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Best things to do in York with kids 2024

Best things to do in York with kids 2024

Are you looking for the best things to do in York with kids? We were lucky enough to live in York for a while and it is a place that we keep returning to as a family. In this guide we will round up our favorite things to do in York for families whether you are visiting with toddlers or teenagers! 

Best Things to Do in York with Kids

Woman and toddler in front of York Minster
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Best things to do in York with kids

To make this guide more navigable we have split it into sections including:

  • The best museums for families
  • The best indoor things to do 
  • The best outdoor things to do,
  • best day trips from York with kids, and 
  • toddler friendly things to do in York

After which we answer your most frequently asked questions and provide a sample itinerary for families. 

Best Museums in York for Families

York is a great cultural city and has some amazing museums which are particularly great for families. These are also a great thing to do on a rainy day in York as they are all indoor attractions. Our favorite museums in York for families are:

National Railway Museum

3 locomotives in hall of the National Railway Museum

the National Railway Museum – one of the Best Museums in York for kids

Now I may be slightly biased as I used to work at the National Railway Museum, but I think this museum has something for everyone. So no matter whether you are visiting York with toddlers or teenagers it will have something on offer. 

The museum is split into 4 main areas:

  • Station Hall
  • North Hall
  • South Yard and 
  • the open storage area. 

For families, I recommend spending most of your time in the first three areas. My favorite area is the Station Hall where you can see the historic royal carriages. While my kids love the North Hall where you can actually board some of the world’s most famous locomotives such as the Shinkansen train and also see famous trans such as the Mallard and a replica of Stephenson’s Locomotive.  These are also great places to visit on a rainy day in York as these areas are completely indoors. 

The South Yard is a great place to head during school holidays as there are often working locomotives to see and ride. It is also worth noting that if you are travelling with a toddler there is a small under 5s play area for them to enjoy. 

This is also a great place to visit on a budget in York as it is completely free to enter. However, we recommend leaving the car at home to get here as parking on-site is expensive and limited. 

Castle Museum 

The York Castle Museum is a great social history museum in York which is very family friendly. Some of the highlight exhibits include: 

  • a replica Victorian street 
  • the toy exhibit and 
  • the prison cells – the castle was previously used as  the prison for the region and once held the infamous Dick Turpin.

Younger children will enjoy looking into the windows of the replica Victoria street while older children will enjoy learning about the city’s more gruesome history in the prison cells. 

Jorvik Centre

The Jorvik Center is always one of the most popular places to visit with kids in the city. Jorvik is actually the Viking name for York and in this museum you are transported back to Viking times.

The museum went through a refurbishment in 2010. And all of the best things I remember from my childhood visits remain but have just been updated with more modern and convincing animatronics.

The experience at the Jorvik Centre starts with a ride to the past, which helps children immerse in the experience and in some ways forget they are in a museum and learning. After the ride you can wander around the exhibits and see actual artefacts that have been discovered on digs in the area.  There are also costumed visitor assistants in this area who can answer questions and help bring York’s Viking history to life. 

For a full review of the new Jorvik Centre check out this post. 

Jorvik Dig: An archaeological adventure

Jorvik Dig is the sister site to the original Jorvik Centre, but this is more of a hands on centre. At Jorvik Dig your kids can learn all about becoming an archaeologist and actually take part in a dig on a hunt for replica objects. 

This experience is best for children of primary school age between the ages of 5-11, but is especially great for the higher age range. 

The Yorkshire Museum

I have a dino-mad toddler and always seek out dinosaur exhibitions. We love the Natural History Museum in London, and Oxford for their dinosaur collections and on our last visit to York, we added the Yorkshire museum to this list.

But the museum isn’t only a dinosaur museum. It also has amazing exhibits on the infamous king, King Richard III, Romans and Vikings. 

York chocolate story

The York Chocolate Story is one of the newer museums in York, and with Chocolate in the title you know kids are going to love it.

York, along with Birmingham is one of the chocolate cities in the UK and at the York Chocolate Story you will learn about the city’s ties to chocolate. There are also chocolate demonstrations to watch with master chocolatiers as well as chocolate experiences. 

Recommended for children aged 6 and above!

Best Indoor things to do in York for families

York Minster

Man holding toddler in front of York Minster in the rain

Best things to do in York with kids (from toddlers to teenagers)

For me, no visit to York is complete without heading inside the Minster, the most iconic building in York, if not the whole of the North of England. The Minster is a Gothic cathedral and is a great place to visit even with kids.

For younger children the minster provides explorer packs. These packs contain lots of items to make your little ones visit more interesting including binoculars, I-Spy game, pencils, paper and more. 

For those with older children we recommend climbing the tower to see a unique perspective on the city. This activity is not suitable for children under 8 because of the steep almost 300-step ascent to get to the top. Older children and teenagers will also enjoy visiting the Crypt to see the remains of Roman Eboracum. 

The Minster is a must for any UK bucket list!

Potions Cauldron

The Potions Cauldron is a fun drink experience for the whole family. Here you can mix up your own potion using ingredients like unicorn essence and takes around 30 minutes to complete the experience. It’s an absolute must for any Harry Potter fan in the city. 

The Hole in Wand

The Hole in Wand is the sister site to the Potions Cauldron and is an indoor miniature golf experience. Depending on your age and experience you can choose the Wizard, Unicorn or Basilisk level. 

