Free things to do in York with kids – Updated for 2021
Looking for free things to do in York with kids? We’ve listed all the Mumbler favourite things to do in York for free!
Keeping the whole family entertained doesn’t need to be expensive. There are lots of things to do in York for free to keep everyone busy and happy in York.
We’ve searched for all the free things to do in York with kids to save you time researching and thinking of new ideas.
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.
📍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.”
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 a good as a holiday and all that! 😀
✅ Nelson Lane Play Area, Dringhouses – this small play area is located close to Little Hob Moor, which is great for a run-around. York Railway Pond is also close by and a peaceful spot to watch the wildlife.
✅ 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.
✅ Rawcliffe Lane Play Area, York – this enclosed play area has a good range of equipment and a multi-use games area. You can combine it with a visit to Clifton Explore Library which is adjacent to the play area.
✅ 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.
Solar Way – 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.”
York City Walls – walk the route
On a nice day, there isn’t a much better way to see the beautiful City of York than walking around the walls. Children can enjoy following the route via the golden disks on the floor and remember to take some paper and crayons so they can complete the map rubbings at each of the bars.
The walls go most of the way around the city, just having to get down to street level a couple of times. The walls aren’t strictly buggy friendly but it is possible, especially if there are two adults.
The walls are open to walk on from about 8am to dusk daily. They can be closed occasional when repairs or maintenance is required or when bad weather such as snow and ice.
Enjoy a trail or treasure hunt
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.
✅ Squirrel Trail in Museum Gardens – you’ll need your phone for this interactive quiz. There are 10 fact points to discover and then a quiz at the end. Find all the details here.
✅ The Cat Trail – download the trail leaflet here. Have fun locating all the cats hidden 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.
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.
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.
It’s asked so often on the Mumbler chat group “Where can I go for a coffee where there’s a bit of space for the kids to play?” Whether it’s just you and the kids, or you are meeting someone for a natter, it’s nice to have something for the kiddies to do so there’s a chance you can actually enjoy your drink while it’s hot! So it’s not free, but is great entertainment for you and the kids!
Plus Explore Library cafes are the perfect location for children – see below.
Explore York Libraries and Archives – various locations in 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:
Acomb Explore – with children’s area and enclosed garden.
Address: Front Street, Acomb YO24 3BZ Open 10 am to 3pm Mon – Tue and Thu – Fri, 10am to 1pm on Wed, 10am to 2pm on Sat
Homestead Park – pop up cafe located in the beautiful Homestead Park
Address: 40 Water End, York, YO30 6WP Open Mon 10.30am to 4pm, Tue 12.30pm to 4pm, Wed 10.30am to 4pm, Thur 12.30pm to 4pm, Fri 10.30am to 4pm, Sat 10am to 4pm & Sun 10am to 4pm
Hungate – Snacks, ice creams or homemade pizza in our 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
Rowntree Park – a reading cafe with indoor and outdoor seating in Rowntree Park
Address: Rowntree Park Lodge, Richardson Street, York YO23 1JU Open 7 days 9am to 4pm
Tang Hall – a welcoming café with a community feel
Address: The Centre @ Burnholme, Mossdale Avenue, York YO31 0HA Open Mon – Fri 9.30am to 4pm
York Explore: Open Monday to Saturday until 4pm. Spacious family friendly café
Address: Library Square, York YO1 7DS Open Mon-Thu and Sat 9am to 4pm, Fri 10am to 4pm
💜 💜 💜 That should keep us all busy for a while, and hopefully save some pennies too!
Do you know of any great free things to do in York with kids that we haven’t included? E-mail email@example.com and we can add it to our list!💜 💜 💜