Free things to do in York with kids – updated for 2022
Looking for family-friendly FREE things to do in York with kids? We’ve listed all our favourite things to do in York that are free!
There are lots of things to do in York for free to keep everyone entertained and happy! To save you time researching and thinking of new ideas, we’ve listed all the fun and free things you can do in York here.
Plus we had great fun making a video of a completely free day out in York to inspire you. Our free day out was packed full of entertainment, culture, history and variety for all ages! If you have any more ideas to add to our list please send us an email.
Watch our video first to plan your perfect free day out in York with kids!
Watch the boats and take a stroll along the banks of the River Ouse 🚢
There is always something to spot from one of the bridges in York. We love looking out over Lendal Bridge towards the station. You can look for boats on the river and trains crossing over Scarborough Bridge either on their way to the station or the seaside!
From Lendal Bridge you easily walk down the steps and walk along a stretch of the river or visit the nearby Museum Gardens. In the summer months, you’ll find an ice cream boat, The Full Moo here too. If you do fancy treating yourself to ice cream on your trip out, check out 10 great places to try in York for ice cream here.
⭐️💜⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! At Lendal Bridge, set a timer for 2 minutes to see who can spot the most boats, trains, cars & buses!
Walk York’s City Walls 🚶♀️
Walking the walls is a really fun way to see York from a different perspective, plus there are loads of things for kids to spot. The easiest places to access the walls are at any of the four City Bars – Bootham Bar, Monk Bar Micklegayte Bar and Walmgate Bar.
Our favourite section is between Bootham Bar and Monk Bar. The entrance is close by to Museum Gardens and York Art Gallery (more about those coming up) and along this stretch of walls, there is a lot to see, including, of course, amazing views of the magnificent York Minster.
The walls are open 7 days a week from about 8am until dusk, although they may be closed if the weather is bad. It takes about 2 hours to walk all the way around. The walls aren’t strictly buggy friendly but it is possible, especially if there are two adults. If you want more inspiration for circular walks in York we’ve got lots listed here – they are perfect for families.
⭐️💜⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! Take some paper and crayons so you can complete the brass rubbings at each of the bars
Discover something new at York Art Gallery – Exhibition Square, York 🖼
York Art Gallery is opposite Bootham Bar and the entrance to the City Walls. Entry to York Art Gallery is free, although charges do apply for any special exhibitions. York Art Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am – 4pm and pre-booking is recommended.
The Gallery is very family-friendly and there are some brilliant fact sheets and colouring sheets you can download and print for free before you visit to keep the kids engaged and entertained on the way round. If you don’t visit inside, the Art Gallery is still a great place to walk past on your day out in York as children love looking at the fountains just outside.
⭐️ 💜 ⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! Enjoy a wander around the paths in the peaceful Edible Wood – find it hidden way behind the Art Gallery!
Enjoy playing or a picnic in the Museum Gardens 🧺
These gorgeous gardens are in the heart of the City and make the perfect place for a run-around or a picnic. There is plenty to discover in the gardens, including lots of birds and wildlife (including lots of squirrels!) to spot. You can wander the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, take a look at the Hospitium or seek out the Multangular Tower – the best example of standing Roman remains in York.
There are lots of fabulous trees and plenty of places to play a game of ‘hide and seek’! Kids will also love the large walk-on pebble mosaic map, tucked away behind the ruins of the Abbey.
The gardens are open daily and there is often a takeaway coffee kiosk and ice cream van if you are after refreshments. Unfortunately, there are no toilets in the Gardens – the nearest public toilets are on Bootham Bar or Silver Street.
⭐️ 💜 ⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! Follow the interactive Squirrel Trail in the gardens with 10 fascinating facts to uncover!
Rest and read some books at York Explore – Library Square & Hungate, York 📚
A visit to your local library is always a great thing to do for free in York with kids. Enjoy browsing through the children’s books or selecting some to borrow and read at home – using the library books checkout machine is always entertainment in itself for a curious toddler! Find all the details about your local Explore Library here.
