York is one of my all time favourite UK cities! Having lived there in my 20s I was keen to return in my 30s but this time with our little in tow! To be there is no better weekend away than a city break in York! There are some lovely places to stay in York and there is more than enough to keep the young and young at heart entertained for days so without further ado here at my top 10 things to do in York with kids!
Best Things to do in York with Kids: the best family friendly things to do in York!
1. Shambles and Harry Potter shop
The Shambles is the oldest shopping street in York with over 900 years of history in one place! Originally a street full of butchers shop, it is said to be the origin of the term “It’s a shambles” referring to the mess that would run down the street!
Today, the street is home to a series of great local produce and more touristy shops! Kids will particularly love the Harry Potter shop, full of wands and other Harry Potter memorabilia – it is easy to think you are shopping on Diagon Alley here!
Be warned – the street gets very busy so we recommend going there first thing in the morning especially if you want to get shots like this!
2. National railway museum with kids
I always say that this museum is a favourite amongst all kids and is a great thing to do in York whatever the weather! However last time I took my toddler she announced “I’m bored the trains don’t work!” So I would advise preparing your kids for their visit to prevent disappoint like my toddlers. However I still maintain that this is a good museum for kids having successfully taken many of my nieces and nephews.
It is also a great place for families on a budget to go as the entrance is free. Be warned however, if you want to use the car park there is a ten pounds all day fee!
The museum is split into four main areas – Station Hall, North Hall, South Yard and the open storage area. If you are heading in from the town the first place you will visit is Station hall. This is perhaps my favorite area in the museum as this is home to all of the Royal Carriages. The South Yard is where you can see working locomotives if you visit during holidays and would have definitely made my toddler happier on her visit! The final area that is a definite must for your visit is the North Hall. Here you will find some of the most iconic engines in locomotive history. Favorites of train buffs will of course be the historic Mallard and the replica of Stephenson’s Locomotive (the real thing is on show at the Science Museum in London)! While children will enjoy sitting on the famous Japanese bullet train, the Shinkansen. We loved reliving our bucket list Japan journey where we took this train from Tokyo to Kyoto! My little girl like this best because it is one of the trains you can actually go inside!
If you like us, are traveling with a toddler then you will want to make use to the small under 5s play area!
3. Castle museum
York My favourite museum in York mainly because of the fabulous recreation Victorian street! Named because it sits on the site of the former York Castle, the museum has an interesting history having previously been used as the York prison. Highlights of a visit to the York Castle Museum include Kirkgate – the recreation Victorian Street, the toys exhibit, and the cells which are believed to have once held Dick Turpin!
Admission to the museum at time of writing was 11GBP per adult with children under 16 going free with every paying adult!
If you are visiting with older children, I would also recommend allowing time to visit Clifford’s Tower if you are in this area. Run by English Heritage, this is the last remaining part of York Castle. The Tower is home to the most gruesome and darkest moment in York history when in 1190 150 Jews were massacred on the site!
The tower has great views across York, but it is not accessible with a stroller and given the history of the tower you might want to wait until they are older to visit!
4. River cruise
In my experience there is no child who doesn’t like a boat ride! Taking a river cruise is a great way to see the city from a new perspective! It is also a great thing to do on a rainy day in York as the boats have an under cover section! Most of the boat cruises will have an audio commentary that is a great way to learn more about the city.
5. Walk the city walls
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. You can do as much or as little as you like! The walls themselves in the city are largely flat but stairs are required to be climbed to get onto them! We usually like to walk the section from the Minster to the Micklegate Area!
Highlights of the walk are going through the bars (or gates as most people would call them).
Another bonus of walking the city walls s that it is free!
This is the most iconic building in York, if not, in my opinion the North of England! This gothic cathedral is one of the most magnificent in the world and must be visited whether visiting with or without kids! While not on the surface the most family friendly thing to do in York – no visit is complete without entering this majestic building! For younger children the Minster offers Explorer Packs which are a great way to keep littles entertained as you explore.
For those with older children why not climb 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!
The Minster is a must for any UK bucket list!
7. Museum gardens
This is a family favourite in our house. The gardens next to the river are a great place to walk, let the kids run off steam or to sit and have a picnic! It is even great in winter when the gardens are all lit up for Christmas!
For adults, you can view the Roman ruins and the remains of St Mary’s Abbey
8. Jorvik Centre
Recently refurbished the Jorvik centre helps children learn about the city’s viking past! You take a ride through a recreation viking village which kids of all ages will enjoy and then you can go and enjoy some of the exhibits which show some of the Viking artifacts that have been found in York!
Things to do with Older Children in York
York chocolate story
Let’s be honest with chocolate in the title this is an easy sell to any kid! But with York’s rich chocolate history they will come away having learnt a thing or two!
Recommended for children aged 6 and above!
Not for very young or nervous children but for those with older kids why not do a ghost tour and learn about some of the city’s more gruesome history!
My favourite ghost tour is the original which meets nightly at the kings arms, known as the pub that always floods!
Definitely not for the young or the nervous again as there are many scares to be had along the way! This seems to be a hit with teenagers!
How to Get to York
York is a well located city! It has a centrally located train station with regular trains from London and is definitely 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 hotels are at a walkable distance to all of the main attractions.
Most places can be accessed with either a carrier or stroller however be warned the shambles can get busy and there are lots of cobbles!
Best Places to Stay in York in with Kids
When we stay in York we always stay at:
Grand Hotel York
We love this place because they have family friendly suites and also has parking, is close to the train station and all the main sites! You can read our full review here!
For mid-range options we recommend:
If you are looking for an apartment with a kitchen – then check out this option!
Another great option for mid range accommodation is Premier Inn in Micklegate which also has its own parking!
What’s your favorite thing to do in York with kids?