There are so many brilliant things to do in Hertfordshire – whether you’re looking for pretty villages to explore, entertainment for the kids or simply a decent country pub – our county has so much to offer. In this article, I’ve pulled together lots of my favourite attractions, activities and areas in Hertfordshire which my family and I enjoy visiting.
We’ve lived in Hertfordshire for eight years now and there’s still lots of Herts attractions we still haven’t managed to tick off the list yet.
The best things to do in Hertfordshire with kids
Of all the activities for kids in Hertfordshire, my favourite has to be walking and cycling in our beautiful countryside. My children would probably disagree with me – they love the go-karting track in Hoddesdon and they’re desperate to go to the Warner Bros Studios – we’ll make it there eventually!
Visit a farm in Hertfordshire
There are several family-friendly farms in Hertfordshire. We used to love taking our kids to Standalone Farm in Letchworth. It’s really good value and has a great play area – as well as all the animals of course. If you’re happy to part with a bit more cash, the all singing all dancing Willows Activity Farm is the place to visit. Willows has plenty to do inside and out with impressive play spaces and lots of animals to cuddle.
Experience some Harry Potter magic at the Warner Bros Studios
A trip to the Warner Bros Studios continues to elude us thanks to Covid but it is at the very top of our list of things to do in Hertfordshire in the very near future.
Visitors can wander through the famous wizarding world taking in scenes from the Harry Potter world – the Great Hall, Diagon Alley and the Forbidden Forest. There are opportunities to fly on a broomstick, drink butterbeer and get up close to Aragog and Buckbeak.
Learn about the Romans in St Albans
St Albans has quite a history – and much of the Roman heritage is still in evidence today. In Verulamium Park visitors can explore the remains of the Roman theatre and parts of the city walls. There’s an excellent museum with exhibits reflecting everyday life in Verulamium city. There are impressive mosaics and the famous Sandridge Hoard – 159 Roman gold coins.
Visit the zoo in Hertfordshire
Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne is a popular day out in Hertfordshire for families. The zoo features big cats, a reptile house and various primates. There’s also a lot of play equipment (I’m ashamed to say my kids favour this area over the animals) as well as an animatronics dinosaur area.
If you prefer your zoos on a smaller scale, I can also recommend a trip to Cedars Nature Centre in Waltham Cross. There’s a tiny entrance charge and the centre is set in a popular local park which is perfect for little ones. The highlight for my kids was handling a skunk!
Do a high ropes course
I’m sure we didn’t really have high ropes when I was growing up – at least not as many as there are now. We have a great course at The Edge near Ware – it’s at Westmill Farm where there’s also an open water swimming lake and various other outdoor pursuits.
There’s also a pretty good course at Stanborough Park in Welwyn. They’re a great day out for children and adults alike. If rain stops play, fear not, Hemel has an indoor course – at the XC (where you’ll also find a climbing wall and, unusually, an indoor skate park).
Our nearest Go Ape – a treetop adventure with ropes – is just over the Buckinghamshire border at Wendover Woods.
Take the kids go-karting in Hertfordshire
There are several go-karting tracks in Hertfordshire. We’ve visited Rye House in Hoddesdon a couple of times. Actually, I’ll rephrase that, my other half takes the boys there when I’m not around. They love it and they’re becoming petrolheads just like their father.
Anyway, if this is your cup of tea: kids as young as three can drive a car round in circles to their hearts content and there are track days for big kids too. Definitely up there as one of the best Hertfordshire things to do – if you ask my children!
Hertfordshire isn’t exactly the wildlife capital of the world so it’s all the more gratifying when you do spot an unusual wild creature. We often see deer and foxes when we’re out walking and cycling but the animal I’m keen to see is a badger. And the place to see them is the little village of Tewin between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford. There’s a dedicated badger hide run by the Wildlife Trust in Tewin orchard. It’s available to book between March and October and visitors frequently see families of badgers frolicking in the orchard.
Enjoy a miniature steam train ride in Hertfordshire
Although you’ll need to head over the border to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire or Epping Ongar in Essex to enjoy a proper steam train ride, you can still take your children to one of the miniature steam railways in Hertfordshire. Our kids used to love the East Herts miniature railway at Van Hages garden centre in Ware.
There’s a list of railway locations by county on the Miniature Railway World website.
Support your local football team
Whether you fancy cheering on one of the more modest Hertfordshire sides such as Stevenage, or you’re keen to watch Watford take on one of the big guns of the Premier League, supporting a local football team is a great day out in Hertfordshire.
