Looking for the best things to do in Exeter with kids? The capital of Devon is a brilliant place for some urban fun to compliment the countryside and coastal adventures just a short distance away. Here’s your guide to indoor and outdoor fun, including activities in the city centre and great day trips from Exeter.
Things to do in Exeter for free and low cost
Exploring a city doesn’t have to be tough on your wallet. Here’s some things you can do in Exeter for free or without breaking the bank.
Our number one recommendation for free things to do in Exeter is to visit RAMM – the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in the city centre. It’s also ideal for rainy days.
This stunning Victorian building is packed full of natural history, artefacts from cultures around the world, Devon history and art. There are plenty of hands-on activities for children, plus a packed calendar of family events.
You could easily spend half a day looking around and still return each week to see more. Best of all entry is free.
Visitor snapshot: open all year round | paid parking close by | RAMM
Explore Exeter Quayside
Exeter Quayside is a short walk from the city centre. It used to be the city’s historic river port and is now somewhere to browse independent shops and visit waterside eateries in the old warehouses.
If you want to find out about the history of the city’s woollen cloth industry then it’s free to visit the Exeter Custom House Visitor Centre here.
This is also the meeting point for the free Exeter Red Coat guided tours. These need to be booked in advance but sound super interesting with walks focussing on the city’s curiosities, ghost stories and legends.
If you’re feeling a little more energetic you can hire kayaks, pedalos or paddle boards, or take a walk along the canal. There’s also boat trips from the quay.
Visitor snapshot: open seven days a week | free to browse | paid parking close by | Exeter Quayside
St Nicholas Priory
St Nicholas Priory has stood in Exeter for nearly 1,000 years and is said to be one of the city’s most haunted places.
Over the centuries it has been a Benedictine Monastery, a home to Tudor merchants and a Roman Catholic school. You can now visit the priory to find out about its history and maybe spot a ghost!
Visitor snapshot: open Sunday and Monday (check the website for other dates) | paid parking close by | St Nicholas Priory
Stand and admire the weathered figures of angels, knights and apostles who greet you at the western end of the Cathedral. Each is unique and was once painted in bright colours.
As soon as you step inside your eyes are drawn upwards to the ceiling.
The stone masons of the 14th Century knew a thing or two about vaulted roofs. Exeter has the longest continuous medieval stone vaulted roof in the world. Have a look for curious bosses including faces, animals and even a mermaid.
As you wander through the Cathedral there’s thousands of intricate tombs, memorials and carvings to spot.
Entry costs £5 per adult. Kids can visit for free.
Visitor snapshot: open seven days a week (check website for opening times) | paid parking close by | Exeter Cathedral
Exeter Cathedral is one of the scenes to colour in the Devon Colouring Book for Kids.
The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum
This free museum at the University of Exeter is home to one of the largest collections of material on the moving image in Britain. It has more than 85,000 items, 1,000 of which are on display.
If you have any budding cinematographers in your family, they’ll find it fascinating.
Visitor snapshot: open seven days a week | paid parking close by | Bill Douglas Cinema Museum
Here’s our full itinerary for a day out in Exeter on a budget.
Things to do when it rains
Dodge the rain with these wet day activities in Exeter:
Exeter’s Underground Passages
Take a guided tour of these Medieval passages under Exeter for an insight into the city’s past.
Wander through some of the vaulted pathways that carried water from springs into the heart of the city. There’s plenty of tales of plague, war and pestilence to add to this atmospheric experience.
Visitor snapshot: check website for tour times | book online | paid parking close by | Exeter’s Underground Passages
Clip and Climb Exeter
Looking for an adrenaline fuelled activity to try in Exeter? Clip n’ Climb at the Quay Climbing Centre is there perfect wet day activity to wear your kids out.
Visitor snapshot: open seven days a week | book online | paid parking close by | The Quay Climbing Centre
Launch yourself into a giant airbag, leap into the stunt zones and play gravity defying games in the football target zone.
Visitor snapshot: open seven days a week | book online | limited free parking on site | iBounce
Go bowling at this 22 lane alley that also has pool tables and arcade games.
Visitor snapshot: open seven days a week | book online | paid parking close by | Tenpin Exeter
Visit a cinema
Here’s where to see a flick in Exeter:
Theatres in Exeter
Exeter loves the arts! Here’s where to find theatres in the city:
See sports in Exeter
Support one of Exeter’s professional sports teams at a football or rugby fixture.
