How to entertain the kids this summer in York (and surrounds)


July 22, 2013 by talkaboutyork

With state schools breaking up this week, parents all over the country will either be rejoicing, having survived the end of term frenzy, or weeping at the thought of the long summer holidays stretching ahead of them broken only by the background chant of ‘I’m bored’.

I know that my children would happily sit in front of a screen all summer long. But it is my right, nay, my duty, as a mother to insist that they get outside and do something more interesting. If we had a large garden, I would be happy for them to spend their summer days just kicking a ball or bouncing on a trampoline. But we don’t. We live in the city centre so must find alternate things to do.

I am a big believer in letting children entertain themselves. But I know that entertaining themselves usually means me breaking up fights and tidying up inordinate amounts of mess. So I have made a list. My husband would be proud. He is very keen on lists. It’s an ex-military thing I think. And as I have made a list, I thought I would share it with you in case you are scratching your head and wondering how to keep the little blighters busy.

We won’t be doing all of these things. They are my suggestions that I will be putting to my children and they can help me create a calendar of ‘fun days out’ (which no doubt they will one day talk about with their therapists: ‘Mother always took us to stately homes when all we wanted to do was shoot aliens’).

Stuff in York

York Minster revealed. I can almost guarantee that they’ll say no to this one as it involves going into a church, which my children equate to the MOST BORING THING EVER, but I think it looks pretty interesting as it reveals a 2000 year historic journey in the chambers beneath the Minster. For history loving kids, this would be good.

The Treasurer’s House – if you have National Trust membership (I’ll just say here that really if you have kids, just get the membership. Seriously), it is a free way for kids to play traditional games or follow a trail around the house. It’s also meant to be one of the most haunted buildings in York so you can scare the bejesus out of them if they are driving you nuts.

The Yorkshire Museum – situated in Museum Gardens, which in itself is a lovely place to spend a few hours just chilling out with a picnic while the kids chase squirrels, is running a special Richard III exhibition at the moment. From 24 July onwards, kids can make a Boar Badge at 4.30 daily. Good for crafty kids. From 5 – 25 Aug, Richard III will be there in person talking about his life. Another good one for kids into history. Free for York residents and kids.

Museum Gardens – Besides just enjoying the historic ambience of these lovely gardens, every Wednesday in August, you can take part in a range of family activities (11am – 3pm) in Wild Wednesdays. There is also storytelling every Wednesday at 12, 1 and 2, read by well known children’s authors. And it’s free!

Castle Museum – there is always plenty to keep kids entertained at this museum, which for York residents is free. This summer children can become detectives in the Catnapped case and help solve the mystery of the missing cat, looking for clues along the Victorian street. Runs from 3 Aug – 1 Sept. Great for kids who like solving puzzles.

National Railway Museum – I think my boys might say they’re too old for trains, but if you have a trainspotter fan in your house, there are a bunch of speed themed activities on at the NRM this summer, including building your own miniature vehicle and entering it into a race. There are also daily Punch & Judy shows. This museum is free but there may be charges for some of the activities.

Jorvik Heroes – the Jorvik Viking centre is always a hit with kids, but this summer they are putting on a special exhibition all about some of the colourful, heroic characters from the Viking era like Cnut the Great and Eric Bloodaxe. The names alone might get my children there. See the website for prices.

The Legend of King Arthur – the York Theatre Royal is putting on this show from 24 July – 31 August. We bought tickets for this months ago and we are all looking forward to it. But it’s not just the show. The theatre is holding free activities most days like stocks with sponges, birds of prey demonstrations and jousting. All free! For ticket holders, you can get to the theatre early and explore the backstage areas as part of a quest. For £5, you can book your child into Knight School for an hour (12 – 1 each day) or for £4 they can attend a Heraldry Workshop.

Rowntree Park or Homestead Park – two fab parks for lazy days where kids can kick a ball, play on playground kit or have a picnic. Rowntree Park also features the Library Cafe, making it easy for kids to get on with their summer reading challenge.

Cycle paths – get on your bikes and just cycle some of the amazing cycle paths all around York. If your kids are up for a reasonably long ride, try the Millennium Bridge to Naburn ride, ending at the Blacksmiths Arms for a pub lunch. As you cycle, you will pass a series of solar system sculptures that shows how far apart the planets are.

