Today I am sharing a listicle of things to do in Cheltenham, which is my home town. I have graduated from Bournemouth University and moved back home to do my postgraduate degree. And I’m finding it a bit hard to adjust to being back home. Even though I have lived in Cheltenham for my whole life, I feel like I know Bournemouth better. So I am creating this post partly to give others an idea of some things to do in Cheltenham, but also for me. I want to rediscover my home town ♡.
Where is Cheltenham?
Cheltenham is part of the county Gloucestershire which is located in the South West of England. It is a Spa town, where King George III was recommended to go to drink the water. Cheltenham is also a Regency town due to the many Regency-style buildings, and its popularity during the Regency era. It is just on the edge of the Cotswolds and is most well-known for Cheltenham Racecourse which holds the Gold Cup in March.
Cheltenham’s closest city is Gloucester and is only 38 miles from Bristol. From London, you can get to Cheltenham by train and coach. The train journey is 2 hours or the coach is around 2-3 hours long (but cheaper!).
Things to do in Cheltenham
Visit The Wilson Art Gallery & Museum
The Wilson Art Gallery & Museum is an award-winning gallery and museum which has a variety of exhibitions and collections on show. It is dedicated to enriching the lives of residents and visitors through art, culture, heritage, sport, play and performance.
The current exhibitions are ‘The Frozen Continent‘, ‘Winchcombe Pottery’ and ‘The Way We Left It’. All three are on show until February when there will be new exhibitions available. As well as this, there are lots of collections available including the world-renowned ‘Arts and Crafts Movement collection’ and ‘Antarctica And Wilson Family’.
There is also a cafe available, with different seating areas available for business meetings, catch-ups with friends and more. They have a breakfast, lunch, ‘little artists’ and drinks menu. The Wilson is run not-for-profit by The Cheltenham Trust, with any revenue going back into community-based activities.
The Wilson is free, so make sure to visit if you come to Cheltenham!
Parks & gardens
There are so many beautiful parks and gardens in Cheltenham, with a lot of history to all of them.
Pitvile Park is the largest park in Cheltenham and features the iconic Pitville Pump Room. Pitville Park could be a day out in itself, with the wide variety of things to do here. There is a big children’s play area which has recently been renovated, including a sand area. Near this are the bird aviaries and two cafes.
The lower area of Pitville Park is where you will find the boating lake. Walk along the lake for a relaxing walk, and you can even hire a boat. There’s also a smaller children’s play area, tennis courts, a skate park and another cafe. Pitville Park hosts the well-known Park Run every Saturday at 9am.
Montpellier Gardens are located near the town centre. At the top of the gardens, is the Gardens Gallery which hosts local Artist’s work. Close by is a cafe, small play area for younger children and tennis courts available to book. The rest of the gardens are full of gorgeous trees, as well as the notable bandstand. During the autumn, the literature festival is held here which is always very popular. Richard Osmund, Mary Beard, Holly Bourne and others have been here. There is also the food & drink festival.
The Imperial Gardens are closest to the town centre and are in front of the Queen’s Hotel. The gardens are part of the original Regency features. There are lovely flower patches on display, which brings a pop of colour to the town centre. The Garden Bar recently opened up a seating area and is packed in the summer for its pizza & cocktails!
During the winter, it is home to Cheltenham’s ice rink. In the summer, it sometimes holds festivals including science and jazz.
Sandford Park is one of the quieter parks of Cheltenham. It is located at the end of the high street, adjacent to Sandford Park Lido and opposite the College Wing at Cheltenham General Hospital. The River Chelt flows through the park, and there are a few water features/fountains. This park also hosts flower displays, with a beautiful wisteria walk-through.
Cox’s Meadow is just across the road from Sandford Park and is a floodplain which supports biodiversity. With a cycle path and footpath, it is a popular spot. There are often dogwalkers about, and there is a lovely cafe selling a variety of treats. I recommend their hot chocolate after a chilly walk!
Have a dip in Sandford Parks Lido
Sandford Parks Lido is the place to go for a swim in the summer. The pool was originally built in the 1930s, though has since been improved for more accessibility. There is the main 50m length swimming pool, a children’s swimming pool, toilets, showers and a cafe with a big grassy area for lounging about. It is open from May until October, with the annual Christmas Day swim at 11am. Be warmed,the water is very cold at Christmas!
- Adult – £5
- Child – £2.70
- Under 5s – free
- Concession (60+) – £2.70
You can also get a season ticket which is about £150 for an adult and £90 for children/students.
