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The Forbidden Corner in Yorkshire – a magical and mysterious family attraction with surprises around every corner – our review and top tips

The Forbidden Corner in Yorkshire – a magical and mysterious family attraction with surprises around every corner – our review and top tips

We take our children to the Forbidden Corner in the Yorkshire Dales to see if it lives up to the hype

What is it?

The Forbidden Corner is a weird and wonderful family attraction, billed as the strangest place in the world.

This four-acre garden is a maze of paths, mysterious tunnels, doors, steps and underground chambers. Plus, quirky statues, strange noises and jets of water catching people unawares.

It was first created for private use and later opened to the public.

Where is it?

It is in Leyburn in North Yorkshire, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

What did we think?

This is a unique family attraction, unlike anywhere else we have been. Our children were quite scared in parts but came away saying they had loved it.

Watch our exclusive video before reading our highlights and top tips below!

Highlights

*The ‘map’ you are given upon entry is not a map. There is no route, it shows you pictures of all the things you need to find in the garden, in no particular order, so take a pen to tick them off. There is no way to tell how big the site is or where anything is, it is a labyrinth with endless nooks and crannies to explore.

A big eye hole at Forbidden Corner

*We got there when it opened (11am the day we went) and there were only a few people waiting to get in, plus it never felt too busy as they limit numbers via booked entry times. You can stay as long as you want so I understand it may get much busier later on.

*There are several parts where you may get wet. Your movement triggers water sprays that will catch you if you stop. These bits are fun for children to run through, once they have built up the courage.

*When you think you must have seen everything, you find a whole new section or more paths to try.

*The carved wooden play area is beautiful.

The play area at the Forbidden Corner

The play area

*The cafe is reasonably priced with good options for children.

The cafe at the Forbidden Corner

The cafe

Top tips

*Don’t just turn up, you are unlikely to get in, you must book in advance and they limit numbers to prevent overcrowding. Book via the website.

*The first surprise you come to is a giant square head (main picture) – you make your way through its large mouth and it makes a loud burping noise as you pass its throat – if your children are scared of this as ours were, there are small paths each side to bypass it. They can maybe try it later if they’re feeling braver (our son later did it twice).

*There are other parts that can be frightening to some younger children or anyone who might be claustrophobic or frighten easily – in fact the whole experience is equivalent to a mildly scary haunted house at a theme park. It is free to children aged three and under because of this. There are underground parts that you can avoid – including the ‘mausoleum’ which has warnings outside and is not for the faint-hearted – our children didn’t do this bit.

A boy looks up at a giant woodcutter statue at the Forbidden Corner

*There is a word hunt where you look for brass letters and make rubbings of them, which adds excitement.

*To find everything, you have to explore every path and every option and some lead to dead ends. Check all the doors even if they look like they won’t open. Some parts are easy to miss like the play area or the little garden off it with a fountain which has a ‘show’ every 15 minutes.

*Make sure everyone goes to the toilet before entering the garden! There is apparently a toilet in the garden, but we never found it. There is one toilet in the play area, others where you queue to get in and outside by the car park.

*Try to stay together as it would be easy to lose each other and there is patchy phone signal. Keep hold of toddlers particularly as there can be steep steps around a corner or various paths to navigate and you won’t know which they have taken.

*If you need accommodation, there are apartments and barn conversions next to the entrance to Forbidden Corner. This was fully booked when we looked and we ended up staying at a youth hostel 25 minutes away, with stunning surroundings, see here for our review.

*You exit through a gift shop but the prices are reasonable.

*Forbidden Corner has special ‘blue days’ where you get four tickets for the price of three.

Forbidden corner information

Food: There are tables in the garden but picnics are restricted to a spot near to the car park. There’s a nice, reasonably priced cafe with children’s meals like pizza and chips and spaghetti bolognese (£3.45), plus jacket potatoes, paninis, pies (£2.10) and sandwiches. And cakes (special mention for the divine caramel and chocolate cake I devoured).

The children's menu at Forbidden Corner

There is also a restaurant next to the car park.

