England,  U.K Destinations

100 Things to do with kids in Yorkshire


Updated 26/05/2021

 

There are fantastic things to do with kids in Yorkshire (after all, it is England’s largest county!) and this post will give you 100 ideas for a fun, family day out in Yorkshire.

The historical county is divided into four administrative regions – North Yorkshire (including the Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire Moors and Yorkshire Coast), West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire. 

The major cities in the county are York, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.

There are so many things to do in Yorkshire with kids that you could spend all your holiday in just one of these locations and still not see everything there is to see.

* Many Yorkshire attractions currently have Covid restrictions in place. Please check relevant websites in advance of your visit. 

 

The City of York 

 

York is a small, family friendly city packed with historical and fun attractions for all ages. Plus, there are several city centre parks for a good runaround.

It is a compact city with a pedestrianised city centre. Most of the major attractions can easily be visited on foot but there are also excellent bus and rail links. York railway station is just a ten minute walk from the city centre making York an ideal destination to visit by train.

 

Best things to do in York with kids

 

A visit to York should start with a visit to York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe and home to the largest expanse of stained glass anywhere in the world.

York Minster runs family friendly tours and kids can borrow free to use activity backpacks. Plus, the Minster runs drop in craft activities during the school holidays.

At York Chocolate Story families can explore the long history of chocolate making in York.  An engaging guided tour culminates with the chance to make your own chocolate lollipop.

Jorvik Viking Centre is one of York’s most popular tourist attractions. 

Learn how Vikings lived and died in York and see the remains of Viking streets and homes beneath the glass floor of the museum. 

Take a historical ‘cab’ ride through a life size Viking settlement which evokes the sights, sounds and smells of the Viking era. Our kids still talk about the toilet section!

 

people walking on a city wall next to a road with cars, large stone cathedral in background

 

Visit one of York’s historical houses such as the Treasurers House, the Georgian Fairfax House or The Mansion House, home of the Mayor of York.

Join a craft activity at York Art Gallery or hunt for fossils at DIG, a museum aimed at younger families. Families with older children can visit the terrifying York Dungeons.

Explore York through the ages at the excellent York Castle Museum and see the spooky Victorian cells where Dick Turpin was held. Or discover York’s Roman and Jurassic history at the Yorkshire Museum.

For a fabulous 360 degree view of York, climb to the ramparts of Clifford’s Tower, the remains of a Norman era keep set in a car park right in the city centre!

 

You can read my detailed post about visiting York with kids here.

 

 

Free things to do in York with kids

 

The huge National Railway Museum is one of the best museums in York and is packed with engines and carriages of every shape and colour.

There are free, daily science shows, a small playground and miniature railway on site. Kids will love the outdoor balcony where they can wave at passing trains. 

York city walls are the longest city walls in England and are accessed by four impressive medieval ‘bars’ or gateways. Kids will enjoy the the portcullis, archer slits and murder holes in Monk Bar.

The atmospheric shopping street The Shambles has been voted ‘Britain’s Best Street’.

This medieval era cobbled street is packed with lopsided, overhanging buildings and is said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies. 

Stroll along the River Ouse or run off energy in the playground at Rowntree’s Park. Have a good runaround in Dean’s Park behind York Minster or a picnic in pretty Museum Gardens.

Free to explore within Museum Gardens are the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, the 15th century Hospitium, a 19th century observatory and the third century Roman era multi-angular tower.

 

people walking on a cobbled street under overhanging medieval buildings
The Shambles, York

 

The Yorkshire Dales

 

The Dales (which includes the Yorkshire Dales National Park) is a rolling green landscape packed with waterfalls, caves, historic sites and amazing views.

The area gets its name from the river valleys found here, with each ‘dale’ named after the river that flows through it.

 

 

Things to do in the Yorkshire Dales

 

The Forbidden Corner is one of the most unusual things to do in Yorkshire with kids.

Visitors receive a map with the attractions of this 4 acre site but the map does not tell you how to find them. What you see depends on how hard you are willing to search for it!

