It’s cold, wet, windy and everything costs more than it did this time last year. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we’re helping you keep boredom at bay with some free or inexpensive things to try this winter.
Cheap meals out
We previously covered the ‘kids eat free’ or ‘kids eat for £1’ initiatives running through the summer holidays, but what offers are available over the winter months?
- Morrisons Café – Children eat free all day in Morrison’s cafés when an adult buys a meal for £4.99 or more!
- ASDA Café – Children and the over-60’s can now eat for £1, all day, every day.
- Brewers Fayre – Always offer ‘kids eat free’ with their all-you-can-eat breakfasts when an adult breakfast is purchased! If you don’t have children in tow, they also offer two mains for just £8.99 during the week between 12pm and 6pm. Ideal after a wintery walk!
- Dobbies – over-60’s offers include a main course with a cake dessert for under £10, while children eat for free, all day, every day, when an adult buys a breakfast or main course.
- Table Table – Not one, but two children can ‘all-you-can-eat’ for free with every £9.50 adult breakfast purchased. The offer applies every day!
- Whitbread Inns – Children can enjoy a free breakfast with every adult breakfast purchased for £9.50.
Check online before you head out as these deals do tend to come and go, or change in value at times (for example, Morrison’s reduced their deal from £1 to free!). You may find this is the case particularly as we approach the February school holidays. Always read their terms and conditions.
Tip: Many restaurants offer 25% discount if you sign up to receive their newsletters, plus an invite to enjoy a free meal on your birthday.
Are you aware of any free meals available near you? Why not share them with our community?
Free entry teamed with being in the warm for a few hours means the vast network of UK museums could be a popular choice during the winter months.
As the 20+ national museums in the UK are all funded by the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sports, they are free to enter to view their permanent exhibitions. Whether to charge or not has been a contentious issue over the past 60 years, so it’s important to make the most of it while we can.
Note: Some national museums may charge for special exhibitions at times, which you can usually bypass if needed.
The UK’s Top 10 free national museums
- The British Museum
- The Tate Modern
- The National Gallery
- The Natural History Museum
- The Science Museum
- The Victoria and Albert Museum
- The National Museum of Scotland
- The Scottish National Gallery
- The National Portrait Gallery
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
It’s worth looking online to find out whether those closer to home are free. While some museums may charge, others don’t. The ones that do charge often allow children in for free or offer generous concession prices, so do shop around.
Some may ‘suggest’ a donation of something like £5 per person but you will not be asked for this on arrival, leaving you free to decide whether to donate or not.
Be a tourist in your hometown.
You may not have thought about contacting your local Tourist Information to find some great locations, walks and events near you!
Tourist Information can point you in the direction of some incredible local historical sites and leisurely walks you may have missed. It’s easy enough to call, or pop in, and head out towards a few free suggestions with a packed lunch and see where the day takes you.
We would also recommend trying visitengland.com as a first port of call. From haunted pubs to the nature trails in your area, it’s a wonderful resource if you are on a budget. It also covers wheelchair-friendly adventures!
Winter woodland walks
It can be tempting to stay wrapped up indoors, but research shows that connecting with Mother Nature can have a positive impact on our mental health – in addition to the physical benefits.
In fact, the Mental Health Foundation released a report outlining how nature “played a critical role in our mental health during the pandemic”, with nearly half of respondents taking to green spaces to help them cope. The one thing that does make a difference, they say, is finding ‘high-quality nature spaces’ for people to feel a sense of space, enjoyment, and safety.
Forest and woodlands cover one-eighth of the UK. According to Forest Research the UK has 1.41 million hectares, including all Forestry Commission, Forestry and Land Scotland, Natural Resources Wales, Forest Service woodland.
Could there be a forest close to you that you haven’t yet discovered? Find out here: Visit a forest or woodland | Forestry England
Whether you’re new to walking or have been walking for years, you could also check out GetOutside. Founded by Ordnance Survey, the idea is to help more people to get outside, more often. They have lots of useful guides online, including the best places to visit by train.
And of course, if you are a dog lover, another option is to try some of A-Plan’s favourite winter dog walks.
Tip: For convenience and to help fund maintenance of the forests, there can be a charge for parking, but do look out for laybys which will be free to use if you don’t mind the extra walk.
What is ‘geocaching’?
Geocaching is a wonderful way to treasure hunt. If you’re new to geocaching, it has become a popular outdoor activity, where you seek a ‘treasure’ based on GPS coordinates using a mobile phone. Just follow the GPS to the location where you will find a ‘hidden treasure’.
Simply go on the Geocaching website or download the app for your nearest geocache. Head out on an adventure to find it – and don’t forget to place a little keepsake for the next geocache explorer.
Try a Pokémon Go adventure
The Pokémon Go smartphone app is a fun way to get out and about. Pokémon Go originally hit the market in 2016 and has been a firm favourite ever since. Once downloaded, it works by using location data to populate your ‘real world’ environment with Pokémon characters, which can be found, caught and trained by players.
In layman’s terms, your mobile phone app will show a map, much like satellite navigation, with over 600 Pokémon characters appearing in various locations.
Important note: If you or your children are out and about chasing Pokémon, always ensure everyone is always aware of their surroundings – including traffic!
Look up your local ‘Warm Spaces’ initiative
From free cinema tickets in Stockton-on-Tees to a community stroll in a garden centre in Lincoln, the Warm Spaces scheme has been designed to not only keep people warm during the colder months, but to also offer a sense of community.
Some community centres, pubs, restaurants, garden centres, and co-working spaces are opening their doors to serve free hot food, free Wi-Fi or even a warm space to work.
It may not be something you have previously considered, but keep in mind that, due to the cost-of-living crisis, there are likely to be others attending for the first time just to see what it’s like, connect with others, and enjoy a hot cup of tea while putting the world to rights.
Find the Warm Spaces in your region here.
Whatever you do, wrap up, stay warm and have a great adventure!
Sources: Mental Health Foundation, Forestry England, GetOutside, museums.co.uk, Visit England, Warm Space Initiative.