Opening hours: Open every day for around seven months of the year. Opening hours vary and you will be given an entry time when you book online (don’t just turn up). If you want to book on the day, call 01969 640638.

Cost: Adults £13, children (four to 15) £11, children three and under free, family ticket (two adults and two children) £46.

Best for: Ages seven to 12.

Time needed: At least three hours.

Access and restrictions: You can not take a pushchair or pram around, there are steps and narrow paths. It is also not suitable for wheelchairs. Dogs are not allowed at Forbidden Corner, only guide dogs.

Address: The Forbidden Corner, Tupgill Park Estate, Coverham, Middleham, Leyburn, North Yorkshire. Use the postcode DL8 4TQ for sat navs.

Have you been to the Forbidden Corner? What did you think? We’d love to hear from you.

We were given free entry for the purpose of this review, all views are our own.

Jorvik Viking Centre in York – our review and tips

Jorvik Viking Centre in York – our review and tips

We take our children to Jorvik Viking Centre as part of a trip to York

What is it?

Jorvik Viking Centre is a recreation of life in York – or Jorvik as it was known then – when the Vikings were in charge nearly 1,000 years ago. It was re-opened following a major investment and renovation in 2017. It features a gentle ride through a recreation of 10th century York. Plus you can see its collection of artefacts.

Where is it?

Right in the middle of York on Coppergate, one of the city’s busiest shopping streets. The centre is on the exact site where archaeologists unearthed remains of houses and workshops.

What did we think

The recreation is very well done and the museum is clean, shiny and new but it is a fairly short attraction. Apart from the ride there isn’t a lot for little ones to see and do. Some children would be more interested, particularly if they are interested in the Vikings. But it may be more suitable for older children.

Highlights

*The clever glass floor as you enter the building shows where the archaeologists unearthed their information and explains how it happened in the 1970s.

*The new ride is the main attraction. A 10-minute journey through Viking York complete with 22 animatronic characters detailing all aspects of Viking life. It is very well done, very interesting and gives children a real insight into life in the 10th century. You travel past houses, workshops and street scenes from Jorvik in a ‘time capsule’ – a machine on rails which sits three passengers in the front and three in the back, each with their own TV screen and commentary of their choice coming through speakers in their seats.

*There are enthusiastic talks which are suitable for children in a room holding all the artefacts discovered here. The collection is interesting but a bit dull and formal for youngsters with everything (understandably) safely behind glass.

Our top tips

*Queues can be long. Head here first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. Once you are inside there isn’t more than a five to 10 minute wait to get on the ride.

*When you enter into the first room and see the excavated ground under glass beneath your feet, send one adult into the queue to join the ride straight away while the other adult entertains and shows the children around. This will save you time.

*Parts of the ride are dark and some bits quite smelly, which is extremely authentic but may put off some children with sensory issues.

*The ride itself is slow and gentle with a child’s commentary option available through speakers in the seat. There is also French, German, Japanese and Spanish commentary available.

Jorvik Viking Centre information

Food: No food outlets at the site but it is in the town centre with cafes and restaurants nearby.

Opening hours: April to October 10am to 5pm, November to March 10am to 4pm.

Cost: Adult £12, child (5-16) £8, under 5s free. Family of four £32, family of five £36 or buy a York Pass*

Best for: Ages six and above.

Time needed: one hour.

Access and restrictions:

Wheelchair users: Wheelchair users must pre-book. Access is restricted to one wheelchair user at a time. There are lifts and one of the ride capsules is modified to suit a wheelchair.

Austism: A visual story is available from the Jorvik website to explain the attraction in advance to visitors with autism.

Address: Coppergate Shopping Centre, 19 Coppergate, York, YO1 9WT.

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*A York Pass is the city’s official sightseeing card. Once you buy one, you have access to over 40 attractions in York and beyond.

We were given York Passes for review purposes all views are our own.

