Looking for things to do in Cheltenham with kids? Following a trip to the spa town, I’ve put together an itinerary packed full of fun things to do in Cheltenham, a beautiful Gloucestershire town. The list includes things to do in Cheltenham town centre, days out in Cheltenham, free things to do in Cheltenham, family activities and places to stay.
*Disclosure: I was invited to do The Regency Cheltenham Cycling Tour with The Bicycle Hub, Visit Cheltenham and Bristol Bloggers Group and received a complimentary lunch at The Cotswold Grange Hotel in return for an honest review. All views are my own. This post also contains affiliate links, should you click to purchase, it is at no additional cost to you, although I receive a small commission which goes towards the upkeep of this blog.
Things to do with kids in Cheltenham
Cheltenham is well-known for its horse-racing, spa waters and elegant buildings (the town is the most complete Regency town in the UK – it has more than Bath!), but how many people know about the edgier side of its personality – the street art, how it buzzes when there’s a festival in town and its family-friendly vibes?
Despite being only a 50-minute drive away in Bristol, I’ve only been to Cheltenham with kids a handful of times and never ventured much further afield than a friend’s house, so, I jumped at the chance to explore the town with Visit Cheltenham and The Bicycle Hub Cheltenham. Here’s my perfect 24 hour itinerary for what to do in Cheltenham with kids.
1. Get on yer bike!
For an exciting way to see the historic sights of Cheltenham with kids in tow, start the day exploring the town on two wheels. The Bicycle Hub, located behind Cheltenham Spa railway station, rents bikes and helmets for just £20 a day (£10 for a Child’s bike, trailer or Tagalong) which includes a detailed mobile GPS app and step-by-step instructions for following the Regency Cheltenham Cycle Trail.
The trail follows a gentle six-mile cycle route that winds and wends it way along the Honeybourne Line, past spectacular street art (the legacy of the Cheltenham Paint Festival) through lake-lovely Pittville Park and along handsome streets of Regency houses. Simply fix your smartphone to the handlebars of your bike using their waterproof mount and away you go!
2. Soak up some park life
There’s a good few hours to be spent in Cheltenham’s largest ornamental park with kids, which happily is also part of the cycle trail. If you’re following the cycle route, pedal alongside the lower lake until you reach The Boathouse Cafe.
Here you’ll find some handy rails to lock your bikes to, before embarking on another mode of transport in this terribly picturesque spot – rowboat! There are a range of vessels for hire that can fit up to five people in, however just be warned that their smallest life jackets fit kids aged three and over and little’uns won’t be allowed onboard without one.
As well as rowing boats, The Boathouse Cafe runs family activities in Cheltenham such as Welly Walks, a Halloween ‘Spooktacular’, Christmas craft and drama workshops and nature trails, so it’s worth checking ahead what’s on before your trip. They also have an impressive ice cream selection and host children’s parties.
3. Pit stop at Pittville Park
Stop in for a bite to eat at The Boathouse Cafe, find a pretty picnic spot in the park to munch your lunch or pick up a snack from The Kiosk next to the ginormous Pittville Park playground while the kids play in what appears to be The Ultimate Playground.
A popular haven for dads with their lattes, sent to entertain their offspring on Sunday mornings, this park is an adventure wonderland for kids. There’s even an aviary and rabbits and chickens to coo at once they’ve finished clambering, pinging and swinging in the play area.
4. What to see in Cheltenham – Pittville Pump Rooms
Take a gander at the glorious Pittville Pump Rooms, famous for their ‘therapeutic’ waters which inspired the development of Cheltenham as a Spa Town for fashionable society in the 1800s. If you fancy a go at curing your ailments, you can still taste the briny medicinal spa waters from the pump.
5. Swim at Sandford Parks Lido
If you’re visiting between April and October, the open-air, family-friendly Sandford Parks Lido is a perfect afternoon option for a warm day. The Grade II* listed heated outdoor swimming pool has a 50-metre main pool (heated to 26 °C), a children’s pool (30 °C), and paddling pool.
