The historic city of York in the north of England is a great location for a family trip as there are varied attractions whatever the Yorkshire weather may be! If you are looking for indoor activities and things to do in York with kids when it is raining (to suit all ages), then read on below.
Whilst many are paid attractions with discounts available if you buy the Jorvik pass etc, there are also many free things to do in York too.
- York Minster
York Minster should be the first location that families should visit in the city and is one of the ‘must’ things to see in York. The ornate cathedral is beautiful both inside and out with characterful gargoyles on the outside and the largest expanse of stained glass in the world on the inside.
Young children can borrow Little Explorer backpacks which contain age-appropriate trails, maps and activities. Older children can explore the eerie crypt, the excellent Undercroft Museum and with an adult, children over 8 can climb the 275 steps of the central tower for a fantastic view of York. There are free tours daily with family-friendly tours every Saturday.
2. York City Walls
Yorks medieval city walls are the longest city walls in England. At two miles long a circuit of the nearly complete walls will take around two hours to walk but tired legs can exit the walk at any of the four city gateways (called Bars). Grab a poncho or an umbrella and embrace the fresh air for part of the time.
Kids will love the views from the walls and seeing the portcullis and archers windows in Bootham Bar.
3. Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum is suitable for all ages. Younger children will love the outdoor playground and riding the miniature railway. Older children will enjoy the chance to watch restoration in action at the museums’ workshop as well as the entertaining science shows.
Our kids have seen the shows multiple times and still love them! All children will enjoy exploring the historic trains which range from Stevenson’s ‘Rocket’ to a nose cone from the Eurostar.
4. Yorkshire Museum
Situated in the delightful Museum Gardens, the Yorkshire Museum has excellent interactive displays on the Roman and Viking history of York as well as a section on the geology of York and Yorkshires Jurassic coast. After visiting the museum, the Museum Gardens are a great place for a runaround and a picnic.
5. York Dungeons
York Dungeons is only suitable for older children and teens. The dungeons provide a 90-minute tour of Yorks macabre past using actors to portray the gruesome stories. Be prepared for shocks, sudden noises and surprises!
6. Clifford’s Tower
Younger children will enjoy the medieval games on offer on the floor of this open, Norman keep. All ages should climb the narrow winding staircase to the top of the tower for wonderful 360-degree views of York.
If the weather is fine, head down to the River Ouse adjacent to Clifford’s Tower which has a lovely riverside promenade. Alternatively, cross the river and go to local favourite Rowntrees Park which has a fantastic playground for kids.
7. York Castle Museum
York Castle Museum is our family’s favourite museum in York; there is always something new to see and do. The museum charts the more recent history of York and includes a life-sized recreation of a cobbled Victorian street with real shops you can enter to meet the shopkeepers who will talk about their daily lives.
Young children will love the toy gallery whereas older children will like exploring the gloomy cells of the old prison and the hearing the tragic tales of the prisoners who once resided in them.
8. Jorvik Viking Centre
One of the most visited museums in York, Jorvik explains the history of the Vikings in York. Artefacts found during a dig on this site are on display but the highlight of the museum is a historical ‘cab’ ride through a Viking village complete with sounds, sights and disgusting smells!
9. York Chocolate Story
Children – and adults! – of all ages will enjoy a trip to York Chocolate Story which explains the history of chocolate making in York. The tour ends with a chance to make your own heavily decorated chocolate lollipop!
Don’t miss The Shambles, just a few metres away from York Chocolate Story. The Shambles is a lopsided, dark, cobbled street said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
This small museum is often overlooked by visitors to York but it is a fantastic place to bring young children. Artefacts found in nearby archaeological digs are displayed here such as jewellery, pots, coins and a full sized skeleton.
Visiting is by guided tour and there are three recreated indoor dig pits where children can ‘have a go’ at being archaeologists.
York is a lively city with a rich cultural heritage and is a great city to visit at any time of year. You will be planning a return trip even before you leave!
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