10 fun things to do in York with kids

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Looking for super-fun things to do in York with kids? You’ve come to the right post! From Vikings to Victorian tearooms and cobbled streets to cat statues, this city is made for families.

And we’ve put together a list of the top ten things to do in York with your brood, from tots to teenagers. Read on to find out why York should be your first stop for family fun days!

1. JORVIK Viking Centre

Mini-history buffs will be as happy as a Viking in a helmet shop at the JORVIK Viking Centre. This is the best place in town to learn about York’s Viking past, starting with the great invasion of 866.

And this is not your average museum. At JORVIK, you’ll experience the sights, sounds and even smells of the Viking days! Dare to teeter across the glass floor with the remains of Viking York below your feet!

Climb on our ride that’ll take you through our dark and dingy Viking town. As you travel through, your young ones can enjoy a special kids’ commentary and watch shadowy Viking figures moving.

Have you ever wondered what a Viking smelled like? Then take a big sniff of the realistic Viking scents in the air, including woodsmoke, leather and goat poo!

You’ll even be welcomed by the friendly resident Vikings who will introduce you to Nordic folk music and show your kids how to hammer out a coin to take home as a souvenir.

JORVIK Viking Centre is open every day; check out their website for current opening times!

2. York City Walls Walk

The Vikings left their mark on every part of this city, even burying large parts of York’s 71 AD Roman walls during the 866 invasion. But don’t worry, because the precious walls were re-built in the 13th and 14th century.

These 3.4 kilometres of marvellous medieval wall are the longest and most intact in England. Get your best walking shoes strapped on as you can walk the entire length of this rugged path.

As you walk, you’ll see the few tenacious sections of the Roman wall that survived the vicious Viking attack. And springtime visitors will love the bright yellow daffodils sprouting from cracks in the wall!

The wall is open and free to walk around every day from 08:00 to 18:00. Check the York City Council website for changes to opening hours throughout the year.

3. York Castle Museum

More York history awaits your nippers at York Castle Museum. “Look, but don’t touch” does not apply here; this museum is hands-on!

Kids will love running around the recreated Victorian street. The realistic shops include a pharmacist, a milliner, a pawnbroker and a candle-making workshop.

Some stores are manned by actors who are always ready to interact. So, if you’ve ever wondered about what Victorian sweets tasted like or how 19th-century medicines worked, you’ll find some answers here.

If your child ever complains about going to school, then the Kirkgate Board School should make them realise life ain’t so bad!

They’ll have the chance to experience being a pupil at the austere 1890 Kirkgate Board School. It’s a history lesson brought to life and undoubtedly one of the top things to do in York with kids!

4. The York Cat Trail

Now, we all know that York is famous for walls and Vikings, but did you know that another thing it’s renowned for is… cats? You’ve got to be kitten-me! Strange but true, York has become closely associated with everyone’s favourite furry feline.

York’s tale of tomcats began back in 1920, when Sir Stephen Aitcheson put two cat statues outside his building in Low Ousegate to scare away rats. Others liked the idea and followed suit.

Walk around the city today, and you’ll start to notice cat statues all over the city. Download the free York Cat Trail for a purr-fectly pleasant, child-friendly trail to follow. You get a map and clues to help you spot the mysterious mogs.

This paw-some hide-and-seek activity keeps the kids entertained while you explore York’s streets. It’s enjoyable for any age but will be especially enjoyed by younger kids (5 – 10).

5. The York Dungeon

If you’re looking for an activity that’s more suitable for older kids, look no further… The spooky York Dungeon is recommended for children 8 and older and forbidden for under 5s.

Adventurous adolescents will love having the pants scared off them on this 75-minute journey through York’s darkest history. The tour takes you through its scariest sights, including the Plague House and the Torture Chamber.

Along the way, tweens and teens will get to meet and interact with some of York’s shadiest historical characters. Get ready to meet torturers, Vikings, Guy Fawkes and the dastardly Dick Turpin.

It’s a popular attraction, so book in advance! It’s open every day, and opening hours vary throughout the year, so check their website before you go!

6. Museum Gardens

Time to bring your pulse rate down now with a relaxing walk in the wonderful Museum Gardens. Free to enter, these gardens offer your children a lovely open space to run around.

It doesn’t get much more idyllic than this. Fantastic views of the River Ouse. The elegant ruins of a Benedictine monastery. Squirrels running free. Picnics are allowed and encouraged!