There are also family-friendly cafes at the following locations in the city centre:
Hungate – Snacks, ice creams or homemade pizza in Explore’s newest café. Families will love the children’s area
Address: Ground Floor, Bellerby Court, Hungate, York YO1 7AF Open Mon-Fri 9am to 4pm & Sat 10am to 4pm
York Explore – Open Monday to Saturday until 4pm with a spacious family-friendly café
Address: Library Square, York YO1 7DS Open Mon-Thu and Sat 9am to 4pm, Fri 10am to 4pm
⭐️ 💜 ⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! Whilst it’s meant to be a free day out, treat yourself to a drink and maybe a cake!
Go train spotting at the National Railway Museum – Leeman Road, York 🚂
A Mumbler favourite, it’s an amazing day out, whatever the weather.
Explore the trains in the Great Hall, Station Hall and the workshop. There’s a soft play station, an outdoor play area and a miniature railway (charges apply).
Essential Travel Information:
📍Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ 🚌 The Rawcliffe Park and Ride bus picks up and drops off on Leeman Road. First’s Number 10 bus also passes by the museum. The main entrance is just a few minutes’ walk away from the bus stop. 🚗 The visitor car park is on Leeman Road, a few minutes’ walk away from the main entrance and costs £10 per day. Tokens for the visitor car park can be purchased at the main entrance. The car park closes at 6.30pm.
“I’d recommend the railway museum! So much space to wander around. My son loves it! The miniature railway outside is lovely.”
⭐️ 💜 ⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! Look out for special events and activities during the school holidays!
Visit the magnificent York Minster – Deangate, York ⛪️
York Residents get free admission to York Minster. Just take a valid form of identification including a YorkCard, driving licence, utility bill, or proof of York address.
Essential Travel Information:
📍Deangate, York YO1 7HH 🚌 Several bus services make stops in the city centre, with the nearest stop in St Leonard’s Place. To plan your journey, visit the iTravelYork website. 🚗 You can park for free at one of the six Park and Ride sites around the city with the nearest stop a few minutes’ walk away in Museum Street. The nearest pay and display car parks are a short walk away at Monk Bar (YO31 7QR), Union Terrace (YO31 7ES) and Bootham Row (YO30 7BP).
“I just want to recommend York Minster as a free trip out with little ones. We’ve just been this morning and it was marvellous. The toilet and changing facilities are also very good. It really was excellent and is free for york residents, you only need to show proof of address and don’t need to have purchased a York card.”
In addition to walking the City Walls, there are also plenty of fun (and free!) trails and treasure hunts for kids to do in York. We listed all the ones in and around York in our trails and treasure hunt blog and below are a few of our favourites in the city centre.
✅ The Mumbler Mythical Creature Quest – download our trail leaflet here. Enjoy a short but magical walk around York to seek out eight mythical creatures that are hiding in the city
✅ The Cat Trail – download the trail leaflet here. Have fun locating all the cats hiding on the buildings around York.
✅ Visit York Selfie Trail – this trail includes some of the city’s most iconic photo opportunities. Get your smiles and selfie sticks out!! There’s an online map available to download here.
⭐️ 💜 ⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! Enjoy our free magical activity sheets when you get home from your Quest! Download them for free here.
Visit a park or play area in York 🌳
It might seem an obvious one and is probably one of your ‘go to’ free activities, but why not visit a new park or play area in York? A change is as good as a holiday and all that! 😀
✅ Rowntree Park, York – just a short walk from the city centre this is a huge 30-acre park with plenty of space to run around, a large play area and toilets.
✅ Homestead Park, York – a large park with lots of trees, plants and flowers. Also a very large play area with a good range of equipment and toilets!
✅ Poppleton Community Centre Play Area, York – this play area has a good range of equipment & zip wire. You can also treat yourself to refreshments from the Poppleton Community Centre which has a cafe.
