Looking for things to do in Northampton? You’ve come to the right place. I’ve lived in Northampton for over 30 years and have pulled together a mega list of the best things to do in Northampton, with a few cheeky bonus nearby things too.
After searching the net for other travel blogs in my hometown I discovered, well not a lot to be honest. Let’s just say the stuff that I did find was a little on the dull side (at least for most people under the age of 70).
And if you’re not from these er’ parts, despite what you might have heard, Northampton is not in the north of England. It’s only an hour away from London and Birmingham, and rests in the east midlands.
30 Things to Do in Northampton
1. Ride the NSME Delapré Trains
This is such a cute gem and perfect for families. Tucked in what feels like a hidden pocket of Delapré park, miniature trains run on two loop tracks beneath the shade of the trees. Tickets cost just 50p for adults and under 5s ride for free. Public running days start on the May Bank Holiday Monday and they then run on the first Sunday of the month until October, from 2pm – 5pm. We’ve been going every year since Nova was born and we love it. A little snack shack serves ice creams, drinks and chocolate bars, so make sure you bring change.
Address: NSME Delapré Trains: London Road, Northampton, NN4 8AW
2. Get Merry at New Lodge Vineyard
Northampton may not look like France or Italy, but it still has vineyards. New Lodge Vineyard is an award-winning, cute vineyard near the village of Earls Barton. On a Saturday you can buy wines from the cellar door, wander around the vineyard or simply sit on the terrace enjoying a bottle. Every so often they have open days where you can sample lots of the wines on offer. Be rude not to try, right?!
Address: New Lodge Vineyard: Earls Barton, Northampton, NN6 0HF
Recommended Reading: 12 of the Best Restaurants in Northampton
3. Go Canoeing and Kayaking
Head to Nene Whitewater Centre if you fancy canoeing or kayaking in Northampton. They also offer raft building, whitewater tubing and whitewater rafting sessions.
The Nene Whitewater Centre was the UK’s first pumped, artificial whitewater course. Three pumps control the flow of water down the 300 metre whitewater course allowing the Centre to alter the course’s difficulty and the skill levels required to paddle it.
Address: Nene Whitewater Centre: Bedford Road, Northampton, NN4 7AA
4. Sail at Pitsford Water
Continuing the nautical theme, head to Pitsford Water if you want to try a spot of paddleboarding, sailing or windsurfing. If you’d rather stay on dry land, you can walk around the reservoir via the seven miles of tracks. There’s also a cute playground, cafe and picnic area at Brixworth Country Park. You can find a cute map here.
Address: Pitsford Water: Brixworth, Northampton, NN6 9DG
5. Watch a bijou screening at Errol Flynn Filmhouse
If you’re over the party scene it doesn’t mean you have to stay in. Head to The Errol Flynn Filmhouse for a classy cinema screening. This filmhouse shows an eclectic mix of films and performances, including the best in world, independent, British and mainstream. Big blockbuster titles sit side by side operas, ballets and more. It seats a modest 88 guests, all in premium leather seats with their own side table.
Grown up snacks are available, including gourmet popcorn – try the olive oil and sea-salt flavour – though if you’re averse to noise, you could opt for one of the ‘food free’ screenings. You can enjoy drinks served in glass and crockery too, including wine from New Lodge Vineyard (a local fave). It’s a unique and stylish experience that’s well worth a try.
Address: Errol Flynn Filmhouse: Derngate, Northampton NN1 1TU
6. Meet the Animals at Mini Meadows
If you’ve got young ones head to Mini Meadows. It’s a really sweet farm that’s just the right size for toddlers. You can get a buggy round, though it is easier if you can put your little one in a carrier or let them walk. You’ll find the usuals like cows, pigs and sheep, but also llamas and alpacas.