Our 10 tips for visiting York with children

Our 10 tips for visiting York with children

Learn from our mistakes! Read our advice for families before you head to York plus check out the best ways to get there

 *Plan your City Walls walk

The medieval walls  encircle the city of York. As they are elevated they are the best way to see the city and you can walk along them for free. There are two miles in total but there are only certain places you can get on and off. There are also steep drops in some places so hold hands with any little ones. They are open from 8am until dusk.

York city walls and daffodils

York city walls

*Always walk

The city centre is fairly compact and we found that walking is definitely the best way to get around. Driving is slow and parking is expensive, buses are infrequent without many city centre stops.

*The York Minster

York Minster may be one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals but children may quickly get bored somewhere like this. So make sure you get given a treasure hunt there to keep them occupied. Ours loved it. However some of the clues are really hard, ask the Minster guides for help otherwise it will take ages!

*Book, book, book for Dig and York’s Chocolate Story

If you want to do these popular attractions then book in advance. Dig allows children to be archaeologists and shows them artefacts found beneath the streets of York from Roman, Viking, Victorian and medieval times. For the full Dig archeological experience, book ahead at busy times or you will only be allowed to look around a small part of the building.

York's Chocolate Story exterior

York’s Chocolate Story exterior

York’s Chocolate Story takes you on a tour of the city’s chocolate-making history. It’s great but only takes 25 people every 15 minutes so gets very busy. Again, book ahead.

*Jorvik Viking Centre

This is built on the site of amazing archaeology finds and incudes a ride and then a display. When we went there was a huge queue so we recommend you go early or late in the day. Once you are inside there is a small excavation room where you will queue again for the ride back into Viking York. This queue won’t be more than around 10 minutes.

*National Railway Museum

There is free entry to the National Railway Museum but you pay extra for rides you might want to do once inside such as a steam ride and a miniature train ride. To save time, buy tickets for those in the entrance hall, that is quicker and they take cards as well as cash. Also the best route starts with the Great Hall first.

Trains at the National Railway Museum

National Railway Museum

*Shambles

This famous shopping street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films. The bottom, southern end of the narrow, medieval street is the place for fans to head with four or five shops dedicated to the popular wizard including The Shop That Must Not Be Named.

The SHop that must not be Named at Shambles in York

Shambles

*River Cruise

Save your legs and cut down on walking by starting your boat ride with York City Cruises at Lendal Bridge near York Minster but getting off at the King’s Staith stop which is closer to the very centre of the city.

City Cruise York - a boat on a tour on the River Ouse

City Cruises York on the River Ouse

*York Pass

If you are visiting more than three attractions, you will save time and money with a York Pass – the city’s official sightseeing card. You can buy one, two, three or six-day passes with entry included to 40 attractions (20 of them inside York’s city walls). One-day passes for adults cost £40 and £28 for children. If you are visiting one or two attractions it probably won’t be worth buying a pass.

*Park and Ride

If you are a day visitor then using one of York’s seven park and ride sites is the easiest way into the city centre and your children get a free bus ride too. There are six sites around the edge of the city.

How to get to York?

By car – It is 20 minutes from the M1 and M62 motorways. There are six park and ride sites around the city to leave your vehicle.

By train – York is on the East Coast mainline, two hours from London.

By coach – There is a direct service with National Express from many cities.

By air – The nearest airports are Leeds, Bradford and Doncaster. There is also a direct rail link from Manchester Airport.

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The National Railway Museum in York – our review and tops tips

The National Railway Museum in York – our review and tops tips

What is it?

The National Railway Museum houses the world’s greatest collection of railway items. It includes dozens of famous trains from the last 200 years.

Where is it?

Near York Railway Station just outside the city walls, about a 15-minute walk from York Minster.

What did we think?

If your child loves trains you won’t go wrong here and there is enough hands-on history for the average visitor too. The pay-as-you-go rides aren’t the most thrilling though so choose carefully.

Highlights

Mallard at the National Railway Museum

Mallard

*Living history. Head for the Mallard – the fastest steam train ever which sits proudly in the Great Hall. There is also a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket, the first steam powered train, and dozens of other locomotives.