Watch a play/show at the theatre
In Cheltenham, we have four theatres with a variety of shows on.
In my opinion, the Everyman Theatre is one of the most beautiful places in Cheltenham. The stunning auditorium hosts ballet, opera, drama, dance, comedy, music events and their annual family pantomime. An evening out at the Everyman is a real treat, my favourite performance there has got to be The Nutcracker ballet! Next January/February, Six the musical returns and I can’t wait.
The Bacon Theatre is next door to Dean Close school, named ‘Bacon’ from one of the previous headmasters. The theatre features plays, dance, film and music from professionals and local community groups.
I performed there a couple of times with my dance school, and I’ve watched my mum in a concert there.
The Playhouse is an independent venue for community groups, artists, and audiences. It first opened in 1945, but parts of the building date back as early as 1806.
Cheltenham Town Hall
Cheltenham Town Hall is a grand building which was built in 1902 to host social events. A few years after it was built, the town hall served 4 different types of medicinal water, living up to its spa name. It now hosts various festivals, entertainment acts/shows and concerts.
When I was in primary school, I performed at the Town Hall in the choir – it was very exciting!
Have a day out at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park
Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park is a fun-filled day out for the whole family. There are 7 species of farm animals across the park, with 50 different British rare breeds. During the spring, you can watch chicks hatch, and even have the opportunity to feed the lambs. Cuteness alert! There are lots of areas for children to play including bouncy pillows, climbing areas, swings, sandpits, pedal tracters and an indoor play area. As well as this, there is a sensory area and a chance for messy play. You can bring your own picnic lunch, or there is a restaurant/shop to buy some food from.
You can stay at the farm park in a lodge, glamping tent, camping wooden pods or your own tent/caravn.
- Adult = £8.50
- 60+ = £6.95
- Child (4-15) = £5.95
- Child (2-3) = £4.95
- Child (0-1) = free
- Adult – £9.50
- 60+ = £7.95
- Child (4-15) = £6.95
- Child (2-3) = £5.95
- Child (0-1) = free
Watch a race at the Cheltenham Racecourse
Cheltenham Racecourse is where the most prestigious horse races are held. There are festivals held throughout the year, but the most iconic is the Gold Cup. This is held Tuesday – Friday during the second full week of March.
Continue reading: The ultimate list of things to do in Cheltenham
Visit a nature reserve
There are may beautiful nature reserves/areas in and around Cheltenham to visit and see the local nature.
Cleeve Hill is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), and is the highest point of Gloucestershire and the Cotsworlds. It is mostly a limestone grassland habitat, which attracts a variety of butterflies during the spring and summer months. Close by, you can stop off at The Rising Sun for a pub lunch and a view overlooking Cheltenham.
I think Crickley Hill is my favourite place to visit in Cheltenham! My favourite butterfly, Chalk-hill Blue is found here. Crickley Hill is owned by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) and National Trust. It has the SSSI designation for the variety of wildflowers and houses birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. There is a short walk to the Iron Age Hill Fort, still visible today and dates back to over 5000 years ago. The car park costs £2 but allows you to stay all day. Crickley Hill have a cafe with delicious local ice cream (I recommend birthday cake!), breakfast and lunch.
Leckhampton Hill is part of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This area is very popular with everyone, and a favourite spot for a family walk. There are lots of different paths to explore up the hill, or by the quarry and it’s part of the Cotswold Way. As with the previous two, Leckhampton Hill is also a SSSI for it’s ‘unimproved chalk grassland’ which provides a habitat for a vast number of species.
A local landmark of Leckhampton Hill is Devil’s Chimney! It is a limestone rock formation above the disused quarry but the origins of it are unknown.
Watch a film at Tivoli cinema
Tivoli is Cheltenham’s luxary cinema, new to the town since 2021. The cinema has extra-wide sofas, chaise longes and a selection of food and drink available to order. The Tivoli cafe and bar are open to everyone, so you can have a drink or some food without seeing a film. The prices are more expensive than Cineworld (which is also in Cheltenham), but you can order food and sit in a comfier seat.
Other things to do in Cheltenham
As with any place, there are lots of activities available to do which aren’t unique to Cheltenham.
- Escape rooms
- Hollywood Bowl
- Mr Mulligans
- Paint it Yourself Pottery
- Roxy Lanes – recently opened
I hope you enjoyed reading all the things to do in Cheltenham. As I have now moved home, I would like to write more blog posts on my local area. Maybe I will share a food guide next!