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27 quirky & unusual things you didn’t know you could do in York with kids – Our guide to the best

Whether you’re in York for a day, a weekend, a week or a lifetime, it’s no secret that there’s plenty of things to do with kids. As locals ourselves, we’ve gone beyond the guidebooks to pick some of the most interesting and inspiring things to do and places to go, whatever the age of your children and whatever they’re into. While we’d always recommend visiting York’s top attractions – they’re world-class after all, and they’re all family-friendly – it’s fun to go off the beaten track, too. Who wouldn’t want to visit a real windmill, make a potion, be captain of their own boat, make a chocolate lolly or paint something cool to take home as a souvenir of an awesome adventure in York? Here’s our pick of some of the best quirky and unusual things to do in and around York, and make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the best things going on in and around York every day of the year.

If you’re looking for the very best things to do in York as a family, the chances are that we’ve covered it in one of our many guides. Here they are, all in one place, to make life as easy as possible for you.

The Little Vikings GuideWhere to find it
The Little Vikings Family Guide to Yorkhttps://little-vikings.co.uk/york-family-guide/
Best walks in and around Yorkhttps://little-vikings.co.uk/best-family-walks-york-yorkshire-kids/
Best things to do in York for freehttps://little-vikings.co.uk/things-to-do-for-free-york-2/
Rainy days in York with kidshttps://little-vikings.co.uk/rainy-days-york-things-to-do/
Best places to eat/drink in York with kidshttps://little-vikings.co.uk/eat-drink-york/
27 quirky things to do in York with kidshttps://little-vikings.co.uk/best-things-to-do-york-kids/

York Harry Potter Shambles

1. Follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter

Okay, so there’s some debate about the link between York and Harry Potter. But as far as we’re concerned, York’s famous Shambles looks a LOT like we imagine Diagon Alley to look and we’re sure your kids will agree. Take a walk along the cobbles and pop into some of the quirky shops and cafes along the way. Our favourite shops include The Potions Cauldron and York Ghost Merchants.

Shambles, York YO1 7LZ

Rainbows Ceramics York

2. Paint a mug/mermaid/money box

Pottery painting is a lovely thing to do together, and something that children of all ages enjoy. Rainbows Ceramics on Bootham and Bish Bash Pot on Walmgate are both ceramics studios where children are warmly welcomed (and they do birthday parties too).

I Spy York walking trail

3. Play a big game of I Spy (free!)

With 22 things to spot, the Little Vikings I Spy Trail is the most fun way to explore York on foot with kids. It’s even been recommended by The Sunday Times! Grab a map from the Visit York Information Centre (Parliament Street) or download it from our website and see what you can find! For younger children, just do the first 10.

Read more and download the I Spy Trail map

Potions Cauldron York

4. Visit a potion-making shop (and make your own)

The Potions Cauldron is one of York’s most magical shops, housed in a quirky little building on York’s Shambles. Meet the potion-makers, browse the selection of enchanting elixirs and you can even book a potion-making session.

Potions Cauldron, 9¾, Shambles, York YO1 7LZ – Visit the Potions Cauldron website

Holgate Windmill York

5. Explore a real windmill

It’s a little-known fact that York is home to its very own windmill! Loved by locals, Holgate Windmill is an exciting and quirky place to visit with children. You can even climb the ladder if you’re feeling brave, and they sell their flour so you can take some home and bake some bread or biscuits for a little taste of York. Keep an eye out for special children’s activities and even festive visits from Santa!

Holgate Windmill, Windmill Rise, Holgate, York YO26 4TXVisit the Holgate Windmill website for upcoming open days

York Leisure Centre Climbing

6. Climb the walls at York Leisure Centre

Instead of climbing the walls at home, head to the Clip n Climb at York Leisure Centre where there are 20 climbing challenges to tackle. Suitable for children aged 4+, it’s brilliant active fun at this great new leisure centre at the York Stadium complex. They do birthday parties too.

