Free or low-cost family fun in Derby this February half-term

An image of a young girl and boy holding badminton rackets and footballs.

Mon 6 Feb 2023

The half-term break is approaching and there is plenty going on in Derby to keep youngsters entertained. We know the soaring cost of living means many families’ finances are tight but, with many activities free or low-cost, our list has something for every budget.

Enjoy the fun of the fair

There will be thrills and spills in Derby Market Place as the Valentine's Fun Fair comes to town. Enjoy a variety of fun fair attractions for the whole family. The Eventive Funtime fair will be open daily from Friday 17 February until Sunday 23 February from 11 am until 11 pm. Entry is free and attraction prices vary, see onsite for details.

Join in with Derby Arena’s Sport Fest

Derby Arena will host an open day filled with fun family activities on Thursday 23 February. The extravaganza will feature fun-packed games, fitness activities and a selection of enticing stalls.

Activities will include football, family track circuits, balance bikes, badminton, table tennis, basketball, cricket and more. You’ll be sure to enjoy a marathon of sporting madness!

The event will run from 9 am until 4 pm. Find out more about Derby Arena's Sport Fest.

Spend a day at Markeaton Park

There’s so much going on at Markeaton Park, you could fill a whole day. The Mundy Play Centre is open daily from 10.30 am until 4 pm to entertain the kids. The bouncy castles, electric cars and mini-golf will keep them busy for hours.

Don’t miss the Craft Village, where you can shop for handmade gifts, jewellery and toys, or book one of the many workshops and courses available. Housed in the old stable yard, it is the perfect place to treat yourself to something delicious from the Orangery Cafe or have a picnic at one of the picnic benches. There are lots of paths around the park so you could also take in the scenery on a relaxing walk.

The Famous Trains Model Railway is also open on Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11 am until 4 pm. Watch the model trains go by, and learn about our railway history and how railways operate. Entry costs £3 for adults, £1.50 for children or £6 for a family.

Join the Big Family Read at Derby Libraries

There is lots of free fun to be had at Derby Libraries this half-term as this year’s Big Family Read gets underway. The dinosaur-themed celebration of books for children aged 3 to 11 runs from Monday 20 February until Saturday 1 April and includes events and a book competition.

Together with The Lowe Ranger, our libraries will host a prehistoric party where you can dance, play games, listen to stories, and meet some real-life dinos. Plus, join Furthest from the Sea for a dinosaur-themed crafty adventure!

Events will be held at Alvaston and Normanton libraries on Thursday 23 February and at Riverside and Mickleover libraries on Friday 24 February. Entry is free but places must be pre-booked by contacting the host library.

Try out a new sport

Do you fancy having a go at badminton, table tennis or squash? Why not come along as a family to Derby Arena or Springwood Leisure Centre this half term and have a go for half price. No need to bring equipment, you can hire at the leisure centre. The offer runs from Monday 20 February until Friday 24 February between 9 am and 3 pm. Subject to availability, bookings are required for players aged 16 years and under. Prices start at £3.90. There will also be a 50% discount on artificial turf pitch (ATP) bookings.

Get your fresh air fix at Derby Parks

Aside from Markeaton, there are so many beautiful parks and open spaces in Derby that you’ll be spoiled for choice – and they are free! Wrap up warm and take the family for a bracing walk – if you need any ideas, check out our park walks and gardens

Youngsters will also love the exciting trails on the free Love Exploring app where you can look for fairies, planets and dinosaurs. Trails are available at Markeaton Park, Alvaston Park, Arboretum Park and Allestree Park, so have a go and see what you discover.

Get bouncy with a soft play session

Let your little ones burn off some energy with a soft play session. Springwood Leisure Centre has a Big Kids Soft Play session for four to 10-year-olds on Monday 20 February between 9.30 am and 2 pm.  Children will love the bouncy castle, obstacles and soft play fun.

There will also be a session for under-fives on Thursday 24 February between 9.30 am and 2 pm. Little ones can climb, run, slide and bounce on the inflatable slide, ball pit and soft play.

