The longest holidays of the year are upon us, but don’t panic! It’s a long time to keep children entertained, but there are lots of things going on in and around York this summer. As always, we’ve handpicked the very best events and activities, with plenty of ideas for every budget and weather condition (but it’s going to be sunny the whole time, right?). Here are our highlights so far, and keep checking back for our very best things to do in and around York during summer 2023. Make sure you’re following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up to our newsletter through our website, too, so you never miss a thing.
Summer holidays in York 2023
‘Mary Anning Rocks’ at The Yorkshire Museum – this new exhibition opens on 14th July 2023 and will celebrate the inspiring story of the renowned palaeontologist. Best known for discovering Jurassic marine fossils in Lyme Regis, this family-friendly exhibition will introduce Mary Anning and tell the story of how she changed the way we view the natural world. Visit the Yorkshire Museum website.
Wonderlab opens at the Railway Museum- Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery will be a ground-breaking interactive gallery exploring the how, what and why that underpin the creation of the railways. In the gallery, families will explore interactive exhibits together and challenge themselves to think like engineers. This unmissable experience will fuel imaginations, spark curiosity and inspire visitors to see the museum’s collections in new and exciting ways. Visit railwaymuseum.org.uk
A summer of adventure at Piglets Adventure Farm – There’s so much going on at Piglets this summer, with changing themes throughout the weeks, from Fairies and Trolls to Dino Adventures and Showtime! Head into the Fairy Wood, meet live dinosaurs and roll up for a circus workshop! Visit the website to discover what’s on when. Like the sound of it all? Why not buy a Summer Pass? For £25 per person, you can visit as many times as you’d like. Open daily; visit the Piglets website
Tee off at York Golf Range – Have some fun in the fresh air at York Golf Range. Navigate the obstacles on the crazy golf course (just £12 for a family of four) or have a go at footgolf, ideal for kids age 4+. Find out more about York Golf Range >
York’s Chocolate Story – Are you ready for a choc-tastic Summer? York’s Chocolate Story is the ultimate destination for families, chocolate enthusiasts and anyone seeking a truly unique adventure! Located in the heart of York, this award-winning tour attraction offers an exciting and educational journey through the fascinating history of chocolate. With interactive exhibits, delicious tastings, and chocolate-making, you’ll be in for a treat! Visit the website
York Georgian Festival – York Mansion House is proud to collaborate with some of the city’s much-loved museums, venues and historical experts to bring you York’s first-ever Georgian Festival. Learn to dance the minuet, discover Georgian family life with Horrible Histories writer Terry Deary, solve the mystery of tricky Dick Turpin’s missing corpse in an immersive murder mystery night and take a peep behind-the-scenes with York’s curators. Visit the York Mansion House website
Discover Skelf Island at Castle Howard – Skelf Island is one of the best and most magical adventure playgrounds in Yorkshire, tucked away in the grounds of Castle Howard. The house is well worth a visit, too, and we always enjoy a wander through Ray Woods and the pretty walled garden. Pack a picnic or pick up something tasty to eat from one of the cafes. Visit castlehoward.co.uk
Take a tour on an open top bus – Running every 15 mins, 7 days a week, the CitySightseeing York tour captures hearts of all ages. The live guides will guide you through 2000 years of history in York. Take the City Sightseeing York bus tour and be inspired by the beauty this city has to offer. Hop on the red open-top bus at Exhibition Square and get ready to start your adventure through time! Ticket valid 24 hours. Visit the website
Summer at Murton Park – It’s time to start getting excited for summer! At Murton Park, there will be craft activities, and Living History and Teddy Bear story time sessions EVERY week – plus so much more – making it the perfect spot for a summer full of fun! To see a full list of activities, visit https://bit.ly/46ckJab. Visit the Murton Park website
