Traveling with a toddler - Sheffield City Guide

When you heard the word 'UK', there won't be any 'Sheffield' followed, it's always 'London' or 'Liverpool' or 'Edinburgh'. It happened to me - years ago. When my bestfriend told me she would continue her study in Sheffield, I had to asked again "what? where?". Then I recalled the famous football club I once heard, Sheffield United, that's the only thing I was familiar with.

It's just a small city in South Yorkshire (yes, it's the pudding and the tea if you think you have ever heard it somewhere), it's hilly and windy and rainy - the trio that always come together (ha!). A lot of foreigners come to the city to study, so without much saying, it feels like a student city. People come and go every year, and it's a common view to see an Asian girl brings luggage on the street while looking for an address, or a group of people bring big cardboards for cargo shipping at the end of school year.

So, I happened to live there for the whole year, and the title of this posting is kind of untrue. I lived there, not traveled. But, I'd always consider it as a year of hiatus, a year of traveling, a year of releasing some of adult's responsibilities and just be 'free'. Ah well. Let's just put it there - we traveled for a year in Sheffield, shall we? :)

Don't think it's a fancy city, because it's not. It's just a common English town, with lots of fish n chips and kebabs, lots of pub, and lots of drunken people at night. Daytime activities starts at 9am or 10am and end at 6pm on working days; and at 4pm on weekends - again, it's common. Only two big shopping malls available, and it's quite far from the city centre - to be honest, this arrangement is the best. Living there for a year, I only visited the mall twice. Comparing to the time when I come back to Indonesia, within a month I've visited several different malls seven times! Because there is no mall, there are rows of shops in the city centre and people do window shopping from outdoor (thank God for the weather!). City centre is the closest place where we usually went to if we need to go (window) shopping and/or looking for entertainment.

If you happened to come to Sheffield, do not underestimate this little town. Yes, it's small and common, but it's charming and not touristy. It is used to be an industrial city, therefore the architecture is quite 'practical', not star-designed of course. You can go walk around the city and explore the hilly city streets to observe the row of houses with taste of England.

Here are some ideas for you to explore Sheffield, if you are traveling with a toddler:

1. Weston Park Museum
This is the first must-visit place, where all children looooove this museum+park. The museum is free (YASSS!) and the park is large enough for them to run around, for us to have a nice afternoon picnic, and for everyone to stroll around feeding ducks in a pond.

When I didn't have idea on where to go during weekdays, I brought my kid here. She enjoyed the museum so much, although the museum isn't large, but it has everything in it, from histories to animals. There are a few children's toys that are available to everyone, where they can pretend to be a butcher, or where they can sail a boat, or where they can play with a small wooden house. It's not a lot, but it's enough to entertain the youngster. When they got bored, they can always explore the animals' section, from animals that can be found inside a kitchen to polar bear of north pole.

After exploring the museum, I'd usually took her to have a nice sandwich time in the park and then brought her for duck-feeding session - this is always a hit, always. During summer, there is an ice cream van outside the park, it's where all the parents queue for a cone or two. And then we sit under the sun, enjoying the rare-warmth afternoon, lovely as it sounds! :)

2. Winter Garden and Peace Garden
Winter Garden is a large glasshouse in the heart of the city, the design is pretty and picturesque. We found this glasshouse when the first time we came and strolled around the city, it came out become our next favorite spot. When it was so cold outside or rainy, just pop in to this warm glasshouse and have a seat sipping an affordable coffee and cake at the cafe. There are plantings at the center of the area and rows of seatings (by David Mellor) at both sides. At the side of the garden, it's the entrance to Millennium Gallery. Iola's highlight when we visited here were ice cream (at the cafe) and the gallery with big bear made from a carpet textile.

