Dean’s Park is one of the hidden jewels in York’s crown, but this year it has a starring role in York’s summer thanks to the new Heart of Yorkshire Festival. There are free children’s activities, craft days (small fee applies) and a programme of workshops (paid; sign up online) as well as the Stone Carving Festival (18th & 19th August). We went along with our little Vikings this week and had a lovely time. Here are our five top reasons to head along this summer.
In the shadow of York Minster, Dean’s Park is a very pretty and peaceful place right in York city centre. It’s great to see it brought to life by this new event. Enter from the Minster entrance and you’ll see the lanterns and lights that lead to Thor’s Tipi (or Thor’s Sol Ast, as it’s known in its summer guise), a Nordic themed bar and grill. Right next door is a family tent that’s at the heart of York Minster’s summer activities.
As we know from the events we’ve been involved in, making a white marquee seem warm and welcoming is no mean feat. But York Minster have achieved it with their activity tent: it’s light, bright, fun and full of great hands-on activities. The staff are welcoming and friendly, too. There are free activities on offer, like stone painting and bug-hunting, as well as paid-for activities on certain days. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, there’s a celebration of All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small with hands-on activities. Crafts range from making a stained glass-style suncatcher, decorating a canvas bag and creating a clay animal; they cost £2.50 a child and there’s no need to pre-book. Take a look at the full list here.
We enjoyed a storymaking session with Mudpie Arts, travelling to Kenya to hunt for a lion and have lots of adventures along the way. It was great fun and our 8 and 6 year olds got stuck into the action and it’s perfect for little ones too. Next Monday it’s Jack and the Flum Flum Tree and the following one it’s Bog Baby (£7.50 per person; book online). Other sessions include a TrashBang! music workshop and a children’s songwriting workshop. Take a look at the options online.
We’re big fans of cosying up around the fire at Thor’s Tipi during the winter, and Thor’s Sol Ast is along the same lines but with a summer vibe. Colourful lanterns, festoon lighting, relaxed seating and daybeds make it a cool, relaxed place to hang out and it’s surprisingly good for kids. We had lunch there, and our kids devoured a hot dog and cheeseburger with chips from the grill while I enjoyed a mushroom burger. It’s always good to eat outside with children – no worries about crumbs or noise or disturbing other people – and Thor’s is a fun option. It’s pretty good value, too, with children’s options priced at £3.50. Alcohol is on the pricey side – a treat for a night out – but a really good coffee from Coffee Culture was reasonably priced and ideal for perking me up after a busy morning.
If there’s one thing we know from years of parenting, it’s that children are actually very easily pleased (most of the time). Give them some green space to run around in and nooks and crannies to explore, and they’re happy. While you’re in the park, let them run about and see what they can discover.
The Heart of Yorkshire Festival runs until 2nd September 2018 at Dean’s Park, York. Find out more here.