If you’re concerned about the colourful language at some of the games, try taking your children to a women’s football match which is a far more family affair. Slightly off topic as it’s not Herts, we took the kids to see the Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley in 2021. It was a really fantastic day out. Fans from opposing sides were all mixed together and the atmosphere was brilliant. Even if you’re not a big footie fan, it’s worth considering as fairly good value family day out.
Visit castles in Hertfordshire
The most well known castle in Hertfordshire is Berkhamsted. This is a great destination for children – the ruined motte and bailey castle is set in spacious grassy grounds so little ones can run around and burn off energy. The old perimeter of the castle is now a raised path to walk along and the motte affords good views over the surrounding area.
The county town of Hertford also features a castle, or at least a gatehouse and the mott of where the castle once stood. Today, the gatehouse and gardens are used throughout the year for a range of events.
Walk among dinosaurs at Knebworth House
Not only does Knebworth House have a fantastic play area for kids – a big wooden fort to clamber on, long speedy slides and tons of space to run around in – there’s also a Jurassic world waiting to be explored.
Knebworth House and grounds are made up of two parts – the lower area which you come to first where the play area is and then a five minute drive up the hill is the house and gardens along with a wide woodland area where you’ll discover the dinosaurs.
There’s a total of 72 dinos to track down from T-rex to woolly mammoth.
Once you’ve exhausted the dinosaur trail, there’s trees to climb, a big hill to scramble up and roll back down and lots of colourful gardens to enjoy. There are far reaching views across the fields where herds of deer graze.
I do find the entrance charge for Knebworth rather steep – I’m sure we’d visit more regularly if it was cheaper. However, I guess it tends to be quieter than a lot of similar attractions in Hertfordshire because of the entry cost.
Unusual things to do in Hertfordshire
Gaze at the stars in the Hertfordshire night sky
One for older kids, there’s an observatory at Bayfordbury near Hertford which is open to groups if you book ahead. We organised a trip for a group of children in our village – it was a brilliant way to give them an introduction to the night sky with plenty to see through the telescopes. If you’re looking for unusual Hertfordshire attractions, this takes some beating.
Be a Celt for a day (or a night) at Celtic Harmony
I used to love taking my kids to Celtic Harmony near Hertford for the annual Samheim celebrations at Halloween. This open air museum is perfect for learning about the country’s Celtic past with warrior games, woodland hunts, craft making and even overnight stays in the roundhouses.
Explore somewhere spooky in Hertfordshire
Several years ago, I decided to drag my kids to Cold Christmas Church one twilight evening. It’s in rather a remote spot (if you’re with two small children who don’t walk very far) just north of Ware and it’s said to be haunted with reports of all sorts of weird supernatural sightings. Unfortunately – or fortunately – we saw nothing untoward.
Slightly less spooky is the rather lovely pub The Horns just outside the village of Datchworth near Stevenage. As well as enjoying very good burgers, visitors to this pub might catch a glimpse of the ghost of highwayman Walter Clibbons who was killed by local villagers in the 18th century. The pub itself dates back to Tudor times with many original features still visible today.
Visit a local Hertfordshire brewery
It sometimes feels, when I peruse a “gin menu” in one of my local pubs, that gin distilleries are very much a licence to print money – they seem to be popping up everywhere. And why not? They’re providing a very helpful service to the local community.
Unsurprisingly, we have quite a few in Hertfordshire – the most well known probably being the Puddingstone Distillery, producer of Campfire Gin, which has its premises just down the road from Wendover Woods – perfect if you want to reward yourself after a day zipping through the treetops or clambering up hills with the kids.
Although I’m not a beer drinker, I have to mention craft beer here – my other half can confirm that the Three Brewers near St Albans is a good place to stock up on mini barrels of ale. We’re looking forward to retuning in the summer for some of their events.
Vineyards are a little bit thin on the ground in Hertfordshire. There’s Frithsden Vineyard near Berkhamsted which has recently changed hands – hopefully it will be open to the public again at some point soon.
Explore a grotto or cave in Hertfordshire
We don’t really have any proper caves in Hertfordshire but there are a couple of interesting subterranean places to explore. And they’re quite possibly the most unusual things to do in Hertfordshire.
There’s Scotto’s Grotto, a series of tunnels decorated with shells and extending some ten metres below the ground, on an unassuming residential street in Ware. Meanwhile, in the north of Hertfordshire you can wander through Royston Cave, a man-made cavern dating back to the 12th century.
Free things to do in Hertfordshire
There are so many things to do in Hertfordshire – particularly for families – which involve parting with tons of cash, so I’m always on the look out for simple old fashioned days out in Herts which won’t cost a fortune.
