If there’s one museum in York that you’ll hear locals talk about but never find in the guidebooks, it’s The Dinosaur Museum. Obsessively adored by local children, The Dinosaur Museum is in fact better – and more boringly – known among grown-ups as The Yorkshire Museum. Nestled in York’s Museum Gardens, it has finally reopened after months of closure with a brand new exhibition to enjoy – The Ryedale Hoard: A Roman Mystery – and our old favourites too including – you guessed it – dinosaurs. We went along to check out the new exhibition and to check whether The Yorkshire Museum still has the same kid-appeal that it did pre-pandemic. Spoiler alert: it does. Here’s our review and our top five reasons to recommend it to families looking for something to do in York.
1. There’s lots to see and do
For a relatively small museum, The Yorkshire Museum packs a punch. Set across a modest three floors, it’s a whistlestop tour through Yorkshire’s history, from prehistoric times to the Romans and beyond (for more recent history, visit York Castle Museum).
Each exhibition area has been cleverly designed to capture the attention of younger visitors, with bold, clear signage and hands-on activities from start to finish. Although some of the exhibits are still out of action post-covid (the interactive dinosaur feeding, for example), the museum feels almost back to normal.
2. The Ryedale Hoard exhibition is really special
The Ryedale Hoard is a collection of four tiny but fascinating objects that were discovered by a pair of detectorist friends near Ampleforth in 2020. Buried more than 1,800 years ago, the bust of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was our favourite (and, as our eldest discovered, a good opportunity for a funny photo that we’ll keep for the family album). There’s a plumb bob that the Romans used to create straight lines, an incredibly detailed horse and rider as well as a horse-shaped handle for a key. Nobody knows why these important objects were buried, so it’s a nice little mystery to chat about.
3. There are lots of hands-on activities
Let’s face it – it’s a rare and unusual child who can and would read every interpretation board in a museum and take in every detail. What’s much more likely to engage and get a conversation going is hands-on activities, and there are plenty of those at The Yorkshire Museum: create a stained glass window, build a temple, dress up as a Roman and take off your shoes and walk across a mosaic. There are books to read, toys to play with and fossils to uncover, making it a truly fun place to visit with children.
For as long as we can remember, The Yorkshire Museum has been synonymous with dinosaurs in the minds of the children of York. In fact, it’s only in the last few years that there’s been an entire exhibition dedicated to our scary scaly friends: Jurassic Yorkshire, opened by none other than Sir David Attenborough himself (the invitation to that press preview, with the legend himself in attendance, was probably our most exciting ever).
The exhibition remains in the museum for the foreseeable future and is very appealing to children. We’ve visited a few times, but our kids were just as keen to look at the fossils and measure their height against a dinosaur this time as they were the last time they visited.
5. The setting is ideal for families
Set in the heart of the Museum Gardens, the Yorkshire Museum is in the ideal spot for exploring York. The gardens themselves are stunning, with squirrels to spot, ruins to admire, space to run around and there’s even an ice cream and coffee van for refuelling. It’s close to lots of other excellent places in York for families, from Explore York Library (great children’s section, good cafe), York Art Gallery (hands-on activities, lovely cafe), City Cruises York for a trip along the river and York Theatre Royal (family-friendly cafe, regular children’s shows). It’s also very close to all the sights, shops and cafes of York city centre so you can make a day of it.
Good to know
- – The Yorkshire Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday during term time and every day during the school holidays (11 am to 5 pm)
- – There’s no cafe, but there’s an ice cream van and coffee van within the gardens. You are also just a short stroll from many nice places to eat and drink (have a look at our guide to the best places to eat and drink with kids in York here)
- – York children benefit from free admission, and under-fives go free too. Adult tickets are valid for one year.