Things to Do in Wakefield: Your Ultimate Guide to Exploring the City

3 months ago   •   10 min read

By More Yorkshire
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Things to Do in Wakefield

Wakefield, a charming city in West Yorkshire, England, offers an array of activities that cater to art enthusiasts, nature lovers, and families alike.

With its rich heritage and contemporary cultural scene, it stands out as a destination worth exploring.

The Hepworth Wakefield is a key highlight, renowned as Yorkshire's award-winning gallery and embracing the legacy of local-born artist Barbara Hepworth.

Since its opening in 2011, it has not only displayed an impressive array of modern art but has also played a significant role in the region's artistic acclaim.

The city's natural beauty can be enjoyed at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, an open-air gallery set in the stunning landscape of an 18th-century estate.

It stands as UK's leading venue for modern and contemporary sculpture, offering a unique combination of art, heritage, and green spaces.

For those seeking a blend of history and nature, Nostell and its surrounding parkland present well-kept pathways, perfect for walks in any season, and a stately home that provides insights into historical architecture with knowledgeable guides.

Historical Landmarks

Wakefield boasts an array of historical landmarks that offer visitors an insight into the region's rich past. These sites narrate tales of battles, bygone eras, and architectural prowess, inviting exploration of their historic significance and beauty.

Sandal Castle

Sandal Castle stands as a testament to medieval fortifications with its commanding ruins overlooking the River Calder.

The site played a significant role in the Battle of Wakefield during the Wars of the Roses. Visitors can wander among the ruins, learning about the castle's history and enjoying panoramic views.

Wakefield Cathedral

Wakefield Cathedral, with its striking spire, is one of the city's most prominent historic sites.

It embodies centuries of ecclesiastical history and architectural evolution. Inside, one can appreciate the cathedral's opulent interior and the sense of tranquility it imparts on its visitors.

Cultural Venues

Wakefield's cultural scene is vibrant and diverse, with venues that celebrate both the visual and performing arts.

Recognised for its strong emphasis on contemporary art and culture, Wakefield boasts venues offering everything from world-class art gallery exhibitions to high-quality theatre performances.

The Hepworth Wakefield

The Hepworth Wakefield stands as a beacon of contemporary art in the region, featuring an extensive array of work from both local artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, and international artists.

The gallery, which is named after the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who was born in the area, opened its doors in 2011 and has since become an iconic cultural landmark, offering a variety of exhibitions to the public.

Theatre Royal Wakefield

The Theatre Royal Wakefield typifies the rich theatrical heritage within the city, offering a broad programme that includes music, drama, and comedy.

This Victorian theatre, celebrated for its architectural significance, delivers a contemporary selection of shows, engaging audiences 265 days a year. Its annual pantomime is a highlight, drawing crowds from across Yorkshire.

The Art House

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The Art House provides a supportive environment for artists to develop and showcase their work, integrating fully equipped studios with exhibition spaces.

It champions the city's cultural engagement, hosting a range of events that bolster interaction with art and sculpture, underlining Wakefield's commitment to fostering artistic talent and appreciation.

Outdoor Attractions

Wakefield offers a variety of outdoor attractions, boasting everything from expansive parklands to innovative outdoor art installations.

Visitors have ample opportunities to revel in the picturesque landscapes, experience large-scale sculptures, and enjoy family-friendly activities like play areas and picturesque picnic spots.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) presents a premier outdoor art gallery where landscape and art intertwine.

It spans across the rolling fields and woods of the 18th-century Bretton Hall estate.

Renowned for its open-air display of modern and contemporary sculptures, YSP frequently features works by eminent sculptors.

Visitors can stroll through the vast parkland, which offers inspiring views, and picnic amongst the artworks.

Key Attractions at Yorkshire Sculpture Park:

  • Sculptures: Rotating exhibits by international sculptors
  • Landscape: Historic estate grounds perfect for exploration
  • Picnic Areas: Ideal spots for a scenic picnic
  • Views: Great views amidst art and nature
  • Play Area: Space for children to engage and play

Nostell Priory and Parkland

Nostell Priory is encompassed by extensive parklands that serve as a haven for nature lovers and families alike.

The property features well-maintained pathways, suitable for walking dogs even after periods of rain.

The parkland offers a lake providing serene views and a calm atmosphere.

For families, there's a dedicated play area where children can spend their time, and open spaces suitable for picnics.

