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16th September 2018 Jessica Fogarty

The best things to do in South Yorkshire

Days out in Rotherham

South Yorkshire days out

Rotherham Minster

For a great choice of days out, explore Rotherham and discover acres of green parkland, get close to nature and visit the largest science adventure centre in Europe. Surrounded by landscaped churchyard lawns and boasting a tower and spire that create a prominent landmark in All Saints Square, Rotherham Minster is a must-see.

The parish church has stood tall in its central town centre position for more than 1,000 years, and was granted minster status in 2004. The distinctive nave roof is decorated with 77 bespoke carved bones – see if you can spot the 20 or more green men hidden in the foliage, carved into the church pillars.

The town’s former Templeborough steelworks has been transformed into Magna Science Adventure Centre. Have fun exploring the interactive pavilions of fire, water, earth and air; fire a giant water cannon, stand next to a fire tornado, board an airship to feel the strength of gale force winds, see lightning bolts, explode rock faces and control real JCBs! Then let off some steam before the drive home in Sci-Tek, one of Europe’s largest outdoor playgrounds; and splash around in Aqua-Tek.

If the weather’s nice, then the picturesque Rother Valley Country Park offers a place to picnic, cycle, kayak, windsurf and even zorb in acres of green parkland. Why not take your own picnic or BBQ? Or enjoy an hassle-free lunch in the cafe. Spend a leisurely day exploring the sights and sounds, play your own outdoor games and watch the professionals doing water sports.

Look out for the wildlife too – there are more than 260 species of birds, a nature reserve, wild rabbits, foxes and farm animals. You can also encounter the exotic at Tropical Butterfly House. Get up close to free-flying butterflies and birds, as well as friendly, free-roaming farm animals. There’s the chance to meet the residents of Meerkat Mansion and Prairie Dog Camp, along with snakes, birds of prey and creepy crawlies in unforgettable daily animal encounters.

Get up close to free-flying butterflies and birds, as well as friendly, free-roaming farm animals

Free play area

South Yorkshire days out

Big Apple Play City

Another educational day out could be at Clifton Park – home to its very own museum, showcasing the history of Rotherham, and the largest free play area in Yorkshire that’s open all day, every day, year round. It features towering 10 metre tall tower slides, tyre swings, a zip wire and skate park for teens; plus magical musical stepping stones, a flower maze and a giant sandpit for the tots. The splash park at Clifton Park is an acre of water play – completely free to access, it has fountains, a paddling pool, whirlpool and more than 70 water jets which activate at random.

While the kids play, parents can watch from the cafe and ice cream kiosk. If you’re tired out from the park, see the sights on the Clifton Express Land Train which does regular circuits of from the activity area to the museum and cafe. Stop off at the Walled Garden, Memorial Garden, Carpet Bed and Rock Garden. Little ones can ‘drive’ a yellow cab around the ‘city’, help NYPD catch the bad guys and cross Manhattan Bridge at Big Apple, South Yorkshire’s premier play city, themed on New York.

The decor has been designed to stimulate children’s imaginations whilst enabling them to burn off some energy. Far from being a wet weather option, the kids will want to visit Big Apple, come rain or shine. Before you head back to reality, try out some USA-style treats, snacks and drinks in the venue’s American diner. Jump trampoline parks are the latest attractions to hit South Yorkshire. An urban playground (for kids and adults) with venues in Rotherham and Sheffield, you can bounce around the open jump, walk-the-wall or brave the tumble tracks.

If you’re heading out in Doncaster, take your pick from leisure centre fun, a castle tour or a day at the races. Step back in time on a tour of Conisbrough Castle, with its unique circular keep that towers 100 feet above the Doncaster landscape. This romantic castle has been cleverly restored over the years, while retaining its magnificence of the original 12th-century building. Delve into the medieval world of Lord and Lady de Warenne, and enjoy the grassy areas around the castle walls for games and picnics on warmer days.

Step back in time on a tour of Conisbrough Castle, with its unique circular keep that towers 100 feet above the Doncaster landscape

Brodsworth Hall

South Yorkshire days out

Brodsworth Hall

North of Doncaster is another delight for history-lovers – Brodsworth Hall, one of the most complete surviving examples of a Victorian country house in England. Taken on by English Heritage in 1990, the house, built in the 1860s, has been sympathetically restored and tells the story of the changing futures of the people who have lived and worked here. Built on a former riding school and farm, Yorkshire Wildlife Park opened its doors in 2009.

A centre for conservation and welfare, the park has more than 300 animals – from the only polar bears in England to majestic lions, tigers, black rhino and so much more. If you work up an appetite wandering the park, take your pick from the themed restaurant – the Safari Cafe or spicy South American food in ¡Caramba!. If you’re visiting with youngsters, there’s a Little Monkey playhouse to keep them entertained or explore the Forest Adventure play area and jump around in Big Bug’s.