In the spring you can feed the lambs and throughout the year you can pet the rabbits and guinea pigs. You can also buy a bucket of feed to use as you walk round the farm. There’s an inside play area that was recently refurbished, as well as an outdoor area with ride on tractors. My two love spending the day here and we’re always one of the last to leave. Entry is super cheap, so it’s an ideal family day out.
Address: Mini Meadows Farm: Naseby Road, Northampton, NN6 6HZ
7. Try a Cocktail at Haycock and Tailbar
If you’re up for a classy night out, head to Haycock & Tailbar Associates. It’s a secret (or not so secret) cocktail and steak supper bar just a few steps away from Errol Flynn Filmhouse. There’s no glaring signage, so you’ll need to book ahead and then look out for the discreet black door.
Navigate your way in and you’ll be led down to the small den for some of the town’s most creative and bespoke cocktails. You can opt to have a bite to eat down here too, but why waste precious party time on food when there are delicious drinks to be sampled? You can read a detailed blog post via the link.
Address: Haycock and Tailbar: 15 Derngate, Northampton, NN1 1TY
8. Meet the Scarecrows
Every September the lovely little village of Harpole hosts a scarecrow festival. Basically lots of the locals create scarecrows and display them outside their houses. You then wander through the village, ticking them all off. Alternatively, you can hop on the open top bus that tours the village. There are stalls and refreshments and it’s just a simple, nice family day. The money raised goes to a variety of charities and community projects.
Address: Harpole Scarecrow Festival: Harpole, Northampton, NN7 4DH
9. Visit Abington Park
This is a truly well-loved park right in the centre of Northampton. If you’re looking for free things to do in Northampton head here. There’s a big play area with slides, swings and various climbing frames, as well as various ponds, fields and paved gardens. A road splits the park with one half being home to a small cafe, a few caged birds and Abington Park Museum.
You’ll often see running clubs, football classes taking place here, as well as summer bandstand sessions when it’s warmer (usually every Sunday at 2pm-5pm from May to Sep).
Address: Abington Park: Abington, Northampton, NN3 3HN
10. Indulge at the Dessert Parlours
11. Get a Health Fix at Daily Bread
Daily Bread is a little co-operative not that far from the town centre. It stocks fairtrade products and lots of local produce, including a good range of gluten free, vegetarian and vegan items. The co-operative also supports local charities and projects, so your spending is actually a positive thing.
Next door you’ll find their little cafe dressed in bunting, with a cute terrace. There are highchairs and it serves classics like jacket potatoes, sandwiches and cakes. There’s also a charity shop and small garden centre.
Address: Daily Bread: The Old laundry, Bedford Road, Northampton, NN4 7AD
12. Go Strawberry Picking
There’s a lovely little PYO spot in Harpole village. During the summer you can pick strawberries either from the ground or from their raised lanes. The station where you pay is stocked with fresh cream ready for you to take home. At the bottom of the field there’s a little pen with a few cute pigs in it and near the top there’s usually a photo prop so you can get a cute snap of your little ones. I think Nova may have eaten nearly all of the strawberries this year, but I’m assured they’ll be some more next year..!
Address: PYO Harpole: Harpole, Northampton, NN7 4DJ
13. Go on a Teddy Bear Picnic at Little Houghton
Little Houghton is a little village in Northampton and most years they host a teddy bear’s picnic to raise money for the church. In a similar vein to the scarecrow festival, local residents create different bears and display them outside their house. You can pick up a map so that you can find them all.
Some of the locals go all out, with the train driver being Nova’s favourite this year. This year there was a jovial dog show, tombola and other stands, making it a simple, but lovely afternoon out. It usually takes place in August.
Address: Teddy Bear Picnic: Little Houghton, NN7
14. Go for a Swim
There are quite a few different swimming spots in Northampton. Little ones love Danes Camp because it has a kiddy area, complete with pirate ship. It’s run by the local council so entry is super cheap. Other options for a swim include Virgin Active at Riverside, DW Sports near the town centre and the small pool at Overstone Park.
