York is world-famous for its Minster, its city walls and its historic architecture. But fear not, it's also a great place to entertain your kids! Come rain or shine, there are plenty of things for children to do in York.
First choice must be the National Railway Museum. Located right next to York station it's easy to get to, has parking right next door, is virtually all indoors and is perfect for kids and adults alike. There are loads of things on offer for kids of all ages, including storytelling, interactive exhibits, a travel simulator, a play and picnic area and a range of exhibits, plus all the normal facilities cinema partyyou would expect, such as restaurant, shop, baby change facilities...etc. But most importantly, most kids just love big steam trains!
Next stop, York Dungeons, which is full of silly gory things that kids love! The Dungeons have several character actors who tell the tales of York's gruesome history, including highwayman Dick Turpin, Guy Fawkes and Viking King Eric Bloodaxe. However, the Dungeons is not suitable for everyone, particularly those with a nervous disposition and children under 10 years old. Children of 15 years and under must be accompanied by an adult to enter the Dungeon.
Just around the corner from the Dungeon is the JORVIK Viking Centre which is another popular York attraction for kids. The JORVIK takes you back in time to the 10th century to experience what Viking life in York was really like, complete with realistic smells! The Viking Centre is actually built on top of an original Viking settlement, allowing the kids to learn more about the local history and the Viking era whilst having fun.
York has been voted 'the most haunted city in the world', and if you're staying overnight in York then you should definitely try out one of the ghost tours. There are several tour operators, and they will show you some of the most haunted locations, whilst telling stories of ghosts of past and present.
If you're looking for some open spaces for the kids to just run around and burn energy, try Rowntrees Park, which is situated on the south side of the river near the city centre. It's a pleasant walk from the city - just cross the river at Skeldergate Bridge and turn left, following the river bank along for about 500 metres until you reach the park gates. Rowntrees Park has playgrounds, basketball & tennis courts, picnic areas, open spaces to play ball and a duck pond to feed the wildlife. If you would prefer not to walk so far the Museum Gardens (by Lendal Bridge) provides a nice tranquil escape from the city, and is a good place for kids to roam about, or to have a picnic in summer.
On a sunny day there is no better place to be than on the river. Try a River Cruise on the Ouse - catch the boat from either Lendal or Kings Staith. Alternatively explore the river yourselves - you can hire your own little red boat for an hour or so.
If the weather turns nasty, there is always City Screen Cinema (Coney St) which offers movies throughout the day, seven days a week.
If you have a car there are a few good options on the edge of town to entertain the kids.
There is ten-pin bowling at Clifton Moor and an indoor water park Monks Cross just a few miles out of the city. Younger children would enjoy the Wacky Warehouses at Flying Legends (Clifton Moor) and Riverside Farm (Skelton). These are purpose-built soft play areas with aerial runways, cargo nets and slides. There are also safe toddler areas with squishy squashy shapes for them to play with.
The Web Adventure Park on Wigginton Road is a great place to occupy kids young and old. It has an incredible range of activities including 2 acres of indoor and outdoor play areas, one of the largest astro slides in the UK, high wire climbing, horse riding, a petting farm, an eco-ice-skating rink, an arts and crafts centre, cafe and hair studio!
Older children may enjoy Eden Camp towards Malton, which is a preserved WW2 POW camp. It recreates what life would have been like for a Prisoner of War in York, and comes complete with interactive exhibitions and guard towers! Continuing the WW2 theme, there is also the Yorkshire Air Museum (RAF Elvington) just beyond the ring-road to the east of York. It allows you to get up close to some of the UK's most famous aircraft such as a Halifax Bomber.
F1 Racing at Monks Cross is another great wet weather activity for kids of all ages. Kids over 10 years old can race the petrol carts around the purpose-built indoor circuit. Younger children (aged between 4-10) can try the 'FUN Kub Karts'
Beningbrough Hall comes highly recommended as an attraction for children. This National Trust property was recently nominated for a 'Kids in Museums' award, due to its interactive gallery and the outdoor Wilderness Play Area. They also run regular free art activities.