Looking for things to do in York today, this week or during the holidays? Great news, you are in the right place as we have all of the best attractions and events to keep you and your family entertained.
The guide is broken down into easy to use sections which provide useful information and links to pages with more details or direct to attractions and event websites for easy booking.
So sit back, grab your favourite drink and lets find something new for you to enjoy with or without the kids!
Things to do in York
The Shambles which date back to the 14th century, consists of narrow, cobbled pedestrianised streets which can get a little busy in peak seasons. However, if you go early enough in the morning or wait till a little later in the day, you can enjoy the higgledy piggledy timber framed buildings overhanging the narrow streets in relative peace and quiet.
The meat hooks hanging outside the buildings remind you that these were in fact mostly butchers shops, which is where the Shambles got their original name, “The Great Flesh Shambles.” The shops are now home to every imaginable type of shop you can think of including places to eat which is great as you may find that time passes quickly as there is so much to see.
York Minster is one of the finest examples of a medieval cathedral in the country and if you enjoy medieval architecture, it is a real treat. One of the things we love about the Minster is that it is not huge but big enough to be extremely impressive.
You almost stumble upon it as it is tucked away at the top of the shambles, just inside the city gates. Walking out of the cramped cobbled Shambles and into this large open area provides a welcome relief and a fantastic view as you approach.
If you get a chance, head down into the crypt underneath the main altar to see the remains of the original Norman church which the existing Minster grew from in the 12th century. Enjoy the magnificent medieval stone carvings, stained glass windows, and if you are brave enough, the steep narrow stairs that lead to superb city views.
National Railway Museum
You do not have to love trains to enjoy the National Railway Museum but if you do, you are in for a treat because this is not simply one of the best attractions in York it is the best railway museum in the UK! Admission is free and there is so much to see and do that you can easily spend an entire day in the museum, so having a choice of 3 places to eat whist you are there, helps a lot.
Some of the exhibits are set in the old roundhouse of the York engine sheds and the museum is a stones throw from the main East Coast train line and York train station so everything feels really authentic but still modern and well laid out. Have a look at a Japanese Bullet train, a Eurostar train, steam and diesel strains and they even have cutaway engines to see, which are huge! When you first arrive, be sure to find out the times of the demo’s and talks which take place around the museum so you truly get the most out of your time there.
Jorvik Viking Centre
Although York dates back to around 7000 B.C. it was the Roman’s and then the Vikings which put it on the map. Vikings settled in York from 800 to 1050 A.D. and the city has truly embraced the Viking culture ever since, well at least in the last 50 years!
The Jorvik Viking centre is truly a must for any visitor and I remember going as a local kid on a school trip when it first opened and being amazed as I found myself in a Viking settlement, with all the sights and smells. You start in a time car (slow rollercoaster) that takes you back through a Viking street market, and over the course of about 20 minutes travel through historical recreations that are complete with sounds and smells.
When you complete your travel through time, you then get the opportunity to talk to Vikings (obviously actors) who are happy to explain every part of Viking life, apparently there were no dragons! Take your time to examine the exhibits which show artifacts dug up from the Jorvik site and pickup some great things in the gift shop. Definitely, one of the most fun things to do in Yorkshire.
A great way to break up the day from all the walking is to take a 45 minute cruise on the River Ouse, this provides a great opportunity to relax and enjoy sites that you would not normally see, whilst all the time entertained and informed by the audio narration.
For some reason, I never did this myself until a few years ago and would now recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great couple of hours relaxing and taking in the sites. Be sure to have a look at the River cruise website to see if they have any specials coming up during your visit, including holiday events, ghost cruises and fantastic evening cruises.
JORVIK Viking Festival
Now the largest Viking Festival in Europe, the JORVIK Viking Festival is an annual celebration of York’s Viking heritage across the whole of the city. If you have never been before, it is fantastic fun for all the family, with so many things to do all week long.
When is JORVIK Viking Festival?