Doncaster Racecourse, home of the famous St Leger Festival, is regarded as the best place for horse racing in Yorkshire, and one of the finest racecourses in Europe. The five-storey grandstand fixture takes centre stage outside, featuring stunning private hospitality suites if you want to enjoy the day in VIP style. A day out at the races can be as casual or as formal as you want it to be. For many, its an excuse to get suited and booted, and on Ladies Day you’ll see the best outfits, hats and heels out in force.

But it’s not all glamour; there are also informal live music nights and family events with plenty of activities for children. South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum sits on the former site of World War II RAF Doncaster. Featuring historic buildings and aircraft hangers, military aircraft and helicopters, you have the chance to step into the cockpit and sit in the pilot seat. A great day out for families and aircraft enthusiasts alike, the museum exhibits everything from civil light aircrafts to modern fast jets, helicopters, rockets, and more.

A centre for conservation and welfare, the park has more than 300 animals – from the only polar bears in England to majestic lions, tigers, black rhino and so much more

Domes and arenas

South Yorkshire days out

Sheffield Arena

Doncaster Dome is the region’s premier sports, leisure and entertainment destination, attracting more than one million visitors every year. With more than 500 activities taking place under one roof, there’s no wonder it’s regarded as one of the top five UK venues for sports and leisure. Make a splash in the lagoons – there’s a magical seven-pool water world waiting to be explored, or cut the ice in the Ice Caps, the UK’s only split level ice rink with interconnecting ramps linking two ice pads together.

Let your children adventure into the world of the Aztecs and battle through the Arctic blizzard in the Play Zone, then refuel in the Icebreakers Bar & Grill or grab a well-earned coffee in Café Re-Fresh. Sheffield certainly isn’t short of places to visit on days out. From live concert venues to ice skating and botanical gardens – where will you go first? Sheffield Arena has been the home to world-class entertainment since 1991. Built to host the World Student Games, the venue was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 1991.

The region’s biggest capacity indoor arena, the venue can accommodate audiences up to a 13,600 capacity. Since the venue opened in 1991, the arena has averaged 122 shows a year with over 650,000 customers passing through the doors. As well as hosting the world’s most legendary musical superstars, Sheffield Arena has welcomed some of the biggest sporting greats, from trophy winning Sheffield Steelers to boxing world title fights and darts heroes. The building is also home to the Steelers ice hockey team hosting 25-30 ice hockey games a season.

Interested in arts, crafts and design? Visit city centre attraction, Millennium Gallery. The venue features a world-class permanent metalwork collection amongst various items that Sheffield is famous for, such as cutlery and tableware. The other spaces are filled with a changing series of exhibitions on a variety of topics so check online to see what will be on display when you visit. A number of events are held every month, some specifically for families, including Saturday workshop sessions for hands-on fun.

Sheffield Arena has been the home to world-class entertainment since 1991. Built to host the World Student Games, the venue was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 1991

Plants and greenery

Cannon Hall

Cannon Hall

Next door to the Millennium Galley is The Winter Garden – a place to explore nature and stretch your legs. This striking glasshouse is big enough to hold up to 5,000 of the common garden greenhouses and features a stunning display of more than 2,500 plants from all around the world. The flowing plants and greenery were deliberately chosen to be pleasing to the eye and there are 150 species, including big palms from Madagascar, China and Central America, plus Eucalyptus trees and Norfolk Island Pines which can grow to a whopping 150ft.

From an antiques centre to a museum, farm and country park, Barnsley is brimming with tourist attractions. An antique, history and craft centre, set in a picturesque village location, Elsecar Heritage Centre sits within the former ironworks and colliery workshops of the Earl Fitzwilliam. Restored historical buildings now house an impressive antique centre, individual craft workshops from pottery to fashion, and exhibitions of Elsecar’s past. If you’re a keen walker, the Centre is also the ideal location to access the Trans Pennine Trail.

Located within 70 acres of historic parkland, Cannon Hall is a country house museum. For nearly 300 years, Cannon Hall was home to the Spencer, later Spencer-Stanhope, family, who made their fortune in the local iron industry. Then, in 1957, the hall opened as Cannon Hall Museum, becoming home to a collection of art including ceramics, glass, furniture and Old Master paintings, displayed in the venue’s Georgian and Victorian rooms.

One’s to look out for include Mrs Tuder by John Constable, Wheelback Chairs by George Hepplewhite and ceramics by William de Morgan and Moorcroft. There’s also a farm where you can watch cow and goat milking demos, take tractor and trailer rides or watch sheep and ferret racing. Go explore! Another countryside spot is Worsbrough Mill Museum and Country Park, a designated local nature reserve set in over 200 acres of land. Fish, walk or cycle, and see the fully-operational 17th-century watermill in action, the 19th-century engine mill and displays of auxiliary machinery.

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Your guide to arts and culture in South Yorkshire

Image credits: ©Big Apple Play City; English Heritage; Kyte Photography/Visit Barnsley; Sheffield Arena;

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