✅ Ethel Ward Playing Field, Haxby – this large playground has equipment for young and older children and is located next to a large playing field. You can combine it with a visit to the shops and cafes in Haxby or a visit to the duck pond.
⭐️ 💜 ⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! Pack a picnic to take to the park – you always end up staying longer than planned!
Cycle the Solar System 🚴♀️
This scale model of the Solar System is spread out along 6.4 miles of the old East Coast main-line railway. Along the way, you will find scale models of all the planets in our solar system, plus models of the Cassini and Voyager spacecraft. The track is a wonderful nature reserve with many different species of trees along the way, and an abundance of wildlife to see and hear.
The route goes via Brunswick Organic Nursery & various pubs for refreshments.
🚗 If you’re planning to cycle the whole route then one of the best places to park is Askham Bar Park & Ride. The car park is only 500m from the Sun and the start of the route.
What do Mumbler’s think?
“My little boy has just learnt to ride his bike.We did a bit of the solar way one Naburn-Bishopthorpe which was great.”
⭐️ 💜 ⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! Print off the cycle route map before you go, so you can tick off all the planets along the way!
Visit St Nicks Nature Reserve – Rawdon Avenue, York 🌱
The Nature Reserve is open all year round. There are 24 acres of unique green space on the site of a former rubbish tip to explore. Many birds live on or visit the nature reserve and just under 20 species of butterflies have been recorded. There are all kinds of other insects and some mammals too. There is a great variety of plant species, trees and shrubs.
Essential Travel Information:
📍St Nicks Environment Centre, Rawdon Avenue, York, YO10 3FW 🚲 Either go along Cycle Route No. 66, or along Lawrence St and turn down Bull Lane or use the entrance on Melrosegate between the Post Office and Beckside Gardens. 🚌 Number 6 & Number 20 go to St Nicholas Fields stop on Melrosegate or Alcuin Avenue (off Melrosegate). Number 8, 10/10A & 747 stop in Lawrence Street. 🚗 From Lawrence Street (A1079 Hull Road) turn down Melrosegate and take the first left Harington Avenue. At the bottom of this road, you will see a welcome sign and a couple of pine trees. Drive between them to the Centre building with a wind turbine.
⭐️ 💜 ⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! Print off one of our scavenger hunts – there is one for each season!
Pop along to a playgroup in York 👶
Lots of the playgroups listed on the Mumbler website are either free or very low cost. Perfect for getting out and about with your little ones. Most listings have a phone number on so it’s always worth phoning before visiting a group for the first time (some run term time only). Also many now require pre-booking.
We highlighted a small selection below: 🧸 Monday – Thursday, 9.30am – 11am – Boddlers – The Wonder Years: For babies and toddlers between the ages of 0-3 years. £2.50 for children under 12 months and £4 for children over 12 months – 3yrs. This is paid half termly.🧸 Tuesday and Thursday, 10-11:30am – Little Friends of West Bank Park: Meets in the park whatever the weather! £1 per family. 🧸 Wednesday – 1.30 – 2.30pm – Mums and Toddlers Swimming: £2.50 – adults/£1.50 – children (Pre-booking necessary) at New Earswick Swimming Pool. 🧸 1st Wednesday of each month – Very Young Friends of Rowntree Park: This monthly meet up takes place once a month and is £2 per adult & child.
💜 Morning Mingle 💜 Once a month on a Friday morning at Hungate Reading Cafe in York – 9.30am – 11am FREE – No booking required – Newborn to pre-schoolers
Find out more information and all the dates for our Mumblerhood Meet Ups here. We are also hosting Baby Brunch (£10 includes food & refreshments) and Expecting Parents Evenings (£6 includes refreshments and treat)
⭐️ 💜 ⭐️ TOP MUMBLER TIP! If you’ve never been to a baby group before, pop along to our Morning Mingle – someone from our team will welcome you & help you mingle!
💜 💜 💜 That should keep everyone busy for a while, and hopefully save some pennies too! 💜 💜 💜