Are you wondering about the best things to do with kids in York, England? This beautiful city has so much to offer families wanting to explore this part of northern England. Our family really enjoyed our last visit to the city, a great place for a day trip or for a few days during school holidays.
1. National Railway Museum
Be sure to add the National Railway Museum to your York trip with kids (or without!) At this point, you do need to prebook tickets, but tickets are free of charge. Our kids loved looking at all of the different trains from various countries and time periods. Our toddler was a bit annoyed that she couldn’t climb aboard each one, so keep that in mind if you bring little ones.
It is one of the best places to spend a rainy day in York. The Great Hall houses trains from over 200 years of train history, including the Japanese bullet train. You can walk through the center of the bullet train and imagine what it would be like exploring Asia on this super fast train! Station Hall has the beautiful Royal Carriages which are incredible to see.
If the weather is nice, younger children will want to explore the outdoor play areas. There is also a miniature railway that kids can ride, for a charge. There is also a fantastic cafe located in the middle of the Great Hall. It is a perfect place to stop and take a break in the middle of the museum. Our kids enjoyed spending some souvenir money in the gift shop as well. The National Railway Museum is definitely one of the best free things to explore in York!
2. York Minster
When visiting York, you have to make time to explore the York Minster. This beautiful cathedral stands in the centre of York and is a spectacular place to explore. Our older kids enjoyed reading about the crypt and the stories of the stained glass.
Be sure to buy tickets in advance, as they are limiting the amount of people allowed inside each day. Tickets for adults are 12.50 and children under 16 are free with a paying adult. At this point, you reserve a specific time to enter the Minster. York residents and students are free with ID.
If you have older kids with a bit more patience, you may also want to consider buying a ticket to explore both the Minster and the Tower. Visitors must be over the age 8, but it is well worth it to see the incredible view at the top.
The York Minister is still an active congregation, so you can also visit during Sunday services for Holy Communion at 8 am, Choral Eucharist at 11 am, or Choral Evensong at 4 pm.
3. Constantine Statue
Be sure to spot the Constantine statue to the side of the York Minster. He was proclaimed as Roman Emperor in 306 in York, so take a moment to learn a bit more about him with your kids while visiting York!
4. Yorkshire Museum
If you are traveling to York with kids, be sure to stop into the Yorkshire Museum. Dinosaur lovers will enjoy exploring the Jurassic World exhibit which shows what the York area may have looked like during the prehistoric era. Others may enjoy exploring what York may have been like during the Roman Era.
Admission is 8 GBP for adults, 4 GBP for kids 5 and up, and free for those children 0-4 years. The museum gardens are also fun for children to run around and explore on a nice family trip to York.
5. River Ouse
The River Ouse runs through the center of the York City Centre. Taking a tour down the River Ouse offers a different perspective on the city. You can book a 45 minute sightseeing cruise down the river, learning about the history of the city from the tour guide as you cruise. You can pick up the cruise at Lendal Bridge or King’s Staith Landing, near the heart of the city.
6. Jorvik Viking Centre
The Jorvik Viking Centre is a must see immersive experience for kids in York! This was the highlight of our last family trip and one of the best things we did in York. In fact, it was so high up on our list of top things that we went twice! Once you buy an entrance ticket, you can enter again for free entry for an entire year.
The Jorvik Viking Centre takes you through an archeological adventure in York. Between 1976-1981, archeologists uncovered the homes, yards, and workshops of the Viking city of Jorvik, now York. After passing through a room with a glass floor revealing what the archeologists originally discovered, your whole family is able to get on a slow moving ride to encounter 10th century York and its inhabitants.
The 22 animatronics throughout the experience bring the city to life for younger kids and older children alike. For the headseat narration, you can select your language, and also pick an option for an adult version of the script or a kids version. I would encourage all people in the same row to pick the same narration as they do tend to compete with one another in your ears, if not.
When you complete the ride through York’s history with the Vikings, you walk into a room full of exhibits. These exhibits reveal some of the items discovered in the excavation. Children of all ages love the touchscreens and talking with the Jorvik employees about Viking life. It is really an ideal place to explore, if you are entertaining both young children and older kids.
Your kids may also enjoy spending some souvenir money in the gift shop located at the end of the tour. Make sure to put this on your list for a perfect family day in York! Be sure to pre-book tickets and your arrival time. Generally, the museum opens around 9 am and closing hours vary depending on the time of year. Tickets for adults cost 13.50 GBP and 9.50 GBP for kids over 5. Children under 5 are free. You can also buy a family pass for families of 4 or 5.
You can also purchase a triple ticket to gain access to DIG and Barley Hall. At DIG, kids pretend to be archeologists themselves. Barley Hall is a medieval townhouse rediscovered in the 1980s. Now, you can visit and discover what life was like in the medieval times of York.