And if your family is dotty for dinosaurs, or if it starts to rain (this is England, remember!), then you just need to nip indoors to check out the Yorkshire Museum and its epic Jurassic World exhibition.

7. National Railway Museum

Calling all tiny trainspotters! If your little one is loco for locomotives, then chug on down to York’s National Railway Museum. More than just an impressive train collection, it’s packed with ace activities for your kids.

Under-6s will delight in the interactive play area. This is where budding scientists can build their own Stephenson’s Rocket and run their own toy railways.

If you’ve got a future engineer on your hands, it’s worth paying the small fee (£7.20 for kids 4+, £10 for adults) to enter the state-of-the-art Wonderlab gallery. Your kids will get blown about in a wind tunnel, create their own hydrogen rocket, have fun with marbles and play with an infrared camera.

It’s open seven days a week, from 10.00–17.00, and tickets to the main museum are FREE! Get your tickets online here. All aboard the National Railway Museum!

8. York Art Gallery

If there were ever an art gallery designed with kids in mind, this is it. Pint-sized painters and mini-miniaturists have free reign at York Art Gallery. Let them wander, touch and experience this creative haven.

Come armed with your pencil case, as the gallery provides a selection of supremely child-friendly worksheets and colouring pages.

Ogling art is the activity du jour, but keep your eyes peeled for the gallery’s impressive offering of events and workshops throughout the year. Who knows, you might just have the next Picasso in your midst!

York Art Gallery is one of the best art-based things to do in York with kids, and, better still, it’s free! It’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00, and you can book your tickets online here.

9. York Minster

Now, not every child will be immediately impressed when you tell them you’re going to visit a cathedral, but we know that your little monsters will get a kick out of York Minster. This medieval marvel has gone out of its way to appeal to young ones with its simply splendid range of family activities.

Mini explorers can go on a nature quest, enjoy a family sculpture trail and the littlest ones can even take a Monty the Monkey tour.

Even better, they can grab a Little Explorer backpack to wear on their adventures, with a complete exploration kit including an i-spy game, binoculars and a magnifying glass, so your kiddies won’t miss a thing.

One thing they definitely won’t be able to miss is the Great East Window, one of the largest stained-glass windows in the world.

York Minster is a fantastic day out for all the family and one of the best things to do in York with kids.

It’s open Monday to Saturday from 09:30 to 16:00 and Sunday from 12:45 to 15:15, and up to four children (aged 17 and under) can enter for free with one paying adult.

10. City Sightseeing Bus

And finally, what could be more fun than a ride around town on our very own City Sightseeing buses? Our fleet of shiny red beauties is ready and waiting to transport your family around York and take you to all the main sights.

Your kiddos will love sitting up top our open-top buses, feeling the wind in their hair while they belt out the wheels on the bus!

Many of our York buses have live guides to keep the wee ones entertained, and there’s even an audiogide commentary that’s specially made for kids.

It’s an easy way to get around the city and keep even the youngest entertained. Under-5s travel free, and kids’ tickets are cheap.

So many fun things to do in York with kids

So, that’s it! We’ve come to the end of our list of the best thing to do in York with kids!

Whether you’re delving into Viking history, solving mysteries on the cat trail, or immersing yourself in the magic of York’s museums, there’s no shortage of amazing adventures to be had.

What are you waiting for? Grab your little ones and head to York for a fun-packed family break!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, there are plenty of outdoor activities for kids in York! Apart from exploring the York City Walls, having a picnic in the Museum Gardens or doing the York Cat Trail, there are several parks and playgrounds in York, such as Rowntree Park and Homestead Park, where kids can run, play, and enjoy the fresh air.

Absolutely! York has a wide range of child-friendly dining options to choose from. Many restaurants in the city offer kids’ menus and provide highchairs or booster seats. You can find family-friendly cafes, traditional British pubs serving child-friendly meals, as well as international cuisine options that cater to children’s tastes. The bustling Shambles Market also offers various food stalls with options that are suitable for the whole family.

Yes, there are attractions in York specifically designed to cater to younger children. One such example is the York Chocolate Story, where kids can join interactive tours and learn about the city’s rich chocolate-making history. The DIG attraction is another kid-friendly option, where children can become archaeological detectives and uncover artifacts. These attractions provide an engaging and educational experience tailored to the interests and attention spans of younger children.