York is one of the most beautiful cities you will ever visit on your travels and we are very lucky to currently call it home. Filled with cobblestone streets, old buildings and surrounded by medieval city walls, it is hard not to fall in love with York. But something we quite often get asked about is things to do in York with kids? The answer is, plenty!
We have been living the expat life in York UK for 3 years now, and we are slowly making our way through the brilliant tourist attractions this city has to offer. We enjoy that it is such an easy city to walk around and that there are plenty of establishments offering refreshments.
You will know by now that I am a big believer of travelling with kids – whether that be locally or abroad. So I spoke to some of my fellow York parenting bloggers about what tourist things they love to do with their kids in York. These are expert insider tips from people that live and breathe the city – so they are guaranteed to be good. Lets take a look and see what they came up with!
11 Brilliant Things To Do in York with Kids
We love visiting the Castle Museum. It is one of the top things to do in York with kids. The street scene has a magical feel with the smells invigorating your senses as you walk down the Victorian street. There are characters who are really engaging as well as a sweet shop where you can buy a sweet treat. As you move through the exhibits it really does feel like you have stepped back in time. From the old school room, the prison cells to the retro room – there is something for everyone.
The museum is separated into two half’s and there is a lovely cafe to stop off at – the cakes are delicious. The museum is a great educational and enjoyable way to have a look back at historical York. A perfect family day out for all ages.
Our tips would be to wear comfortable shoes. It is warm inside and we often end up carrying our coats. If you have smaller children you can borrow a baby carrier as it isn’t particularly easy to get around with a push chair.
Contributed by Carley from Unicorns, Puffs and Rainbows
When visiting York with kids, you must take them into Clifford’s Tower which is located directly next to Castle Museum. Managed by English Heritage, the current structure dates back to the 18th century, however the site itself has changed forms and uses many times in history. Events dating back to the 11th century are as fascinating as they are macabre. The kids love it!
The circular tower stands proud and is a real landmark to the city. When you go inside, and climb the stone stairs to the top of the tower, the views over the city are amazing. It really does give you a different perspective of York. Inside the tower there is a little gift shop, a few medieval games for the kids to enjoy plus interesting facts and signs throughout the tower.
Contributed by Carly from Mom of Two Little Girls
The National Railway Museum is absolutely on of my favorite things to do in York with kids. There is so much to see and do and lots of space for them to run around and explore. It’s just as interesting for grown ups as it is for children, even if you’re not a train fan. Walking in to the train filled main hall is an incredible experience. I have visited so many times and am still shocked at the size of the trains up close every time I go.
There are trains from all over the world on display, some you can enter, some you can even dine inside! My children adore the tiny miniature railways. There is so much train themed fun to be had you could spend a whole day there. You can even have a ride on a mini train! This costs extra but is so worth it. There is an outdoor play area and an indoor games area for little ones making it the perfect destination on a rainy day.
Contributed by Kate from Ever After with Kids
York is proudly known as the UK’s home of chocolate, so why not dive in and discover its history at York’s Chocolate Story. An expert guide will take you back through time as you learn about the history of chocolate, reminiscence about your favorite chocolate brands and understand what impact this sweet treat has had on York. Before you leave, you will have the chance to create your very own hand crafted chocolates to take home.
Kids are guaranteed to enjoy the chocolate samples along the way with this fun and interactive tour. Plus don’t forget to stock up on some special treats and a hot chocolate before your leave. If anyone in your family has a sweet tooth, then York’s Chocolate Story should be at the top of your list of things to do in York with kids.
Jorvik Viking Centre is a must-see place to take the kids in York. It combines an archaeological site with cutting edge technology to make a really entertaining and unique attraction. You enter the attraction and descend down some stairs until you are in a dimly lit room. Here you will see, below a glass floor, the actual foundations of a Viking settlement excavated in the late seventies. There are exhibits around the room too, and clever technology really brings them, and the Viking story alive.
From there, you will embark on a ride back in time through Viking York. The attraction was recently renovated after the center was flooded in 2015. The ride is extremely smooth and the scenery is quite realistic with 22 new animatronic characters.
Expect to see all walks of Viking life from tradespeople to women and children. Your kids will particularly like the recreated smells of old York as they travel around on the ride. Keep an eye out for the Viking on the loo! I recommend booking ahead of time as otherwise the queue is famously long.
Contributed by Nikki from Breakfast or Brunch
It’s hard to miss this incredible cathedral during a visit to York. The York Minster is an impressive landmark and visible from many vantage points throughout the city. Steeped in history, the Gothic architecture and stained glass will have both you and the kids marveling from outside. Its always at the top of my list of recommendation of things to do in York with kids.