If you’re looking for cheap or free things to do with toddlers in Hertfordshire, I put together a list of Herts activities which my boys used to enjoy when they were little.
Go for a walk in Hertfordshire
There are some fabulous places to walk in Hertfordshire – whether you’re after a woodland wander, a river walk or a more urban exploration. We love Broxbourne Sculpture Trail for a quick and easy walk with kids while Mardley Heath near Welwyn is perfect for tree climbing – it’s one of the best walks in Hertfordshire according to our children!
Go for a bike ride in Hertfordshire
There are several disused railway lines in Hertfordshire which have now been transformed into brilliant places for a safe cycle (or walk). Our nearest is the Cole Green Way which runs from Welwyn Garden City to Hertford, from there it connects to a further cycle route into Ware making for a really enjoyable Hertfordshire day out.
A more urban route is the Alban Way running from St Albans to Hatfield and there’s another disused line – the Nickey – between the towns of Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead. I’ve written a guide to the best family bike routes in Hertfordshire with more details on these trails and more.
For more family friendly bike ride ideas, check out my article about the best cycle routes for families across the UK.
Admire the bluebells in Hertfordshire
We have some incredible bluebell woods in Hertfordshire. Ashridge Estate is the most well known spot in Hertfordshire for these spring blooms but there are countless pockets of bluebells dotted all over the county.
Heartwood Forest near St Albans and Panshanger Park near Hertford are two of our favourite bluebell destinations – both perfect for a family walk in Herts.
Visit one of Hertfordshire’s many free museums
Many of Hertfordshire’s towns and villages have their own museum. Some are more interesting than others. I particularly like Stevenage Museum which has a really good mix of exhibits, ranging from highwayman artefacts to memorabilia from the not to distant past – I definitely spotted a few items from my childhood on display…
Explore an historic Hertfordshire village
Hertfordshire is packed with interesting villages to explore – we like Puckeridge with its pretty high street and lovely walks – there’s a river for paddling in and a decent pub with large garden to collapse in afterwards – or you can picnic in the fields.
Wheathampstead is a popular village close to St Albans. There’s well preserved Tudor architecture, the remains of an Iron Age settlement and a wonderfully named pub (just outside the village) – the Wicked Lady, named after a local highwaywoman.
Foodies will enjoy a visit to Braughing (pronounced Braffin) which boasts several pubs serving above-average grub. Our kids enjoy paddling in the ford and learning about Old Man’s Day – named after a fellow who was accidentally buried alive and then dug up – you’ll have to visit Braughing to find out the full story…
Wander along a river or canal in Hertfordshire
Although Hertfordshire is landlocked, it still has plenty of waterways. In Hertford alone we have four rivers – the Mimram, the Beane, the Rib and the Lea (or Lee).
The River Lee runs from Hertford to Ware with a wide gravel path running alongside through a nature reserve. It’s a great place for a walk or a cycle and there are locks here too to keep little people interested.
The Grand Union Canal runs through west Hertfordshire – Berkhamsted is a brilliant place for a family walk along the canal as you can also pay a visit to the castle and the play area. There are locks to learn about and plenty of narrow boats to look at – we like deciding which one we’d like to live in if we had a slight change to our lifestyle!
Rainy day activities in Hertfordshire
We have tons of fun things to do in Hertfordshire when the weather is against you. Of course, just because it’s raining you don’t really need to stay inside – we’ve found lots of great woodland walks which are pretty sheltered from the elements.
Enjoy afternoon tea in Hertfordshire
We have over 50 venues serving afternoon tea in Hertfordshire. Whether you’re looking for an old fashioned experience in a vintage tea room or a more contemporary take on this traditional English custom, you’ll find the place and the budget to suit your taste.
Explore the Natural History Museum at Tring
If you don’t fancy taking your kids to the capital, this little sister of London’s Natural History Museum is a perfect family day out in Hertfordshire. There’s a brilliant collection of preserved beasts on display – our favourites are the bears and wolves, and – I’d never heard of these before – dressed fleas from Mexico. That alone is a reason to visit the Natural History Museum at Tring.
Tring itself is a really lovely town with a surprisingly high number of independent shops, restaurants and cafes – after you’ve perused the animals, try out one of the eateries. We enjoyed good cake at Black Goo.
Check out your local cinema or theatre in Hertfordshire
It was great to return to the cinema after lockdown. Even with on demand telly in our homes, there’s still something special about a trip to the pictures. As well as the big modern multi-screen complexes, we also have some wonderful art deco cinemas in Hertfordshire.
The Rex in Berkhamsted is a great example – opened in 1938 and closed down in 1988 – it was revived in 2004 and now offers a wide range of films throughout the year.
