A family-friendly museum in nearby Darlington tells the story of the early days of rail travel. The town gained fame in 1825, when George Stephenson piloted his steam-powered Locomotion No. 1 along newly laid tracks the few miles to nearby Stockton, thus kick-starting the railway age. Set in an abandoned 1842 train station, the museum has interactive exhibits and big steam trains that are great for kids; antique engines and scale models help bring history to life.
There's also a café and children's activity room. A ticket for families with up to four kids costs £10. Darlington is 13 miles southeast of Bishop Auckland, on A68. Train connections run roughly every two hours.