Summer on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway – This summer visit the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and complete the ‘Big 50’ Bucket List of amazing things to see and do! Hop on board the heritage carriages and earn yourselves the accolade of ‘Super Fan!’ In celebration of the NYMR turning 50 years old, they’ve put together a Bucket List of things to see and do to help you explore and learn about this historic railway. Find out more here
Children’s activities at York Minster – There’s lots going on at York Minster during the summer holidays, including free Explorer backpacks to borrow and family trails to choose from. Find all the details of what’s on at York Minster when here
The Wizard Walk of York – WINNER Best Tour of York – Little Vikings Awards 2023 – The Wizard of York has been working on his ‘sunny spells’ and would like to invite you on a wonderfully whimsical wand-er this summer…Join The Magic Hatter (as The Wizard) for spellbinding magic, comedy and a dash of York’s history! Ideal for children but suitable for all, this magical alternative to a ghost walk focuses on family FUN over frights! Book at www.wizardwalkofyork.com. Private tours also available. “Best thing we did in York!” Amanda P
Summer at York Maze 2023 – Home to the largest maize maze in Europe, York Maze now boasts over 20 amazing rides, shows and attractions including the Crowmania tractor and trailer ride packed with animatronic and theatrical surprises. There are new rides opening this year, too. Open daily, 15th July to 4th September 2023 – Pre-booking required – Visit the York Maze website
Do something free (or cheap) – Entertaining children over the summer holidays can get expensive, so we’ve put together a handy guide to ways to save money on days out in York. Don’t forget to pick up a FREE Little Vikings Family Card from the Visit York Information Centre for special discounts and perks (see the latest Little Vikings Family Card offers here)
Nature Gardens, Trails and Play at Woldies Lavender & Nature Farm – There’s something for everyone including NEW foot golf course with obstacles, miniature railway, giant games maze, den zone, timber trail play, sand pit and kitchen, bee garden and observation hive, nature gardens and trails. Explore nature among the lavender, wildflowers and woodland. Enjoy savoury and sweet treats in the Teahive Takeaway. Woldies, Wintringham, Malton, YO17 8HW – Visit the Woldies website
Visit the Vikings – Ride back in time through a Viking village, meet the Vikings and see incredible Viking artefacts at the JORVIK Viking Centre. Pre-booking is advised, and check out DIG for younger children – it’s the best place to get hands-on with history in York. JORVIK Viking Centre, 19 Coppergate, York YO1 9WT – Visit the JORVIK website
Pirates and Mermaids at Mother Shiptons – There’s something really fun happening this summer in Knaresborough’s Mother Shiptons for all the family. 22nd July to 3rd September 2023 – Mother Shiptons, High Bridge, Knaresborough HG5 8DD – Visit the Mother Shipton’s website
Go on a Great Yorkshire Family Escape – a whole year of inspiration for anyone looking for a family break in Yorkshire. Discover the best family hotels in Yorkshire, with places to stay on the Yorkshire Coast, in the North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales and the towns and cities in between. As well as Yorkshire family hotels, we’ve got lovely self-catering options, glamping and camping too. Take a look at our Great Yorkshire Family Escapes
Colour! at the Bar Convent – Discover the works of young local artists who have given their own creative twist to some of the most iconic heritage buildings and landmarks in York. PLUS Join us in the garden where art and heritage continue to combine in our outdoor sketch space (easels subject to availability and weather permitting). Young artists were encouraged to discover, explore and engage in elements of York’s heritage and create artistic interpretations of their experience. Using photography skills and innovative AI technology, they produced fantastic digital pieces such as ‘Bar Convent Sky. The result of the project is a new display and collage of works from a range of ages within the Bar Convent exhibition. Included in admission to the exhibition; last admission 4pm. Visit the website
Do something free in York – Keeping everyone happy during summer holidays can be eye-wateringly expensive, even without big days out, but don’t despair. We’ve put together a handy guide to the very best things to do in and around York that are free or don’t cost a fortune. Read our guide to free things to do in York.