Features of Nostell Priory and Parkland:

  • Parkland: A stretch of beautiful historic parkland
  • Lake: A tranquil lake at the heart of the estate
  • Great Views: Spectacular views of the priory and countryside
  • Playgrounds: Spaces for children to play
  • Dogs: Welcoming pathways for dog walking

Family Activities

Wakefield offers a variety of family-friendly destinations where children can play and explore in a safe, engaging environment.

The city's parks feature a mix of natural beauty and recreational facilities that cater to families looking for an enjoyable day out.

Pugneys Country Park

Pugneys Country Park is a major attraction for families in Wakefield.

The park possesses a large lake where boating and water sports are commonplace.

With extensive trails for walking and cycling, families can become active participants in the park's vibrant atmosphere.

The dedicated children's play areas ensure that younger visitors are entertained with age-appropriate equipment.

  • Activities:
    • Boating
    • Walking
    • Cycling
  • Facilities:
    • Play areas
    • Cafe

Anglers Country Park

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Perhaps best known for its scenic lake, Anglers Country Park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.

The space is open to the public 24 hours, making it a flexible option for families.

The addition of an adventure playground offers children a stimulating environment to enjoy.

At the Visitor Centre and Gift Shop, open from 10am to 4pm, families can learn about the park's history and wildlife. Meanwhile, the Woodland Cafe provides refreshments during park visits, serving hot food until 3pm.

  • Features:
    • Wildlife
    • Trails
    • Woodland
  • Amenities:
    • Adventure playground
    • Visitor Centre
    • Woodland Cafe

Historic Museums

Wakefield offers a rich tapestry of British industrial history through its museums. Visitors are treated to immersive experiences that showcase the region's contribution to coal mining, alongside well-preserved artefacts that narrate local history.

National Coal Mining Museum

The National Coal Mining Museum provides a deep dive into the world of coal mines, which were once the lifeblood of the Yorkshire region.

Exhibits offer insights into the life and work of coal miners, with the opportunity to embark on an underground tour led by former miners.

The museum presents an authentic experience, the echoes of the industry that powered a nation.

  • Activities: Underground tours, interactive displays
  • Highlights: Pit ponies, mining machinery
  • Visitor Information:
    • Admission: Free (donations welcome)
    • Location: Caphouse Colliery, New Road, Overton, Wakefield
    • Special Notes: Equipment and protective gear provided for underground tours

Pontefract Museum

A short drive away, Pontefract Museum, situated in a beautifully preserved Art Nouveau building, offers a window into the local history with a particular focus on the town's renowned liquorice-making tradition.

Speciality museums like this offer unique insights into specific aspects of cultural history, and Pontefract's tale is sweetened with interactive exhibits and historical collections.

  • Exhibits: Liquorice-related artefacts, local history displays
  • Features: Hands-on activities, historical archives
  • Visitor Information:
    • Admission: Free
    • Location: 5 Salter Row, Pontefract, Wakefield
    • Events: Regular workshops and talks available

Eating and Drinking

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Wakefield offers a diverse culinary scene, from the charming cafés serving quality brews and bites to the bustling pubs and bars highlighting an array of ales and spirits.

This section steers you through some of the best spots to enjoy a meal or a drink in the city.

Cafés in Wakefield

In Wakefield, cafés are an integral part of the local food culture, providing an ideal setting for a casual coffee or a light lunch.

Coffee Shops around Wakefield take pride in serving high-quality coffee, with an emphasis on beans that are carefully sourced and roasted to create the perfect cup.

A popular choice might be a café situated in the historic part of town, where one can relish homemade cakes and sandwiches in a cosy atmosphere.

Prices are generally reasonable, reflecting the city's commitment to offering value alongside quality.

Pubs and Bars

For those interested in the vibrant pub scene, Wakefield's array of pubs and bars presents excellent options.

One might find establishments renowned for their selection of Ales, where both traditional and craft beers are served, catering to all tastes.

These venues often couple their drink offerings with robust menus, featuring hearty British fare to complement the libations.

The quality of both food and drink in these pubs and bars is held to high standards, ensuring patrons receive the best experience at a fair price.

Shopping and Retail

Wakefield boasts robust shopping experiences, ranging from modern shopping centres to charming independent retailers. The city centre is a hub for both convenience and boutique shopping, where visitors can find a myriad of goods.

Trinity Walk Shopping Centre

Trinity Walk Shopping Centre serves as a contemporary retail destination in Wakefield City Centre.