6. Find things to do with kids Cheltenham Literature Festival
If you’re putting together a list of Cheltenham things to do, Cheltenham Literature Festival (early-mid October) on your list. Head to Montpellier Gardens to find lots of fun child-friendly events to choose from, including storytelling with characters, tug of war, lots of books etc.
7. Visit Montpellier Gardens
If it’s not festival season this pretty park in Cheltenham for kids has a play area, a skate board ramp which might tempt older children and is surrounded by cafes, lovely shops and eateries. If little ones (and parents!) are flagging, treat yourself to a cheeky afternoon pick-me-up on some sinfully rich and gooey concoction at Baker & Graze, a short walk from Montpellier Gardens.
8. Indoor activities Cheltenham
If the Weather Gods aren’t being kind and you need indoor family activities in Cheltenham, you could check out the Gustav Holst Museum – birthplace of one of England’s most-respected composers (best known for The Planets) – and step back in time to 1832 for a taste of how a Regency terraced house would have looked during that era. Or pop into The Wilson Museum, which hosts Cheltenham children’s activities, exciting trails, craft sessions, and lots more alongside its exhibitions.
The Brewery Quarter
9. Go on a treasure map trail
Treasure Map Trails are fantasy-themed treasures maps of towns and cities that are made for adventurous kids aged 5 to 12. Follow the map in search of the illustrated treasures, which include local landmarks such as statues, gargoyles and carvings.
Cheltenham’s treasure map covers the town centre and features an under-the-sea theme to fire young imaginations. The adventure takes around two hours to complete and can be combined with sightseeing, shopping or a family walk.
The hand drawn map is larger than A3 when opened out, and folds down to pocket size so it is easy to carry round. Copies cost £6.99 including postage. Quote coupon code ANGHARADPAULL to get 10% off your copy here.
10. Things to do near Cheltenham
There are some some excellent family-friendly days out near Cheltenham within half an hour’s drive from the town. Cattle Country Adventure Park, Cotswold Farm Park, WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre and All Things Wild Nature Centre all make great things to do with kids near cheltenham and the magical-village-green-style Giffords Circus at nearby Sudeley Castle as well as the enchanting Christmas lights are ones to watch out for.
Where to stay
For child-friendly boutique style on your stay in Cheltenham with kids, the Cotswold Grange Hotel oozes pizzazz without compromising on comfort. There’s plenty of quirk to set it apart from a standard hotel – glorious globular copper lights and bird decor details, local artists’ work, scrummy food, Orla Kiely bathroom smellies, homemade cookies in the bedrooms and enthusiastic staff.
Kids are welcome too and camp beds (sturdy and cosy ones – as opposed to cheap and flimsy) are added to transform suites into make family rooms.
Downstairs, there’s a chilled out lounge bar with a good gin selection, which always gets a tick in my book. This sort of set up works really well if you’re staying in a small hotel with young kids because it means that you can do dinner, settle them in bed and then, if the monitor stretches, lock the door and pop down for a nightcap rather than having to creep around in the dark in your bedroom after 8pm!
Those with older offspring could probably get away with heading to the hotel for a freshen up before venturing out to try Cheltenham’s foodie offering – there’s an Ivy Brasserie , a Wagamama and the town is home to Michelin-starred Le Champignon Sauvage as well as lots of family-friendly independent restaurants.
From the Cotswold Grange Hotel, you’re about a 20-minute walk into the main part of town, so you can stroll off a big dinner or get a quick cab back. A family suite starts from £149 including breakfast.
Holiday Inn Express
If you’re looking for somewhere for the whole family to stay in Cheltenham, the Holiday Inn Express Cheltenham Town Centre ticks a lot of family-friendly hotel boxes. As you can tell from the name, it’s right in the heart of the action, and sits just across the road from The Brewery Quarter. It’s pretty good value for money and easy to get to, especially if you’re driving into town (it’s 20-minutes from the M5). Here’s my review of the Holiday Inn Express Cheltenham Town Centre.
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