The Great Summer Social at McArthur Glen Designer Outlet York – Head along from Saturday 8 July until Sunday 3 September for some FREE family fun! Whether you’d like to chill at the beach, enjoy a round of mini golf on the 9-hole course, shoot some hoops with friends or compete in a table tennis match, you can do it all at the new Summer Social area, located outside the South Entrance. Open daily, admission to The Great Summer Social and all its games is FREE! Golf clubs, table tennis bats, balls and beach games can be collected from the Guest Experience Team next to the beach entrance. Don’t forget there’s the covered play area too. Open Monday – Saturday 9.30am – 8pm, Sunday 10am – 6pm – Visit the website
Spend a summer day at Woldies – Woldies Lavender and Nature Trail is a tranquil but active day for the whole family. Explore nature among the lavender, wildflowers and woodland and enjoy a variety of activities, including miniature railway, giant games maze, den building zone, timber trail, sand kitchen, foot golf, woodland walk, lavender, wildflowers, nature gardens and trails. Hungry? Enjoy savoury and sweet treats in the Teahive Takeaway. Woldies Lavender & Nature Farm, Wintringham, Malton, YO17 8HW – Visit the Woldies website
Try a holiday club or camp – York has lots of brilliant holiday clubs and camps that will keep kids entertained while you work/have a well-earned breather. Take a look at our pick of the best, from multisports to drama, movie-making and more. Find the best holiday camps in York
Farmyard fun at Beetle Bank Farm – There’s a selection of friendly animals to meet and feed this May half-term: cuddle a rabbit, guinea pig or chick in the large petting barn. During the summer there’ll be loads of different activities – follow Beetle Bank Farm on Facebook for the latest. The cafe serves locally sourced home-cooked food (the chocolate brownie is a must! Please check the website for details of the days and times of events.
Summer at Sewerby – Sewerby Hall in Bridlington is a lovely place for a day out with children. As always, there’s lots going on this summer for kids to enjoy, from adventures around the woodland to magic shows, face painting and much more. Visit the animals, play in the play area and Visit the Sewerby Hall website for all the details.
Explore York by boat with City Cruises York – City Cruises York has a wide range of cruises for you to keep your children entertained all year round, and it’s a great way to see York from another perspective. The river is one of York’s biggest and best attractions, and no visit to York is complete without spending some time walking by it or sailing on it! Take a river cruise or pack a picnic and hire a self-drive boat. There are early evening cruises too. Why not use our City Cruises York discount code?
Summer Reading Challenge York 2023 – We LOVE the Summer Reading Challenge. There’s no better way to get and keep kids reading over the summer, and it’s FREE! This year’s theme is Ready, Set, Read! a collaboration with Youth Sport Trust. Launching in the Explore York libraries in mid-July, children will be challenged to read six books during the holidays, collecting rewards and prizes along the way. There’s a certificate and medal for all who complete it. Find more details here.
Hidden Harriers Trail at the Yorkshire Air Museum – A new children’s trail for the Yorkshire Air Museum, find the Hidden Harriers around the Museum. ‘H’ the Harrier – one of the museum’s new mascots – is hiding around the site. Can you spot all ten of his hiding places and find the letters that make up the secret word? This is a great new trail for kids of all ages, and it’s free with admission. Find out more here.
Have an ice cream! – Cool down with a delicious ice cream this summer. We’ve put together a handy guide to our very best places in York for ice cream, from ice cream boats to a traditional Sicilian gelateria – Read our guide to where to find the best ice cream in York.
Visit the Yorkshire Coast – There’s no better time than summer to visit the Yorkshire Coast, and there’s a whole host of things to do. As well as the pretty beaches (Hunmanby, Fraisthorpe, Runswick Bay, Robin Hood’s Bay and Bridlington are some of our favourites), there are some excellent attractions too. Sewerby Hall & Gardens, Scarborough Sea Life, Peasholm Park in Scarborough, Alpamare, Whitby Abbey and Scarborough Castle are all well worth a trip. Read our guide to the best of the Yorkshire Coast for families here.
