One of the questions we’re frequently asked by families wanting something fun to do in York with their children is which ghost tour we’d recommend, and whether they’re suitable for kids. While some of them claim to cater for all ages, the majority have definite nightmare potential for younger children. We love The Bloody Tour of York, for example: it’s funny, informative and entertaining from start to finish. But while it’s perfect for fans of Horrible Histories, it’s definitely less suitable for children who haven’t yet graduated from CBeebies to CBBC.
There was a gap in the market for something interactive for younger children, so it was music to our ears when we heard that A Very Magical Adventure was launching immersive adventures around York aimed at families with younger children. The adventures change throughout the year, but all of them are led by a small cast of professional actors. We took along our 6 year-old to the summer adventure to try it for ourselves, hoping that it would tick the boxes of being neither too grown-up nor too babyish for our fairly fussy youngest child.
Having been a bit worried that we wouldn’t be able to find our group, it turned out that there was no missing them; their medieval outfits and props had already attracted the attention of many passing tourists with their camera phones. From the outset, our guides – two hilarious knights and a long-suffering princess – were in full character. Impressively they didn’t slip out of character for the entire two-hour experience: no mean feat when they had to navigate busy streets, cross roads and interact with curious members of the public.
Our adventure took our small group from York Minster down to the Museum Gardens on a magical quest for dragon eggs. The children in our group, including our hard-to-please daughter, were entirely engrossed, laughing at the slapstick comedy and searching enthusiastically for scaly treasure. Once our quest for eggs was complete, we were led back into the city centre to a secret meeting place (no spoilers) where, to our surprise, there were two more cast members waiting for us. The first, a brilliantly grumpy cook, greeted us and led us to a chamber decked out in magical props where the second, a wizard, led a short potions lesson.
After that, we were taken into another dark and atmospheric room with tables and chairs, ‘Madame Mandragora’s Scrumdiddlyicious Cauldron of Treats’, where we could order from a short menu of magic-themed treats. Although there are a few parent-pleasing savoury items on the menu, the focus is on fizzing potions, curious cupcakes and a cake trolley groaning with temptation. Our little one was delighted to see Unicorn Essence on offer, having tried it at The Hole in Wand, while I opted for a good old cup of tea (how very muggle).
While we polished off our refreshments, our medieval friends returned for the finale to their escapades and to bestow a knighthood on all the young adventurers. Not one to always join in, our daughter went to the front and received her knighthood quite happily – a definite sign that she’d enjoyed herself. In fact she went on about it so much when we got home that our other two children wished they’d come along too.
A Very Magical Adventure is a very welcome addition to the York family attraction scene, and we were impressed. Not only is the young cast very good indeed, but the script is excellent: witty and clever, with no attempts to try to shoe-horn in any facts about York that would have gone straight over the children’s heads. It’s pitched perfectly for younger children who would be terrified by a ghost walk or bored by a longer tour. There’s less in it for parents, of course, but there’s nothing better than seeing your kids laughing their heads off (not literally of course – that’s one for the ghost tours).