With caving, climbing, cinemas and cycling all found around the city, Derby has everything you might want in terms of indoor and outdoor activities.
Activities in Derby
Where to go
An entertainment colossus, Alton Towers is one of the most popular theme parks in Europe, and rightly has its own dedicated guide page.
If Alton Towers is a little too much grown-up fun for your family, then try Gulliver’s Kingdom, a theme park aimed at kids up to 13 years old. Now a chain with sister outposts in Milton Keynes and Warrington, the original Matlock branch opened in 1978 and has dozens of rides including a log flume, dodgems and the Pirate Training Camp and Lost Kingdom dinosaur areas – interactive arenas that young kids will love.
Literally over the road is The Heights of Abraham, a hilltop park accessed by a cable car with stunning views over the Derwent Valley. The site is home to two impressive cave systems that were previously lead mines dating back to the 17th century, with the guided tours allowing you to retrace the miners’ footsteps and axe swings.
For more underground fun, head to Poole’s Cavern & Country Park, a vast network of limestone caverns dotted with creeping crystal stalactites and stalagmites that’s more than two million years old. If the caves have you feeling a bit confined, head upstairs and you’ll discover breathtaking views across the Peak District from the hilltop tower. It’s also the location of Go Ape, a treetop adventure that will have you whooping with excitement as you zip wire, swing and clamber your way around six different areas.
Finally, head to the Falconry Experience in the Rosliston Forestry Centre. It might be nearly 20 miles from our Derby West hotel, but the drive is well worth it thanks to the amazing displays which let you handle some beautiful birds. The staff are incredibly passionate and each session comes with a coffee break in the middle allowing for plenty of photo ops.
You don’t have to head into the Peak District to get your fitness fix. Head to The Climbing Unit or Oxygen Freejumping Trampoline Park if you’ve got a head for heights. With over 1,100 square metres of climbing including bouldering and rope climbing, The Climbing Unit is just over a mile from our City Centre (Cathedral Quarter) hotel. With a training area, circuit wall and coaching sessions for kids and adults, it’s a great place for novices and more-accomplished Spider(wo)men to explore with 10 climbing circuits and 250 square metres of roped climbing. Make sure you grab a homemade cake and coffee or a healthy snack at their popular café.
Recently reopened after fire damage, Oxygen Freejumping Trampoline Park is the city’s leading jump spot, with over 150 connected trampolines spanning a basketball court, dodgeball arena, foam pit obstacle course and giant airbag. There are dedicated night-time parties for adults as well as toddler sessions, with the park open until 9pm daily.
Another outdoor activity very successfully repurposed indoors is Paradise Island Adventure Golf. Spread over two 18-hole courses and 14,000 square feet, you can tee off from Mermaid Rock and navigate your way through Shark Bay on this truly modern crazy golf course located in intu Derby, the city’s leading shopping centre. It’s also here that you’ll find The Hollywood Bowl and Showcase Cinema De Lux. With 18 lanes open from 10am daily, Hollywood Bowl is the perfect place to practise your 8–10 split, with a licensed bar and kitchen on hand to keep you hydrated. Situated on Level 3, the Showcase Cinema De Lux is a 12-screen complex showing all the latest releases with 3D and Sony 4K options.
With a restaurant, two bars and all the modern gaming experiences you’d expect, Genting Casino in the Riverlights area of Derby is a thoroughly modern casino experience. Try your hand at poker, roulette or beat the dealer at blackjack, with minimum stakes starting from just 10p. Free during the week, there is an entry charge for non-members at the weekend.
Tours and trails
A mainstay in the city for over 25 years, the Derby Ghost Walks offer two separate tours, both of which need to be booked in advance. Reputed to be the most haunted city in England, the tours take in Derby Gaol, The Friary Hotel and The Dolphin Inn and the really brave can take part in a midnight vigil to spot the ghouls and ghosts at their peak. Each tour lasts around three hours and is open to children 10 and over.
We couldn’t write about Derby without mentioning the glorious Peak District on the city’s doorstep. Peak Walking Adventures offer a range of walking and hiking options down limestone valleys and across gritstone ridges and moorland plateaus. The guided walks range from one-day experiences to multi-day treks, with private guiding and group sessions available. All you need is the right clothing – hiking boots and waterproofs – and a sense of adventure!
As you’d expect from a city on the edge of the glorious Peak District, there are plenty of opportunities to get on your bike in Derby. The Kedleston Lanes route is 18 miles of green-tinged gorgeousness that takes in quaint villages, city centre riding and quiet country streets with several excellent pubs en route, including The Bluebell Inn in Kirk Langley.
A more family-friendly route is around Elvaston Castle which dates back to the 17th century. Spread over 300 acres of green, Elvaston Castle Country Park is the perfect spot for a bike ride. The 12-mile trip should take around two to three hours and takes in several miles alongside the River Derwent as well as the park’s formal gardens, picnic areas and children’s play area.