So Toby has officially broken up [insert mixed emotions!] and is off for the next 46 days…yes I’ve counted! He’s also been up since 2am as he struggles with transitions and he knows it’s the end of term. 

Toby finds school holidays quite challenging as he struggles without the structure and routine of being at school.  We try to keep him as busy as possible as he doesn’t really like being in the house however finding Toby friendly trips out can be difficult. He uses a special needs buggy from wheelchair services and so we tend to look for places where we can go for a walk but there’s also somewhere fairly quiet for him to play too.

We are heading off to Butlins (thanks to the Family Fund), having a few days camping at our Church family camp and have a weekend at Center Parcs to look forward to too so all that should help to keep us busy! He also gets respite so will be out and about with his lovely carers and is booked in for a few days of holiday club at school too.

Most places that most people visit during the holidays are too busy for him – beaches, soft play centres, tourist attractions,  farms, adventure parks etc I also don’t like spending too much on enterance fees to places as he usually only manages up to an hour before he’s had enough and wants to go.

So here are 27 autism friendly (well Toby friendly) places in the North East. These are in no particular order and this is more for my own benefit to refer back to! These are also all free or very cheap – we have National Trust membership which helps us for a lot of places. We love National Trust places as they are usually fairly pushchair/wheelchair friendly, fairly quiet and lots of them have great playgrounds too. All of these places are fairly quiet…if you go at the right time..!

  1. Wharton Park – newly opened in Durham – quite small but quiet. FREE except parking
  2. Gibside (National Trust) – one of our regular hang outs. It can get busy in the holidays so we go for an hour at opening time. – FREE (if you have NT membership)
  3. Broom House Farm – lovely little farm shop and cafe and they have an amazing adventure trail in the woods. FREE entrance to the farm and £4.50 per person if you want to use the adventure trail
  4. Finchale Priory – again usually pretty quiet – nice for a picnic and a climb around of the ruins. FREE but you do need to pay for car parking
  5. Hardwick Park – again can get busy but we tend to go first thing. FREE except car parking
  6. Wallington (National Trust) nice for an explore and there’s a couple of playgrounds too. FREE (if you have NT membership)
  7. Splash Pad at Riverside Park Chester le Street – great but does get busy on a warm day…we tend to go on cooler days with our waterproofs. Again FREE but car parking charges apply.
  8. Durham Botanical Garden – lovely for a walk atound and usually very quiet too. Adults are £4, over 5’s are £1.50 and you can get a carer in free too. You also get a yearly pass for £15 – ours has just ran out but we’ll probably renew as then it will only cost us £1.50 per visit.
  9. Tim Lamb Centre -we haven’t actually visited here yet but it looks great for children with additional needs – soft play, IT suite, sensory room, music room etc. It’s £15 for a family membership for the year and then £2 per child per session.
  10. Cragside (National Trust) another one of our favourites. Toby loves the playground here but get there for opening time if you can’t cope with lots of people. Again FREE for NT members.
  11. Haven Point – lovely clean swimming pool up at South Shields again usually quiet first thing. Various prices and I think you can get a carer in free too.
  12. Daisy Chain – fab farm and activity centre – £6 for first child and £3 for each additional child and various other activities at various prices
  13. ROF 59 – great for a bounce about. We’ve been to the preschool sessions in the past and they were fairly quiet. £5 for preschool session and various prices for other times and activities.
  14. Discovery Museum in Newcastle – we like the water in the Play Tyne room again gets quite busy. FREE entry to the Museum and £1 per child for the water play room.
  15. National Railway Museum at Shildon. Little playground and chance to see some trains – FREE
  16.  Baltic have a great new looking Playground Project with some great looking play equipment again it’s FREE but I think it’s going to be really popular and busy.
  17. Hamsterly Forest – lots of space, little river and nice and quiet (if you pick a good spot!) £5 for parking
  18. Alan Shearer Centre – sensory room, play equipment, hydro pool etc FREE but need to book.
  19. Wynyard Woodland Park – great play area – FREE
  20. Sensory Room at Spennymoor Lesuire Centre – can’t quite remember the prices or find them online.
  21. Northumberlandia – again we haven’t actually visited yet but looks good for a walk. FREE
  22. Fountains Abbey (National Trust) bit further away but lovely place to go for a walk. FREE for NT members
  23. Washington Wetlands Centre – lots to see and do. There are various prices and you can save money if you book online and you can get a Carer in free too.
  24. Wheelbirks Ice Cream Farm this does get very busy so we go for bang on opening time – there’s a small enclosed garden with a swing and a playhouse and so Toby has a run around and Ted enjoys some ice cream sorbet…Toby doesn’t eat ice cream! FREE to get in but you need to buy something from the cafe to use the garden.
  25. Whitworth Hall – little playground and opportunity to feed the deer. FREE and deer food is about 50p per bag.
  26. Rainton Meadows – nice for a walk and a little playground too. FREE
  27. Stockeld Park – bit more of an expensive one and more of a day out but we love it. £13 per person but you can get a carer in free. We would probably visit on a more overcast day as when the sun is out it can be very busy!

That will do for now, there’s probably others but hopefully that should kept us going for a little while!


And for those of you who pray for us we would really appreciate prayers that he settles down and sleeps a bit more…not sure we can manage six weeks of 2am get ups!

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