Barley Hall

If you like history then Barley Hall is a must. This place is actually a bit of a hidden gem in York. It is decorated to look as it would have in 1483 when Richard III ascended to the throne. It is a truly beautiful hall and also has a revolving programme of exhibitions. 

York Dungeon 

The York Dungeon is something only suitable for older children as it can be quite a scary experience. There are 9 mini shows during this experience, each telling a different piece of York’s gruesome history. 

Best Outdoor things to do in York with kids

So now you know the best indoor things to do in York for rainy days, we will turn our attention to outdoor things to do. 

Cliffords Tower

Cliffords Tower from below with dafodils on the hill

Best Things to in York for Families

Cliffords Tower is one of the most important heritage sites in York and is run by English Heritage. Clifford’s Tower is one of the oldest parts of York Castle and was the site of York’s darkest history as in 1190, 150 Jewish people were massacred inside the tower. 

For this reason, we don’t recommend visiting with younger children however it is an important place to visit with older children. If you do decide to visit with toddlers or babies please note that the site is not pushchair friendly as there are several steps to access the site. 

The site also has amazing views across the York city skyline.

The Shambles

Man holding toddlers hand with back to camera walking down the shambles in York

Best things to do in York with kids

The Shambles is the oldest shopping street in York with over 900 years of history in one place. The street was originally a street full of butchers shops and it is said to be the origin of the term “It’s a shambles” referring to the mess that would run down the street. 

It is also said to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter book series. And on top of the local produce and tourist shops on the Shambles, it is also home to tons of Harry Potter shops and experiences. 

There is the Shop which shall not be named which is full of Harry Potter souvenirs and gifts. We recommend heading here first thing in the morning if you want to visit as during peak season long queues will form outside the shop. 

As well as the shop there is also the Potions Cauldron and Hole in Wand golf experience. 

River cruise

In my experience, no child doesn’t like a boat ride. York is situated on the River Ouse and there are lots of options for spending time on the River. If you are traveling with toddlers and younger children a guided river cruise may be easiest.

However, there are also self-drive options but we prefer doing these with older children rather than toddlers.

Walk the city walls

Man holding childs hand on city walls in York with Minster in distance

Best things to do in York with toddlers

Another of my favorite activities in York is to walk the largely intact city walls. In fact there are over 3km of city walls that are still complete and that can be walked. 

The walls themselves are largely flat but stairs are required to be climbed to get onto them so we don’t recommend doing this with a pushchair or stroller. My favorite area to walk is the section from the Minster to the Micklegate but you can walk as much or as little as you like. 

Museum gardens

View of St Marys Abbey ruins in Museum Gardens in York

Family Friendly Attractions in York

On a warm summer’s day my family love to head to the museum gardens that are adjacent to the Yorkshire Museum. These grounds are a great place to have a picnic in Summer and in Winter there are usually beautiful Christmas lights. 

There is also some interesting Roman ruins and the remains of St Mary’s Abbey in the Garden. 

Ghost walk

This is another one for older children in York. But if you are looking for something to do in York at night with family then we heartily recommend the ghost walk. Being such a historic city there are lots of ghost stories to be told. 

We personally enjoy the original ghost walk which meets nightly at the King Arms aka the pub that floods. However, this is not a costumed guide. If you prefer a more dramatic tour then you may want to go with another provider. 

Day Trips from York with Kids 

On top of there being lots to do in York city centre with kids, there are also lots of great family friendly day trips such as beaches, aquariums, historic houses and railways. 

For more information on the best day trips from York for families either by train or car check out this dedicated guide. 

York with kids FAQs

WOman and toddler in front of York Minster

Best things to do in York with toddlers

Best Things to do in York with toddlers

If you are looking for the 5 best attractions for toddlers we recommend:

  • National Railway Museum
  • York Castle Museum 
  • River Cruise 
  • Jorvik Centre and 
  • York Chocolate Story

Sample York Itinerary for Families

Day 1: 

  • AM – National Railway Museum
  • Lunch – Betty’s Tearoom 
  • PM – River Cruise and Cliffords Tower 

Day 2: 

  • AM Shambles and harry Potter attractions followed by the York Chocolate Story 
  • PM – York Castle Museum 
  • Evening – York Ghost Tour 

How to Get to York for Families 

York is a well-located city. It has a centrally located train station with regular trains from London and is worth considering when looking at your weekend away in York. Car parking is a premium in York and not all hotels have car parking facilities so be sure to check before you visit.

Getting Around York with Children

York is a relatively compact city which is perfect for families. Most of the city hotels are at a walkable distance to most of the main attractions. And while large parts of the city and public transport is accessible with a stroller or pushchair we recommend using a carrier if you are going to York Minster, walking the city walls or Cliffords Tower. 


Best things to do in York with kids #york #uk #visityork #familyfriendly #familytravel

Lisa (mummascribbles)

Saturday 4th of May 2019

I love York - it's such a beautiful place. A long way from us though but we did holiday there a few years ago!

Katie Mulford

Saturday 4th of May 2019

Some fab ideas here thanks. We may have to do a weekend in York. I've ever been!


Saturday 4th of May 2019

I loved the jorvik centre when we visited.