Be prepared to dodge water spouting statues, seek out hidden underground chambers, explore dark tunnels and narrow staircases and crawl on your hands and knees through gaps.

There are surprises in store around every corner including in the car park and toilets. The Forbidden Corner is unmissable.

Families with younger children will enjoy searching for fairy doors and hidden fairy houses at Studfold Adventure Park. 

Learn about the history of the Dales and try traditional crafts at the charming Dales Countryside Museum, housed in Victorian rail station at Hawes. 

Don’t miss the nearby Wensleydale Creamery, home to Wallace’s favourite cheese (from the Wallace and Gromit movies).

Thorp Perrow Arboretum near Bedale is a 100 acre park with a fantastic adventure playground.

The arboretum contains 5 National Plant Collections and 51 Champion Trees (trees of rare size or nature). 

There is also a Bird of Prey and Mammal Centre onsite with daily falconry displays.

Adventurous families should visit How Stean Gorge in Nidderdale. 

The short gorge offers guided, child friendly gorge walking, caving and Via Ferrata activities.

 

Read our detailed guide on things to do with kids in the Yorkshire Dales here. 

 

Family hikes in the Yorkshire Dales

 

The Yorkshire Dales are best explored on foot and there are accessible hikes for all ages and abilities.

One unmissable location is Malham Cove, a 230 foot high natural stone amphitheater. There was once a waterfall plunging over the top of Malham Cove that was higher than Niagara Falls!

Families may recognise the pitted limestone pavement at the top of Malham Cove as it featured in the Harry Potter movies.

 

Grey limestone pavement at Malham Cove, gree trees and grey cloudy sky
Malham Cove’s limestone pavement

 

There are several walks to choose from in Malham ranging from an easy 1 hour return walk to the base of the Cove or a 3 hour return hike to Gordale Scar gorge, passing Janet’s Foss waterfall on route.

Alternatively, tackle the 13 kilometre circular trail that covers all the major sites in this area.

An easy walk for little legs is Nidd Gorge, on the outskirts of Knaresborough.

This sheltered woodland trail runs alongside the River Nidd and includes secluded bays and stretches of sand.

Or visit the locals favourite Brimham Rocks near Pateley Bridge.

This National Trust property is an elevated plateau packed with tall, unusually shaped rocky towers created by a fast flowing river 100 million years ago.

The rock formations are riddled with alcoves and tiny caves for exploring and the elevation of Brimham Rocks provide fantastic views over the Yorkshire Dales. Climbing the abrasive rocks is NOT advised.

 

TIP – If you plan to do several walks, it is worth investing in a detailed Yorkshire Dales OS map. We bring our map even on familiar walks; you never know when you might need it.

For route ideas, check out the excellent Ordnance Survey book Circular Walks in the Yorkshire Dales. 

Or for pushchair friendly walks, see the OS book Short Walks For All The Family. Both of these detailed books will help you plan your walks in advance. 

 

 

Caves in the Yorkshire Dales

 

The limestone landscape of the Yorkshire Dales is riddled with caves.

Families can tour a show cave or join an adventurous organised trip into a cave. 

Show caves are not pushchair or baby carrier friendly and it is important to wear good gripping footwear. Pack a jumper as Yorkshire caves are a cool 8 degrees all year round.  

White Scar Cave near Ingleton is the longest show cave in England. Don a hard hat and descend 97 steps to enjoy the thrill of an underground waterfall and curiously named formations such as The Witches Fingers.

Stump Cross Caverns near Pateley Bridge is estimated to be 500,000 years old.

Visitors descend 65 steps into the cave to see unusually colourful stalactites and stalagmites.  

Reindeer and wolverine fossils have been found here and there is a fun fossil trail to complete. 

 

Yorkshire Dales waterfalls

 

If you like waterfalls, you are spoilt for choice in the Yorkshire Dales.

Visit iconic Aysgarth Falls which consists of three separate waterfalls plunging over limestone steps over a one mile stretch of the River Ure. 

Take a trip to see Hardraw Force, my favourite Yorkshire waterfalls. At 100 feet high, Hardraw Force is the highest single drop waterfall in England. 