It features over 60 shops, ranging from high street brands to smaller independent boutiques.

Shoppers can make bookings at certain stores for personal shopping experiences and are often treated to seasonal events and promotions.

Ridings Shopping Centre

The Ridings Shopping Centre, established in 1983, offers a more traditional shopping experience.

It hosts a variety of shops and kiosks, with special emphasis on local and regional retailers.

According to Tripadvisor data, customers appreciate the blend of shops and the community atmosphere the Ridings provides.

Religious Sites

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Wakefield offers a serene experience for those interested in religious landmarks with an emphasis on Christian heritage. Visitors can explore the region’s historic churches, notable for their architectural beauty and roles as places of worship.

St. John's Church

St. John's Church stands as a testament to time-honoured religious traditions and architectural design.

Visitors are drawn to its remarkable stained glass windows that cast a kaleidoscope of light within its peaceful interior.

An active place of worship, the church blends history with a vibrant community spirit.

Events and Festivals

Wakefield's event calendar is bustling with variety, offering something for every interest.

From food celebrations to music festivals, the city is host to events that reflect its rich cultural tapestry and provide unique experiences for its visitors.

Wakefield Rhubarb Festival

The Wakefield Rhubarb Festival is a renowned event, celebrating the region's heritage in rhubarb cultivation.

Visitors can enjoy a range of activities from tasting sessions featuring rhubarb-infused foods and drinks to cooking demonstrations by esteemed chefs.

The festival typically occurs annually, drawing food enthusiasts from across the country.

Long Division Festival

Long Division Festival showcases Wakefield's vibrant music and cultural scene.

With a focus on independent talent, it offers a stage to up-and-coming artists and established acts.

Attendees can expect a diverse line-up spanning various genres, making it a highlight for music lovers seeking new and exciting experiences.

Visitor Information

Wakefield offers a variety of accommodation options and transport links tailored to meet the preferences of its visitors.

Its amenities and facilities are user-friendly, including considerations for wheelchair users.

Accommodation Options

Wakefield boasts a range of hotels and guest houses, ensuring comfort and style for travellers.

Ratings for accommodations vary, catering to both luxury seekers and budget travellers. Most establishments feature:

  • Accessible rooms for wheelchair users
  • Parking availability, with some offering free parking services
  • Popular locations near cultural hotspots and transport links

Visitors can choose from quaint B&Bs, stylish boutique hotels, or well-established chain hotels.

User preferences are well catered for, whether one is looking for a historic experience or modern convenience.

Wakefield’s transport links are robust, offering easy access to the city’s attractions.

The city is served by the Wakefield Westgate and Kirkgate stations, with:

  • Frequent services connecting to Leeds, London, and other major cities
  • Facilities including parking and accessibility for wheelchair users

Local transport:

  • Bus services operate extensively, offering routes throughout the district
  • Taxis and ride-sharing options are readily available

For those driving, parking is ample, with multiple car parks and street parking. Some locations offer free parking, while others may charge a fee.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common queries about Wakefield's attractions and offers concise answers tailored for various visitors, ensuring a memorable experience for couples, families, and solo travellers alike.

Where can couples enjoy a day out in Wakefield?

Couples can enjoy scenic lakeside walks and perhaps partake in watersports at Pugneys Country Park, which offers a romantic setting with beautiful vistas.

What are the best activities in Wakefield that are free of charge?

The Hepworth Wakefield gallery, showcasing modern art in a stunning architectural space, and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, presenting contemporary sculptures outdoors, are two top-tier cultural attractions visitors can enjoy without a fee.

Which attractions should adults not miss when visiting Wakefield?

Adults should not miss visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Hepworth Wakefield, as these internationally recognised venues offer a rich experience in modern and contemporary art.

What family-friendly activities can be found in Wakefield?

Families will find Pugneys Country Park ideal for a varied range of activities from picnicking to leisurely walks, all set against the backdrop of a serene lake and greenery that caters to all ages.

What are the top attractions in Wakefield's city centre?

The city centre boasts attractions like The Hepworth Wakefield for art enthusiasts and a variety of historical sites and shopping options for a diverse urban experience.

What can you do in Wakefield on a weekend?

During a weekend in Wakefield, visitors can explore outdoor leisure at Pugneys Country Park. They can also indulge in cultural excursions to The Hepworth Wakefield or the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Additionally, they can enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and dining options within the city centre.

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