Keeping the kids entertained during school holidays can be challenging at the best of times, but during Christmas where all of our budgets are tighter it can be particularly difficult. However, there are plenty of free activities and places to visit throughout York that will keep your kids entertained and give you a break from all the chaos Christmas can bring! Here are a few free ways in York to keep your kids entertained this festive season…

York Art Gallery

Home to a huge collection of artwork spanning over 600 years, York Art Gallery is a great day out for all art lovers visiting York. General admission into the art gallery is free, but there is a small fee to access special exhibitions such as the Drawing Attention: Emerging Artists in Dialogue which is open until January 28th 2024. Current exhibitions that are available to explore include the Wall of Women and Treasures from the Stores.There are so many talented artists and breathtaking works of art you can explore on your next visit to York Art Gallery.

Walk along the City Walls

York’s medieval City Walls are a huge part of York’s historic identity which can be enjoyed by everyone for free. The elevated walk along the walls around the city takes around 2 hours to complete and offers a different view of historic York. You can explore the main features of the wall, with areas from all periods of its construction still standing. The walk along the walls can be accessed at various points throughout the city The walls are only accessible by foot meaning there is no disabled access or access for pushchairs and buggies, but there are accessible, close-up views of the walls everyone can enjoy at Multangular Tower.

The York Cat Trail

Discover more of York in a free, unique way by following the York Cat Trail around the city! For around two centuries, cat statues have been placed on York buildings with old statues that have been removed or that have rotted away thought to be from the Mediaeval period. The history behind these cat statues placed on buildings is that it was to scare off any rats or mice carrying illness, ward off evil spirits and even bestow good luck and fortune upon the residents. Leaflets for the trail can be found at most hotels in York or can be downloaded online from York Lucky Cats for free.

York Minster Christmas Tree Festival

Explore the mediaeval York Minster this Christmas and experience the magic of the popular Christmas Tree Festival. Inside there will be 60 trees that have been individually themed and decorated by local businesses, schools and charities. If one tree in particular catches your eye, you can vote for it in the ‘best dressed tree competition’! The whole family can get involved and choose their favourites to vote for! You and your family can also add your own message onto the festival’s prayer tree! Entry is free with general admission, which is free for York residents with proof of address.

St Nick’s Nature Reserve

From former landfill to thriving nature reserve, St Nick’s is the green heart of York. There are 24 acres of beautiful, unique green space to be explored and it’s the perfect place to get your children outdoors this school holiday! There are around 20 species of birds on the reserve as well as different species of insects and mammals – with the kids you can challenge them to spots as many birds, insects and animals as they can! The reserve encourages everyone who visits them to travel by bus, walking or cycling wherever possible meaning you can extend the adventure for your little ones. And with it only being a mile between the city and located between an industrial estate and housing estate, it is very easy to access by bus, foot or bike.

Family Friendly Cycle Route

If you and your family own bikes that don’t get used often enough, why not go on an adventure and explore a family friendly cycle route? One of the many routes found in York is the York to Naburn on the York Solar System. This route can start on the Millennium bridge, with parking available nearby if you don’t want to cycle there, and you will need to follow the signs that state Route 65 towards Knavesmire. This route is great for the family as you get to spot the planets along the way! It can be a great learning opportunity for your littles ones interested in space and science!

Images- @yorkartgallery, @walk_york_walls, @yorkminsterofficial