Sessions cost £3.50 per child, drop in or book in advance to secure your place. 

Get the free 52 Things To Do Before You’re 5 activity pack

If you have children under the age of five, you’ll find lots of ideas for fun and educational things to do in our 52 Things To Do Before You’re 5 activity pack. Many of the activities are free and use local resources to have fun and encourage children’s learning and development.

The free start-up pack includes a booklet of activities and a poster where families can track their progress. Each page in the booklet suggests a free or very low-cost activity for the week, to do either indoors or outdoors.

The activities build on children’s personal, social and emotional development, encouraging speech and communication, physical abilities, creative skills, knowledge and understanding of the world, and the foundations for early literacy and maths. Each activity can be revisited, and the booklet suggests how to extend children’s language and learning as they grow in confidence. Find out more and order your start up pack now. Find out more about 52 Things on our website.

Catch a family performance

One Tenth Human bring their cracking new adventure Curious Investigators to Normanton Library on Wednesday 22 February. Scribble and Clipboard have a job to do - sort the recycling. But Scribble keeps finding new things to investigate.

When she discovers a mysterious egg hidden in the rubbish, the pair need the audience’s help to rescue an unborn chick. Can we save a mysterious egg from a smashing? And what will we discover along the way?

A surprising, highly visual show for 3 to 7-year-olds and their grown-ups – created in collaboration with engineering experts from Lancaster University, the performance takes place at 11am and costs £3.

Get on your bike with Cycle Derby’s holiday sessions

Cycle Derby is running activities for children of all ages at Derby Arena. On Monday 20 February, there will be a ‘New to Two Wheels’ session for little ones aged from four to eight years. It runs from 10 am until 11 am and costs £10. For children aged from six to 12, there will be a holiday club session from 10 am until noon for £15.

Later in the week, older children can get a taste of competitive cycling. A track day session will be held on Thursday 23 February for competent cyclists aged between nine and 16. It runs from 10 am until 3 pm and costs £30. Experienced riders aged between 12 and 16 can complete their track accreditation on Friday 24 February between 12.30 pm and 4.30 pm.

There will also be three Learn to Ride sessions for children aged four-plus who are getting on two wheels for the first time or have almost mastered it. They take place on Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Thursday 23 February and cost £20 for 50 minutes.

Sessions must be booked in advance – to book, or for more information, visit the Cycle Derby website.

Watch a family film at QUAD

Families can get discounted tickets for with QUAD’s Cine Kids showings, so grab the popcorn and enjoy! All tickets are £5 per person for Cine Kids Club members (which includes the whole family and their guests). Membership is free to families with children under 16. Cine Kids films are showings on various dates between. For full details see the QUAD website.

Burn off some energy at the playground

Derby has more than 50 play areas, many of which have been refurbished in the last five years to include exciting and adventurous play equipment that everyone can access for free.

From giant basket swings to zip wires and unusual items such as mazes, trim trails, sand pits and trampolines, you’ll find something for toddlers up to teens to enjoy. Find out more about the facilities at your local park.

Explore Derby Museums

Give your family a musical experience to remember with David Gibb’s Family Jukebox at Derby Museum of Making. Join David and his magical music Jukebox as he takes you on a trip through his hilarious and often surreal imagination, where wolves roam the school corridors, dragons live under the bed and teddy bears dance the night away at the disco.

Guaranteed to appeal equally to parents and children alike, this is music that the whole family can enjoy together! See it on Friday 24 February from 11 am until midday. Entry is £8 for children aged 11 and under or free for adults and children aged from 12 upwards. Booking is essential, find out more at the Derby Museums website.

Over at Pickford’s House, there will be a holiday Crafty Tuesdays session on 21 February, experimenting with the many ways you can reuse buttons to create exciting craft projects. The session, between 10 am and midday, is suitable for families and entry is free – you can make a donation if you wish.

With the cost of living rising, winter can be a tough time for families.

You can get support at our online hub, which is packed with advice and support. It has been created in partnership with Derby City Council, Community Action Derby and Derby Homes. Visit the Cost of Living website to see what help is available for you.