*Royal Carriages – peak inside Queen Victoria’s royal train and see what Kings and Queens over the centuries have travelled in. This is a fascinating glimpse into luxury rail travel.

Queen Victoria's carriage

Queen Victoria’s royal carriage

*The only Japanese bullet train outside of Japan is a chance to learn about what was the fastest train in the world. You can step on board and watch a video about life on the railways in the Far East. There are talks daily at the museum including one about this train.

*If the full-size trains are too big, then under-fives will enjoy the play area, tucked in a corner of the Great Hall.

Our top tips 

*The biggest and most interesting room is the Great Hall housing famous trains like Mallard, Stephenson’s Rocket and the Japanese bullet train – go here first even though the natural route takes you to the Station Hall at the start.

*Entry is free but you can buy tickets for rides at the entrance hall – a miniature railway, short trip on a steam train, Mallard simulator and a road train which travels between the museum and York Minster. Each ride cost £3 or £4 per person. Some of the ticket machines at each ride only take cash and the queues are longer. Save yourself time by buying all the tickets you want at the start.

*Try and park at the museum if you can or take the road train from York Minster (£3 per person). It is an awkward and not especially pleasant walk from the city centre through a smelly underpass around the back of York Railway Station.

The National Railway Museum information

Food: You can eat in seats from a Victorian dining car in the Station Hall which serves hearty restaurant meals. There are snacks and cakes at the cafe in the Great Hall and an ice cream shop outside in the Courtyard.

Opening hours: Daily, 10am to 5pm in winter, 10am to 6pm in summer.

Cost: Entry is free but some rides are pay as you go (each one £3 or £4 per person).

Best for: Ages three to 10 and anyone who loves trains.

Time needed: two to three hours.

Access and restrictions: It is a flat site with lifts available for some areas if needed. Disabled toilets are available. Wheelchairs are available for use at the entrance and mobility scooters are for hire for £5. Assistance is available for visitors with visual and hearing impairments.

Address: National Railway Museum York, Leeman Rd, York, YO26 4XJ.

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Review: Staycity Aparthotel York – how does our family rate this city centre accommodation?

Review: Staycity Aparthotel York – how does our family rate this city centre accommodation?

Does Staycity in York offer the best of both worlds for families, with an apartment and a hotel in one?

Aparthotels are a growing type of accommodation, especially in major cities.

The idea is to offer the facilities you would expect from a hotel, with the space and freedom of an apartment.

Staycity is one of the largest operators with aparthotels across Britain, Ireland and France. 

We tested their York aparthotel to see if it was a good option for families and better for children.

 

Where is it?

Staycity Aparthotel York It is at the southern end of York city centre, just outside the city walls, next to the Barbican centre.

What is it?

Staycity describe their aparthotels as a perfect blend of home and hotel, in city centre locations. This one was built in 2016.

Is it family friendly?

Yes, when we stayed here, we found it excellent, our apartment was roomy with everything we needed and was much more relaxing than a cramped hotel room.

The lounge/diner/kitchen in our room at Staycity Aparthotel York

Our lounge/diner/kitchen area

The rooms

There are 197 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Ours was a two-bedroomed apartment with two modern bathrooms and a lounge/kitchen/diner with cooker, microwave dishwasher and all kitchen equipment.

A bedroom at Staycity Aparthotel York

The main bedroom had an en-suite, tv and double bed. The second bedroom had twin beds.

The second bedroom at Staycity Aparthotel York

Food and drink

There is a relaxed café in reception where we ate a simple buffet breakfast for £7.95 per adult. Children’s breakfast is free (up to two children free per paying adult).

The reception/cafe area at Staycity Aparthotel York

The reception/cafe area at Staycity Aparthotel York

There is a Co-op store next door if you want to cook for yourself. Staycity is also near to several restaurants. We ate in a nice Italian called Totos.

Nearby

The aparthotel is just outside the city walls, a five-minute walk from the city centre and near to lots of attractions including York Castle Museum.

Our highlights

*Our children could have their own room.

