Brimming with things to do and sights to see, York is a haven for family days out. JLife takes a look at just why the area is worth a visit.
A Whole Lot of History
Renowned for its striking architecture and quaint cobbled streets, York’s vibrant history sets it apart from other destinations.
One of the top visitor attractions across the area is York Minster; it’s not merely a physically stunning building, but a place to tap into 2,000 years of history, artefacts, and an abundance of treasures. Gather the whole family together and venture to the Undercroft, get a guided tour, follow a discovery trail, or take a trip up the tower. As well as the everyday sightseeing opportunities, the minister is well-known for hosting a regular range of events and concerts – so it’s worth keeping an eye on upcoming dates.
To fully immerse yourself in York’s beginnings, approach York Minister via The Shambles; an ancient preserved street alluded to in the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror in 1086. Many of the buildings on the lane today date back to the late 14th and 15th Centuries, while in some sections it’s possible to touch both sides of the street with your arms outstretched.
Also standing in recognition of York’s colourful roots is the Clifford Tower, being the largest remaining part of York Castle and once the centre of government for the North of England. With sweeping panoramic views and the surrounding countryside, visitors frequently scale the steep steps of the ancient mound and take on the wall walk where the 18th Century buildings that form the Eye of York can be spotted.
At the foot of Clifford’s Tower a plaque marks the dark chapter in the history of York’s Jewish community – in 1190 a wave of anti-Semitic riots resulted in the massacre of an estimated 150 Jews who had taken refuge.
Acknowledged as one of the best specialist and stylish shopping destinations in the UK, and with more than 2,000 shops, fans of retail therapy regularly go to York with the purpose of making new purchases. Its eclectic charm can be felt through its combination of retailers set in Medieval and Georgian streets, and more modern complexes established out of town.
For example, just minutes outside York in a landscaped garden setting, McArthurGlen’s York Designer Outlet is a must-visit fashion venue. The indoor centre is home to over 120 leading UK and international designer and high street brands including Reiss and Lacoste, and located in Stonegate, Mulberry Hall exhibits and sells a unique selection of fine china, crystal, cutlery and cookware.
Foodies can also get their fix courtesy of the York Farmers Market which is held alongside the Saturday Auction. A wide range of fresh, seasonal, local produce are always on offer, including many award-winning delights, while you can be content in the knowledge that you’re supporting local businesses as you indulge.
For the Family
In addition to being ideally located as a touring base, York is a thriving hub for discovery – and at the Chocolate Story, families will be catapulted on a journey of how their favourite treat is made.
From the Chocolate Orange to the Kit Kat, York’s Chocolate Story features a host of secrets and fascinating facts about the delicious products. And for those itching to pick up hands-on experience, watch the skilled chocolatiers deliver live demonstrations before putting your new-found knowledge to the test and venturing to the factory floor where you can master your own sweet creations.
Alternatively, while a train-inspired day out may not seem like the perfect fit for excitable kids, York’s National Railway Museum shuns the preconception that it’s all about standing out in the cold and spotting vehicles.
Tales of nostalgia are packed into entertaining segments that can be enjoyed by adults and young ones alike. The unique theatre performance is based on real overheard conversations submitted by visitors, while you can uncover the basics of set modelling and take on a photography adventure.
For more information, visit York.gov.uk.
York Theatre Royal has a host of exciting happenings that all age groups will enjoy.
It’s hard to imagine that when E Nesbit sat down to write The Railway Children, it would still be so popular a Century later, but the enchanting characters and use of a moving steam locomotive in a truly unique theatrical setting means that seven years since the York Theatre Royal show premiered at the National Railway Museum, more than 150,000 people have seen it worldwide.
To celebrate the show’s homecoming, one of the biggest guest stars to grace the UK stage will join the cast; the Great Western Pannier Tank 5775, the locomotive from the much-loved classic film.
As well as watching the show, families can make a day of it, with free entry to the museum, and loads of new activities for the summer holidays, including The Railway Children Challenge at 11am each day. It’s sure to be an experience you and your family will remember for years to come.
The Railway Children returns to its original home at the National Railway Museum in York from 31st July until 5th September. Tickets are priced between £10 and £32.50 and can be bought by calling the Box Office on 01904 623 568, online at Yorktheatreroyal.co.uk , or in person at York Theatre Royal’s Box Office in De Grey Rooms on St Leonard’s Place.
A Sight to be Seen
Explore York’s full potential and make the most of your time there with the easy-to-use York citysightseeing open-top buses.
York is a city steeped in history, with fine architecture and iconic buildings, like the magnificent awe-inspiring York Minster and the tangle of quaint cobbled streets dotted with talented street entertainers.
The narrow streets can also make York a stressful place to drive and a difficult place to park, so to make life easier, why not catch the Yorkshire Coastliner? Up to three buses an hour run from Leeds bus station to the heart of York city centre.
The adult day return fare is only £8 – or if you’re making a day of it then a ‘freedom’ ticket, which can be used on the Route 36 bus from Alwoodley and Moortown into Leeds, the Yorkshire Coastliner bus from Leeds to York, and on York CitySightseeing’s open-top bus tours too, can be bought from any driver for just £15.
For anyone wanting to take in the breath-taking views properly, York CitySightseeing tours run up to every 10 minutes, seven days a week and are the best way to see all the sights. The tickets are valid for 24 hours so you can choose to take a full tour, or hop on and off the buses at any of the 16 stops on the route to explore more on your own.
For more information, call 01653 692 556 or visit Yorkbus.co.uk.
The Place to Be
Indulge yourself at York’s five-star hotel.
As Yorkshire’s only five-star hotel, The Grand Hotel & Spa is synonymous with luxury and the finer things in life. Within view of the York walls and set in the Edwardian splendour of the former headquarters of the North Eastern Railway Company, The Grand is firmly rooted in the city’s rich history.
This stunning building was originally constructed in 1906 as a ‘Palace of Business’; today it is the region’s leading luxury hotel and has established a reputation for its first-class service, stylish bedrooms and unique historic atmosphere.
However you wish to indulge yourself, The Grand is the ideal destination – whether you choose to stay as a resident or just stop by to escape the bustle of the city for a few hours.
The Grand’s two AA rosette restaurant, Hudson’s, can be found in one of the building’s many elegant rooms. The views are beautiful, with York Minster and the renowned city walls visible through the windows. From refined, elegant yet innovative dining to quintessentially English afternoon teas, Hudson’s offers a sumptuous dining experience.
For the ultimate in relaxation there is Spa at the Grand which offers an array of therapeutic face and body care treatments along with a swimming pool, sauna and steam room. Set within the building’s former vaults, the cast iron vault doors of the spa shut out the outside world creating a hushed, tranquil and wonderfully relaxing environment.
For more information, call 01904 380 038 or visit Thegrandyork.co.uk.