Here’s where to find match details:
Things to do near Exeter for families
Exeter is the perfect base for exploring more of Devon. Here’s some attractions and places to visit near Exeter:
Crealy Adventure Park & Resort
If you’re a fan of rollercoasters, log flumes and go-karts then Crealy Adventure Park & Resort near Exeter is a great theme park in Devon.
This award-winning family attraction has 60 rides, as well as a farm, adventure play grounds, a splash park and indoor play to satisfy kids of all ages. It’s also one of my recommended accessible Devon attractions.
We’ve been visiting since my kids were three and one-years-old, and have never been short of things to do.
Some of their favourite rides include the carousel, the Flying Machine and, more recently, the Maximus rollercoaster. There are height restrictions on some of the bigger rides.
Once children are over 92cm they can have a go on most attractions, but there are some that toddlers can do from 80cm high.
Each Devon school holiday there are themed events including shows in the Big Top arena.
Crealy is a 20 minute drive from Exeter city centre.
Take a look at our full guide to days out at Crealy Adventure Park.
Visitor snapshot: Clyst St Mary | open all year round (check website) | book online | free parking | Crealy Adventure Park & Resort
This farm and shop in Topsham is more than somewhere to pick up locally grown produce. It’s a day out in itself.
Darts Farm’s Food Hall is brimming with local goodies. There’s more than 50 different types of fruit and vegetables, as well as a butchers, deli, local drinks and gifts. You can sample some of its produce in the restaurant, at its two takeaway places and at its gelateria.
On the farm estate you can meet its hens all year round. In the summer, say hello to cattle, sheep and pigs. You can also walk the nature trail and visit the wetland nature reserve where there’s a bird hide all year round.
In the summer head to Darts Farm to pick your own sunflowers and in October you’ll find a pumpkin patch.
Visitor snapshot: Topsham | open all year round (check what’s available via the website) | free parking | Darts Farm
Find more family-friendly farm shops in Devon.
Haldon Forest near Exeter has lots of activities for kids of all ages. If you’re visiting with little ones the Discovery Trail is an easy walk with activities along the way. In 2022, the Superworm Trail is at Haldon Forest.
We also love Go Ape there. And the good news about the courses at Haldon Forest is that they are open for kids of all ages. Kids just have to be 1m to play.
There’s a Treetop Adventure for novice apes and Treetop Challenge for more adventurous teens and adults.
As well as high ropes you can book a Segway tour for over 10-year-olds and cycle hire for all the family.
Haldon Forest is a 20 minute drive from Exeter city centre.
Visitor snapshot: Kennford | open all year round (check website for activities) | activities bookable online | paid parking | Haldon Forest Park
Mid-Devon Railway Centre
Young train enthusiasts will love the model railways, miniature towns and toddler rides at the Devon Railway Centre near Tiverton. There’s also a large soft play area and railway carriages that have been turned into toddler-friendly play zones.
The only thing to bear in mind that pushchairs can’t access some of the site. Bring a baby/child carrier for young children.
Mid-Devon Railway Centre is a 25 minute drive from Exeter city centre.
Visitor snapshot: Tiverton | check website for opening times | book online | free parking | Devon Railway Centre
The Bear Trail
Fancy yourself as the next Bear Grylls? If the answer is yes then The Bear Trail will see if you are up to the challenge. Tackle this military inspired assault course complete with mud pits, scrabble nets and rope swings for a fun-packed day out.
The Trail is best suited to energetic kids and teens, but there is a play area for little ones and plenty of picnic space from where parents can watch the action if they don’t fancy participating.
Read my guide to The Bear Trail.
The Bear Trail is a 30 minute drive from Exeter city centre or you can catch the bus.
Visitor snapshot: Cullompton | check website for opening times | book online | free parking | The Bear Trail
Right next door to the Bear Trail is an indoor role play centre for children aged 12 months to seven-years-old.
There are 12 play zones including a fire station, farm shop, police station and post office.
Bear Town is a 30 minute drive from Exeter city centre or you can catch the bus.
Visitor snapshot: Cullompton | check website for opening times | book online | free parking | Bear Town
If you’d like a rare glimpse of some of Britain’s native animals in their natural habitats then head to Wildwood Escot at Ottery St Mary.
We visited on a cool Spring day and found plenty to do. From watching red squirrels forage for nuts to exploring the woodland walks and playing Saxons in the recreated village, it was a full day.