*The modern bathrooms.

Our bathroom at Staycity Aparthotel York

Our bathroom

*Towels are provided.

*The fully-equipped kitchen.

The dining area in oour room

The dining area in our apartment

*As many guests eat in their apartments, breakfast was a relaxed affair despite there being only a few tables. 

*Guests get discounted car parking at a multi-storey car park behind the hotel for £11 per day. We left our car here for the duration of our stay and walked everywhere.

*There is a gym and a laundry, although we didn’t use them and 24-hour reception.

Address

Staycity Aparthotel York, Paragon Street, York, YO10 4AH. 

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We were given free accommodation for review purposes. All views are our own.

 

 

Chocolate factory fun – we review York’s Chocolate Story

Chocolate factory fun – we review York’s Chocolate Story

York’s Chocolate Story – exploring the city’s rich history at this attraction

What is it?

York is known as the City of Chocolate. 

Kit Kat, Aero, Smarties, After Eight, Yorkie, Chocolate Orange and Black Magic were all created in York.

York’s Chocolate Story is an attraction where you are given a guided, interactive tour which takes you through the history of chocolate-making in York.

It is set over three floors – it’s not a huge building but it is laid out well.

Where is it?

It is in King’s Square, in the heart of York at the top of the Shambles.

What did we think?

This was my favourite part of our trip to York. An excellent guide led us through the different sections. My children enjoyed it too even though my daughter doesn’t actually like chocolate (a bonus for me as she gave me all hers)!

Inside York's Chocolate Story

Inside York’s Chocolate Story

Highlights

*The ‘free’ samples you get along the way, starting with chocolate how it used to be made.

*The clever chat between founders of the city’s chocolate dynasties in framed pictures, interacting with each other and also with the guide. As the guide handed around a tin of Quality Street, one even says: “That’s not very Yorkshire!”

*A lesson in the best way to eat chocolate.

*Making and decorating chocolate lollipops (then eating them just-set later, yum).

*Watching chocolates being made in a mould and then getting to taste the results.

Our top tips 

*Book in advance, especially in the school holidays, don’t expect to just walk in. Tours run every 15 minutes at peak periods but take a maximum of 25 people.

*There is a film shown at one point which may be frightening to some children, with scenes of ancient combat. It was in the second area of the tour, in a small theatre. We sat at the front and I wish we’d sat at the back.

The film shown at York's Chocolate Story

The film might be a little frightening to some children

*Children under four are free of charge but buggies may not be allowed during busy periods.

York chocolate facts

*Five million Kit Kats are produced in York every day – more than oen billion every year.

*The Rowntree factory once employed 14,000 staff.

*Terry’s first created the Chocolate Apple before the Chocolate Orange. There was also a Chocolate Lemon in the 1980s.

York produces 80,000 tonnes of confectionery a year

Kit Kat is very popular in Japan where the name sounds like ‘kitto katsu’ – a Japanese phrase that means “surely you will succeed”.

York’s Chocolate Story information

Food: There is a café and shop at the start/end of the tour.

Opening hours: From 10am daily. Last tour at 4 or 5pm depending on the season.

Cost: Adult £12.95, child (aged 4-15) £10.50, children under four free, family of four £41.95 and family of five £49.95. Or buy a York Pass*.

Best for: Ages six and above

Time needed: One hour

Access and restrictions: A lift can be used to access all floors and there is an accessible toilet.

Most guests will stand throughout but there are a few chairs in each room.

Allergies: The chocolate products are produced in an environment where nuts may be present. Nut free, dairy free and gluten free chocolate is available on request.

Address: York’s Chocolate Story, King’s Square, York, Y01 7LD

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*A York Pass is the city’s official sightseeing card. Once you buy one, you have access to over 40 attractions in York and beyond.
We were given York Passes for review purposes all views are our own.

 

 

 

 

 

York Castle Museum – read our review and top tips

York Castle Museum – read our review and top tips

We take our two children to this museum in the walled city of York

What is it?

