25 free things to do in the UK in February 2017

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Something for everyone in our monthly bumper guide

1. Make pancakes

Nationwide. 28 February.

With Shrove Tuesday right at the end of the month, you've got time to practice making the perfect pancake. Here's Delia Smith's recipe and here's Jamie Oliver's

On the day itself, if you're a really serious fan of pancake, head to Derbyshire for the most spectacular celebration of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday: the biggest football game in the world, Ashbourne’s Shrovetide (top pic).The game is played over two eight-hour days, the goals are three miles apart and there are few rules…although drinking to excess in the local pubs seems compulsory. Duck! visitpeakdistrict.com

Alternatively, check out the shorter but no less intense Parliamentary Pancake Race, in which MPs of all parties take on the media to raise money for charity a series of races. 10am kick-off. visitlondon.com/things-to-do

2. Fat Tuesday

Venues across Hastings. 24 - 28 February. 

Proof Hastings knows how to party, the UK’s largest Mardi Gras festival returns with hundreds of gigs taking place across 21 venues, over five days.

The majority of events are free entry, with something for everyone, whether you want to chill out, dress up, or dance until dawn.


3. Visit a coal mine


Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenafon, Pontypool NP4 9XP. All year round.

Former miners are the guides on this authentic underground tour (not for small children or those with limited mobility). This free museum is devoted to all things mining-related, with plenty to see and do, both above and below ground.


4. See original Harry Potter artworks 

House of Minalima, 26 Greek Street, London (0203 214 0000). Until February 5 

The designers behind the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie artwork are showcasing their designs in this free exhibition in Soho, with authentic movie props on loan from Warner Bros, and artworks on all levels of this attractive central London art house. 

5. Get all nostalgic

London Metropolitan Archives, Clerkenwell, EC1R 0HB. Open during normal office hours. 6 February - 5 July. 

'The Londoners: Portraits of a working city' showcases some of the hundreds of thousands of photographs of faces of Londoners and transient visitors that are preserved in archive collections. From Lord Mayors to chimney sweeps, waitresses to wrestlers, these images capture the vitality of work in London. 


6. ....or be cured of nostalgia

Scotland Street School Museum, 225 Scotland Street, Glasgow, G5 8QB

Think school is bad? Kids don't know they’re born. Take this interactive tour of Scotland Street School Museum and experience just how bad kids in the olden days had it. Suitable for all ages.


7. See TV's biggest stars for free

Apply for free tickets for shows including Britain's Got Talent; Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway; David Walliams' new version of Blankety Blank; Jeremy Clarkson and co's Grand Tour and many more...


8. The Archaeology of Crossrail

Museum of London Docklands. From February 10

Examine prehistoric flint, Roman iron horse shoes, a Tudor bowling ball, a 17th-century human skeleton and 19th-century ginger jars, all unearthed during the Crossrail project. museumoflondon.org.uk

9. See breathtaking views of space

Royal Observatory Greenwich

Witness the night sky as you have never seen it before at the annual Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition. This annual competition, which is now in its eighth year, sees talented photographers submit to win the prestigious award, for capturing the most spectacular and beautiful visions of the cosmos. 


10. Run 5km with friends and strangers


Park Run, in parks throughout the UK. Every Saturday, 9am

Park Run is a free, organised running event open to all – including runners with dogs on leads and babies in pushchairs – see parkrun.org.uk to find your nearest one. 

11. Get crafty

Creative Coffee Hub, Birmingham, B29 6HJ. February 10

A drop-in morning of knitting, crocheting and socialising. Suitable for all levels. Bring a project or learn the basics, or just grab a coffee during half-term while your kids get stuck into pottery painting, drawing or other workshops at this crafty venue. See website for workshop details.


12. Health walk on the Heath

Every Monday morning until April 2017. Hampstead Heath. 9:50 am. Other Health Walks nationwide.

Join one of Camden Council's free weekly health walks and walk in a relaxed and friendly environment while enjoying Hampstead Heath.  No need to book in advance - just turn up at Hampstead Heath Overground Station a few minutes before the start time. See the website or call 020 7974 3181 before setting out. 

