Spending time exploring with friends and loved ones can often add up, but with the milder weather and a range of festivals, city celebrations and low-cost experiences there’s plenty of opportunities to enjoy days out on the cheap.
From a Black British culture walking tour in London’s Notting Hill to the unveiling of Manchester’s High Line-inspired urban park, here are some recommendations to help Brits save pennies while making memories this summer:
Free things to do this summer
Summer by the River, London
Now – 2 September 2022
With three London Bridge locations, this free to attend festival, which pays homage to 1930s Miami, will put on food, entertainment and outdoor activities until September. Summer by the River is the largest free arts and entertainment festival in the capital, and takes place alongside the Thames at The Scoop, Hay’s Galleria and The Pier. Entertainment includes live screens showing Wimbledon in July, karaoke nights and outdoor exercise classes.
Now – 25 September 2022
It is the 50th anniversary of UK Pride this summer, and it is being marked with parades, festivals and free events across the country. Hot on the heels of London Pride is Northern Pride in Newcastle (22-24 July). In addition, Brighton Pride celebrates its (delayed) 30th year in 2022, widely acknowledged as one of the best LGBTQ+ events in the country. Taking place from 5th to 7th August 2022, over 300,000 people are expected to join the celebrations. Everyone can participate in and watch on as an all-singing, all-dancing carnival of colour makes its way through the city’s streets.
Now – 24 July 2022
Dreamachine is inspired by an extraordinary 1959 invention by artist Brion Gysin, described as the ‘first artwork to be experienced with your eyes closed’. A seated, multisensory experience, the 21st Century Dreamachine has been created by a team of leading minds in architecture, technology, music, neuroscience, and philosophy, including Turner Prize-winning collective Assemble and Grammy-nominated composer Jon Hopkins. You’ll be able to experience the Dreamachine immersive lightscape with 360-degree spatial sound in Woolwich Public Market in London’s Greenwich this summer. Free tickets are now available here.
Birmingham 2022 Festival
Until September 2022
Shining a global spotlight on creativity in the West Midlands as Birmingham gets set to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Birmingham 2022 festival features hundreds of creative commissions across the region featuring art, photography, dance, theatre, digital art and more. Key events include an uplifting free musical concert, To The Streets, being performed in parks across the West Midlands (19 – 28 August), the inclusive Healing Gardens of Bab events and installations popping up at locations across Birmingham (27 June – 17 July) and PoliNations, an immersive forest filled with real and architectural trees located in the heart of Birmingham (2 – 18 September).
UEFA Women’s Euros Fan Festivals
The UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 will be played across England this summer including stadiums in Greater Manchester, Brighton, London, and Sheffield. Visitors can soak up the atmosphere and take part in activities, from face painting and coaching clinics to free screenings of games at free fan festivals taking place in major host cities.
Oxford Festival of the Arts
Now – 25 July 2022
Oxford Festival of the Arts takes place each summer with cultural events featuring nationally and internationally renowned performers and artists, as well as exciting newcomers and wonderful home-grown talent. The broad programme of performances, events, and experiences embrace music, theatre, visual art, film, dance, comedy and literature. Free events include Gaia (now – 25 July) a touring artwork exhibition by UK artist Luke Jerram detailing NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface, and Dance in the City with Dancin’ Oxford (9 July) which will bring Leiden Square to life with a series of vibrant dance performances including a lunchtime Zumba party.
Cheltenham Music Festival Free Music Weekend
9 – 10 July 2022
Cheltenham Music Festival was launched in 1945 and to this day proudly celebrates the city’s love of music. To mark the opening weekend of the music festival on 9 and 10 July, roaming bands will perform free pop-up concerts on Cheltenham’s High Street, Promenade and Imperial Gardens. BLOCO B will get the party started on Saturday morning with some Rio de Janeiro Carnival style samba tunes, while Saturday afternoon sees the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band perform vibrant music and colourful dancing in a fusion of Indian sounds and Bhangra beats. On Sunday morning, Unswung Heroes take to the streets with New Orleans jazz as well as pop, soul and funk covers in a vintage swing style.
Castlefield Viaduct, Manchester
Opens July 2022
After being out of use for 50 years, the Grade II listed Castlefield Viaduct is being turned into a High Line-inspired urban park. Built in 1892, this summer the Castlefield Viaduct will open as a temporary National Trust park to test ideas for its long-term future, with first plans for the 400m long raised walkway including it being lined with flowers, trees and seating areas. Castlefield Viaduct is set to be England’s equivalent of New York’s High Line park in the sky, an urban green space which tourists and locals equally love.
