Things to do in Preston
Steeped in industrial history and full of urban charm, Preston is a lively city on the banks of the River Ribble. As Lancashire's administrative centre, Preston combines its industrial past with modernity, creating a unique vibe that welcomes explorers, families, and history buffs alike.
Although it only officially became a city in 2002, Preston has a proud history as a medieval market town, pioneering industrial centre and well-to-do urban capital. There’s a lot to do in see in Preston and its surroundings.
If you're wondering about the top things to do in Preston, we’ve got you covered. We’ve put together a varied list of local activities and attractions to fill your Preston visit.
Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
A great way into the city’s past is to explore the textile industry that made its fortune. Visit the Harris Museum and Gallery and dig into Preston’s industrial past and artistic heritage.
Founded in 1877, the Harris is situated in a Grade I-listed neoclassical building and may take a whole day to explore. Discover awe-inspiring collections of fine art, textiles, and historical artefacts all under one grand roof.
Exhibits range from Indian textile manufacture to ceramics, fashion, and social history. From witch trials to Wallace and Gromit, there’s a lot of variety, a stunning art collection and a library that holds kids’ activities and readings from visiting authors. Check out their website for a full list of events.
Avenham and Miller parks
Nestled beside the River Ribble, these Victorian parks are the city's green heart. There are all the traditional features of a nineteenth century park including ornate fountains and bandstands, decorative flowerbeds, and riverside walks. If you visit in Easter, you may see the annual egg rolling event, held here since 1867 on the Monday bank holiday.
The Japanese Garden is a highlight, featuring ornate paths and ponds, bridges, miniature waterfalls, and fantastic views across the lawns. Autumn is particularly lovely here, and summer sunsets are a treat too.
Revel in the charm of Preston Marina, once Europe’s largest inland dock. Gawp at the yachts or stroll the leafy promenades past numerous sights and sounds. If you’re feeling energetic, hop on a bike and tour the 21-mile walking and cycling route known as the Guild Wheel.
There’s also an Odeon cinema, in case the rain comes down, and plenty of places to eat and drink. The marina has a walkway all the way round, so it’s a great place to take a leisurely stroll.
Preston Guild Hall
A renowned hub of entertainment, this venue hosts everything from theatre performances and concerts to comedy nights.
Don’t be put off by the 1970s brutalist architecture – inside you’ll find two auditoriums that have played host to legends including Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and the Jackson 5. Once a regular program is up-and-running, locals are hoping this famous venue will be rocking once more.
PrestonWall Climbing Centre
For more active exercise, why not try bouldering or roped rock-climbing at the PrestonWall Climbing Centre. Learn the ropes with a lesson or try out a range of walls ranging from beginner boulders to challenging overhangs. Magic Times are their discounted sessions, which happen on Friday and Sunday afternoons and offer a great opportunity to try out this rewarding sport.
Lakeland Climbing Centres, who run the facility, run outdoor climbing excursions too, so it’s worth checking out their website if you prefer scrambling over the real thing in the Lake District.
Ribchester Roman Museum
Preston’s surrounding countryside has settlements that date back to the Roman era. Just a short drive from central Preston, delve into the history of the Roman settlement at Ribchester, complete with artefacts and interactive displays.
You’ll see remains of the Roman Garrison that was stationed here by the tranquil banks of the river Ribble. Numerous recovered artefacts including clay pots and bronze weapons are on display in the Village Hall and you’ll see the remains of a Roman granary uncovered in the fields adjacent. There’s also a pretty 13th-century church and riverside walks to enjoy.
Brockholes Nature Reserve
Brockholes lies a short drive east of Preston and is an extraordinary haven for birdlife and for visitors who want to learn about the local wildlife and preservation efforts. A remarkable floating village and visitor centre provides a 360 degrees wildlife experience.
Wander through its 250-acre reserves, spot native birds, or participate in interactive workshops. There are places to eat and artisanal shops on site, and miles of woodland walks and wetland vistas. If you’re into birdwatching, this is a major attraction, with native and visiting species including herons, egrets, grebe, kingfishers, parakeets and many more.
If you’re more into penalties than parakeets, visit Preston’s football stadium to catch a fixture. Football fans can watch local side Preston North End FC take on visiting EFL teams throughout the season.
The grounds date back to 1875 and were refurbished in 2009. Nowadays they include the National Football Museum Research Centre, which can be visited if you book in advance.
There’s no excuse for being bored in this triple level leisure complex, which offers a host of activities for kids and adults alike. Level one features laser tag, karaoke and crazy golf, level two provides ten pin bowling, darts and a couple of bars and there’s a third level in development.
Rainy days need not be miserable ones in this loud, lovely venue, which is open seven days a week, with late opening on Friday and Saturday nights.