JORVIK Viking Festival is held every February school half term.
What is on offer?
The festival is full of family events, guided walks, battle re-enactments and lectures attracting over 40,000 people every year from all around the world, many who return year after year to take part in festivities and enjoy the amazing atmosphere. Make sure you do not miss the festivals fregrand finale with the burning of the boat and fireworks, no matter your age, you will love it.
What to do in York this weekend
York Art Gallery
York Art Gallery is in Exhibition Square, five minutes’ from the Minster and opposite Bootham Bar, the northern gateway on the city walls. It is about 15 to 20 minutes’ walk from the Railway Station.
The Marygate car park is the nearest, only five minutes walk from the Art Gallery and has 350 spaces, so enough for everyone. Marygate car park is just off Bootham (A19 road), which is the main road into the city from the north of England. For more car parking information please click here.
Address: York Art Gallery, Exhibition Square, York, YO1 7EW
Contact: 01904 687687; yorkartgallery.org.uk
Prices: adults £7.50; children (16 and under) free with adult
Opening times: daily 10am-5pm, except December 25 and 26 and 1 January
Whats on in York this week
York MotorSports Village
With a wide selection of racing packages to suit all ages at North Yorkshire’s only indoor Karting circuit, the MotorSports Village is a must for all motor heads and anyone who wants to have some fun, especially as it is weather proof! Children from 4 years old can find their ‘racing feet’ in a fun, safe, and easy-to-drive electric F3 ‘Junior’ kart. Children of 8 years and older can have great fun on the F2 petrol karts and children and adults 13 years old and over have the F1 ‘Pro’ fleet to get to grips with.
Just as you would expect, MotorSports Village make safety their number 1 priority and are members of the National Karting Association (NKA).
In addition to the Karting packages, the MotorSports Village have the North of England’s only driver training race simulator which is the same as used by F1 and other racing drivers. The F1 Rfactor allows you to have the opportunity to get in the cockpit of an F1 racing car and drive on some of the best international Grand Prix tracks. Come and see if you can beat Hamilton around Silverstone or Vettel around Hockenheim?
Spectators are always welcome and can enjoy all of the action from the comfort of Bar Enzo, there is a fully licensed coffee and wine bar. At Bar Enzo, spectators can watch all of the action on four screen Tag Heuer timing displays, enjoy the action in the simulator from the driver’s view point or simply sit back and relax with a cup of coffee, tea, soft drink or a glass of wine or beer.
So, if you’re planning a stag or hen weekend, child’s birthday party, planning to entertain clients or just want to challenge friends to find out who is the best driver, then why settle not come and have some fun with York MotorSports Village?
Address: Kathryn Avenue, Monks Cross, York, North Yorkshire, YO32 9JS, England
Contact: 01904 673555; http://www.ymsv.co.uk/
Prices: £17.50 per person
Opening times: Monday to Friday 11:00 – 20:00, Saturday 09:00 – 21:00, Sunday 10:00 -19:00
Kids activities in York
Yorkshire Museum and Museum Gardens
If you are looking for free things to do with the kids during the holidays then the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens are next to Lendal Bridge, the main river bridge between the Railway Station and the Minster. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to walk from the Railway Station and there are entrances into the gardens from both Museum Street and Marygate.
The nearest car park is on Marygate, which is five minutes’ walk and has 350 spaces. Marygate is off Bootham, the A19, which is the main road into the city from the north. For more car parking information please click here.
Address: Museum Gardens, York, YO1 7FR
Contact: 01904 687687; yorkshiremuseum.org.uk
Prices: admission free for under 16’s; adults £7.50; concessions £6.50 (tickets give repeat entry for a year)
Opening times: daily 10am-5pm, except December 25 and 26
Days out in York
York Dungeon is a journey through more than 2000 years of York horrible history in 75-minutes. With an amazing cast of theatrical actors, stages, scenes and special effects, the Dungeon introduces you to an exciting and truly unique walkthrough experience that has all of your senses on alert, see, hear, feel and smell! It is hilarious fun and sometimes a little bit scary which adds to the experience.
