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York’s best parks, gardens and green spaces

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Families are spoilt for choice when it comes to parks, gardens and green spaces in and around York. From award-winning local parks to botanical gardens, nature reserves and gardens with big fish to feed, there’s lots to discover (and plenty of places for a game of hide-and-seek!). Here are our favourite parks, gardens and gorgeous green spaces in and near York to go with kids.

Dean's park

Dean’s Park – In the heart of York city centre and in the shadow of York Minster, Dean’s Park is a green space with a view like no other. It might be petite, but it’s a peaceful place to escape the bustle of the city. With benches and plenty of open space, it’s the ideal spot for a picnic, and there are some tempting food options nearby. No loos or cafe, but city centre facilities are on the doorstep. Dean’s Park, York Minster, York, YO1 7JN

York Museum Gardens

York Museum Gardens – York’s Museum Gardens are a stunning place to visit, right in the heart of the city. There’s space to run about, beautiful ruins, river views and plenty of wildlife. There’s usually somewhere to grab a coffee, and it’s a stone’s throw from lots of cafes and restaurants. It’s also home to The Yorkshire Museum, a popular York choice for families, and it’s close to the Explore York Library, York Theatre Royal and York Art Gallery too. York Museum Gardens, York, YO1 7FR

Rowntree Park

Rowntree Park – With two play areas, lake, skate park, six tennis courts, basketball court, gardens, woodland and a reading cafe complete with little library, Rowntree Park is perfect for kids. Look out for great family activities throughout the year. Its riverside location is fantastic but does mean that the park occasionally floods. It’s a short walk from here into York city centre. Rowntree Park, Terry Ave, York YO23 1JQ

Homestead Park

Homestead Park – Homestead Park was a gift to York from the Rowntree family that residents still enjoy today. This pretty 14-acre park in York’s Clifton has formal gardens, two play areas, wildflower meadow, a pond, a rock garden and plenty of open spaces. During the summer there’s a pop-up cafe, and there are loos too (very important!). There are picnic benches and a small car park, although you may need to park on the road during busy periods. The Homestead, 40 Water End, York YO30 6WP

Knavesmire Wood

Knavesmire Wood – Knavesmire Wood is a magical place to escape to that children love, and it’s one of the closest woods to York city centre. It’s not big but it’s beautiful, with towering trees, greenery galore and lots to explore. You’ll find dens, rope swings and plenty of trees to climb. Right on the edge of York Racecourse, we often combine a visit with a bike ride around the racecourse. Knavesmire Wood is a Woodland Trust place that’s free to enter. No parking, no loos, no cafe! Knavesmire Wood, Dringhouses, York YO24 1JX

Further afield

Northwood Trail review

Northwood Trail Fairy Sanctuary- Set within 100 acres of glorious woodland, this 1.5km trail is utterly charming. Embark on the willow-walled maze, discover a large collection of fairy doors and fairy treehouses and see of upi can spot the tree stump village, giant mushroom ring and Elven thrones. It’s a rustic attraction that’s perfect for reconnecting children and adults to the freedom and magic of the natural world. The cafe, Northwood Kitchen, serves delicious drinks, cakes and light meals. Northwood Trail, Buttercrambe Moor Woods, Buttercrambe, York, North Yorkshire, YO41 1AP Visit the website

Moorlands Nature Reserve

Moorlands Nature Reserve – Moorlands Nature Reserve is a lovely little woodland outside York. Those who are lucky enough to live in nearby villages use this Yorkshire Wildlife Trust place as their second garden, and it’s not hard to see why. With a stunning collection of trees and wildlife, it’s a pleasure to wander through at any time of year. It’s a nature spotter’s paradise, too. Moorlands Nature Reserve, Moor Lane York North Yorkshire YO32 2RE

Skelf Castle Howard discount

Castle Howard – Skelf Island is one of the best and most magical adventure playgrounds in Yorkshire, tucked away in the grounds of Castle Howard. The house is well worth a visit, too, and we always enjoy a wander through Ray Woods and the pretty walled garden. Pack a picnic or pick up something tasty to eat from one of the cafes. Castle Howard, York YO60 7DAVisit the website

Dalby Forest

Dalby Forest – Dalby is one of Yorkshire’s most stunning spots with over 8,500 acres of breathtaking views, endless walking, running and cycling trails and Gruffalo adventures. Keep your eyes peeled along the way for the unique sculptures, get the adrenaline pumping at Dalby Activity Centre or test your nerve and swing amongst the trees on the Go Ape courses. Don’t miss the adventure playground. Forestry England Visitor Centre, Low Dalby, Thornton le Dale, Pickering YO18 7LT Visit the website

Beningbrough Hall

Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens – Yorkies often describe Beningbrough Hall as an extension of their own back garden, and it’s easy to see why local families return time and again. This National Trust 18th century house and its pretty grounds have plenty to offer for a day out with kids in tow. As well as the house itself (when open), there are beautiful gardens with plenty of space to run about, and a great adventure playground and wilderness play area too. Visit the website

Hagg Wood

Hagg Wood – Hagg Wood is an ancient wood just outside Dunnington, and it’s somewhere we’d wholeheartedly recommend for a trip with kids. It’s beautiful: tall trees, massive ferns, an abundance of wildlife and an interesting history. If you want to let your kids run free, make dens, collect sticks and get some fresh air, it’s a brilliant option not far from York city centre by car. There’s some local debate over parking, so you’re best off parking in the village and walking. Hagg Wood, Dunnington, York YO19 5NY

Burnby Hall Gardens

Burnby Hall Gardens – Burnby Hall Gardens is a great destination with kids. Hidden away in the lovely market town of Pocklington, there’s plenty to enjoy at this very pretty place. As well as the gorgeous trees, flowers, rockery and secret gardens, there are two lakes which groan with fish and water lilies. There’s a playground, but the highlight is feeding the wonderful fish (buy a pot of fish food on your way in) and running around on the grass. Burnby Hall, 33 The Balk, Pocklington, York YO42 2QF Visit the website

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