Spot Puffins, Hares, Ducks and Dinosaurs on new art trails across the country
There’s a range of fun new trails to explore across the country this summer. Spot all 42 1.5m tall puffin sculptures on a new Puffins Galore coastal public art trail launched on the East Yorkshire coast on 2 July; keep watch for the Hares of Hampshire on a new family trail bringing the streets, parks and public spaces of the region to life until 25 August and Follow that Duck along the Sussex Coast from Bexhill to Hastings, where an art trail of 5ft tall rubber-duck sculptures will bring the coastline to life alongside wellbeing activities. Dino lovers can head to Norwich and Norfolk for the GoGoDiscover Dinosaur Walking Trail (27 June – 10 September) and spot 79 individually designed sculptures comprising 55 T.rex and 24 Steppe Mammoths, each decorated by artists from across the county.
Bristol Harbour Festival
15 – 17 July 2022
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the largest free arts festival in the South West brings together a packed programme of music, performance, circus and dance. This year’s theme is Ebb and Flow, aiming to champion the diverse range of communities that make up the city.
Draw a giant at Grosvenor Museum, Chester
23 July – 2 October 2022
Would-be illustrators should pack their pencil cases and head to Chester’s Grosvenor Museum, the next stop for BFG in Pictures, an exhibition of the work of Quentin Blake, one of the country’s best-loved illustrators. Blake, best known for his collaborations with the author Roald Dahl, has curated a display of many of his illustrations from The BFG, including some early and unknown work. Plus, there will be free activities about dreams, giants and the power of the imagination, including film shows.
Devon Street Food Festival, Ilfracombe
29 – 31 July 2022
Devon Street Food Festival will be making its return to Victoria Pleasure Gardens, Ilfracombe with a stellar line-up of food vendors. This celebration of food caters for carnivores, veggies and vegans alike with Insta-worthy bites and dishes from around the world.
Portsmouth Kite Festival
30-31 July 2022
One of the biggest kite festivals in the world celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, bringing together kites from around the globe for a spectacular free event on Southsea common overlooking the Solent. Alongside demonstrations of kite flying, a range of activities including kite making workshops are on offer.
Blackpool Air Show
13 – 14 August 2022
Back for 2022, the Blackpool Air Show looks set to attract up to 100,000 visitors to see some of the world’s finest aircraft – including the iconic Red Arrows – performing over the iconic seafront location.
Carnival time across the country
Carnival is back with a bang for 2022. Highlights look set to include the Leicester Caribbean Carnival on 6 August; the return of the Notting Hill Carnival (27-29 August) and the Leeds West Indian Carnival (Bank Holiday Monday).
Hadrian’s Wall 1900: Marking 1900 years of the World Heritage Site, Northern England
24 January – 23 December 2022
Celebrate 1900 years of Hadrian’s Wall at this year-long festival, taking place throughout 2022. A series of events including artwork, performances, talks, and activities will be held across the length of this iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site. Everyone can celebrate the wall through learning of its Roman history, appreciating the surrounding dark skies and natural environment, and experiencing cultural diversity, food, music, the arts and more. Events taking place this summer include the family-friendly Hail Hadrian Roman re-enactment weekend at Chester’s Roman Fort (23 – 24 July), the Summer Explorer Quest at Birdoswald Roman Fort (23 July – 4 September) and the Roman Festival at Senhouse Roman Museum (23 July – 29 August).
Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man at Chatsworth, Derbyshire
Until 1 October 2022
Arriving in Chatsworth as a UK first, 12 of the sculptures from the famed Burning Man festival will be on display in the 1000-acre park for all to visit. ‘Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man’ will showcase the gigantic works from the festival which takes place in the US’ Black Rock Desert every year, in the surrounds of the house just over an hour from Manchester. Eight of the sculptures will be existing artworks, while four of them will be built on site with the help of visitors and community groups, embodying the build process at Burning Man. Alongside the free to visit exhibition, there will be dated events throughout the period such as mindful walking workshops around the exhibition, and family art in the park using the sculptures as inspiration.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Somerset
11 – 14 August 2022
Bristol’s largest free fiesta returns to Ashton Court Estate in Bristol. Over 100 hot-air balloons gather for mass ascents, tethered displays and the highly anticipated Night Glow spectacles at the largest event of its kind in Europe. Held over four days, there are market stalls, live music, fairground rides and street food stalls that also help attract over half a million people to the fiesta each year.
Art in the Park, Warwickshire
13 – 14 August 2022
Art in the Park, the largest free outdoor arts gathering in Warwickshire, will take place in Jephson Garden and Mill Gardens in Leamington Spa. The festival gives visitors, families and young people the opportunity to take part in and enjoy a range of art, theatre, dance, crafts, music, events and workshops. It will also host some of the finest local culinary offerings across pop-up food and drink stalls. Art in the Park is not just a two-day arts event, but is a year-round cultural hive which works to support young people, underrepresented groups and emerging artists – and their creative development.
