I've lived in West Sussex all of my life, apart from brief spells in Nottingham and Germany, and I have many fond memories of days out with my family growing up, then rediscovering them with my own children and discovering new places to visit.
Here are some of my favourite places to visit wither with or without the family in West Sussex. Click on the links to see my more detailed review.
Free places to visit in West Sussex:
Highdown Hill and Gardens, Worthing
I only discovered Highdown Hill and Gardens when we moved to Worthing a few years ago, and it's such a lovely place. Highdown Hill itself is part of the South Downs and so it's always open with a large free car park at the top (and another at the bottom if it's full). Then Highdown Gardens are open throughout the year during the week and every day during Spring/Summer (check Highdown Gardens opening times here), completely free to enter although donations are welcome.
The gardens are beautiful, there are a couple of fish ponds, grassy slopes for running down, foresty areas to explore, stepping stones and a cave, and lots of little hidden paths. It changes throughout the seasons and it's a really wonderful place to visit. There is also a cafe and often ice creams during the summer.
Dinosaur Island at Southwater Country Park
Southwater Country Park has been there for a long time, but the Dinosaur Island playground is relatively new and it's a huge draw for little ones. It's aimed at children of all ages, with play equipment for both younger and older children. There's a long slide, a large sandpit where you can uncover dinosaur bones, and the centerpiece is a volcano that you can climb. The rest of the Country Park is lovely too, with a beach and man made lake that swim in, and lots of nice walks.
Swanbourne Lake, Arundel
Swanbourne Lake is situated just outside Arundel, and if it's not too busy you can park for free just outside or on the road (there's a playground along the road too!). The lake is the perfect size for walking around with small children (you can take a pushchair if you don't mind a few bumps) and there are plenty of ducks to feed, you can buy duck food at the cafe. There are also little boats to hire, although we've not been brave enough to try that yet!
Tilgate Park, Crawley
Tilgate Park is lovely, and although you have to pay for parking, entrance to the park with its large lake and playgrounds is free. You can also pay a small fee to visit the Nature Centre with lots of animals to see. I'm also booked in for the Go Ape adventure there next month which I'm a little nervous about!
Not free, but still worth a visit!
Petworth House and Park
Petworth House and Park is a National Trust property, but you can visit the park for free (you do have to pay for parking if you aren't National Trust members). The park is lovely to explore, and the house is very nice too with lots of child friendly activities to make the visit more interesting for them.
Ferring Country Centre, near Worthing
Ferring Country Centre is a lovely place to visit, it's not very expensive and there are farm animals and a nature trail to explore, as well as a garden centre and refreshments. There are often seasonal activities, for example at Easter and Halloween, and it's worth keeping an eye out for them as they are very good.
The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton
I really love the Weald and Downland Museum, I have such happy memories of visiting with my family when I was little and when I took the children for a visit last year we had such a lovely time. There are houses to explore and all sorts of activities to have a go at like candle dipping and cooking in the Tudor kitchen. There's a fantastic indoor museum area where children can learn about tiling a roof and even building a small house using different types of joints. There is a working water mill, ducks to feed and plenty of outdoor space for picnics, it's a fantastic day out!
My West Sussex, UK for Families board on Pinterest has lots more ideas if you are looking for days out in the area! Of course there are loads more fantastic places to visit around here that we've not yet explored - where would you add?