Check in to your chosen accommodation. We recommend 8 boutique hotels, self-catering properties and bed and breakfasts that we truly believe are the best options across a range of budgets. They’re all in fabulous, central locations, and close to many of our favourite restaurants and cafes. After you have settled in, head to the museum gardens, (weather permitting).
One of the things we love about York are all the tranquil and peaceful spots dotted around the town centre. Set in the stunning surrounds of the ruins of St Marys Abbey (built in 1088), these 10 acres of botanical gardens, right in the centre of town, are absolutely delightful. Known by my daughter as squirrel park, you will adore dozens of these fury friends playing amongst the beautiful trees, shrubs and plants. Why not engage the young ones by following the squirrel trail? The stone walls of the abbey built in 1260 are the most complete abbey walls in England. A corner Roman tower (70AD) also remains in one section of the gardens.
Stop for a coffee/tea and snacks at Brew and Brownie (opposite the Museum Gardens). This is one of our favourite cafes. They also have a bake shop a few doors down so if you find it’s really busy, as it often is, head for the bake shop.
The York Art Gallery is a great option for an hour or two later in the day. There’s lots of hands-on activities for the young ones and it’s very close to the museum gardens. They also run some excellent creative workshops during school holidays. You can just drop in to the studio at anytime, no need to book. Free entry for children with a paying adult.
York has many wonderful restaurants for a relaxed dinner with young ones. We tend to prefer those that offer smaller portions from the full menu at reduced prices rather than a separate menu that’s often unhealthy and uninspired.
We suggest you book ahead of your trip as many of our top picks have bookings weeks in advance.
A great way to explore York is by following the cat trail. Pick up a copy of the cat trail at one of our favourite independent shops for gifts, The Cat Gallery where you will spot the first cat on the trail. Young ones will love this. If they finish and return to the shop, they’ll receive a small gift. Cats can be spotted on window ledges, roofs, walls all over York. We’ve enjoyed this trail on at least 3 occasions with my daughter and her friends. I think on the last one, we found 27! History tells us cats have been part of York’s landscape for nearly 2 centuries and were thought to be included to keep rats away. More recently, famous architect Tom Adams included many on his buildings. So look up!
You will experience a couple more of York’s famous attractions whilst on the trail including Cliffords Tower & The Shambles . We share fascinating details about these attractions here.
All that walking makes you hungry so it’s time to enjoy another great meal. There are so many great options for lunch and if you’re like us, you prefer something a bit lighter but still somewhere you can sit down, relax and soak up the atmosphere. We recommend a great selection of places for lunch that can take you on a culinary journey across the globe or if you’d rather, just stay in Britain.
In its current form, the 800 year-old York Minster is one of the world’s finest Gothic cathedrals, and houses more than half of England’s medieval stained glass. It took over 250 years to build. Its site proclaimed Constantine the Great as Emperor back in AD 306, and was originally a wooden church built by the Anglo-Saxons. The Minster’s central tower is the highest point in York and weather permitting, it’s really worth climbing to the top. Children must be 8 or over.
Pick up an Explorer’s Pack on entry or one or two of their discovery trails. Children will love spotting dragons, unicorns, monkeys, lions and more!
Pop into York Cocoa House and make a chocolate lollipop.
It’s a fun activity for the whole family, only takes about 30 minutes and is very reasonable (around £6 per lollipop)
Check out our favourite places to dine with young ones. Restaurants we love that offer half price portions from the main menu include The Rattle Owl & Bistro No. 8. If you’re in the mood for a great pizza, head to The Hop for an early meal, before the crowds arrive. For fantastic Chinese, head to Upper River for a cheap meal.
No visit to York is complete without a walk around the medieval walls, the most complete city walls in all of England. Walking the whole circuit takes about 2 hours so is probably too long for many young ones so perhaps start your walk from Monkgate Bar and walk towards Micklegate Bar. This is known as the North corner and is the only corner where you can walk the trail all on the walls. This section takes in views of the iconic Minster.
JORVIK VIKING CENTRE
Exploring this section of the walls won’t take you long so why not check out the Jorvic Viking Centre before lunch? The centre actually stands on the viking-age city of Jorvik (as York was once known 1000 years ago). YOung ones will love the time travel experience taking them back to 10th century York. Jorvic is a very popular attraction so you maye have to brave the queues if visiting in peak times. You might want to consider purchasing before you visit and opting for the fast track tickets.
Check out our suggestions for a more casual, cheaper lunch.
Telling the story of railways in Britain and their impact on society, the free entry railway museum is one of York’s top tourist attractions and we know why. A fabulous collection of over 100 locomotives, photos, audio adventures and special events throughout the year.
Check out our top picks for dinner. Ella (our daughter) is a big fan of Bistro No. 8. Another of her favourites is Upper River for Chinese noodles, but if you feel like something a bit special for your final evening. we really like The Starr Inn the City. Whatever you opt for, we hope it’s delicious.
Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Staying more than 3 days?
If you’re in York for longer than 3 days in summer or the last week of October, don’t miss the chance to spend the day at York Maze, a fantastic family attraction not far from the centre. With the largest themed maze in The UK, and over 2o attractions to suit all age groups, it’s a wonderful day out.