Affordable things to do with kids in and around York


The historic cathedral city of York is brimming with great things to see and do, including several affordable attractions that will go down a treat with kids.

Exhibits at the Jorvik Viking Centre (Photo: Ann Lee via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Founded by the ancient Romans, the visually arresting walled city in northeast England is best known for its beautifully preserved landmarks and monuments dating back to this era. And while most children have a limited attention span for sight-seeing, many of York’s ancient places of interest have been curated with kids in mind. We’ve selected 12 of the best things to check out during your visit with little ones in tow that won’t break the bank.

Jorvik Viking Centre

Created by the York Archaeological Trust in 1984, this museum places visitors on the site of one of the most astounding discoveries of modern archaeology. Between the years 1976-81 archaeologists excavating the area unearthed the houses, workshops and backyards of the Viking-age city of Jorvik as it stood nearly 1,000 years ago. These incredible discoveries enabled the construction of the centre on the very site where the excavations had taken place, creating a groundbreaking experience in which you take a journey through the reconstruction of Viking-age streets and experience life as it would have been in 10th-century York. General admission is £13.50 for adults and £9.50 for children aged 5-16.

Coppergate Shopping Centre, 19 Coppergate / Mon-Sun 10am-4pm

York Castle Museum

Located on the site of York Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068, this award-winning museum invites visitors to immerse themselves in over 400 years of history. From recreated Jacobean dining rooms to the recreation of a Victorian-era street, the museum’s interactive and immersive galleries hold thousands of historic objects that bring York’s fascinating past to life. Particularly popular with children is the Toy Stories exhibition, which showcases some of our favourite toys of yesteryear. Annual tickets for adults (no limit on yearly visits) are £13 and £6.50 for kids aged 5-14.

Tower Street / Weds-Sun 11am-4pm Closed Mon-Tues

Visitors at the York Castle Museum amble through a recreated street scene (Photo: Ann Lee via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

York’s Chocolate Story

Providing a potted journey through the history of chocolate making in York, this mouth-watering museum is unlikely to be the hardest of sells to children. Located in the heart of the city, you’ll learn about York’s most famous chocolate-making families, the origins of chocolate, how to make and taste it like an expert, and even the sustainable future of chocolate. There are also daily lolly making and decorating workshops, and the chance to get hands-on and create your very own chocolate bar to take home with you. Adults tickets are £15.95 and for kids aged 4-15 are £13.50.

3-4 Kings Square / Mon-Fri 11am-4pm Sat 10.30am-4.30pm Sun 12pm-4pm

York Art Gallery

Home to a fantastic collection of British and European art, visitors to this renowned gallery are greeted by everything from Renaissance masterpieces to specially commissioned contemporary works. For children, there’s also a dedicated studio space for learning activities, events and workshops that run throughout the year, as well as Arts Heroes Fact Sheets that help youngsters learn more about artists whose work is displayed in the gallery. Admission is £7.50 for all.

Exhibition Square / Weds-Sun 11am-4pm Closed Mon-Tues

Headless exhibits at the York Art Gallery (Photo: alh1 via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Flying a kite on Knavesmire

For a free outdoor activity for those who love wind-swept green fields and the open air, Knavesmire is the perfect place to head. One of a number of large, marshy areas within the city boundaries, the expansive stretch of grassy land bordering York Racecourse is particularly popular with kite enthusiasts. In fact, organised meet-ups of like-minded lovers of kite flying take place in the afternoon on the first Sunday of every month, with all-comers welcome.

The York Dungeon

Not for the faint-hearted, York Dungeon take you back to the darkest, murkiest and most gruesome periods in the city’s long history. Visitors get to see, hear, smell and feel tales of yore come to life before their eyes at this immersive experience complete with real life actors and special effects. During the show, you’ll come face to face with the mighty Vikings, meet some of York’s most notorious characters (including the infamous Guy Fawkes), and feel the dark shadows of the black plague. The show is recommended for children 8 and over, and tickets start at £17.55.

2 Clifford Street / Mon-Fri 11am-4pm Sat 10am-5pm Sun 10am-4pm

National Railway Museum York

Home to iconic locomotives and exploring over 200 years of history, this acclaimed museum celebrates the past, present and future of innovation on the railways. Dedicated to igniting peoples’ curiosity about the people, places and engineering marvels behind the railways, it offers the chance to discover how they shaped our world. Visitors can also get close to legends of the rails including Mallard, the world’s fastest steam locomotive. Kids, meanwhile, love to hop aboard the miniature railway for their own little taste of train travel.

Leeman Road / Weds-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon-Tue

Inside the National Railway Museum (Photo: Tony oldroyd via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Potions Cauldron

Walk half way down Shambles, York’s most famous street, and you may well notice steam coming out of a shop bearing the rather odd number ‘9¾’. Behind this quirkily designated façade, modern day potion makers are busy at work brewing contemporary versions of the  ancient remedies of 14th- century witch Agnes de Molay, brought to England 700 years ago to help the city of York fight off dark forces. Today the venue is a magical drinks emporium, where kids can take part in a fun-filled Potion Experience in which they mix and taste their own potions with the assistance of a master potion maker in the confines of a secret wizard room Tickets for the experience start at £5.99. There’s also Wizard golf at The Hole In Wand, which invites you to play 9 holes and get a magical potion drink at the end of the challenge

9¾, Shambles / Mon-Fri 10am-6pm Sat 10am-7pm Sun 11am-6pm

Actor Chris Rankin enjoying the Potion Experience. (Photo: The Potions Cauldron)

Catch a children’s show at York Theatre Royal

Dating all the way back to 1744, York’s oldest theatre is the beating heart of the city’s cultural life. Situated in the city centre and drawing over 200,000 visitors every year, the theatre plays host to a  busy programme of family-friendly shows, events, and activities, from a much-loved pantomime, dancing, and other stage performances to weekly classes and drama training, all designed to spark your childrens’ passion and interest in the performing arts. The venue also has a well-stocked café. Ticket prices vary.

The impressive exterior of York Theatre Royal (Photo: Tony Hisgett via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)


Owned by the same archaeologists who discovered the Viking-Age City and created JORVIK Viking Centre (see above). DIG offers a unique archaeological adventure that will captivate kids who enjoy channelling their inner Indiana Jones. Visitors are led by a guide (a real archaeologist, no less) and children can do their own excavation and see what treasures they can find. There’s also a Little Diggers area, aimed at the under fives, which brings archaeology to life. Entrance is £8 for adults and £7.50 for kids aged 5-16.

St Saviour Church, St Saviourgate / Mon-Fri 1pm-4pm Sat-Sun 10am-4pm

By Paul Joseph