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Exciting Things to Do in York for Families

Taking the whole gang on a trip to York? Check out some of the top family-friendly activities in the city

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People walking along The Shambles in front of shops in York, England, UK

York is arguably the perfect place for a family getaway - for a city its size, York has a surprisingly large number of world-class attractions. From exploring spooky dungeons and being a Viking for the day, to mixing magical potions and digging for treasure, there’s hours and hours of fun to be had. We know how things can be when planning a trip with kids. Amongst the packing and organising, it can be hard to sit down and look up things to do, but that's exactly where we come in. Here at Plum Guide, we love nothing more than going above and beyond to ensure our guests have it easy, so you're definitely in the right place. We’ve even put together this expert guide on fun things to do in York for families, so sit back and relax, because we have it all under control.

Take a trip to the National Railway Museum

A close up of train carriage connectors at the National Railway Museum in York, England, UK

A close up of train carriage connectors at the National Railway Museum in York, England, UK

Museums can be hit and miss, but we can guarantee that you won’t hear a single “I’m bored” at this one. Take a journey through time and discover over 100 historic locomotive engines at the National Railway Museum. Get up close and personal with a marvellous collection of royal carriages, or admire the world’s fastest steam locomotive, the Mallard. Learn how high-speed railways came to be, and experience what it’s really like to work within a train station. You can even walk underneath an historic locomotive to see all the inner workings - one for the budding engineers. Before you leave, don’t miss a ride on the miniature railway (yes, adults can hop on too). If you’re visiting during the summer and school holidays, there are plenty of exciting, hands-on events to keep the kids entertained.

Riverside Life, Plum Guide home in York, UK

Riverside Life, Plum Guide home in York, UK

Venture into the spooky York Dungeon

Are the kids (or the adults) brave enough to descend into the eerie York Dungeon? Discover some of the city’s darkest history at this thrilling attraction, dating back over 2,000 years, and truly test your courage. Come face to face with some of York’s most notorious characters, including Guy Fawkes and local witch Isabella Billington, or bump into a fearless Viking warrior hunting for Saxon slaves. If you dare, step into the terrifying torture chamber and feel the wrath of the black plague. Very charming. The whole experience is highly interactive, where you'll see, hear, and even smell York’s bleak past. Through immersive sets, live actors, and gripping special effects, this is an unmissable experience that the whole family will enjoy.

Mannequin, Plum Guide home in York, UK

Mannequin, Plum Guide home in York, UK

Discover York’s Chocolate Story

A plate of blocks of chocolate being covered in dark chocolate sauce

A plate of blocks of chocolate being covered in dark chocolate sauce

For a sweeter type of history, discover the city’s mouthwatering, chocolatey past at York’s Chocolate Story. Take a guided tour to learn about the origins of chocolate, and uncover fascinating secrets about the city’s famous chocolate products - including the Chocolate Orange and the much-loved KitKat. You can even pop into the Chocolate Kitchen and watch experienced chocolatiers make delicious treats. But what would a chocolate museum be without a little nibble of the good stuff? Our favourite part of the whole experience is when you get to be a chocolatier for the day, cooking up and decorating your very own bar to take home. Disclaimer: things may get a little hyperactive with all that sugar. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Cask Ale, Plum Guide home in York, UK

Cask Ale, Plum Guide home in York, UK

Visit the Jorvik Viking Centre

Looking for more unique things to do in York for families? The Jorvik Viking Centre is an unmissable experience, absolutely guaranteed to keep everyone entertained for hours. Discover York’s Viking past to learn how the Jorviks lived, worked, ate and generally how they spent their time. Admire surprisingly well-preserved artefacts, all dug up here in the city, including frying pans, ice skates, and even a fossilised Viking poo (cue the giggles). For a truly immersive experience, take a ride through the model Viking village to experience the sights and smells from back in their day. For more Viking fun, the annual Jorvik Viking Festival has an extensive programme of family-friendly events, lectures, guided walks and battle re-enactments which attract over 40,000 visitors each summer, so plan your visit accordingly.

A Baker's Dozen, Plum Guide home in York, UK

A Baker's Dozen, Plum Guide home in York, UK

Head to DIG: An Archaeological Adventure

A rock of hieroglyphics found through archeology in the desert

A rock of hieroglyphics found through archeology in the desert

Do you have any budding archaeologists in the family? At DIG they can live their dreams and excavate artefacts to their heart’s content. Once they’ve been briefed and armed with a trowel, the kids will head to the four indoor excavation pits to dig up all sorts of Roman, Viking, medieval and Victorian treasures. Youngsters will also get to meet a real-life archaeologist who will answer all their burning questions. Don't worry, there’s fun for the grown ups too - join an adults-only tour to dig deeper into York’s fascinating archaeological history.

Grab a drink at the Potions Cauldron

While there’s a never ending supply of fun in York, a trip to The Potions Cauldron is definitely one of the most exciting things to do in York for families. Located on the historic cobbled street The Shambles, all witches and wizards are welcome to step inside the most magical drinks emporium in the world. You and your little alchemists can mix your own drinkable potions - there’s even a ‘poisonous’ (re: alcoholic) potion for more senior wizards. Visit the secret wizard sanctuary at the back of the shop, once used to hide wizards when they were exiled from York. Before you go, don’t forget to dress up and take a selfie with a 6,000 piece LEGO Hogwarts and bubbling cauldron.

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