15. Get Fit at Sywell Country Park
Sywell Country Park is a pretty outdoor space that overlooks a former drinking water reservoir. There’s a small playground and sandpit for little ones, and a mighty staircase for anyone wanting to put their buns to the test! You can walk round the park or pop into the Pump Cafe for a slice of cake and cup of coffee.
Address: Sywell Country Park Washbrook Lane, Ecton, Northampton, NN6 0QZ
16. Ride a Hot Air Balloon
Fancy seeing Northampton from a new perspective? Get up in the sky! There are a few balloon companies offering rides in Northampton, including Champagne Flights who fly from Sywell Aerodrome. Just be warned that the English weather can play havoc with your booking – it took us five attempts before we finally got up in the air and then we had to go from nearby Milton Keynes instead.
If you don’t fancy going up in one, you could head to the Balloon Festival which usually takes place every August. For the last few years it has been hosted at Billing Aquadrome.
17. Support the Locals
Head to one of my fave independents, Magee Street Bakery, for one of their amazing halloumi ‘sausage’ rolls or their to die for brownies. It’s a super small spot in a busy neighbourhood and I love it.
Address: 32B Derby Road, Northampton, NN1 4JS
18. Cheer on the Cobblers
Northampton Town Football Club (aka the Cobblers) is the town’s well-loved football team. They play home games at the stadium at Sixfields. You can see when they’re playing and buy tickets here.
19. Visit Delapré Abbey
Delapré Abbey is a beautiful grade II listed building that’s only a mile or so from Northampton town centre. It’s set in the gorgeous 500 acre landscape of Delapré Park. You can enjoy afternoon tea or a spot of lunch in the gorgeous cafe or take your own picnic to enjoy underneath a tree. I often take my two mini-explorers and we only have to walk a few minutes from the car park to find a secluded spot.
There’s a walled garden next door to the building that’s accessible by pushchair and ideal for toddlers who want to run about. Every so often Delapré Abbey hosts events, so it’s worth checking their website or Facebook page.
Address: Delapré Abbey: London Road, Northampton, NN4 8AW
20. Go Jumping at Boost
Boost Northampton is a trampoline park at Riverside Retail Park. It’s essentially a warehouse full of massive trampolines! There’s a toddler zone at the back, which means little ones can have a bounce without you worrying that they’re going to get knocked over by bigger, excited kids (or adults on some occasions!).
You typically book a session which lasts an hour. The toddler sessions only cost £5 and by the time the 60 minutes are up my little one is exhausted. That said, they now offer sessions where toddlers can play on everything before the bigger ones arrive and it runs from 10am – 1pm. It’s super good value, especially as they can get on and off the trampolines to refuel. There’s a basic onsite cafe and McDonalds, Costa and other restaurants/cafes are nearby.
Address: Boost Northampton: Fairground Way, Northampton, NN3 9HU
21. Watch a Show
Royal and Derngate is a theatre complex in the town centre. It’s a great one of many things to do in Northampton, showcasing prestigious ballets, comedy gigs, concerts and more. The theatre is pretty good in that all of the seats offer pretty good views, even if you’re at the top.
Address: Royal and Derngate: Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP
22. Visit Holdenby House
This beautiful country house is popular with local school trips and weddings thanks to its historical beauty. The 20 acres of grade I gardens are listed in the book ‘1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die’. The Pond Garden is my favourite bit, whilst Nova loves the animals we often spot at the Elizabethan Pond and the tree swing.
Entry is really cheap, so it’s just a nice way to spend an hour or two. There’s a little cafe in the courtyard before you enter the gardens that you can enjoy without having to pay entry.
If you have little ones keep an eye on Nature Stories on Facebook as they often host forest schooling style events in Holdenby. We recently went to one centred on ‘The Whale and the Snail’ by Julia Donaldson and Nova loved it, coming home with every variation of handcrafted snail possible!