We have some brilliant theatres in Hertfordshire too. We love taking our kids to Broadway Theatre in Letchworth and Hertford Theatre which both offer a really good programme of plays, films and live broadcasts.
Step back 400 years in history at Hatfield House
Completed in 1611, Hatfield House is a fine example of Jacobean design. Highlights include the well preserved carved wooden staircase and the Long Gallery which stretches over 50 metres. There are endless artefacts to discover in the house – I’m not sure how Queen Elizabeth I would feel about her silk stockings being on display.
Built over the site of a royal palace where Elizabeth I spent her childhood, Hatfield House sits in spacious grounds which include a deer park and formal gardens.
Hatfield House hosts a range of events over the year including live concerts, vintage car shows and craft fairs.
Learn to ski in Hertfordshire
Skiing is quite a commitment, particularly if you’re considering a family trip to the slopes. So it pays to do a bit of groundwork first. This can be done in Hemel at the Snow Centre on real snow. If you’re not interested in skiing but you’re looking for fun things to do in Hertfordshire with kids, you can also zip down the slopes on a giant rubber ring.
Go climbing in Hertfordshire
My kids have become hooked on climbing ever since we took them to the Dolomites in Italy. Climbing in Hertfordshire isn’t quite the same but they enjoy practicing on indoor walls, in preparation for their next outdoor adventure.
They loved the experience at Rock Up Watford – it has all sorts of fun, colourful routes to try. I also like the look of the climbing wall at Herts Sports Village in Hatfield. I think my boys might still be a bit small to tackle that one, but it’s definitely on our radar.
Explore the history of St Alban’s Cathedral
I took my children into St Alban’s Cathedral when they were very small and noisy and I remember thinking that it seemed ok for them to be sprinting along the nave (the longest in England) – I hope other visitors were ok with this.
Whether you’re religious or not, cathedrals are a great alternative to museums for a quick history lesson and you often get some incredible music thrown in for good measure. I keep meaning to visit the cathedral at Christmas to listen to some carols but covid keeps getting in the way. Maybe this year.
Anyway, St Alban’s Cathedral boasts a history which goes back some 1,000 years. That alone is likely to grab my kids’ attention. There are tours which are themed to appeal to children including a hunt for carved animals and an opportunity to climb the Norman tower.
Summer days out in Hertfordshire
Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve spent a lot of time exploring outdoors in Hertfordshire. We have some really brilliant days out in Hertfordshire to enjoy during the summer months. I love outdoor swimming – we’re blessed with some great lidos and open water swimming lakes and there are some lovely splash parks in Hertfordshire for the kids.
There are also plenty of attractions in Hertfordshire which draw in crowds from further afield – brilliant glampsites, music festivals and some excellent places to learn a range of water sports.
Take the kids to a splash park in Hertfordshire
Our favourite little splash park in Hertfordshire is at the Howard Park Gardens in Letchworth. Surrounded by lots of grass for picnicking on, this little splash zone is perfect for toddlers. There’s also a good play are and a café selling snacks and ice creams. The car park tends to fill up pretty quickly on warm days.
The newest splash park in Hertfordshire can be found in Welwyn Garden City at Stanborough Park. There’s a pirate-themed play area in the splash park and enough jets of water to get the kids completely overexcited.
Elsewhere in Hertfordshire, there are splash parks in Watford, St Albans, Royston, Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock, Stevenage and Harpenden.
Enjoy open water swimming in Hertfordshire
Landlocked Hertfordshire has a decent selection of lidos and plenty of lakes for openwater swimming. If you’re keen to try proper wild swimming, head to Hertford where there’s a popular swimming spot in the River Lee. I love swimming there in early summer when the wild flowers are in bloom.
Go glamping or camping in Hertfordshire
You don’t need to travel far to feel like you’ve had a holiday. And if you fancy staying really close to home, there are some particularly good campsites in Hertfordshire – as well as a little luxury if you prefer glamping. We enjoyed a stay at Hill Farm campsite last summer. It’s located right on the border with Buckinghamshire and it’s within walking distance of Wendover Woods.
Harry Potter fans should head to North Hill Farm where you can sleep in a recreated Hagrid’s Hut or the rather fun looking Owl’s Lookout which comes complete with slides and hot tub.
Spend an afternoon at a Hertfordshire country pub
We have some brilliant country pubs in Hertfordshire. I’m slowly working my way through them – it’s quite a task. We had a brilliant meal on New Years Day at the Fox and Hounds in Hunsdon, more of a restaurant than a pub such is the quality of the food.
