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After a long week of work, Friday slowly rolls around again. “Finally”, you think, “two days of sweet freedom!” Five o’clock strikes and you make a dash for the nearest exit. But in your state of spreadsheet-induced euphoria, you’ve missed one minor detail: you haven’t actually made any plans for the weekend.
So another marathon box-set session beckons or perhaps another Friday night at the pub has your name on it?
No! Your TV can wait. The UK is bursting at the seams with awesome events, festivals and activities to keep you busy all year round.
To help you become a mini-break planning ninja, we’ve rounded up some of the best UK events in 2016 to give you an excuse for a weekend adventure closer to home.
To be bored in God’s Own Country is almost impossible. With so much going on across these four vast counties you’ll never want for a weekend activity.
York’s acclaimed Jorvik Centre will be hosting JORVIK Viking Festival (Coppergate, York, YO1 9WT; 01904 615 505) in February (15 – 21) when the city will once again be taken over by Vikings. Embracing its past, the city will be filled with exciting battle-enactments, family-friendly activities and historic talks, among other things, in tribute to the ancient ‘Jolablot’ celebrations that took place in York thousands of years previously.
For something a little more colourful, Leeds West Indian Carnival (August; exact dates yet to be confirmed) will not let you down. Caribbean performers will bring a slice of Trinidad to the streets of Leeds with dancing, music, street food and, of course, incredibly flamboyant costumes.
Meanwhile, the fantastic Yorkshire Sculpture Park (West Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4LG; 01924 832631) is open all year round with its range of intriguing art works and installations: ideal for a family day out. From February to June, look out for the striking sculptures by American artist KAWS who are all in the process of growing up.
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The Midlands’ fantastic multi-cultural population makes it an excellent place to immerse yourself in something different and celebrate big cultural events. For example, see in the Chinese New Year in Birmingham (Sunday, February 7) and welcome in the Year of the Monkey in style. Thousands are expected to flock to the city’s Chinatown near the Arcadian Centre for a mix of traditional entertainment, street food and fireworks.
If you want to see another colourful celebration, head over to Leicester for the city’s huge annual Diwali celebration at Belgrave Road which will be taking place in late October and early November (exact dates to be confirmed), starting with the switching on of the Diwali lights. As one of the biggest Diwali celebrations in the world outside of India, you can expect an extravaganza of colour, dance, tradition, street art and family events.
Enjoy perhaps the Midlands’ ultimate cultural experience at the Black Country Living Museum (Tipton Rd, Dudley, West Midlands DY1 4SQ; 0121 557 9643). Spread out across 26 acres, the museum brings to life the story of Britain’s first industrial landscape through workshops, authentic stores, an underground mine and more.
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The north east is renowned for its lively nightlife and passionate population, so it’s never that hard to have a canny time there.
Introduce the kids to a few of their robotic heroes at the Centre for Life Newcastle as it hosts Robot: a collection of robot models, cyborgs and androids from TV and film (Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4EP; 0191 243 8210) from January 23 up until April 17.
Over on Wearside, the Sunderland International Air show, at Roker and Seaburn seafront, (July 22 – 24) will be filling the skies with awe-inspiring air shows from the famous red arrows, while a whole host of family events will be taking place on the ground.
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s Winter Gardens (Burdon Road, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, SR1 1PP; 0191 561 2323), provide the perfect activity all year round with an amazing botanical collection containing over 2,000 plants and trees.
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Heaven knows you won’t be miserable for long in Manchester; the city’s calendar is packed with events that will appease even the hardest to entertain. May (20) will see the northern powerhouse host the Great City Games, an awesome festival of athletics and sport that was inspired by the Great Manchester Run. Popular areas Deansgate and Albert Square will be transformed into arenas as thousands gather to cheer on athletes from all over the world.
Later in the year, the city will gear up for one of its biggest and boldest events: Manchester Pride. The four-day festival of fun takes place across the August bank holiday (August 26-29), with a huge parade throughout the city and The Big Weekend festival taking centre stage among the events – regularly drawing thousands, this one will sell out fast so snap up 2016 tickets as soon as you can.