Or tackle the Ingleton Waterfall Trail, a family friendly 4 ½ mile circular hike that visits six waterfalls on route.

 

gushing waterfall plunging down a rock face surrounded by trees, waterfalls in Yorkshire
Hardraw Force

Historic sites in the Yorkshire Dales

 

Kids and historic sites may not always go together but there are several fantastic options for ‘historic’ days out with kids in Yorkshire, with the Dales offering some of the best locations.

One of the best sites to visit is Bolton Abbey, part of a private estate owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Families pay £10 for parking and can stay all day making it a great value for money day out. 

Explore the atmospheric ruins of the Priory Church and Augustinian Abbey and walk the pretty woodland trails in Strid Wood. Enjoy a paddle in the river or spread out on the huge site for a picnic or ball game. 

Kids will love hopping across the river on Bolton Abbey’s famous stepping stones (60 of them!) and most adults find them hard to resist too.

Don’t miss a trip to nearby Billy Bob’s Ice Cream Parlour, a themed 50’s diner with amazing ice cream and an outdoor play barn.

Bolton Castle is the best preserved medieval castle in England and is owned by the same family who built the castle 600 years ago.

Families can tour furnished castle rooms and watch the daily archery display in the castle courtyard. 

The landscaped grounds of Bolton Castle contain a maze, herb garden, a bowling green, vineyard and rose garden. There is a daily Bird of Prey and Falconry display and families can pre-book their own Falconry experience or ‘hawk walk.’

Alternatively, visit intact but unfurnished Skipton Castle, Jervaulx Abbey or Middleham Castle.

 

 

North Yorkshire

 

Whilst the Yorkshire Dales, Moors and Coast fall under North Yorkshire, there are other attractions in the region that do not lie in these three popular destinations.

 

 

Things to do with kids in North Yorkshire

 

Fans of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’  will love the James Herriot Museum near Thirsk, where the ‘Yorkshire Vet’ is also filmed.

The museum was Herriot’s home and veterinary practice in the 1940’s and introduces children to all things farming.

There is a fantastic hands-on interactive gallery and kids will love the chance to put their hand up a cow’s bottom! Not a real one thankfully but my son still talks ‘about that time’ he put his hand in a cow.

Harrogate is an attractive 19th century spa town. Visit the Royal Pump Museum to discover Harrogate’s spa history and join one of the three daily tours to see the potent sulfur wells, the strongest in Europe. 

Grab a Fat Rascal bun from Betty’s Tea Rooms to enjoy in Valley Gardens, a colourful park with an excellent playground and paddling pool.

Wander the castle ruins at Knaresborough, visit the petrified objects at Mother Shipton’s Cave or hire a boat on the river.

Our kids enjoy Harlow Carr, a Royal Horticultural Society gardens on the outskirts of Harrogate. There are child friendly trails, craft activities and a fantastic woodland tree house. As a keen but untalented gardener, I like the Teaching Garden best! 

Flamingoland is one of the best days out in Yorkshire for families. You can easily spend a whole day here. 

The theme park rides for all ages and tastes (!) and also has an on site zoo with daily keeper talks, animal meet and greets and pre-bookable Zoo Keeper Experiences. 

For an authentic and sometimes moving step back in time, visit Eden Camp, museum charting life in World War 2 both at home and on the frontline. This site was used during WW2 as a prisoner of war camp and the museum is housed in the original buildings from this time.

 

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire

 

Historic sites in North Yorkshire

 

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden near Richmond is a perfect destination for a multi generational trip.

The 12th century Benedictine ruins are the largest monastic ruins in England. Visitors can explore the ruins or try traditional country crafts at The Grange. The adventure playground here is one of the best in Yorkshire. 

A riverside walk links Fountains Abbey to Studley Royal Water Garden, a World Heritage Site. Wander ornamental lakes, moon ponds, summer houses, statues and challenge the kids to find several quirky follies.

Ripley Castle near Harrogate is one of the most family friendly castles in England

Unlike many country estates, Ripley Castle offers 45 minutes tours specifically aimed at children. 

