If you are visiting York with children, then there is no shortage of things to do, as York has plenty of attractions that are exciting for the young ones.
I can vouch for this personally, as I first visited York as a child myself, and was fascinated by its city walls, its narrow streets, its river and intriguing museums. So if you happen to be taking your young family to York, I have picked out five of the best family friendly things to do while you spend some time in this city steeped in history.
1. York Castle Museum
So, first up, it simply has to be the York Castle Museum and its environs: the Castle Museum aptly describes itself as a “museum of everyday life”, with stunning recreations of rooms through the ages, from a simple one room cottage that the ancient Britons may have lived in, to an elaborate Victorian parlour overflowing with ornaments, and finally to a living room of the 1960’s, complete with its rather small black-and-white television set.
The museum has arrays of various appliances and contraptions through the ages, from vacuum cleaners to loos – yes, children will love this. But the real piece de resistance is an interior mock-up of a Victorian street complete with schoolroom, bank, sweetshop, apothecary and old carriages.
For two adults and two children the cost is £20, and your tickets are valid for a whole year.
Coming out of the Castle Museum there is yet more to do. The kids will enjoy clambering up the nearby Clifford’s Tower, which is the remains of York Castle, and is entirely free. Also, just around the corner you will find that very narrow street known as The Shambles. Children are fascinated to see the point where the tops of two houses are so close together, that people can shake hands across the street from the bedroom windows.
2. Jorvik Viking Centre
The Jorvik Viking Centre invites you to get face to face with the Vikings, who became settled in much of the East Yorkshire area. The Centre is on Coppergate, and right at the site of an amazing archeological dig, where the very well-preserved remains were found of an ancient Viking settlement. The Jorvik Viking Centre is not just a museum, but has almost the quality of a fairground attraction as you go on a tour around a recreation of the old Viking settlement in a little transporter. See the blacksmith’s, the wood turner’s, the old cottages, and children playing games, all based soundly on well-preserved archaeological evidence, and very lifelike, right down to the smells which would have been part of the daily life of the village at the time. Hold your nose as you go past the latrines! Children will love this.
After your village tour you actually get to see some of the wonderful artefacts that were dug up at the Coppergate site. To visit Jorvik and the dig for a family of four costs £35.25.
3. York Old City Walls
One of the exciting things about York is the fact that it is surrounded by its old city walls, some sections of which date back to Roman times. The walls are fascinating for children, and what better way to burn off a bit of energy by walking all the way round? Take care to hold smaller children by the hand though, as there are some unprotected drops. By walking all around you go through the four main gates to the city, (known as bars, “bar” being an old word for “gate”): Micklegate Bar, Bootham Bar, Monk Bar and Walmgate Bar. You might want to do a photo call at Micklegate Bar, as it is highly photogenic.
You get some wonderful views of the Minster and the city from the walls, as well as sections where you are walking past pretty homes and gardens, as York is a city where there are still fine residential houses in the city centre.
The walls are open every day from 8.00 am until dusk, and you don’t have to pay to walk on them. There are information panels giving information about the walls, and telling you what the views are.
4. A Boat Ride
Children just love a River Cruise. Boats go from the center of York out to Bishopthorpe, where you will find the 13th century Palace of the Archbishop of York. There are a number of different companies offering riverboat cruises, and they generally operate from February through to November. It is a restful way to spend a few hours, and the views from the river give you a different angle on the city, and also show you how close York is to the countryside. There are also floodlit evening cruises, where the powerful onboard floodlights light up the historical buildings on the way. The boat cruise companies do special tickets for families, and a ticket for a family of up to five is about £20.
5. The National Railway Museum
York is home to the National Railway Museum, which is just a few minutes walk from York train station, and in fact the world’s largest railway museum. Here you will find all kinds of engines and carriages, and you can actually go inside many of them. Here you can see the wonderful Mallard, which was the world’s fastest steam engine. You can also marvel at the interiors of the luxurious carriages specially designed for royalty, dating back to the Victorian era. There is even a Japanese Shinkansen, which is known in English as “The Bullet Train”. You can also see an exhibition dedicated to the Flying Scotsman, which is currently being overhauled in the Museum’s workshops. Not only have you got all this, but admission to the Railway Museum is free!
By visiting the National Railway Museum you are actually killing two birds with one stone, because right outside the museum is the Yorkshire Wheel – the biggest Ferris wheel in Yorkshire. This takes you sixty metres up into the sky, giving you a breathtaking view of York, its walls, the Minster, and the surrounding green countryside. Children can’t resist a Ferris wheel, so when they are well impressed with the trains, you can cap it all with a ride on the wheel to create a day that the kids will not forget. A ride on the wheel costs £6.50 for adults and £4.50 for children.
With all this to do, you will need more than a day in York.
Photo of York Old Walls originally posted by robbophotos