Usually when you travel with small children, there is no compromise. You’re either dragging them through some museum or historical site where the memory of it will forever be footnoted with your child’s terrible whining, or you’re slogging through a theme park only to serve as their placeholder on a two-hour line so that the kids can ride the spinning tea cups for ninety seconds without experiencing the weight of the wait. But traveling Newcastle with kids, allows parents and their small children to strike a compromise, guaranteeing both parties enjoy the day.
Before diving into the city’s attractions, it’s worth killing a few stereotypes about the city. While Newcastle has a reputation for a few subpar things like Newcastle Brown Ale and the stag/hen parties that flood the streets with rowdy bachelors and bachelorettes in classless shirts, both of these are unfound in the best parts of the city, (but abundant in the worst).
Traveling Newcastle with Kids
Drinking a Beer with Your Kids
For decades, Exhibition Park had one standing structure inside: the Palace of Arts, a hall that had once served as the house for fine arts in the 1920s when the park hosted a major exhibition. But the Palace of Arts sat derelict in the decades that followed. Back in May, however, Wylam Brewery, once a farm-house operation, changed their address to the iconic palace. What looks more like a regal house of government than a brewery, the halls of the Wylam not only serve adults looking for great beer, it’s a totally acceptable retreat for dog walkers looking to imbibe and parents with kids in tow looking to take the edge off. And when the kids need a change of scenery, there’s a pond out front with ducks, a nearby playground just past the birds, and a great skatepark for those with more dare-devilish tots.
Sunday Along the Quayside
While any day is a good excuse to visit the Quayside with kids, Sundays during the warmer months are best. There’s a market set up along the river that runs from just beneath the famed Tyne Bridge to the pop-up restaurant, Riley’s Fish Shack. This, however, is not your typical fish and chips shop with fried fish slapped onto newspaper. While there are plenty of fried options, what comes off the grill is best. Tastier still are the “chips” and accoutrements. Instead of proper chips, Riley’s cube potatoes are sautéed with rosemary and garlic, and the great sides make the meal. Oh right, and the kids… Riley’s is great, specifically for the kids, as the pop-up faces an impermanent beach that has entertainment like Connect Four, a poor excuse for a climbing wall, beach chairs, and a scattering of sand toys.
Across the Millennium Bridge
On the other side of the river sits the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, a repurposed flour mill that houses Newcastle’s most intriguing modern art and city vistas. While Modern Art doesn’t often appeal to kids (or many adults), the kids’ space on the second floor, and for the next few weeks the playground exhibit on floor four, will attract parents and their children alike. While the permanent kids’ room continuously fosters creativity with Legos and art stations, two floors up the playground exhibit encourages fun. The old rope swings, concrete sandboxes, two-tiered web, and multi-colored tube slithering through the center of the space are a return to the yesteryears of childhood. The exhibit harkens back to the days when playgrounds were the center of play–and not the video game console in the bedroom or screen that half of you are reading this off of. For adults, besides watching your kids play, you can view photographs and clips of wonder-filled kids climbing across improvised playground structures, like pipes and puddles.
A Cruise Through the Ouse
The Ouseburn is an up-and-coming neighborhood in Newcastle. Once it was the home to all the factories; today it’s filled with artists, families, and a few great pubs. Best is the Cluny at the top of the hill. Set beside a big lawn and the Seven Stories Children’s Museum, kids can run around while you tip back a pint, or you can send them off with a chaperone to visit the museum. (I did not visit the museum with my kids, as a temporary bounce castle had been set up outside of the Cluny and served up enough fun. While I cannot vouch for the museum being any good, I can note that it exists.)
Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be pure sacrifice or pure selfishness. Newcastle offers a way to compromise.