Families can pre-book additional activities such as archery, kayaking or a high ropes course or just explore the landscaped grounds and woodland playground. 

TIP – don’t miss the Ripley Ice Cream shop opposite the entrance to Ripley Castle. It is THE best ice cream in Yorkshire and people (like us) drive to Ripley just for the ice cream! 

 

 

Historic houses you should not miss in North Yorkshire

 

Historic houses have changed A LOT since I was a child being dragged around them by my parents.

Gone are stuffy guided tours and in are activity trails for children, dressing up costumes, treasure hunts and fantastic adventure playgrounds.

Newby Hall near Ripon is one of the best days out with kids in Yorkshire. The estate is well known with Yorkshire locals for its enormous adventure playground which has its own lake.

Kids will spend hours on the climbing frames, free to use pedalo boats, boat swings, aerial slide and sand pit.

There is also a popular ‘dancing’ water fountain which is impossible to resist on a sunny day. I recommend packing a change of clothes or a swimming costume for kids. Visitors to Newby Hall can explore the house, grounds and take a ride on a miniature railway.

Castle Howard featured in the TV series ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and ‘Bridgerton.’ 

Tour the fully furnished rooms of the house or enjoy pushchair friendly lakeside paths, woodland trails, temples, monuments and a walled garden.

Skelf Island is Castle Howard’s exciting tree top playground consisting of rope bridges, nets and slides.  Adults are allowed to join in the fun here.

Beningbrough Hall, on the outskirts of York, is a Georgian era stately home with house tours, woodland trails, adventure playground and a lovely walled garden. Plus, there are regular ‘Artrageous’ family workshops during school holidays.

 

large stone stately home with dome on top, lit by setting sun
Castle Howard, North Yorkshire

 

 

The Yorkshire Moors

 

The Moors are a scenic, windswept area stretching from Pickering to the Yorkshire Coast.

Hikers flock to this region for its hiking trails. My favourite walk in the Yorkshire Moors is in and around the Hole of Horcum, a natural amphitheatre 1/2 a mile wide and 400 foot deep.

If you plan on hiking in the Moors, I would recommend getting an OS map of the Yorkshire Moors. Trail signposts here can be few and far between.

Visit attractive market towns such as Helmsley and Pickering or picture perfect villages such as Goathland and Levisham.

 

 

Best things to do with kids in the Yorkshire Moors

 

A ride on a steam train on the North Yorks Moors Railway is without doubt one of the best things to do in Yorkshire with kids.

The train crosses the Moors between Pickering and Grosmont and passengers can purchase tickets that allow you to ‘hop on hop off’ the train along the route.

Stop at Levisham to see the Hole of Horcum or Goathland to visit locations featured in the hit tv series’ Heartbeat.’ 

Kids will recognise Goathland Station as Hogsmeade Station from the Harry Potter movies. 

The Dalby Forest on the eastern edge of the North York Moors is a giant playground. 

There are 13 hiking trails (including pushchair friendly walks), 6 cycling trails, a high ropes Go Ape course and 2 adventure playgrounds. 

The highly rated Ryedale Folk Museum in the heart of the Moors is an outdoor museum with buildings you can explore belonging to different eras such as an Elizabethan Manor house and an Iron Age roundhouse.  Kids will enjoy feeding the museums sheep and pigs.

 

 

The North Yorkshire Coast

 

small village huddled on a hillside next to a sandy beach with seaweed on, beaches in Yorkshire
Robin Hood’s Bay

 

Robins Hoods Bay is one of my favourite places to visit in Yorkshire, whatever the weather.   

Wander the maze of car free cobbled lanes and alleyways lined with old, tightly packed together cottages. 

This stretch of Yorkshire coastline is known as Yorkshire’s Jurassic Coast and visitors can search for fossils on the sandy beach. 

Whitby is a historic harbour town with a sandy beach. Wander the Whitby’s cobbled streets, visit the Captain James Cook museum and  climb the 199 stone steps to the ruins of Whitby Abbey. Rounded off your day with a famous Whitby fish and chip dinner. 