You will laugh and scream, but you will definitely love it. What to look forward to:
- The York Dungeon is now Bolder and Better than ever before
- 10 laugh-out-loud shows
- Laughs, screams and cutting-edge storytelling
The Dungeons is the black comedy of attractions; dark, atmospheric and very very funny.
You follow the story of York’s darkest, dirtiest history throughout 10 live shows and 9 live actors. It is based on real history (well the exciting bits anyway) where you get close up and personal with characters from York’s deadly past, including the traitorous Guy Fawkes and the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin.
You will experience and enjoy 360° sets, full of authenticity and theatrical storytelling, including a check-up from the resident plague doctor, learn about the legend of The Golden Fleece and get lost in the Labyrinth of the Lost. If you are looking for things to do in York this is sure to provide a great day out for everyone!
Address: 12 Clifford Street, York, North Yorkshire, YO1 9RD, England
Contact: 01904 632599; Click here to visit York Dungeon’s website
Prices: £16.95 per person
Opening times: daily but please call the attraction directly to avoid disappointment.
If you plan on visiting a few of the attractions and sights during your trip, we would definitely recommend that you take a look at the York Pass as it offers incredible value with over 36 tourist attractions included in the price of the ticket, including all of the popular ones.
Travel, Shopping and Restaurant Discounts
Not only are you going to visit all of the best tourist attractions, but with York Pass you will also get discounts on travel, shopping and restaurants! I know, great huh.
If you plan on travelling out of York to see the sights then Europcar has you covered with free car rental upgrades to all pass holders. Or perhaps you fancy taking it a little slower, grab a discount off bicycle hire at York Cycle Tours. Maybe that sounds a little too much effort, if so, there are discounts on your taxi fares with Streamline Taxis. However you plan to get around, York Pass has you covered.
Looking for a little retail therapy? Your Pass includes exclusive discounts at various shops found in York city centre. Or if that is not enough choice, how about using your travel discounts and heading to York Designer Outlet where you can shop at more than 120 famous brand stores. This alone makes the pass worth its weight in gold!
Well, with all that travel and shopping and most importantly sight seeing, you are no doubt feeling a little peckish. Fear not, your Pass has you covered once again with discounts at various restaurants and cafés.
FREE entry to 36 attractions:
Your Pass allows you free entry to 36 attractions in and around York (including Whitby), the full list is below:
- The Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre
- Barley Hall
- Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens
- Byland Abbey
- Captain Cook Museum Whitby
- Castle Howard
- Clifford’s Tower
- DIG – An Archaeological Adventure
- Eden Camp
- Fairfax House
- Goddards House & Gardens
- The Henry VII Experience
- JORVIK Viking Centre
- National Railway Museum – Road Train
- Merchant Adventurers’ Hall
- National Centre for Birds of Prey
- North Yorkshire Moors Railway
- Rievaulx Abbey
- The Richard III Experience
- The Roman Bath
- Scampston Walled Garden
- The Mansion House
- Treasurer’s House
- York Army Museum
- York Art Gallery
- York Brewery
- York Cold War Bunker
- York Castle Museum
- York’s Chocolate Story
- The York Dungeon
- York Maze
- York Minster
- Murton Park – Yorkshire Museum of Farming
- Yorkshire Museum
- York City Sightseeing
So basically, if you plan on seeing a few of the attractions, take a sight seeing tour, indulge in some shopping or eat during your visit to York, get the York Pass. It will save you a LOT of money.
Price: Adult 1 day £38, 2 days £50, 3 days £65 – Children 1 day £24, 2 days £28, 3 days £35. If you buy the 3 day pass you can use it on any 3 days within a 6 day period which makes it superb value for a longer stay or for touring Yorkshire.
Contact: 01904 550099; yorkpass.com