See Clifford’s Tower transformed – York’s iconic Clifford’s Tower has reopened after a £5m transformation by English Heritage and it’s amazing. It’s also a lot easier to visit with children, and has some of the best views of the city. Read our review here.
Open daily – Clifford’s Tower, Tower St, York YO1 9SA – Visit the Clifford’s Tower website for all the details
Head to JORVIK DIG – DIG is a hands-on archaeological adventure, from the Viking experts at JORVIK, that gives kids the chance to become trainee ‘diggers’ and discover the most exciting artefacts from 2000 years of York’s history! Tours last one hour and you are strongly advised to pre-book your place.
DIG, St Saviour’s Church, St Saviourgate, York, YO1 8NN – booking recommended – Visit the DIG website
Enjoy a woodland walk at Northwood Trail – Northwood Trail near Stamford Bridge is a magical place to visit with children (winner of the Little Vikings Award for Most Magical Experience, no less). Enjoy the woodland walk, spot the fairy doors, embark on the willow maze and refuel at the lovely Northwood Kitchen. Visit the website for more info
Explore a medieval house at Barley Hall – Barley Hall is one of York’s hidden gems, and another great JORVIK Group attraction with plenty of hands-on activities for children. Tucked away down Coffee Yard, it’s a stunning medieval townhouse that’s been painstakingly restored. Hands-on activities will keep the kids entertained – Visit the Barley Hall website
Under the Sea at Stockeld Park – Head to Stockeld Park this summer to go Under the Sea! Prepare to be submerged in an aquatic-themed wonderland of adventure and entertainment. The ticket price includes a variety of exciting activities that will transport visitors to an enchanted forest with magical sea creature-themed trails, maritime mazes with riddles and jokes, and entertainment by the Stockeld Starz and the adorable park mascot, Scout. stockeldpark.co.uk
Take a jeep ride and pick some fruit at The Balloon Tree – Head over to The Balloon Tree, just outside Stamford Bridge, this summer. Enjoy something to eat and drink in the cafe while the kids play in the play area and then treat them to a go on the Jeep track. Why not pick some asparagus while you’re there? The Balloon Tree, Stamford Bridge Rd, Gate Helmsley, York YO41 1NB – Visit The Balloon Tree website.
Discover the City Walls Experience at Micklegate Bar – A brand new museum for York, City Walls Experience at Micklegate Bar, is now open. Take the kids to visit one of the historic gateways into the city – and discover 2,000-year stories involving battles, imprisonment and near destruction! Visit the City Walls Experience website for info
See the engines at the National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum is one of the best family-friendly attractions in York, with plenty of hands-on activities for children. And it’s free too! Pre-booking is required. National Railway Museum, Leeman Rd, York YO26 4XJ – Open daily; visit the website.
Check out the new Plotters’ Forest at Raby Castle
The Plotters’ Forest is a bespoke children’s play area to the north of Raby Castle nestled in the magical Christmas tree plantation. From stargazing decks to towers and tunnels, high-level walkways and three-storey forts in the forest, this incredible space offers an imaginative playground for all ages to enjoy. The new attraction has purpose-built areas for toddlers, with mini turrets and lookout decks. Raby Castle, Staindrop, Darlington DL2 3AH – Visit the Raby Castle website for details
Play a round of wizard golf
Head to The Hole in Wand in York’s Coppergate Centre and have a go at wizard-themed minigolf at the city’s newest attraction. It’s great fun and good value, too. The Hole in Wand, 14-16 Coppergate Walk, York YO1 9NT – Visit The Hole in Wand website to book
Go for a family walk around York
Spring is the perfect time for a family walk: see the flowers in bloom, keep an eye out for butterflies and enjoy some fresh Yorkshire air. Take a look at our guide to the best places for a family walk in and around York for inspiration for all ages and abilities.
Do the Little Vikings I Spy Trail
Recommended by The Sunday Times, the free Little Vikings I Spy Trail is one of the best ways to explore York on foot with children. Collect a map from the Visit York Information Centre or click here to download it from our website.