Scarborough is a busy seaside resort with a sandy beach lined by arcades and a quieter pebbly beach. Visit the Sea Life Centre, take a ridee on the North Bay Heritage Railway or explore the ruins of Scarborough Castle.

Alternatively, hire bikes and cycle the scenic car free Cinder Trail.

Alpamare Water Park is one of the best things do in Yorkshire when it is raining.

The park has four exhilarating water slides, an infinity pool, heated outdoor pool, wave pool and splash zone for non swimmers. There is also an onsite spa. 

Half a million seabirds nest at Bempton Cliffs (including Puffins).

There are six viewing platforms, self guided trails and hikes. Children can borrow ‘Discovery Backpacks’ containing binoculars, a bird book and bug pot. 

The North Yorkshire Coastal Path is part of the 109 mile long Cleveland Way National Trail.  

The coastal path is fantastic with sweeping views of the dramatic Yorkshire coastline, secluded sandy coves and rocky bays. 

One of my absolute favourite things to do in Yorkshire is to hike the 7 miles Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay, which passes Whitby’s squat white lighthouse on route. Tired legs can catch a bus back from Robin Hoods Bay to Whitby. 

The path is well marked and not technically challenging but it is elevated and unfenced so it is more suitable with older children.

 

Read our detailed guide to the Yorkshire Coast here. 

 

 

North Yorkshire beaches

 

There is a beach to suit everyone in Yorkshire! 

My top recommendation would be stunning Runswick Bay, which is not only one of the best beaches in Yorkshire but was also voted the Best Beach In Britain 2020. The beach is sandy, clean and in a scenic spot. Sandsend and Filey are other top sandy beaches for families. 

For funfairs, souvenir shops and arcades head to Scarborough and Bridlington. 

If you prefer a quiet beach visit Hunmanby Gap and Reighton Sands whilst surfers should head to windy Cayton Bay.

For old world charm visit Robin Hoods Bay and Staithes whereas animal lovers should visit the seal colony at Ravenscar and England’s largest nesting colony of seabirds at Flamborough Head. 

 

sandy beach with white cliffs in distance reighton sands Yorkshire coast
Reighton Sands, Yorkshire coastline

 

Things to do with kids in South Yorkshire

 

 

The Yorkshire Wildlife Park is one of the most popular Yorkshire attractions.

The park is home to over 400 animals from 70 different species. Wear comfy walking shoes for covering the 150 acre site! There are animals from Africa, Asia and Polar regions and most of the animals in the park are considered endangered.

There are indoor and outdoor play areas and pre bookable meet the animals experiences.

Gulliver’s Valley near Rotherham is a fun theme park aimed at younger children.

There are several options for a rainy day in South Yorkshire.

Magna Science Adventure Centre is an unusual attraction set in an enormous disused steelworks. There are over 100 hands on exhibits in four themed areas ( the water section is lots of fun) and a spectacular ‘Big Melt’ show.

Our son was not keen on the dark and loud noises in the show so we spent a lot of time outside in the Aqua Tek water playground outside. As the Magna website states, be prepared to get wet!

Alternatively, if you are looking for things to do in Yorkshire when it’s raining, head to The Dome or Calypso Waterpark.

The Dome near Doncaster has 7 swimming pools and the only split level ice rink in the U.K.  Calypso Cove in Barnsley offers fun waterslides and a pirate themed water play zone.

 

 

Things to do with kids in Sheffield

 

Check out the National Video Games Museum (my son’s idea of paradise) to discover how and why games are made plus have a go at making your own game.

Younger children will enjoy the hands on National Emergency Services Museum.

 

 

Things to do with kids in West Yorkshire

 

There is something for everyone in West Yorkshire!

Younger kids will love Diggerland in Wakefield or the excellent, hands on National Children’s Museum ‘Eureka’ in Halifax.

Our kids enjoyed the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford though I felt old looking at toys I used to play with now displayed in a museum! 

One of the more unusual places to visit in Yorkshire is the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield.