There’s otters, lynx and park of grey wolves. You’ll also find playgrounds, a trampoline, a beech maze and a soft play barn for younger kids.
Read our full review of Wildwood Escot for more reasons to visit this East Devon attraction.
Wildwood Escot is a 30 minute drive from Exeter city centre.
Visitor snapshot: Ottery St Mary | open all year round | book online | free parking
There’s lots of other great places to visit in East Devon too.
If your family enjoys countryside walks, den-building and gardens packed full of hidden gems then Killerton is an ideal place to visit in East Devon. You might even spy Dolbury the dragon who is said to guard a trove of treasure hidden in Killerton’s grounds.
If your kids haven’t yet begun the National Trust’s ’50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4′ then this is a great place to start.
Killerton is a 25 minute drive from Exeter city centre.
Visitor snapshot: Cullompton | open all year round | book online | paid parking | Killerton National Trust
This country estate near Tiverton has a truly unique house inspired by gothic design with plenty of quirks. It was built in the 19th Century but the interiors have a Medieval feel with banners and shields – very knightly!
On the 250 acre estate there are walks, formal gardens, children’s trails and plenty of space for a picnic – the grounds of Knightshayes host the Mid-Devon Show in July after all.
Knightshayes is a 35 minute drive from Exeter city centre.
Visitor snapshot: Tiverton | open all year round | booking recommended | paid parking | Knightshayes
Castle Drogo is England’s most recently built castle and reopened in 2020 after a major renovation. You can now go on a tour indoors and there’s plenty to do in the grounds.
Visit the replica Bunty play house, grab a spotter trail sheet or go geocaching for hidden treasures in the Teign Gorge below the castle.
Castle Drogo is a 30 minute drive from Exeter city centre.
Visitor snapshot: Chagford | grounds open all year round, castle closed November to March | book online | paid parking | Castle Drogo
Powderham is the 600-year-old family home of the Earls of Devon, the latest of which is Charlies Courtenay.
The castle commands stunning views of the Exe Estuary – you can spot it from the railway line from Exeter to Plymouth – and has a rich history stretching back to the 1300s.
Today you can tour the castle with is lived in by the Earl and his family.
There’s also a small animal farm, a play fort, a deer safari and plenty of seasonal entertainment. Visit during the school holidays for interactive shows and themed events. It also hosts music festivals and events throughout the year.
Powderham Castle is a 25 minute drive from Exeter city centre.
Visitor snapshot: Kenton | check website for opening times | book online | free parking | Powderham Castle
Day trip to Exmouth
Exmouth is Exeter’s closest beach, about half and hour from the city, and offers sand and water sports for seaside lovers. That’s not to mention Devon’s longest promenade.
There’s also lots of family attractions and activities in the area, such as The World of Country Life farm park, boat trips with Stuart Line Cruises and the awesome Queens Drive Space adventure playground. Find more things to do in Exmouth with kids.
You can reach Exmouth by train from Exeter or hop on the number 57 bus from Sidwell Street in the city centre.
Alternatively, Exmouth is a 30 minute drive from Exeter city centre.
There’s lots of other great places to visit in East Devon too.
Day trip to Topsham
If you enjoy browsing pretty towns and independent shops a trip to Topsham is a must. It’s situated on the mouth of the River Exe which flows through Exeter.
As well as enjoying the view you can hire water sports equipment, cycle along the Exe Estuary Trail or visit Topsham’s outdoor pool.
Find out more on the Love Topsham website.
Topsham is a 20 minute drive from Exeter city centre or you can catch a bus.
Day trip to Dartmoor
Exeter sits at the northern end of Dartmoor – one of two national parks in Devon.
It’s a haven for hikers, cyclists and wildlife lovers, with places to walks that are fun for kids too.
Find more great days out in Dartmoor, not far from Exeter.
Day trip to the English Riviera
Torquay, Paignton and Brixham make up the English Riviera on Torbay, which is one of Devon’s post popular holiday destinations.
Visit the English Riviera for beach days, arcades and plenty of family attractions.
Read my guides to each of these seaside towns to find out all the best things to do:
Torquay is a 40 minute drive from Exeter city centre. You can also get there by bus or train.
Find more places to visit in South Devon.
More places to visit in Devon
For more ideas for things to do in Devon why not download my free ebook.
Got a while to stay? Here’s our BIG guide to family holidays in Devon.