Not in Manchester on either weekend? No problem. In 2016, the city will carry the title of European City of Science, with a year of diverse events planned to support this. The main event will be the science festival in late October, but there are plenty of intriguing things planned along the way.
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Edinburgh has long been hailed as the jewel in Scotland’s creative crown, but nearby Glasgow has its fair share of artistic evets too. The Glasgow Film Festival (February 17 – 28) will be showcasing a mix of cult classics and brand new releases across the city, with iconic buildings, such as Glasgow Cathedral, being temporarily transformed into movie venues.
Of course, if you are heading up to Scotland for the arts, you can’t overlook the Edinburgh Fringe – the largest arts festival in the world. This year, the extravaganza of alternative theatre and performance will take place between August 5 and 29.
Throughout 2016, Scotland will also be celebrating a Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design in celebration of the county’s contribution in these fields. Events will be taking place across Scotland all year, including a festival of architecture from March until the end of October. You can find a full list here.
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Kick start your year with a healthy dose of Irish music at the Derry International Irish Music Festival (January 31 – February 7). Venues across Derry will be putting on a series of live gigs dedicated to Irish culture and music, whatever your musical taste.
Alternatively, get on your bike at the Official Giro Big Start Legacy Event (June 25 – 26) which will be returning to Belfast this year. Riders will be able to take on two challenging closed-road cycle routes, while there will also be a post ride party and the Giro Expo for families to enjoy.
Food lovers will be right at home this year in Northern Ireland as the country celebrates “Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink 2016”. Each month will be dedicated to a different culinary theme, so there’s plenty going on to get your taste buds tingling.
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Sport is a big deal in Cardiff. Rugby is the big hitter in the city, while football, basketball and baseball are also well represented. To see the city in its element, visit during the Six Nations (February 13) when Wales will take on Scotland at the Principality Stadium.
Sport not your thing? Get up to Conwy in the summer (June 30-July 3) for a hoedown instead. The North Wales Bluegrass Festival will be celebrating all things American folk music with a terrific line up of acts from all over the world.
For something completely different, try your hand at Coasteering: a blend of “rock-hopping, shore-scrambling, swell-riding, cave-exploring and cliff-jumping” available at various points along Wales’ stunning coastline.
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The post-Christmas blues are at their most prominent in January, so laugh them off at Bristol’s Slapstick Festival (January 20-26). With 25 events over six days and a mix of classic comedy film screenings and performances, there’s bound to be something to put a smile on your face.
For something memorable, Bristol Balloon Fiesta (August 11 – 14) will return in 2016 for its 37th year. The biggest ballooning event in Europe is now one of the UK’s largest outdoor events, with a combination of mass balloon parades, fairground rides, parachute shows and live music making it ideal for a fun-filled family weekend.
And at any time of the year, Bristol’s top-rated attraction on TripAdvisor, Brunel’s SS Great Britain (Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Rd, Bristol BS1 6T; 0117 926 0680), is a great day out for all of the family.
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Samuel Johnson once mused that to become tired of London is to become tired of life. Perhaps Sam was a little too London-centric in his ideals, but one thing is for certain: there’s always something interesting going on in this city.
No matter what time of year you find yourself in London, you can’t really go wrong with the Southbank Centre for a quality day out. For families, the Children’s Imagine Festival (February 10 – 21) will certainly keep the young ones occupied with free theatre, activities and workshops every day.
If you’re in the city to blow off some steam, look no further than Notting Hill Carnival (August 28-29), Britain’s biggest street party. A definite London bucket list must, the carnival is a gigantic celebration of all things Afro-Caribbean with infectious rhythms, delicious street food and lots of dancing drawing thousands to the capital every year.
For something you can do all year in the city, take a stroll around one of London’s iconic markets. Top picks include: Columbia Road Flower Market, for the best fresh flowers; Old Spitafields Market, for everything vintage; and Borough Market, for delicious street food.
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Are you going to any of the events on our list? Have we missed one? Leave a comment below to let us know.
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