7. York Castle Museum
York Castle Museum really brings the history of York to life! The museum brings to life the past 400 years of the history of York in one building. Kids will love walking through Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street. The costumed guides in each shop share what life was like in York during Victorian times. It is really the ideal place to experience the historic city of York for adults and kids.
The York Castle Prison, featuring the famous criminal Dick Turpin, reveals how dark and depressing ancient prisons were in history. The 1914 exhibit helps illustrate what life was like during WW1 in Europe. This exhibit really led to some great conversations with our kids about what World War 1 was like in Europe.
Be sure to prebook tickets for the York Castle Museum. It is currently open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 AM-4 PM. After April 1, it is open on Mondays 11 AM-5 PM and Tuesday-Sunday from 10 AM-5 PM. Adults and seniors cost 13 GBP, kids are 6.50 GBP and children under 5 are free.
8. Clifford’s Tower
If you want a great way to see all over Old York, be sure to climb up Clifford’s Tower. Clifford’s Tower is the remains of York Castle built by William the Conqueror. It has been a prison and a royal mint, but now serves as an excellent lookout.
You can tour the tower and walk the walls, while learning about the history of this small city in North Yorkshire. Adult admission is 9 GBP and children admission is 4.50 GBP. Family tickets are also available and children under 5 receive free admission.
9. York’s Chocolate Story
Did you know the Kit Kat started in York? I didn’t either until I visited York! A trip to the York’s Chocolate Story is a great way to learn the history of chocolate in England. It was definitely one of the most fun things for our kids to experience during our trip. York’s Chocolate Story includes the stories of three major chocolate makers in the city, Terry’s, Rowntree’s, and Craven’s.
Tours include learning about the story of the cocoa bean, the process of chocolate making and a little sample at the end! The smell of chocolate in the air is pretty amazing too!
Be sure to book your spot in advance, as it was often sold out when we visited York. Current adult prices are 15.95 GBP, children 13.50 GBP, and children under 4 are free. Family passes are also available. You can also register for truffle making classes and special events throughout the year. You can also visit their online sweet shop to bring the York chocolate story home!
10. Bootham Bar
As you visit York, be sure to take some time to walk the York city walls. These medieval walls protected the city throughout the centuries, and it so amazing to feel that history as you climb the stairs. Some of the stonework is from the 11th century!
If you are traveling with young kids, be sure to wear a baby carrier versus dealing with a stroller. Between walking the walls and navigating the York maze of cobbled streets, it can make your life a little easier with young children. Just be sure not to bump their heads when you are in and out of the stairwells! Best of all, walking the walls is a free attraction, so take full advantage!
You can take a short walk or a longer walk, depending on how much time you have. It is easy to turn around or exit the walls throughout your walk along the city walls.
11. Free Walking Tours
York offers some excellent free walking tours. These amazing guided tours offer daily 120 minute walk tour to anyone who wants to listen about the years of York! All of these particular tours meet outside of the York City Art Gallery near the Minster.
These tours cover things like:
- St Mary’s Abbey
- York Museum Gardens
- the King’s Manor
- Bootham Bar
- The Bar Walls
- Monk Bar
- Treasurer’s House
- York Minster
- St William’s Cottage
- the Shambles
Be sure to pre-register. Typically, tours leave at 10:15 and 1:15 each day.
If you happen to miss this tour, we also stumbled upon other free tours that met outside of the Minster at 11. These are three hour tours, so we had to duck out early with our little ones, but we learned so much in just an hour’s time! The stories about Guy Fawkes were really interesting. Definitely worth a visit!
12. The Shambles
When you visit York, you have to visit the Shambles. This narrow medieval street is believed to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley, so Harry Potter fans abound! You will find fantastic shops, quick eats, and quirky gift shops.
Our kids loved exploring the Harry Potter shop with magical potions, flavored jelly beans and chocolate frogs! There are also plenty of great takeaway food options in and around the Shambles, so be sure to explore them before lunch or dinner time.
Again, the cobbled uneven streets can be tricky to navigate, so this is a great opportunity to use a toddler backpack or baby sling versus trying to push a stroller.
13. York City Pass
If you consider visiting several tourist attractions in York, you may want to consider purchasing a York Pass. The Pass includes entrance to places like York Dungeon, City Boat Cruises, Jorvik Viking Centre, Yorkshire Air Museum, DIG, Fairfax House, York Cocoa Works, Van Gogh Immersive Experience, Beningbrough Hall, York Minster, and Barley Hall.
A 3 Day York Adult Pass costs 85 GBP and a child’s 3 day pass costs 50 GBP. My best advice is to do the math and see if your family will make it worth buying the pass. If you think your kids can hang long enough to take in several attractions, it may be a good deal for you!
I hope that this post gives you plenty of great ideas to explore with your family in York. It is a beautiful, friendly city filled with lots of fun things to do. It’s also a manageable city, so you can really do a lot in 2-3 days. Be sure to sign up for my free family packing list below.
And, keep reading for more travel ideas for your family!
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