Address: Holdenby House: Northampton, NN6 8DJ
23. Abseil the Lift Tower
The National Lift Tower is a lift-testing tower built by the Express Lift Company and is an iconic, if dreary, sight in Northampton. At 418ft (127m) high it’s quite a popular spot for abseils and said to be the tallest permanent abseil tower in the world.
Address: National Life Tower Abseil: Tower Square, Northampton, NN5 5FH
24. Shop and Eat at Beckworth Emporium
Make sure you include space in your itinerary (or stomach) to visit Beckworth Emporium. Dismiss the fact that it’s in a nursery (or what most people call it, a posh garden centre). It serves one of the best Afternoon Teas on offer in Northampton.
It serves breakfast and lunch too, both of which are delicious, but the Afternoon Tea is the main reason to visit. It’s served on slates, with both savoury and sweet bites. At just over £20 for two, it’s really good value, but even if it was more it’d be worth it. There’s nearly always a queue to get a seat so factor in some buffer time if you’re busy.
If you’re visiting in winter check their website as they usually have an onsite indoor ice-skating rink, with special sessions for children. It’s one of our family traditions.
Address: Beckworth Emporium: 120-140 Glebe Rd, Northampton NN6 0DL
25. Cheer on the Saints
Northampton is home to the Saints rugby team. They play at home at Franklin’s Gardens, which is moments from Northampton town centre. They do pretty well, so it’s worth checking the Saints fixture list to see if they’re playing during your visit.
Address: Saints: Franklin’s Gardens, Weedon Road, Northampton, NN5 5BG
Recommended Reading: 12 of The Best Restaurants in Northampton
26. Relax at Castle Ashby
Head to Castle Ashby Gardens for a leisurely mooch round the pretty lawns and inside the cute hideaways. Entry is really cheap and you can easily spend a good few hours there. If you have little ones they’ll love the animals in the menagerie and the playground, whilst surely everyone will adore the little tearooms. What’s not to love about cake?
Castle Ashby Gardens is also home to the famous pumpkin trail and equally as charming, Christmas trail. Tickets for these events sell out quickly, so keep an eye on their website. You can read a detailed blog post about the Gardens via the link above.
Address: Castle Ashby Gardens: Castle Ashby, Northampton NN7 1LQ
27. Go Mad at The Hub
If you’ve got little ones take them to The Hub for a soft play extravaganza. This place is huge, with a dedicated baby sensory room, two gated toddler areas with slides, role play zones (costumes, props etc) and ball pit, as well as a massive young children area.
There’s a vintage carousel, laser tag, pottery painting, music and dance classes – basically everything you could possibly need to tire out your children. It’s perfect for a rainy day, though it’s still popular in the summer. The Christmas sessions are really good, so keep an eye out for the details of those. You (or at least your children) can quite easily spend a whole day here. There’s a cafe serving hot food, wifi and lots of magazines for parents.
Address: The Hub Northampton: 7 Carousel Way, Riverside Park, Northampton, NN3 9HG
28. Walk in the Trees at Salcey Forest
Salcey Forest is beautiful. Aside from parking it’s free and apart from the very last part, is accessible with a pushchair. There are lots of walking, cycling and even horse riding tracks to enjoy in Salcey Forest. Sadly Tree Top Way (where you could walk above the trees) has now closed down for the forseeable future, but I’m hopeful it will reopen at some point.
This place isn’t the best for picnics as it’s more on the rugged side, but Salcey Forest Cafe is worth visiting. You’ll find it in the main car park and it serves sandwiches, as well as hot meals. There’s outside seating for dog walkers and sunnier days, whilst inside you’ll find a cosy selection of tables.
Address: Salcey Forest: Wootton Road, Northampton, NN7 2HX
Recommended Reading: 30 Things to Do in Oxford (only an hour away)
29. Feast at Buddies
**Buddies has now been taken over by another company and is no longer anywhere near as good as it used to be. I’ve left this in because it is a place I used to love and plan to try one last time before writing it off!**
Buddies is an institution in Northampton. It’s become so popular that there are lots of branches in and around the area. However, the original branch in Dychurch Lane (Northampton town centre) might as well be the one and only. It’s an American style diner with exposed brickwork, enough memorabilia to open a museum and the best burgers in town.