On the outskirts of York

Wired High Ropes – this is something my children nag to go to all the time. I tend to say no as it’s expensive (£17 per child) but it will be a treat they can do once. They basically get a harness and have to dangle themselves off high things. My idea of hell, but I get to sit back and have a coffee while they do that. If you have younger children (it’s suitable for 7 year olds and up), you can try Creepy Crawlies next door which has a huge indoor and outdoor play space.

Piglets Adventure Farm – again this is good for younger children, although I think if my boys went there they’d still have fun, as it features crazy golf, football zone, go kart racing, animal petting, pick your own, obstacles courses and a whole lot more. Good to go with a bunch of friends, take a picnic and just have a natter while the kids go wild for a while. Cost is £6.75 per child, £5.75 per adult.

York Maze – this is an award winning maze made up of maize fields bigger than ten Wembley football fields. There are loads of things to do here, including a Kernel Kernel’s challenge. But it doesn’t come cheap! For a family of four you’re looking at £42.

Beningbrough Hall – another National Trust property just on the outskirts of York, there is a range of activities on for kids, like art workshops, a Postman Pat exhibit, a big play weekend where you can make dens and find bugs, or an evening with Alice in Wonderland. See the website for details.

Further afield

North Yorkshire Moors Railway – this is something we still haven’t done so may well be having a go this summer. It costs £48 for a family to travel on this old steam train from Pickering to Whitby. A great mini adventure to head to the seaside by train for the day. While in Whitby, on selected weekends over summer, you can learn all about Dracula at Whitby Abbey (another English Heritage property) and take part in the princess and knights school.

Dalby Forest – stick your kids bikes on a bike rack and head off to Dalby Forest, where there are miles and miles of cycle tracks to go explore. There’s also a playpark, Go Ape (if you are brave enough to go up high, which I’m not) and much more. But in summer, there are also loads of Discovery Club days – like finding out about the animals that live there, bird watching, pond dipping and minibeasts. For something slightly different, call Jane on 01723 882295 and ask about the Badger Watch that takes place on selected date between 8 and 10pm. Cost is £12 but for animal lovers who want a late night adventure, this could be fun.

Rievaulx Abbey – one of the English Heritage properties (again, worth getting membership) is holding an Abbey Quest throughout summer in which kids can seek out the monks amongst the abbey ruins.

Bolton Abbey – in the Yorkshire Dales, this Abbey makes a brilliant day out. Take a picnic and just let the kids splash in the river if it’s a hot day. There are welly walks held every day of the summer holidays and plenty of trails for kids to do too. £7 a vehicle

Fountains Abbey – another National Trust property offering outdoor fun for kids. Grab a compass and map to find the X that marks the spot. A great way for kids to get out exploring. From 24 July.

Castle Howard – always a fun day out with a great play area for kids, over the summer WonderPhil Wednesdays will be held, well every Wednesday. This includes magic shows or theatre. See the website for details.

Yorkshire Coast – National Trust run several different guided walks from Ravenscar, the coastguard station at Robin Hood’s bay and Cleveland Way like Summer Sea Watch, a 1.5 mile walk looking out for sea birds and mammals, a five mile discovery trail, geocaching and rock pool rambles. See the link for details.

The National Trust is also offering camping at some of its properties if you fancy a night or two under canvas. And make sure you do their list of 50 things to do before you’re 11 and three quarters. I do not work for the National Trust (in case you’re wondering, I just think what they, and English Heritage, offer is great).

There are also the usual sports camps – try Multicamps at St Peters School or Activate Sports Camps held at The Mount School or York University.

Finally, take a look at Alastair Humphrey’s website for some suggestions on how to have microadventures. The whole point is to get out and try something different, perhaps a little challenging but something that will make your kids feel as though they have really lived this summer.

Happy holidays!


5 thoughts on “How to entertain the kids this summer in York (and surrounds)

  1. indreamworld says:

    The Homestead’s brilliant. I used to go there when I was a child, and now take my kids there whenever we’re back in the area!
    Had a lovely afternoon last weekend with a picnic and a football! 🙂

  2. barbedwords says:

    Wow, loads to do in the York area!

  3. […] I presented my list of activities to the boys. We can tick off Homestead Park, Yorkshire Museum and Museum Gardens, as […]

  4. […] in Turkey, going to Cowes Regatta, trips to Whitby and just plenty of getting out and about in York and Yorkshire (I can tick that new year resolution off – I have definitely explored this […]

  5. […] I presented my list of activities to the boys. We can tick off Homestead Park, Yorkshire Museum and Museum Gardens, as […]

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