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Mum's Guide To St Albans Blog

The Simple (and budget friendly) Pleasures of St Albans

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We’ll get straight to the point as we’ve got a lot of places on our list of recommendations for family focused and budget friendly things to do in St Albans. 

  1. Maidenhead Aquatics
    Far from being its primary objective, this place excels at being somewhere special to take your children. Not only is there a soft play area in the cafe to entertain your children while you enjoy a hot cup of tea or a chat with a friend but you can buy fish food for £1 a pot and feed the small to ENORMOUS fish on sale in open tanks. Once you’re out of fish food you can hunt for catfish or Nemos amongst the many aquariums and then end your visit with a photoshoot on the giant gorilla. The cafe and reception staff are so friendly and there’s no need to pretend that you’re visiting for any other reason than the above.



  2. The Garden Centres
    We really, really love the garden centres in St Albans. They’re safe, friendly and happy places to visit. Dogs are usually allowed, the staff are one of the big bringers of the joy and no one minds if you just go for a walk around without buying anything. In particular we love Aylett Nurseries and Burston Garden Centre. Each half term and Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays they offer free or low cost craft activities to take your children to. We love these so much that we put them in the diary at the beginning of the year so we don’t miss any! 



  3. The Churches
    Perhaps not as relevant if you have school age children but for those of you who stay at home with under fives you’ll likely already know about the wonderfulness of the playgroups offered by the Church volunteers. Not only are there LOADS to choose from during the week (sadly term time only!) but some are free or just a pound or two to attend. Loads of toys, a story and some singing, what’s not to love.



  4. The Morrisons Cafe
    Living in Fleetville we spend a significant amount of time in Morrisons. It’s an afternoon activity in itself thanks to the free fruit box and Marshall’s ride on fire engine. But what we really love is the cafe. It’s big, it’s cheap, it’s tasty, it’s full of people from 0-99 years old and the staff are delightful even though your buggy is enormous and your kids are dropping more food on the floor than they’re putting in their mouths. 



  5. The St Albans Library
    Who doesn’t love a library and the recently refurbished one in St Albans is really great. It’s centrally located, loads of parking the Maltings car park and has a large kids area where you can take your kids to read books while choosing some to borrow to take home. And did you know it’s free to borrow books from the library? Just make sure you take them back in time or renew or you’ll be fined!



  6. St Albans Museum + Gallery
    We spend quite a lot of time here. It’s free to enter (although a donation is always appreciated but don’t feel obliged), the prisoner cells downstairs are SUPERB, the exhibitions always have something for the children to do even if the main content is more grown-up focussed. The courtroom and cafe are fantastic and there’s the essential box of dressing up items for the little ones to prepare for their adventure. Throughout the year there are various activities and crafts for children to do. Oh and the gift shop is great! 



  7. The Alban Way
    Walking, dog walking, running, cycling, commuting, scootering, balance biking, litter picking - take your pick. The Alban Way is an old railway line that has been tarmaced. It runs through St Albans to Hatfield and is about 10km end to end. There are lots of different places to join the Alban Way, just check out this map to see which is most convenient for you.



  8. The Parks
    St Albans has so, so many parks. We’ve not even been to them all but wherever you live there’s very likely to be one nearby. Many of them even host family friendly community events throughout the year such as Play in the Parks, Larks in the Parks or Eid in the Park but if not then why not go hunting for painted rocks or paint and hide some of your own!



  9. The Signal Box
    This is one of our favourite places to go with our little ones who are hardcore trainlovers. It’s open to the public on two Sundays a month between 2-5pm. It’s free to visit although a donation is appreciated. It’s run by the loveliest volunteers who are delighted to tell you about how the signal box used to work and their experiences working with the trains. Find it at the end of Ridgemont Road, there’s always plenty of parking on the Sunday. Take change for a cup of tea and a biccy. 



  10. The Splash Park
    Open from May to September, the splash park in Verulamium Park is where you want to be with your kids on those warmer days. It can get very busy so if you have really little ones then try to head there during school hours in term times. Take a picnic and make a day of it at this free superb community location.



  11. The Buses
    A true simple pleasure in its simplest form can be found by taking the bus. We take the bus to and from town often and each time it’s a joy. The bus drivers are without fail so friendly and there’s almost always a passenger who will happily make faces at or play peekaboo with the children. Children are free under age four so it’s an inexpensive activity and a really lovely one for your little bus lovers. 



  12. Walking
    There are some superb places to walk in and around St Albans. Our favourites are Heartwood Forest on the other side of Sandridge, the Wick, Verulamium Park, Sopwell Nunnery and Gorhambury.



  13. St Peter’s Street
    We’re so lucky to live in a city that has so much going on. Not only is the market on twice a week but there’s a farmer’s market, a vegan market, a French market, the SusFest market takeover, the Alban Street Festival, TimeTurn, St Albans Feastival,  the christmas lights switch on, the Antiques and Vintage Market, the Pancake Festival amongst others. You don’t have to spend a fortune while you’re there, you can have a great time just soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying being part of our lovely community.



  14. The Odyssey Cinema
    We’re including the Odyssey in our list because we are so, so lucky to have this cinema in St Albans. There are showings for all ages and there are few things I enjoy more than a childfree evening with my girlfriends, especially when we’re organised enough to book in advance to get a table downstairs. But for children it’s fantastic too. The matinees for childrens’ films are a pretty reasonable price as far as cinemas go and if you book downstairs then when they finally lose their sitting still patience they can stand up to fidget and no one minds.

 

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