3-Day Family-Friendly Weekend in York

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Advisor - Sarah Henderson
Curated By

Sarah Henderson

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Family Travel

  • England

  • Local Travel

  • History

castle amid a grassy lawn
Curator’s statement

Nestled in the rolling hills of Yorkshire, England, the city of York is a hidden gem for family travel. It is full of fascinating history, astounding architecture and engaging interactive experiences. Tip: Check for special events happening during your visit, especially in the summer months. York has many outdoor plays, museum activities, festivals and other events that you wouldn’t want to miss while you are in town.

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Day 1: Settle in and explore the town

dark alley way

Parking is limited inside the city walls of York, so I recommend arriving via train. The train ride from London is a little over two hours, about 2 ½ hours from Edinburgh, and around two hours from Manchester. You could hire a car to take you to your hotel from the train station, but York is entirely walkable. In just a few blocks, you’ll be at your hotel.

After you settle in, get out and walk the town! Walk through the historic Shambles, enjoy some light shopping and, if you have time, walk the walls. York’s ancient walls encircle the old town and offer beautiful views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Tip: Be on the lookout for decorative cat statues throughout the old town. They are on the sides and tops of buildings and sometimes sitting on window sills. See who can spy the most cat statues during your three days in York!

For dinner, try The Star Inn the City for a delicious Yorkshire meal complete with drink selections for every dish. Another great option is Drake’s Fish and Chips, which offers both counter and table service. Order the gravy instead of tarter sauce with your fish and chips for an authentic Yorkshire delight.

Day 2: Architecture & history

street view through a window

After breakfast, begin your morning with a brisk walk up the 275 steps to the top of the York Minster. Completed in 1472, the York Minster is an architectural wonder. I recommend this adventure early in the day while everyone still has lots of energy. There are a lot of steps up a winding staircase, but totally worth it. The views of the countryside from the top are unparalleled, but it’s the stunning medieval architecture that will astound you. After your climb back down, explore the interior of the Minster, learn about its history, and enjoy the sounds of the massive pipe organ. Tip: Don’t miss exploring the crypt beneath the minster.

There are many choices for lunch in York. Try Skosh or The Ivy or grab a quick bite at a café or pub in the Shambles and continue exploring.

After lunch, there are two great options to learn about the ancient history of York. You could step back into the Viking age at The Jorvik Viking Center where you can take a ride through a replica Viking village, complete with authentic smells of the era. The ride is also a nice chance to rest any tired little legs in your group. Another option to delve into York’s history is Dig: An Archeological Adventure. This interactive museum is a great way for kids under 12 to learn about the fascinating history of York. If you have time, try to fit in a visit to Clifford’s Tower, built in the 13th century, for even more history.

After a full day of adventure and exploring, it’s time for a nice dinner at L’Osteria Italiana near Clifford’s Tower. Built in the home of a Georgian architect, they offer delicious Italian dishes and a comprehensive children’s menu.

If you are traveling with teens or adventurous youngsters, the evening is a great time to check out the York Dungeon or take one of the many ghost tours to complete your day with a spooky and memorable night!

Day 3: Market, chocolate & trains

illuminated back street at night

This is your last day in York. If the weather is nice, grab a quick breakfast at the Shambles’ outdoor market. Stroll among the booths and support the work of local artisans.

Next, head over to York’s Chocolate Tour for an immersive history of the chocolate industry in York, the home of the Kit Kat, but, surprisingly, NOT the York Peppermint Patty. The best part of the tour is that everyone gets to make their own candy bar to take home with them!

Grab lunch at Dyls, a café in an historic bridge motor house at the Skeldergate bridge. They specialize in locally sourced fresh bites and creative cocktails. Next to this cafe is a quaint little park on the river’s edge, The Tower Gardens, with intricately designed topiaries to explore.

Before you leave town, stop by the National Railway Museum of York to see historic trains of Britain’s past. This museum is conveniently located right next to the York train station. Be aware that they are only open Wednesdays through Sundays.

It is time to leave the fascinating city of York. Hop back on the train where you can spend the trip planning your next visit!

Need to Know

Looking for more travel tips? Check out Fora Advisor Erin Jones' beginner's guide to London.

Advisor - Sarah Henderson

Travel Advisor

Sarah Henderson

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to England.