York Castle Museum is dedicated to 400 years of York’s history with a recreated Victorian Street, the prison cells which held Dick Turpin and lots of exhibitions on everything from toys to fashion and music.

Where is it?

At the southern end of York city centre, next to the Clifford’s Tower landmark.

What did we think?

The museum is an eclectic mix of exhibits but there is plenty of interest for families and children aged over five. The Victorian street and prison are probably the most interesting. The displays are well done but it could benefit from more interactive, hands-on experiences for children.

Highlights

*Kirkgate: The Victorian Street – if your child has studied this period of history at school then this is the place to come. It is the oldest recreated Victorian street in Britain. With the sights and smells of a cobbled Victorian high street, it includes a toy shop, a school, a police station, horse and cart and more.

A Victorian Street at York Castle Museum

The Victorian street

Every shop on the street is based on a real York business which existed between 1870 and 1901. Visitors can explore the nooks and crannies and buy sweets from actors in the Victorian sweet shop.

A sweet shop seller in a Victorian street at York Castle Museum

A Victorian sweet shop

*York Castle Prison. Go inside the cell which held highwayman Dick Turpin on this walk around York prison, which has been on the site for 1,000 years. Each cell has a video projected on the wall telling the stories of people who were held and worked at the prison. Some of this would be scary for young children. Our four-year-old skipped the first bit.

*Toy Stories. A fun room dedicated to toys through the decades. Unfortunately, most of it is behind glass or barriers but our children enjoyed discovering about their parents’ and grandparents’ toys. There is a small castle-themed play area at one end.

Our top tips 

*The museum is quite large and winding. The major highlights are in the middle and end so don’t be afraid to speed through some of the first sections.

*A few parts are dark and may frighten young children, especially some corners of Kirkgate: The Victorian Street and the York Castle Prison section which has noisy videos and dark corridors. You can skip around the prison section easily by following the signs.

A kitchen from the 1940s

A kitchen from the 1940s

*The museum is split into two halves with the toy stories and Victorian street on one side and the Sixties exhibition and prison on the other. Most people head for the Victorian street side first so if it is busy visit the prison part at the beginning and come back to the other side later on.

*There is no storage facility on site so you must carry all bags around with you. Buggies can be left at the entrance though.

York Castle Museum information

York Castle Museum exterior

Food: Cafe 68 in the entrance hall serves lunch, cakes and drinks. There are meal options specifically for children.

Opening hours: Daily, 9.30am to 5pm

Cost: Adult £11, up to four children free (under 16) with one paying adult. Or buy a York Pass*.

Best for: ages five to 10

Time needed: two to three hours

Access and restrictions: The main entrance area is fully accessible and the Victorian Street, which takes up the other side of the ground floor, is accessible via a wheelchair ramp.

The York Castle Prison and The Sixties exhibition are also fully accessible.

A lift is available for some of the upper floors but only on one side of the building.

Only two wheelchair users are allowed in the museum at a time.

Address: York City Museum, Eye of York, York, YO1 9RY. Use the postcode YO1 9WD if you are using sat nav. The nearest car park is the Castle car park next to the museum.

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A York Pass is the city’s official sightseeing card. Once you buy one, you have access to over 40 attractions in York and beyond.
We were given York Passes for review purposes all views are our own.

Chocolate, Harry Potter, trains and Vikings – all the ingredients for a family trip to York

Chocolate, Harry Potter, trains and Vikings – all the ingredients for a family trip to York

York with children – the City of Chocolate is rich in history, but will it prove a sweet treat for this family?

Our children jumped up and down in excitement when we said we were going to York. 

When our daughter asked about the aeroplane and our son mentioned Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, we realised they thought we were spending our two-day break in the Big Apple. 

Thankfully they were still pleased when we explained that York is walled city in northern England. 

Our Harry Potter-mad son was especially keen when we said we would visit the real-life Diagon Alley.

Shambles – Diagon Alley

Shambles – the oldest shopping street in Europe – was the inspiration for the wizarding street in the films and it didn’t disappoint.