York Leisure Centre, Kathryn Avenue, Monks Cross Dr, Huntington, York YO32 9AFVisit the York Leisure Centre website

City Cruises boat hire York

7. Captain your own boat with City Cruises York

Skipper your own self-drive boat along the River Ouse with City Cruises. Holding up to 8 passengers, it’s a unique way to see York and a memorable experience for the whole family. Pack a picnic to eat on the way or even see if the ice cream boat is moored and stop for a cone! You can even save £5 with the discount code littlevikings5 (terms and conditions apply)

Visit the City Cruises York website for more details and to book

The Cookery School at The Grand, York

8. Learn to cook with your kids at The Cookery School at The Grand, York

Stir, chop and taste at a parent and child class at The Cookery School at The Grand, part of Yorkshire’s only five-star hotel. With expert step-by-step tutoring at the state-of-the-art facility, it’s a five-star experience to remember.

Visit the website of The Cookery School at The Grand, York

York Castle Museum for kids - Little Vikings

9. Stroll down a real Victorian street

Immerse yourselves in the past at York Castle Museum, where you can walk down a Victorian street, visit the shops and discover more about how York’s former residents used to live. While you’re there, meet the inmates from the former York Castle Prison, experience the swinging 60s, and find out more about World War One’s front line.

York Castle Museum, The Eye of York, York, YO1 9RYVisit the York Castle Museum website

Point Zero trampoline park york

10. Jump around at Point Zero Trampoline Park

Give the sofas a break and let your kids jump around at Point Zero, York’s only trampoline park. There’s a dodgeball zone, basketball, massive jumping pillow and much more. Refuel in the cafe afterwards. Tired, sweaty children guaranteed.

Point Zero Trampoline Park, 3-7 Rose Ave, York YO26 6RU – Visit the Point Zero website

Web Adventure Park York

11. Ride a rollercoaster

York’s first rollercoaster has arrived at The Web Adventure Park! It’s part of their expansion and joins more permanent fairground rides, a ninja course, dinosaur crazy golf and a new animal area. That’s on top of all the usual Creepy Crawlies fun, from soft play to indoor football and dedicated baby zones.

The Web Adventure Park, Cliftongate Business Park, Wigginton Rd, York YO32 2RH – Visit The Web Adventure Park’s website

Railway Museum York

12. Climb aboard the miniature railway at the National Railway Museum

The National Railway Museum is one of York’s most popular family attractions, with engines to explore, hands-on activities, an outdoor play area and even a miniature railway (small charge applies). Admission to the NRM is free, too.

National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ – Visit the Railway Museum website

The Hole in Wand

13. Play a round of wizard golf

Swap your wands for golf clubs and have a round of mini-golf at York’s newest family attraction, The Hole in Wand. Complete the course and you’ll even get a magical potion to take home with you, included in the price. Use your free https://little-vikings.co.uk/family_card/hole-in-wand-york-discount/Little Vikings Family Card for a special perk.

The Hole in Wand, 14-16 Coppergate Walk, York YO1 9NT – Visit The Hole in Wand website

York Cocoa Works

14. Make a chocolate lolly at York Cocoa Works

Drop into the cafe of York’s Cocoa Works to create your own chocolate lolly. Children can get creative with chocolate while their grown-ups have a well-earned rest/drink/cake. Keep an eye out for chocolate-related workshops, too.

Visit the York Cocoa Works website

Minifigs and Bricks LEGO shop York

15. Visit the world’s smallest LEGO shop

Minifigs and Bricks is a lovely family-run LEGO shop on the outskirts of York. It might be the world’s smallest purveyor of all things LEGO, but it’s well worth a visit. They sell all things brick-related, from sets to single bricks and figures, and they’ll buy your old sets too. Their birthday parties – held in the larger back room – are great fun.

Minifigs & Bricks, Cliftongate Business Centre, The Fold Yard, Wigginton Road
York YO32 2RH – Visit the Minifigs & Bricks website

York Golf Range

16. Play footgolf or crazy golf

For a fun outdoor activity and a little friendly competition between family members, try a round of footgolf or crazy golf at York Golf Range. Crazy golf is suitable for all ages, while footgolf is best for kids aged 4+ who can kick a ball.

