve never come across before, so there’s something for everyone. You can book by the hour and there’s options to book parties too, which could be ideal for teen groups over the holidays.

If your kids are into puzzle games and taking on challenges, why not book a slot at Cluedini? This Crown Street spot is home to three different themed escape rooms, each with varying difficulty and packed to the rafters with fun. You and your team will be put to the test to find clues, solve crimes, recover loot and ultimately break out of the room. This would be great to do as a family or if your teen is looking for something to do with their friends, this could be a fantastic option for them to do as a group.

For the energetics

If your kids are always a ball of energy and need a way to burn it off, take a look at DC Bowl at the Dolphin Centre. Everyone loves bowling, so why not book in for a family game and get that competitive spirit going? This bowling alley features five lanes, so it’s small but perfectly formed, making it ideal for get togethers with other groups too. It’s also a fabulous place for a party, so if your child has a birthday during the school holidays, this could be a great option.

For a runabout and to blow off some steam, South Park is the perfect place. This 91 acre park is home to a lake, aviary, bandstand, skatepark and a recently renovated playground. There’s also a huge events field that offers plenty of space to set up a make shift football pitch or take your dog for a run. It’s a gorgeous place to visit in the summer, so take the kids along for an energetic morning, then swing by the café for lunch or pack a picnic!

For the shopaholics

One thing that you’re definitely not short of in Darlington is shops. If you’ve got shopaholics in the family or you want to take your kids out to pick a few things up, there are plenty of shops to choose from. The town centre is a paradise for those who love to shop independent, so if you’re looking for all things quirky, give Whimsickal on Post House Wynd a try. For all things treats and chocolate, pay Inspired Chocolate on Grange Road a visit, or drop into Bakerman in Clark’s Yard for a freshly baked brownie.

As well as the thriving independent scene, there’s also plenty of big high street names to shop with. The centre is one of the few places in the local area to have a department store, so you can find a whole host of brands in House of Fraser across a range of departments, like beauty, fashion and home. The Cornmill Centre is also a hotspot for high street names, such as Primark, New Look, Next, Waterstones and so many more. If your teen is in the mood for a bit of a spending spree, they’ll love it here!

For the toddlers

Theatre Hullabaloo are the only specialist children’s theatre North of London and they’re amazing if you’ve got toddlers or small children. They believe in bringing touring shows and performances to children, as well as a programme of events and activities in The Hullabaloo on Borough Road. This includes time in their free creative play space (there are neurodiverse-friendly sessions too), live show experiences and a café to unwind in afterwards. It’s an absolute wonderland for children to learn and play in.

You can never go wrong with soft play if you have toddlers and the soft play in the Dolphin Centre is excellent. This space features an under the sea and pirate island theme, offering a nautical adventure for the whole family to enjoy. Children can pop their shoes off and dive into a world of oceanic characters, ball pits, slides and hiding places. Even if you don’t have toddlers, this soft play is great for kids aged up to 8, so if you need a way to fill an hour or two, this could be ideal.

For more inspiration ahead of your trip to Darlington, read our other blog posts.


Enjoy Darlington