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, London
26 August – 11 September 2022
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival is London’s free theatre and performing arts festival, that tells compelling stories in spectacular style. This year expect Charon, a monumental 32ft high featuring Zoetrope originally from the world-renowned Burning Man festival, a tidal wave of multi-colored foam at Greenwich Peninsula, and a Royal Ballet collaboration with disabled dancer Joe Powell-Main. The programme will include a total of 25 premieres by a record number of international artists, from countries including Spain, Germany, Flanders, Italy, France, The Netherlands and the US.
Ryde Carnival, Isle of Wight
27 August – 3 September 2022
The UK’s oldest carnival, dating backing to 1887, Ryde Carnival is all-inclusive and joyous parades of colour and light marking the end of summer. Three parades will take place across the week, with one Main Carnival on 1st September, the Illuminated Carnival on 3rd September and a Children’s Carnival Day on 27th August, which will include various activities and culminate in a Children’s Parade along Ryde’s high street.
The Kennet and Avon Canal, Great West Way
The Kennet and Avon Canal is an 87-mile waterway connecting London with the Bristol channel and makes up a portion of the Great West Way, the south of England’s premier touring route. The Kennet and Avon Canal is free and open for everyone to use and enjoy every day. Walk or cycle along the towpath to see amazing wildlife (keep an eye out for herons and kingfishers) as well as remarkable reminders of the area’s industrial heritage, including locks and aqueducts.
Attractions for £10 (or less)
Shakespeare North Playhouse, Prescot, Liverpool
The newly opened Shakespeare North Playhouse opens its doors on 15 July with a weekend long festival filled with workshops, events and tours. As productions begin, visitors can book tickets using the Pay What you Decide option, giving everyone the chance to experience the new Playhouse from just £3 per person. Shows range from Rubbish Romeo and Juliet to An Evening with Johnny Vegas.
Sail GP, Plymouth
30 – 31 July 2022
£4.75 + VAT adults/children free
The Great Britain Sail Grand Prix returns to the maritime city of Plymouth this summer, with ten nations competing in F50 catamarans at speeds exceeding 60mph. Waterfront access tickets on Plymouth Hoe are available from just £4.75 + VAT per adult and free for children, making it a great way to get up close to the action.
Sandwell and Birmingham Mela
27 – 28 August 2022
£2.25 per day / £3.85 for a weekend ticket
Europe’s biggest South Asian Music Festival returns to Birmingham this summer bringing some of the biggest British and International names to Victoria Park. Visitors can enjoy performances from up and coming and major artists alongside street theatre; visual arts; arts, craft and dance workshops and a global food village.
Upside Down House, Brighton
A photo experience flipped on its head, the Upside-Down Houses challenges spatial awareness with the floor being the ceiling, creating hilarious illusionary images. Popping up in areas across the South East, one of the houses can be found on Brighton Sea Front, whilst there are also others in Bournemouth, Great Yarmouth and Essex.
Notting Hill and Black British Culture Self-guided Tour, London
Discover one of London’s most picturesque neighbourhoods and learn about the influence and origin of Black British culture with this self-guided podcast tour. Explore some of the most well-known spots such as Portobello Road, to some off the beaten track spots like Museum of Brands and St Luke’s Mews.
Sick to Death, Chester
The gory story of medicine through time, Sick To Death is a new history of medicine attraction in Chester. Visitors experience a playground of plague with a smatter of splatter, and a chance to poke into our medical past.
Port Sunlight Experience, Liverpool
Take a 90-minute guided tour to discover the history of Port Sunlight, a village built on soap. Experience what life was like here over a century ago in the Edwardian Worker’s Cottage, and immerse yourself in the story of soap at the interactive SoapWorks.
Newcastle Castle, West Midlands
Steeped in history, this imposing Norman fortress is a rugged reminder of northern England’s turbulent past. Newcastle Castle is where the story of Newcastle began and the reason for its name. Explore the ancient passageways and chambers, discover the hidden stories of the Castle’s inhabitants over the centuries and take a journey through The Gateway to Old Newcastle.
The Ultimate Bristol Walking Tour – Blackbeard to Banksy, Bristol
Stroll Bristol’s street with an expert local guide, from historians to artists, and learn of the city’s fascinating past as you go. Witness Blitz damage on the city, see old pirate haunts, and look out for the city’s renowned street art murals.
Hot offers and savings
The National Art Pass, Nationwide
The National Art Pass, by the charity Art Fund, gives members free access and discounted entry into museums and galleries across the UK. There are currently over 250 places to use the National Art Pass in England, including free entry to The Courtauld Gallery in London, The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and The National Football Museum in Manchester. Annual membership is £45 for under 30s and £73 standard adult.
Two-for-one theme parks and attractions with National Rail, Nationwide
Register online at Days Out Guide, buy a National Rail ticket, and get two-for-one entry to more than 80 UK attractions, with some highlights including Thorpe Park, Kew Gardens, Chessington World of Adventures and Alton Towers. See Terms and Condition here.