Children are easily pleased, so you really don’t need to spend a fortune in York to have a good time. Luckily there are lots of free and fairly purse-friendly ways to have fun in and around the city. Here’s our pick of the best things to do in York and beyond that are free or don’t cost the earth.
Admission’s free at the National Railway Museum
Visit one of the country’s finest museums for nothing. There’s a changing programme of activities and lots for kids to enjoy. Keep an eye out during the school holiday for special activities, often with an engineering focus. National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ – Visit the NRM website for more details
Walk York’s City Walls
Why not take a walk around York’s city walls? There’s almost 3.5km of medieval wall to choose from, all with fantastic views, and it’s totally free. If little feet aren’t up to a big hike, just choose a small section. It’s easy to hop off once you’ve had enough.
Kids go free at lots of York museums
Lucky under 17s can visit York Art Gallery, the Yorkshire Museum and York Castle Museum in 2019 for free with full-paying adults. Consider a YMT Card which gives unlimited access to all three museums for a year. Under 5s go free at the JORVIK Viking Centre, DIG and Barley Hall, and paid tickets are valid for 12 months. That’s a whole year of entertainment for the price of entry. York residents with valid proof of address gain entry to York Minster free of charge, too.
Head to York’s libraries
York libraries run activities for children all year long that are free or inexpensive. These are an absolute sanity-saver, keeping little bookworms occupied during the holidays. Don’t miss the Summer Reading Challenge.
Lark about in York’s Parks
York is full of fantastic parks and open spaces, available to everyone at no cost. Take a picnic if you’re peckish. For squirrel-spotting and balancing along the ruins (where permitted!), try the Museum Gardens. There’s no play equipment as such, but plenty of history, nature and open space to appeal. Dean’s Park, behind York Minster, is a lovely green space too. For swings, slides, ducks and more, try Rowntree Park. We’re very fond of Homestead Park, too, with its outdoor gym equipment and pop-up Reading Cafe during the spring and summer months.
Stroll through the Streets
Wandering around the city streets is one of the best things you can do in York and it costs nothing. There’s plenty to interest everyone, from fantastic street entertainers to genuinely talented buskers to tiny alleyways and secret passages, cobbled streets and grand squares. Marvel at the Minster, take a turn around the bottom of Clifford’s Tower, skip along Whipmawhopmagate and amble through The Shambles. Why not do the free York Cat Trail too? See how many black cats you can spot on the buildings!
Go for a walk
Trips to the great Yorkshire countryside needn’t cost much – pack a picnic, find a free parking space and let the kids run wild. The Yorkshire Dales and Moors and our glorious coast are all great options. Closer to York, grab or hire your bikes and take a trip along the river or out of town on the family-friendly cycle routes. Take a look at the Little Vikings Guide to Family Walks in York and Yorkshire
THINGS TO DO FOR FREE BEYOND YORK
Parking charges only at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Another cracking day out is yours for the price of a parking ticket. Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a fantastic outdoor day out that inspires (and tires little legs). Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield WF4 4LG – Visit the website
Just pay for parking at Dalby Forest
One of Yorkshire’s most stunning spots is accessible for just the price of parking (£9 a day). Head out on one of the many trails on foot or by bike and don’t miss the epic adventure play area. Dalby Forest, Dalby Forest Drive, Low Dalby, Pickering YO18 7LT – Visit the Dalby Forest website for more details
Just pay for your fruit at The Balloon Tree
A popular spot for fruit picking, there’s no admission price for this farm shop with its small play area and animal viewing area. Pumpkin-picking is a favourite in the autumn and local families flock here during the summer months to fill punnets with berries galore. The Balloon Tree, Stamford Bridge Road, York YO41 1NB – Visit The Balloon Tree website for more details
Free entry at The Royal Armouries
One of Leeds’ top attractions, and the national museum of arms and armour, is free to enter. There’s always something new to see at the Royal Armouries, with lots of special holiday activities. The Royal Armouries, Armouries Dr., Leeds LS10 1LT – Visit The Royal Armouries website