Visitors must don a hard hat and descend 140 metres in a mining cage for an underground tour with an ex miner. This Yorkshire attraction is more suitable for older children. 

Younger children will enjoy the adventure playground and bird garden at Harewood House. Tours of the house and grounds are also available. 

One of our favourite family days out in West Yorkshire is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. As visitors only pay for parking, this is a fantastic value for money day out.

The family friendly 500 acre park is packed with quirky and intriguing sculptures of all shapes and sizes. You can easily spend a whole at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and still not see everything.

And if you are visiting Yorkshire with kids around Halloween or Christmas, the themed activities at Stockeld Park are a must though it is worth visiting year round!

 

 

Things to do with kids in Leeds

 

Older children will enjoy the Royal Armouries Museum whilst younger children will love Tropical World in Roundhay Park.

Take a trip on Middleton Railway, the oldest working railway in the world.

Visit the Abbey House Museum, with its recreated Victorian street, or the quirky Thackeray Medical Museum.

I’d also recommend a trip to impressive Temple Newsam, an enormous stately home estate with a Rare Breeds farm on site.

brown brick stately home against blue sky with green hedges in front
Temple Newsam, Leeds

 

 

Things to do with kids in East Yorkshire

 

 

William’s Den is a popular attraction with locals and visitors alike and is more suitable for younger children. The 15 acre park offers woodland trails as well as indoor and outdoor adventure play areas.  

Sewerby Hall near Bridlington is a 50 park with historic house, landscaped gardens and small zoo. Other East Riding historic houses we have enjoyed with our kids are Burton Agnes Hall and Burton Constable Hall. 

For something different, visit the John Bull World of Rock. For £14 a family of four can tour the factory to see how rock is made.

‘Rock’ is a British seaside tradition (it is basically a delicious but jaw breaking hard roll of candy) and for an extra £1.50, you can have a go at making your own, personalised rock!

Just outside York is the brilliant Elvington Air Museum, our son’s favourite York attraction.

 

 

East Yorkshire coast

 

Bridlington is a popular seaside resort with arcades and a events spa and a expansive sandy beach. Further along is Fraisthorpe Beach, a flat beach popular for swimming and kite surfing.

Withernsea is a sandy Blue Flag beach with newly built promenade. Don’t miss the town’s inland lighthouse where families can climb 144 steps to the top of the lighthouse for a 360 degree view of Withernsea.

At the end of the Trans Pennine Trail lies Hornsea, a charming seaside resort boasting another sandy Blue Flag beach.

Spurn Point is well worth visiting. This 3 1/2 mile sandy peninsula stretches out from the Holderness Coast into the River Humber.

It is only 50 metres wide in places and offers excellent bird watching and walking trails and cannot be accessed by car. The lighthouse here is also open to the public.

Follow safety instructions carefully at ‘The Point’ as there is a risk of getting cut off from the mainland at high tide. 

 

 

Things to do with kids in Hull

 

Hull is an underrated destination in Yorkshire for families as the city has lots of family friendly attractions, many of which are free.

Streetlife Museum of Transport charts the history of 200 years of transport through 6 interactive galleries plus there is a recreated 1940’s street with shops you can enter.

Older children and history fans should visit Wilberforce House, the birthplace of William Wilberforce. Exhibits explain the history of the slave trade and its abolition.

The Hull and East Riding Museum is a lesser known gem and is packed with archaeological finds and historical artefacts including the only dinosaur bones found in East Yorkshire.

All three museums are free to enter and lie in Hull’s historic Museum Quarter which is easily covered on foot.

One unmissable Yorkshire day out is The Deep, one of the biggest aquariums in the U.K.

This not for profit aquarium is home to over 5,000 species in 50 exhibits. We have visited several times and there is always something new to see. Check The Deep website for daily talks and events.

 

So there you have it – a comprehensive list of the 100 best things to do with kids in Yorkshire!

And there are so many more things to do in Yorkshire that you will leave planning to return.

Have you visited Yorkshire with kids? What was your favourite attraction?

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