York Golf Range, Towthorpe Moor Lane, Towthorpe, York. YO32 9ST Visit the York Golf Range website

DIG York Jorvik

17. Become an archaeologist at DIG

What better way to learn about the past than getting hands-on? At Jorvik’s Dig, kids can grab a trowel and dig about in the archaeology pits, seeing what treasures they can unearth and learning about how people used to live at the same time.

DIG St Saviour Church, St Saviourgate, York YO1 8NN – Visit the DIG website

Allerthorpe Lakeland Park

18. Splash about in the aqua park

Allerthorpe Lakeland Park is THE place to visit near York for watersports fun. The aqua park is great fun for older children, while younger ones will enjoy paddling in the shallow water, going on the pedaloes or running about in the play area. It gets busy during the summer months so book well in advance.

Allerthorpe Lakeland Park, Pocklington, York YO42 4RL – Visit the Allerthorpe website

JORVIK Viking Centre

19. Visit a Viking village

When in York, do as the Vikings did! Or at least see how the Vikings lived by stepping back in time at the JORVIK Viking Centre and travelling through a Viking village. Discover what they did, what they ate and how they smelled (spoiler alert – not good!).

JORVIK Viking Centre, 19 Coppergate, York YO1 9WT – Visit the JORVIK Viking Centre website

Bar Convent York

20. Explore a real convent

The Bar Convent is one of York’s hidden gems, but it’s well worth opening your Google Maps app for. Established in 1686, it’s the oldest surviving Catholic convent in England and is now home to an interesting, hands-on exhibition where children are welcome. There’s a cafe with pretty gardens, too, which is popular with families.

The Bar Convent, 17 Blossom St, York YO24 1AQVisit The Bar Convent website

York Dungeon

21. Get scared silly

For older kids who relish a jump scare and gory story, The York Dungeon is just the place. Discover York’s gruesome history and dig into its dark side at this horribly good attraction.

The York Dungeon, 12 Clifford St, York YO1 9RDVisit The York Dungeon website

Tansy Beetle York

22. Search for a tansy beetle

Tansy beetles are beautiful jewel-like creatures that are (mostly) unique to York. These endangered creatures can be hard to find, so it’s really satisfying when you spot one.

Find out more about where to find tansy beetles in York here

York Minster kids

23. Climb to the top of a tall tower

Fit kids aged 8+ will be rewarded for tackling the 275 steps of York Minster’s tower with spectacular views of the city (and a big sense of achievement). Tower trips need to be booked in addition to your admission ticket.

York Minster, Minster Yard, York YO1 7HHVisit the York Minster website for more details

The Cat's Whiskers York

24. Visit a cat cafe

The Cat’s Whiskers is York’s only cat cafe and it’s a serious treat for cat-lovers. Children must be 10+ to visit, but it’s worth the wait to be able to hang out with so many furry friends.

The Cat’s Whiskers, 46 Goodramgate, York YO1 7LFVisit The Cat’s Whiskers website

York Cat Trail

25. Do the York Cat Trail

If your children aren’t old enough to go to York’s cat cafe, don’t despair. Younger cat lovers can get their feline fix by doing the York Cat Trail. It’s free – just pick up a leaflet and see how many of York’s iconic black cats you can see on the buildings.

Pick up a leaflet from York Lucky Cats, 34 Shambles, York YO1 7LX Find out more about York Cat Trail here


26. Meet some meerkats

Animal-mad families can get up close and personal with all types of wildlife at Askham Bryan Wildlife Park. From armadillos to llama, otters and meerkats, there’s plenty to see and even a play area too. Check opening times before you visit.

Askham Bryan Wildlife Park, Askham Bryan, York YO23 3FRVisit the Askham Bryan Wildlife Park website for more info

Wizard Walk of York

27. Go on a wizard walk

The Magic Hatter brings his award-winning entertainment to the streets with The Wizard Walk of York – the most magical ticket in town! Join The Wizard of York on a quest to find magical creatures as you wand-er the snickelways of this enchanting city. A wonderfully whimsical tour that wizard fans will go Potty for! Selected evenings, starting from The Shambles. Pre-booking is required at www.wizardwalkofyork.com.

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