When you arrive at the Minster, grab your kids a Little Explorer Backpack. These can be borrowed for free from the welcome desks and are packed with gadgets to help young adventurers explore the Minster. Your entry ticket includes access to the cathedral, Undercroft Museum and a free guided tour. You can also add the option to climb the Central Tower and enjoy sweeping views of York.
Its useful to know that children under 4 go free, as do York residents. Dean Park, which is located directly behind the Minster, is a great place to relax and unwind before or after your visit.
Our favourite thing to do in York is to walk over Millennium Bridge to the entrance of Rowntree Park. Here we love to take a picnic or grab coffee & cake at The Reading Cafe. There are books galore for the kids to read. If you are a York Library member, you can return and borrow books from here too.
There is a large play area in the park, as well as resident geese and ducks. You can purchase duck food from the cafe. Although watch out for the goose poo around the banks of the pond. There is also a skate park, tennis courts and an array of lovely flowers.
Contributed by Kate at Avocado Events
A visit to the Shambles is normally our first port of call when it comes to things to do in York with kids. This cobblestone street lined with timber buildings used to be the home to the various butchers of York back in the day. And if you look up, you can still witness the butcher hooks on some buildings. Now it is lined with gorgeous independent shops selling various wares such as fudge, Christmas ornaments and Harry Potter memorabilia. It is rumored that J.K. Rowling took her inspiration for Diagon Alley from this quaint street in York.
The kids will love a walk along this quirky street. Especially with a stop at the The Shamble Sweets Shop or The Potions Cauldron. Situated alongside the Shambles is the Shambles Markets which is the perfect place for a bite to eat if you don’t want to dine at a restaurant or cafe (our favorite is the Krep Truck). This open air markets offers an array of delicious street foods along with fresh produce, flowers and various market wares.
This gorgeous green space in the heart of the city is registered as botanical gardens and contains many unique plants and trees. On a sunny day, it is the perfect place to let the kids roam around or sit down for a picnic lunch. There is often someone selling ice-creams at the entrance to the gardens and sometimes a pop-up exhibit with birds and animals for the children to interact with. The gardens are surrounded by the ruins of medieval St Mary’s Abbey Church and there is direct access to the River Ouse.
Fairfax House is one of the finest Georgian town houses in England. An architectural masterpiece of its age with a richly decorated interior. In the twentieth century it was used as a dance hall and cinema, before it was returned to all its glory in the 1980s.
It is home to a fabulous collection of furniture, clocks, paintings and decorative arts which helps to bring the house to life for the enjoyment of young and old. And don’t miss the resident Townhouse Mouse, Gregory. Follow the trail from room to room, solving puzzles and finding Gregory and his friends. Together families will enjoy the glamour of this home whilst having fun as they complete the clues.
No trip is complete to any city in the world without a ride on the hop on, hop off bus. And York is no exception. This tour has 20 stops around the city of York and you can hop on, hop off at many of the attractions that are mentioned above in this blog post. Of course there is an audio guide in multiple languages as well as commentary suitable for kids. Rest those weary feet and enjoy York from the open top double-decker bus, providing 360 degree views of this glorious city.
Beyond The Walls
There are so many amazing attractions and things to do in York with kids – but when I asked my girls which one they’re looking forward to visiting first after lockdown they said Creepy Crawlies! I do love this place as the kids just have so much fun and of course get worn out. The parts that I really love though is all of the outside areas. I think this often gets overlooked when thinking of creepy Crawlies but they have a mini beach area, water play, loads of outdoor play equipment and a mini zoo at the back. It’s so easy to spend a day there when the weather is nice.
The food is great quality and with the recent refurbishment it’s looking really tidy at the servery. The addition of the baby sensory room is just brilliant too. With the kids so happy playing, it’s a really good place to meet a friend for a coffee and a catch up … and of course the cake!
Contributed by Emily at York Mumbler
The amazing things to do in York with kids do not stop at the permanent attractions listed above. York also has many wonderful festivals throughout the year which are kid friendly and a great excuse to book a getaway to this beautiful city. Some of these festivals include the York Balloon Fiesta, York Ice Trail, the Ebor Festival at York Racecourse and York Viking Festival … just to name a few. There are also plenty of excellent places to eat in York with kids, so you have absolutely nothing to worry about when planning a trip.
And with the round up of things to do in York with kids now complete, I hope I have you itching to book a family trip and discover everything our city has to offer. It truly is a beautiful part of the world and somewhere everyone should visit once in their lifetime. Be sure to let me know what you fancy doing the most on your family trip to York. Or if you have already been to York, what was your favorite thing about this city? Safe travels – Shell x
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