The SHop that must not be Named at Shambles in York

Shambles

A few businesses in this narrow medieval lane have capitalised on the link – The Shop That Must Not Be Named and other wizarding stories were selling Harry Potter wands and other goodies.

The City of Chocolate

York is also famous for chocolate. Its popular products include Rowntree’s Kit Kats, Smarties and Aero and Terry’s Chocolate Orange and All Gold.

So, a guided tour at York’s Chocolate Story was top of my wish list (make sure you book in advance, it’s popular).

York's Chocolate Story exterior

We learned about the city’s famous chocolate-making families and how to eat chocolate like an expert.

Best of all we had some ‘free’ samples along the way and got to make chocolate lollipops!

For our full review of York’s Chocolate Story read here.

York Minster

York is great to explore on foot – all the attractions we did were within walking distance and lots of the centre is pedestrianised.

Presiding over it all is the city’s huge 13th-century Gothic cathedral, York Minster.

It is magnificent but we feared our eight and four-year-old might still find it dull. Thankfully, they were given a treasure trail and binoculars which saved the day.

A girl uses binocular to look for items off a treasure trail inside York Minster cathedral.

On a treasure trail

Also go armed with facts if you can – ours liked hearing that it took 250 years to build and is 160 metres long, for example.

York Castle Museum

Most of the activities we enjoyed celebrated the rich history of this city, which was founded by the ancient Romans.

York Castle Museum doesn’t go back quite this far but it does showcase 400 years of York’s past.

A Victorian Street at York Castle Museum

The Victorian street

Our son’s school topic this term is the Victorians. So, a replica Victorian Street here really grabbed his interest. 

A sweet shop seller in a Victorian street at York Castle Museum

A Victorian sweet shop

Toy exhibits were also a highlight, along with old prison cells which held criminals including highwayman Dick Turpin.

For our review of York Castle Museum and tips, click here

National Railway Museum

Another place with a huge collection is the National Railway Museum, home to around 60 vehicles

Trains at the National Railway Museum

National Railway Museum

Our favourites here included the collection of royal train saloons. You can peep through the windows to see the lounge and bedroom carriages on trains used by monarchs from Queen Victoria through to Queen Elizabeth II. For a full review and pictures, see here.

Entry here is free but you have to pay for extras – a ride on a miniature train cost £10 for the four of us. For our full review and tips, click here

Jorvik Viking Centre

Next we had to travel further back in time to discover The Vikings.

Jorvik Viking Centre is built on the site of amazing archaeology finds.

It tells the story of an excavation in the 1970s which pieced together the story of the Vikings of Jorvik.

A ride takes you around recreations of 10th century York, then you can see 1,000-year-old artefacts from the dig on display.

Figures seen as part of the ride at Jorvik Viking Centre

Jorvik Viking Centre

There was a long queue to get in when we visited – apparently it is quieter first thing and around 3pm.

Our eight and four-year-old were not as interested in this attraction but their eagerness to get around quickly may have had more to do with the fact it was nearly lunchtime. 

City Cruises York

We found a nice warm place with a great view to eat our picnic – aboard a York City Cruise.

This 45-minute ride up and down the River Ouse was accompanied by excellent commentary from the driver.

City Cruise York - a boat on a tour on the River Ouse

City Cruises York on the River Ouse

And it was nice to relax for a bit amid all the activities.

Staycity Aparthotel York

After a day of history we were able to enjoy the modern comforts of our base – Staycity York.

This aparthotel was built in 2016 and has studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.

The lounge/diner/kitchen in our room at Staycity Aparthotel York

Our lounge/diner/kitchen area

We had a roomy two-bedroomed apartment with a lounge/dining/kitchen area and two modern bathrooms. It was fully equipped with everything you could need including a cooker, microwave and dishwasher.

A bedroom at Staycity Aparthotel York

But it also has he benefits of a hotel – there’s a gym, café, laundry and 24-hour reception. Plus there’s a nearby multi-storey car park where you get a discount – we left our car here for the whole trip.