For a really laidback Sunday afternoon, head to the Cricketers in Weston where you can sit in spacious grounds and enjoy stone-fired pizzas. There’s a small footie pitch and a decent climbing frame to keep the kids entertained.
Learn to sail in Hertfordshire
There are several locations across Hertfordshire where you can learn to sail. The Hertfordshire County Yacht Club is based in Stansted Abbots in East Hertfordshire. Other outfits offering courses include Bury Lake Young Mariners at Rickmansworth and Fishers Green Sailing Club in the Lee Valley Regional Park.
Go fruit picking at a Hertfordshire farm
I used to love picking strawberries at local farms when I was growing up. I now have an allotment so I’ve never actually taken my children to a PYO farm – I just set them to work on our little plot.
However, I’ve heard good things about fruit picking at Pearce’s Farm Shop on the A10 near Buntingford and Cammas Hall Farm on the Herts / Essex border near Bishop’s Stortford. They both have rather good cafes too.
Go white-water rafting in Hertfordshire
Thanks to the 2012 Olympics, we have an excellent white-water rafting centre on the Hertfordshire / London border. At the Lee Valley White Water Centre you can go rafting and kayaking over the rapids – or for something more sedate there’s also a lake where visitors can build their water confidence.
There’s also stand up paddle boarding and an inflatable assault course on the lake – great for a sunny family day out on the water.
Visit Hertfordshire’s windmill
When my children were quite tiny, we paid a visit to Cromer Windmill near Stevenage. It’s probably not the safest place to be outnumbered by toddlers – the windmill has steep wooden steps which my kids insisted on clambering up before I had a proper chance to think it through.
Anyway, it’s a fun little place to explore with a short video in the mill explaining the history of the site – there’s been a windmill at Cromer for almost 800 years.
Go to a music festival in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire has a pretty good record for live music events. Some of the greats of the music world have played at Knebworth House over the years while more recently Standon Calling and Hatfield House have been pulling in some pretty big names too.
Learn about Henry Moore
I love visiting the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens – located in the countryside near Ware in East Hertfordshire. Henry Moore’s former home is now a museum and the grounds are filled with his bronze statues. There are various indoor spaces for temporary exhibitions and there’s also a rather good café.
This is a great place for a family day out in Hertfordshire – children are allowed to touch the bronze sculptures and there’s lots of space to run around or to sit and have a picnic.
Picnic in a Hertfordshire park
We are blessed with a decent selection of parks in Hertfordshire. There are sprawling rural parks such as Panshanger in Hertford as well as some excellent urban parks – Verulamium Park in St Albans has everything you might need on a summer’s day. If you’re looking for things to do with kids in Hertfordshire, Verulamium has Roman history, a decent play area and sports facilities.
Last summer we discovered the brilliant Oxhey Activity Park in Watford – a brilliant place to cycle, skate or scoot. It has a decent playground and a good café. Our kids loved it there – they think it’s one of the best parks in Hertfordshire.
Don’t forget to stop and smell the lavender near Hitchin
Hitchin Lavender is a really great summer day out in Hertfordshire – even my boys, who don’t have a particularly keen interest in flowers, enjoyed running up and down the rows of blooms. Set on a hillside just outside of Hitchin, the purple fields are an incredible sight.
As well as lavender, there’s also a wildflower meadow and haybales to clamber on. The shop sells lavender-themed gifts and there’s a café selling – surprise, surprise – lavender-infused goodies. We enjoyed the lavender ice cream.
Eat chillies at Benington Lordship
Visiting the Chilli Festival at Benington Lordship near Stevenage is really just an opportunity to eat lots of delicious spicy food. There is a good range of food stalls selling everything from hot cheese to chilli chocolate as well as all manner of spicy dishes such as curries and stews.
If delicate blooms are more your scene, visit Benington Lordship in February to see its stunning display of snowdrops carpeting the grounds of this unusual stately home in Hertfordshire.
Visit a National Trust property in Hertfordshire
Unfortunately we don’t have a great deal of choice when it comes to National Trust properties in Hertfordshire. We live close to Shaw’s Corner near Welwyn, it was home to playwright George Bernard Shaw from 1906 until his death in 1950. The house contains interesting artefacts including a Rodin bust and an Oscar – the latter won for Shaw’s writing in the screenplay for Pygmalion.
The National Trust Ashridge Estate is the other side of the county – a wonderful family day out in Hertfordshire with long walks and cycle trails, a decent café and a tower to climb.
I wrote a similar article to this one last year about specific places to visit in Hertfordshire so if you haven’t found what you are looking for here, check out that blog post too.
What are your favourite things to do in Hertfordshire? Let me know in the comments below.
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