With so many things to do in York with kids, it can be hard to know where to start, especially if you’re not here for long. Let’s save you a bit of time by recommending the National Railway Museum, as one of York’s must-see attractions for family visitors. We visited again recently to check that it still deserves the Little Vikings seal of approval and had a brilliant time. Here’s why we think it’s worth a visit with children.
1. There’s lots to see and do
The National Railway Museum is home to a large, impressive collection of iconic locomotives that you may remember learning about at school, travelling on as a teenager or even on your holidays. You’ll see royal carriages, discover the history of the railways and explore the future of rail travel with interactive displays.
We were so excited to see George and Robert Stephenson’s world-famous Rocket when we visited recently, which is a thing of real beauty. Engines aside, there’s an indoor and outdoor play area, hands-on activities and a smell of engine oil that you won’t find anywhere else in York!
2. It’s heaven for young train fans
There’s something about trains that captures the imagination of young children, and we’ve never met one who doesn’t have a bit of a soft spot for Thomas the Tank Engine. Even the littlest visitors will get something out of their visit to York’s railway museum, with a train-themed play area for under sixes that’s heaven for budding train drivers. Don’t miss the outdoor play area either.
Children aged 4+ can experience the thrill of the world’s fastest steam locomotive with the Mallard Experience in the Great Hall. This simulation experience is an additional charge and gives you the opportunity to re-live the engine’s record-breaking run. There’s a special kids’ pod for under 4s too. Outside, there’s the chance to ride on a miniature railway too (charge applies). You don’t have to be obsessed with trains to enjoy the museum, though – there’s something impressive about seeing the iconic trains in real life and hearing the stories around them.
3. It’s a great thing to do on a rainy day in York
We’d love to guarantee sunshine on your visit to York, but the reality is that it does rain once in a while. Luckily there are lots of things to do on a rainy day (read our guide to the best rainy day activities in York here), and a trip to the Railway Museum is one of the best. The engines are all undercover, and there’s a small indoor play area for younger children that’s indoors too. The main play area is outside, so let’s see if your children are put off the slides by a little water falling from the sky (our guess: no).
4. There are regular holiday activities
The National Railway Museum is in the same group as London’s Science Museum, so it’s no surprise to find inspiring, science and engineering-focused activities going on during school holidays. Activities are engaging, hands-on and, thanks to the friendly staff, can help kids get an idea of otherwise quite tricky concepts in a fun way. Our children still talk about a demonstration they saw at the museum years ago involving an expanding marshmallow! Keep an eye on the Little Vikings website for the latest details of special events going on at the museum.
5. It’s free!
The Railway Museum is not only one of the best things to do in York; it also happens to be completely free. Although there are lots of fun things to do for free in York, this is the only museum to offer completely free entry. Donations would be welcome, of course, but there’s no obligation. If you really want to keep costs down, you can take your own food and make yourselves comfortable at one of the many picnic tables.
National Railway Museum – Trip essentials
- – Address – National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ
- – Parking – Limited spaces available in the museum car park (paid)
- – Facilities – Toilets, baby changing, cafes, children’s menu