Without a doubt, make sure you add the pouring cheese to your fries. If you manage a starter, main and dessert you deserve a medal. Whatever you go for, don’t miss out on a dessert (even if you have to share it) – The Mint Stint sundae is a firm favourite in our household. You can read a detailed blog post via the link.
Address: Buddies Northampton: Dychurch Lane, Northampton, NN1 2AB
30. Head to the Skate Park
If you have skates, a scooter or bike (or kids who have them!) head to Radlands Skate Park. It’s moments from the town centre, set near a river walk and a fenced in playground. My toddler loves watching the older kids doing stunts on their bikes and taking his scooter on the little ramp. Thee’s no entry charge.
Address: Radlands Skate Park: Off Bedford Road, Northampton, NN1 5PZ
Bonus Nearby Things to Do
♥ Get Outdoors at Stanwick Lakes
If you love the outdoors head to Stanwick Lakes. It’s still an NN postcode, but it’s technically in Wellingborough. There’s so much to do here, from cycling round the lake, crafting, climbing in the playground or cooling down in the splash park area. It’s good fun for bigs and smalls. You can read a detailed blog post via the link.
♥ Explore Chicheley Hall
This beautiful mansion is popular with weddings, but you don’t need to get married to visit. You can book an overnight stay or simply enjoy afternoon tea or dinner here. The gorgeous grounds are great for wearing little legs out or if you want to get some pretty family snaps. Read more in this post.
Address: Chicheley Hall: Chicheley Road, Newport Pagnell, MK16 9JJ
♥ Hunt for Dinosaurs at Irchester Country Park
The light at this place is always so divine – I love it! It’s essentially a country park with lots of tracks, a big playground and cafe. We like to walk the biggest loop around the outside and can usually do it in an hour or so (with toddler in tow). It’s pushchair friendly and dogs are welcomed. Some parts are home to dinosaur eggs and bones, so of course, it’s great for little imaginative minds.
Address: Irchester Country Park: Gipsy Lane, Little Irchester, Irchester, Wellingborough, NN29 7DL
♥ Rushden Lakes
Rushden Lakes is Northamptonshire’s premier hub of shops and restaurants. It includes a huge Primark, M&S, New Look, H&M, Fat Face and loads more. It’s also home to some good restaurants, such as Wagamamas, Pizza Express and our favourite, Wildwood. It’s set next to the water, so in between shopping you could hire a pedalo or canoe, or simply enjoy a lakeside walk.
Address: Rushden Lakes: Rushden, NN10 6FH
♥ Wickstead Park
If you’re looking for a family day out Wickstead Park is a longstanding favourite. Set in 147 acres of parkland, there are 30 rides and activities to enjoy, including one of Europe’s longest zip wires. The majority of the rides are aimed at young children, with the train being a popular hit with our little ones. It’s also home to a historical waterchute which was installed in 1926!
Address: Wickstead Park: Barton Road, Kettering, NN15 6NJ
♥ Shop at Nene Court
If you have a spare hour head to Nene Court for a spot of shopping for unique gifts designed by independent makers from the local area. The Garden Deli is our favourite cafe there, serving delicious paninis and an impressive platter.
Address: Nene Court: Embankment, Wellingborough NN8 1LD
♥ West Lodge Rural Centre
We love this family-run farm. You can watch piglet racing, pet small animals, groom the donkeys and ponies, build a den, get pulled by a tractor and lots more farm fun activities. There’s also a really good indoor play area, so you can make a full day of it.
Address: West Lodge Rural Centre: Back Lane, Desborough, Kettering, NN14 2SH
Have you been to Northampton? Do you have any recommendations to add to this list? X