Discovering York With Toddlers

York with toddlers
The historic city of York is a great place to go with a toddler. Located in Yorkshire, York is a Roman city known for its city walls, narrow winding streets and the magnificent York Minster which towers above everything.

The good thing about York is that it is fairly compact so it is easy for toddlers with little legs to get around. The Museum Gardens, in the centre of the city, is an excellent place for toddlers to run around, feed the ducks, and have a picnic in summer.

In this article I’m going to explain the best things to do in York with toddlers including the best places to stay and eat and things you definitely shouldn’t miss.

Where Is York?

The best way to get to York is by train. It is on a high speed train link meaning it is aprox 2 hours from London with plenty of regular trains. Manchester is 1 hour away, Birmingham 2 hours and Leeds is 30 mins away by train.

If you want to drive, the best thing to do is to use one of the Park and Rides around the city and get the bus into the city. Toddlers will love a ride on the bus too!

Things To Do In York With Toddlers

York is geared up for toddlers. It is relatively small in size, and there are plenty of things to do in the centre of York with toddlers.

#1. National Railway Museum

A must day out for transport loving toddlers, or toddlers who like seeing ‘big things’. The National Railway Museums houses a magnificent collection of engines, plus a mini railway which will mesmerise toddlers and an Under 5’s play area.

The NRM is situated just next to York Train Station but you can get a little NRM road train into the centre of York. Costs – Free, but donations are welcome.

The Mallard at the National Railway Museum

The Mallard at the National Railway Museum

The National Railway Museum

#2. The York Chocolate Story

Did you know that chocolate has been made in York for over 300 years? Find out more about the history of chocolate making in York at the York Chocolate Story. Visitors start off with a tour which involves lots of moving from room to room, and eating chocolate samples before giving you the chance to make your own chocolate lollipop at the end. Don’t miss a trip to the chocolate café afterwards.

Read more about the York Chocolate Story with toddlers. Costs – Adults £11.50, Under 4’s free.

York Chocolate Story

York Chocolate Story

#3. The York Maze

For an a-maze-ing day out in the Summer, head to the York Maze. More than just a Maze, the York Maze has a fantastic water and sand play area, giant pillows, outdoor painting and much more. The highlight of a day out at York Maze is the Crowmania tractor ride where you are taken on a ride looking for pesky crows – without giving too much away, the ride is full of surprises!

Most of the Maze is outside, so try and visit on a sunny day.

Find out more about the York Maze with toddlers. Costs – Adults £14.50, Under 3’s free.

The Sand and Water Play at the York Maze

Daniel playing in the sand and water play at the York Maze

#4. DIG

Become a mini archaeologist and dig for treasure at this toddler friendly attraction near to the Shambles. Visitors start off with a short tour where a guide explains the types of things that you might find in the excavation pits, before you are let loose to do some digging and exploring yourselves. There are 3 pits to dig in, and the sand and mud is fake so toddlers won’t get dirty.

There is an Under 5’s play area upstairs. Adults £6.50, Under 5s Free

DIG In York



The archaeology pits at DIG

#5. The Museum Gardens

These lovely riverside gardens are a great spot for a picnic in the summer, or for a run around at any time of the year. There are plenty of ducks to feed on the riverside as well as boats to watch on the river.


#6. A Boat Cruise On The River Ouse

Take a rest from the hustle and bustle of York and enjoy a boat cruise along the River Ouse. At just 45 minutes long, this cruise is perfect for a toddler’s short attention span. Commentary is included and there is a snack bar and toilets on board too. Adults £8.55 (booked online), Under 5’s Free

York Boat Cruise

York Boat Cruise

York Boat Cruise

Things To Do Around York With Toddlers

If you want to spend longer in York, or fancy getting out and exploring the beautiful Yorkshire countryside or coast there is certainly loads to keep you busy. These are my recommendations on things to do around York with toddlers.

#1. North York Moors Railway

Take a trip to Whitby on the famous North York Moors Railway. This historic stream train chugs across the Moors to the seaside town of Whitby, but there are plenty of places to stop off at along the way if you don’t fancy doing the whole journey in one go. It takes aprox 1 hour to get to Grosmont, which is a little village in the middle of the Moors, and the home of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s engine sheds where the trains are maintained.

Don’t miss lunch at the Old School Café which is a family friendly café with children’s sandwiches and toys and books to play with.

Find out more about the a day out on the North Yorks Moors railway with toddlers.

The North York Moors Railway

The North York Moors Railway

#2. Castle Howard

Named ‘England’s Best Stately Home’ by the Lonely Planet, Castle Howard certainly packs a punch in terms of its splendour and grandness. Castle Howard is set in the Howardian Hills 15 miles outside York, and has plenty to entertain toddlers such as a large adventure playground, road train and boating lake.

