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Review: A Victorian Christmas at York Castle Museum

York Castle Museum’s Victorian Christmas is all about tradition, so it’s fitting that a visit to the museum has become an important tradition in the Little Vikings family Christmas. We were invited along to discover what families in York can look forward to this year, and we’re pleased to report that it’s another sparkling Christmas event.

On weekends throughout December, young visitors can embark on the trail of The Lost Letters. A cheeky elf (is there any other kind?!) has hidden children’s letters to Father Christmas throughout the museum, and children are challenged to find them all before working out which elf is the culprit. If you visited last year, you’ll be familiar with the formula, but I’m sorry to say that the letters are in different places, so no there’ll be no cheating!

As well as searching for the letters, there are hands-on ‘elf activities’ along the way. We tried balancing like elves, had a go at various festive crafts, played hopscotch and picked up a traditional gingerbread recipe (as well as watching it be made in the demo kitchen – and tasting it). We made sure we took time to look at the recreated rooms to see how they’d been decorated for Christmas too, as it’s always an interesting reminder for the children of how things have changed (what, no Strictly?!).

As ever, the high point of our visit was Kirkgate, the fabulous recreated Victorian street. It’s hard to think of a more cheering festive sight. Our eldest, who’s eight next week, has such fond memories of watching A Christmas Carol that we made sure to visit on one of the performance days. Although we watch it every year, sitting on the cobbles with the kids on our laps, it just gets better and better. It’s a brilliant, interactive one-man show performed with such festive warmth and energy that we never want it to end. However, meeting Santa is an excellent second-best.

Having completed the elf trail, we joined the queue of excited children for our chance to meet the man of the moment. We visited at a peak time so there was a short wait, but a trip to the sweet shop for a barley sugar twist or two perked up the little ones. Before we knew it, a cheerful elf took us through to meet Father Christmas. This Father Christmas ticks all the boxes: jolly, friendly, beardy and kind. He was chatty with the kids, managed to get more out of them about what they’d like for Christmas than we have, and posed with us for photos by the beautiful tree. Even the younger ones, who can be a bit shy around Santa, opened up. Each of the children received a wooden present that they were really happy with too (as were we – if there’s one thing we don’t need any more of in our house, it’s plastic toys!). It was a lovely end to another magical visit – a perfect traditional York Christmas.

Top tips

  • you can’t take buggies into the museum, but you can park them inside the entrance and borrow a baby carrier for free.
  • if you’d like to see A Christmas Carol, check performance dates and times. It’s included in the admission price.
  • YMT Card holders go free (Santa is an extra charge) so it’s worth thinking about buying one if you’ll use it throughout the year.
A Victorian Christmas runs at York Castle Museum until 24th December 2017. The Lost Letters – A Christmas Mystery  runs on Saturdays and Sundays until 24th December, costs £5 per child in addition to the admission fee and there’s no need to book. Visit the York Castle Museum website.

Thank you to York Museums Trust for inviting us along. As always, our review is independent and we will only recommend things that we have genuinely enjoyed.

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