Spooky season is upon us, and where better to immerse yourselves in the magic and mystery of the season than Europe’s most haunted city: York. The cobbled streets, quirky buildings and secret snickleways are the perfect atmospheric backdrop for ghostly family adventures. Stepped in 2,000 years of history, from Romans to Vikings and Victorians, there are stories to be told and memories to be made. York’s cauldron is positively overflowing with entertaining events and activities this October half-term for children of all ages. Take a look at our Haunted York guide for the highlights, picked by the team at Little Vikings for our friends at Visit York.
As Europe’s most haunted city, there’s more chance of seeing a ghost here than almost anywhere else. If you catch one on camera, be sure to share your ghostly sightings with us! Fancy a spot of ghost-hunting? Go it alone if you dare, or join one of the excellent ghost tours that run in the city every day and see if you can spot one for yourselves. It’s an excellent way to immerse yourselves in the gory details of York’s dark history while exploring the city on foot.
York Dungeon’s Little Peasants Walking Tour is the only ghost walk specifically designed for children and it’s great fun. Discover toe-curling tales of the city as two deranged Dungeon residents are released to take young peasants and their families on an unforgettable journey to discover York’s haunted history. With stories, suspense and surprises – and some spectacular landmarks – it’s ideal for children who aren’t ready for the full Dungeon experience. We’ve done it with our own children and they loved it – it’s silly, only mildly scary, and perfect for a younger audience.
The Trick or Treat Trek with York’s Chocolate Story is a hauntingly delightful escapade that’s tailor-made to enchant and entertain a younger audience, ensuring an unforgettable and spooktacular time for all. Embark on an exhilarating adventure through the enchanting streets of York, where your expert tour guide will unveil spine-tingling tales lurking within the haunted city walls. Within York’s Chocolate Story, there are special Halloween Family Masterclasses and Halloween Truffle Rolling too.
The Deathly Dark Tours is another terrific tour that’s a chilling but funny meander through York’s best ghost stories and most haunted spots. We took two teens along on the tour recently and they absolutely loved it. We explored York’s cobbled streets, snickleways and landmarks, listening to the city’s best spooky stories along the way (and keeping a keen eye out for any apparitions too, of course). The tour’s a brilliant blend of humour, horror and history that kept us engaged and ever-so-slightly on edge until we parted ways in the Shambles. It might not be one for young children, but the teens really enjoyed it (as did the adults!). For older kids, The Bloody Tour of Yor, led by local legend Mad Alice, is also excellent, with an award-winning blend of horror and humour.
See the Ghosts in the Gardens – One of York’s best Halloween events returns for 2023: Ghosts in the Gardens! There are 39 horribly convincing wire mesh sculptures to find in 14 of York’s most stunning spaces, and you can find all the locations on the York BID website. The perfect Halloween photo opportunity, it’s free and an enchanting way to explore York this October half term.
Little York Ghost Hunt – Join the hunt for the Little York Ghosts which hide on the streets that flank the Minster. This is a seek-and-keep hunt. As twilight gives way to night, The York Ghost Merchants invite you to join the search each evening (exact dates and times to be confirmed) for Little York Ghosts along the atmospheric ancient streets that surround York Minster. They’re tricky to find, but the joy is in the looking.
MAGICAL FAMILY EXPERIENCES
There’s no need for a special spell to conjure up some family magic this half-term. Here are some enchanting York experiences that wizards of all ages will enjoy, so hop on your brooms and enjoy!
Shambles – A must-see for Harry Potter fans, York’s famous medieval street, Shambles, is said to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley. The butcher’s shops and streams of raw sewage are gone (phew!), replaced by quirky shops, pretty cafes and tempting eateries that you won’t find anywhere else. Take a family photo on the cobbles, pick up a kooky keepsake or tuck into tasty street food at Shambles Market, just around the corner.
The Potions Cauldron – The Potions Cauldron is the world’s most magical (and possibly tiniest) drinks emporium, serving magic every day on York’s spectacular Shambles. Book into the award-winning Cauldron Experience, have a potion mixed for you by a Wizard and watch out for surprises as the room comes to life and you learn the secrets of potion-making! It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir or – dare we mention it – a Christmas present or two?! The Potions Cauldron, 9¾, Shambles, York YO1 7LZ
The Hole in Wand – The Hole in Wand is a marvellously magical mini-golf experience in York city centre, opposite the JORVIK Viking Centre. It’s a brilliantly immersive experience complete with bubbling cauldrons, puzzles to solve and a free potion for every player. Shorter clubs are available for younger players. The Hole in Wand, 14-16 Coppergate Walk, York YO1 9NT
Wizard Walk of York – Don your cloaks and pointy hats and let The Wizard of York lead you on a quest to find magical creatures as you wand-er the alleys and snickelways of York. This child-focused smash-hit walking tour is an entertaining and award-winning alternative to the ghost tours, and is really good fun. Early booking advised.
BEYOND THE WALLS
More energy than a poltergeist? If you’ve exhausted all that York has to offer this half term, but still have energy for more, here are a couple of ideas for autumn days out near York.
Autumn day out at Castle Howard – Embark on a spooky adventure, try an outdoor escape room trail and whizz around the hay bale obstacle course in the stunning grounds of Castle Howard. Castle Howard, York YO60 7DA
Pumpkin picking at The Balloon Tree – Choosing your own pumpkin from the patch is so much more fun than chucking it in the trolley at the supermarket. The Balloon Tree has a wonderful selection, and their cafe is a great place to refuel with a seasonal treat. The Balloon Tree, Stamford Bridge Rd, Gate Helmsley, York YO41 1NB
Illuminated Abbey at Whitby Abbey – One of the best autumn events on the Yorkshire coast returns for 2023! Camera phones at the ready as Whitby Abbey, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is bathed in dramatic illuminations once again for Illuminated Abbey this October half term. Whitby Abbey, 21st to 31st October 2023