Don’t forget your picnic! Adults £11.95 (Gardens Only), Under 4’s free

Castle Howard

Castle Howard

#3. Dalby Forest

Gruffalo Fans will love the Gruffalo Spotters Trail at the magnificent Dalby Forest 1 ¼ hours from York. Download the Gruffalo Spotter app beforehand to get the full experience and bring the Gruffalo characters to life.

The Dalby Forest also has lots of family cycling trails (as well as bike hire) and a large adventure playground. Free (parking charges apply)

Dalby Forest

Dalby Forest

#4. A Day Out At The Seaside

York is just over 1 hour from the East Coast where there are seaside resorts such as Scarborough, Filey and Whitby. Filey is great for sandcastle building as the beach is 7 miles long, and rarely gets packed.

The highlight of a day out at Scarborough is seeing the mock naval battle in the summer months at Scarborough’s Peasholm Park.

There is loads to do in Whitby with toddlers including visiting Pannett Park, padding in the cliff top paddling pool and playing on the beach.

Find out more about the best toddler friendly days out at the seaside in Yorkshire.

Whitby Harbour

Whitby Harbour

#5. Piglets Adventure Farm

For a bit of fun on the farm, head to Piglets Adventure Farm on the outskirts of York. As well as plenty of animals to see, there is also an indoor playbarn, jumping pillow, outdoor playground and go karts. Adults £7.50 (weekend ticket, cheaper on weekdays), Children £6.50

Piglets In York

Piglets In York

Places To Stay In York With Toddlers

Hotels For Toddlers In York

#1. Premier Inn – You know what you are getting with a Premier Inn, and there are a few Premier Inn’s in York. Family rooms, travel cots and free breakfasts for kids make this a good option for families looking for a toddler friendly hotel in York.

Good For – Families looking for somewhere good value and central in York.

#2. The Novotel – There are family rooms, indoor and outdoor play areas and a swimming pool at the NNovotel York Centre. It is also close to the city centre and the river if you want pop down and feed the ducks.

Good For – Families looking for somewhere with a swimming pool and within walking distance of York city centre.

York Minster

#3. The Grange – Independent Family Friendly hotel which lends out loads of baby paraphernalia such as cots, highchairs, Z beds, bed guards and baby baths. Dogs are welcome too (extra charges apply). Swimming facilities are available at a local leisure centre (payable extra)

Good For – Families who don’t want to transport all their own baby and toddler paraphernalia.

The Park Inn by Radisson – Right in the centre of the city, the Park Inn by Radisson has family rooms, late checkout, and a kids eat free offer.

Good For – Families who want somewhere central to stay in York.

#4. The Grand – 5* hotel in York offering luxury accommodation to visitors. Don’t miss the Children’s Afternoon Tea!

Good For – Families looking for a luxury place to stay in York.

Outside the Grand Hotel

Cupcakes at the Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel

#5. Old Station At Allerston – If you want to stay outside of York, I would recommend the converted train carriages at The Old Station At Allerston. The train carriages are located in Pickering, about 45 minutes away from York, but offer fantastic accommodation for families with toddlers in spacious train carriages. There is a children’s playground, bikes to borrow and chickens to feed – and the carriages are set in beautiful countryside just outside the market town of Pickering.
Train carriages to stay in with a toddler

The Old Station at Allerston

The Old Station at Allerston

Places To Eat In York With Toddlers

York has loads of family friendly places to eat including the usual restaurant chains of Jamie’s Italian, Pizza Express and Ask.

For something more independent, check out Café No 8 On Gillygate. Children under 5 eat free here, and the food is locally sourced and freshly prepared. The owners also run the café at York Art Gallery.

Another independent restaurant is The Rattle Owl in Micklegate which serves excellent children’s food at just £3. Choose from freshly made fettucine, Cumberland sausage, or chicken goujons all finished off with chocolate brownie and ice cream.

For a treat, don’t miss the Children’s Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel. This sumptuous feast is bursting with handmade sandwiches, savoury sausage rolls and cakes and is the perfect place to go for a treat.

For ice cream in York, have a walk along the river Ouse to where the Ice Cream Boat is moored up! The salted caramel ice cream is to die for!

Have I missed anything? If you have anymore ideas about things to do in York with toddlers please let me know. Visit York is York’s Official Visitor Information Service and provides loads of information about things to do and places to stay in York.

York with toddlers


  • Beetle bank farm is also a great place for toddlers in york

    7th January 2020

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