It's part of Walking for Health, a national scheme offering guided walks across the country for free. The website has a searchable map/database showing you the nearest walks to where you live.


13. Design for our future selves

The Design Museum, Kensington High Street, W8 6AG. Until February 19, 10-6pm daily

Step into the museum at its new location in Kensington, and visit the free pop up exhibition NEW OLD, in which designers explore how to enhance the experience of our later lives.


14. Night of Lights

Nottingham will be lit up for the evening with a series of illuminations and light shows, as well as a chance to enjoy free events at venues across the city: the Wheel of Nottingham, which is as tall as Nelson's column, is in town from 28 January to 12 March and will be transformed for the night by a light show involving 75,000 bulbs.

There's night markets and candlelit museum tours plus poetry and entertainment on Station Street to highlight Nottingham’s UNESCO City of Literature status, and lots more. Full details at experiencenottinghamshire.com

15. Showzam! Blackpool

Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. 11-14 February

Magicians, performers and clowns take over the streets of Blackpool, as the circus (and much more) rolls into town every year. Showzam! Central is the hub of information for the whole festival, which has ticketed events running alongside free street performances and many other shows around Blackpool. visitblackpool.com/showzam

16. Visit an 'artisan market'

Bath, Green Park Station, BA1 1JB

Slap bang in the heart of Bath you'll find a vibrant, monthly, Sunday market that plays host to over 70 stalls on the second and third Sunday of every month.


17. Search for Snowdrops

Your local public gardens. February-March

That pretty white flower that carpets the woods in spring, the snowdrop is plentiful but most of the organised walks incur a small charge, or are free after you’ve paid to get in. Find free entrance to public gardens near you and search them out.   

18. Strut your Shakespeare

Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. 20 - 24 February, 2-4pm

The Royal Shakespeare Company has a week of workshops and activities including free craft and other activities for all ages at the Swan Theatre on 24th. (All children must be accompanied by an adult.) rsc.org.uk/events

19. Creative writing Workshop for children

Spike Island, Cumberland Road, Bristol, BS1 6UX. February 11, 1–3pm

With the ‘Storytelling Spiderweb’ tell your story and see it come to life with the resident author. Spike Island provides pens, card and spiderweb. All you need is your imagination. (Under 16s) Visit the website for info about other free workshops.


20. See how London was made 

11-19 February 

A week of daily free family events exploring how London was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666. Create your own map of London or make a phoenix masterpiece out of burnt materials. As well as the perfect half-term activities, you can also explore the nine galleries telling the entire history of London – right up to the Cauldron from London 2012.



21. Experience the sights, sounds and smells of Victorian Manchester

Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, 11-26 February

A range of mostly free events at the excellent MSI, with something to suit all ages, from circus skills, to steam engine displays, a history of Manchester involving explosions and flying machines and a chance to make your own magic lantern. Full details at: msimanchester.org.uk/

22. Object Handling

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford OX1 3PW. Open all year round

Free entry and family friendly workshops and craft events run throughout February half term. Plus, for future reference, every Saturday (11-1pm) you can enjoy free family-friendly object handling. 

Discover more about the fascinating objects from the collection at this quirky Anthropology and Archaeology museum, with free exhibitions from world cultures past and present.


23. Cycle the Crab and Winkle way

All year round

Catering for riders of all abilities, this cycle path takes its name from the pioneering railway line between Canterbury and Whitstable from the 19th century. The path passes through the Blean, with its 13th century Church of St Cosmus and St Damian, and Blean Woods, an RSPB nature reserve of 11 square miles.


24. Get making in Norwich

The Forum, Millennium Plain, Norwich, NR2 1TF

Makers’ Month is an event for families during February half term, with free hands-on activities for young people and adults. In Feburary The Forum has joined forces with craft groups and creative businesses from across Norfolk, to put on a four week event offering free drop in activities, bookable workshops and textile based exhibitions.


25. Uncover the history of money

Bank of England Museum, Bartholomew Lane, EC2R 8AH

Pick up a genuine gold bar... run the British economy in an interactive game... look inside the vaults: find out why the Bank of England was formed and how it works – all for free. there's also a temporary exhibition of photos of the Bank's work throughout history.


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