Staycity York is in a good spot next to the Barbican theatre (for our full review click here). We could even see part of the city walls we had walked earlier from our room.

York City Walls

The walls are the longest medieval walls in England at over two miles.

York city walls and daffodils

York city walls

There are some good views but make sure to keep hold of little ones as only the higher drops seem to have railings.

Conclusion

Cobbled streets, tea rooms, a city steeped in history and a bit of Harry Potter thrown in made for a magical two days.

New York can take a back seat. Our children love old York.

For more ideas and information go to the VisitYork website.

York Pass

A York Pass is the city’s official sightseeing card. It gives you free to more than 40 attractions in York and beyond. For more information see here.

We were given York Passes for the purpose of this review (all views are our own).

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We were given free accommodation for the purpose of this review. All views are our own.

 

 
 
Read our review of a family day out at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum in the north of England

Read our review of a family day out at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum in the north of England

Our top tips for taking children to this popular museum in Halifax

What is it?

Eureka! isn’t a place with just a children’s section, a children’s corner – it’s completely dedicated to little ones.

This interactive museum aims to make learning fun for children aged 0 to 11.

Where is it?

It has been open for 25 years in the centre of Halifax, next to Halifax Railway Station.

The museum has six zones:

All About Me

We loved this part of the museum, an interactive learning area about health and the human body.

You can get a whole body scan, talk to a brilliant robot called Zoom which entertained our children for ages and do an ultrasound on a pretend mum.

Children talk to Zoom the robot at Eureka! in Halifax

Our children loved Zoom the robot

It is very hands-on with a chance to learn about senses, bones and healthy eating, all in a bright, airy space.

It is on the top floor at one end of the museum, so make sure you leave enough time for this area during your visit.

A big model of teeth and gums in a dental section at Eureka! museum in Halifax

The dental section will raise a smile

Miniature Town

The recreation of a street allows children to operate petrol pumps, change wheels on cars and work on a checkout at a mini-Marks and Spencer.

Some of the exhibits in this section are now a bit dated (an Austin car won’t mean much to youngsters today) but the children didn’t seem to mind.

Interactive cars at Eureka! museum in Halifax

Children love pretending to put petrol in cars

Spark Gallery

There was nothing dated about the Spark Gallery space which had the latest technology to play with including a chance to control racers on a touch screen and tackle computer games, but with an emphasis on learning.

Play areas

There are a couple of play areas, in particular a good one with a desert theme for under-fives. We couldn’t test the outside space because it was covered in snow but there is a huge sandpit and sensory trail.

I also noticed a couple of ‘baby oasis’ areas where babies could be put down for a stretch and a wriggle around.

In conclusion

We were impressed. Our two, aged three and seven, both loved Eureka! and got loads out of this museum. And both have since asked to return.

Top Tips

*When you pay once you can then visit Eureka! as many times as you want for a year for free, making it much better value for money.

*There is a lot of car parking (pay and display) but make sure you drive past the building to find the nearest parking spots.

Eureka! information

Food: There’s a cafe (with gluten free and vegetarian options) but it gets busy and you are allowed and actively encouraged to take your own packed lunch/picnic.

Opening hours: Open every day in school holidays from 10am to 5pm. During term time, it is open Tuesday to Sunday and closed on Mondays.

Cost: Entry costs £13.95 for everyone three and over, £5.95 for children aged one and two and under-ones are free.

Best for: ages three to eight.

Time needed: can easily fill half a day, enough for a full day out. It gets busy but is quieter towards the end of the day after 2pm. And as many people visit when it rains, it is also quieter on sunny days.

Access and restrictions: There is award-winning access at this attraction and carers go free. Eureka! offers a service called Extra Pair of Hands for help with disabled visitors for two hours during their visit.

Visitors with autism do not have to queue if the waiting time is long. There is a quiet space called the Chill Out Room guide for visitors with sensory difficulties away from the rest of the museum.

Address: Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, Discovery Road, Halifax, HX1 2NE.

Have you been to Eureka? What did you think?