When we had enough of the garden and gallery, we usually went out and headed towards Peace Garden. There are a few waterballs (at least once a week, Iola would ask me to bring her here!), she loved to touch the water that are flowing on the ball's surface. And then she would went barefoot to go into the shallow pond that surrounded the ball and run around the ball while laughing happily. Together with her, of course there were other happy kids doing the exact same thing.
Following the waterballs, there is a water fountain and waterfalls, another "happy features" available for free in the city. This is the center of the celebration for summer in the city center area, a lot of laugh-giggles-smiles, a lot of happy face, a lot of parents with kids. It's a family area during summer, people are stripping down their jacket, become one layer clothing and bright colors. Children are wearing their swimsuits, sunblocks, and hats. All happy and relax.

3. Sheffield City Center
There are a lot happening in city center, from entertainment to social petition, from festival to religion stuffs, from shopping to relaxing in the coffee shop. If you happen to be in the city during some season - i.e.: Christmas, there is usually Christmas market with tons of food and kids entertainment such as merry-go-round. I bought my very first real Xmas tree in this Christmas market! :D

Popular sites in the city center:
City Hall
Sheffield Cathedral
Sheffield Library
Crucible Theatre
The Moor

4. Heeley City Farm
Located not really far from city center, that's why this city farm is very tempting to be visited when you don't have too much time to spend. It's the first farm we visited, so much fun seeing my little one enjoying herself looking at the real animals which she usually see from the book. UK's speciality is "from community and for community", therefore this city farm is a community farm with no entrance fee. People (community) donate for this farm, so it's own by the people and the city. We can buy fresh products from the farm, such as eggs, vegetables, fruits, and honey. There is a small playground and a cafe near the entrance, where you can relax after visiting the whole farm.

5. Milhouses Park
The most popular park for families! I happened to know about this park quite late, but it was the right timing: summer! Because it's only during summer, the water features are on! (yay!) There is a river in which we can go down to feel the stream and play in the shallow area.

There is a playground for small kids to big kids. There is a water park, with fountain and several simple "science" that relates to water to be played with. There is a small lake where we can ride a boat for 30 minutes. And there is a cafe by the lake where we can buy ice cream (this is super important :D). It is a large park with a lot of things to do, even if we go there alone, we still can relax on the bench and feel refresh.

6. Sheffield Manor Lodge
We visited here for the sake of the historical site, because there is Tudor ruins and Turret house, where Queen Mary of Scots was imprisoned for years. It's not free, but the entrance fee is affordable. Inside the Discovery Centre; beside the ruins for adults' sightseeing, there are also playground, lavender maze, and sandpit (!!!) for the kids. Iola didn't want to leave the sandpit although it was burning hot.

Other than the Discovery Centre, we walked a bit further down to visit the farm (it's free), and surprisingly it was crowded because there was a family-friendly cafe with plenty of outdoor seats that was spread around the yard. There were also outdoor toys available for the kids to play with and the farm animals were placed in a quite a large farm (it's bigger than Heeley).

7. Graves Park Animal Farm
Your kid would love this farm! I am sure. There are Llamas, donkeys, horses, sheeps, Tamworth pigs, Highland cattle, chickens, and even small indoor animals (ie.: hamster). We bought two bags of animal food and let Iola fed the animals. She loved it so much that she couldn't get enough and kept asking for more. It's fascinating for her because she could get close with them, pet them, and (even) hug them.

There was a large field where people usually play football and let their dogs free. There was a large duck pond. And there was a family friendly cafe with affordable food.

8. Highfield Adventure Playground
Another free playground for kids! It's in the city center (near London road), and accessible by short walk from the nearest bus stop. There was a huge rustic slide, a sandpit, and water play, and also babies' section (although it's a bit dark). Kids were playing happily in here, and parents were relaxing on the side while watching their kids. It's in a enclosed space, so that suspicious strangers might not be able to enter the playground.

Near this playground, there was also a common playground in the park. So when kids got bored with one of the playground, just bring them to another one :D

Hopefully, this "guide" would help you a bit if you happen to be in town! Surely, it's not a big town, but I assure you that it is a lovely town. Don't forget to buy Henderson's Relish (fruity and spicy condiment)!

Happy traveling :)

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