York from above

York Half Term Holiday: A Staycation for all the Family

Filled with historic treasures and a unique fortified design that is breath-taking to behold, York is a city that lends itself to staycation holidays for all the family. When staying in one of the many luxurious serviced apartments York has to offer, you will discover a host of incredible restaurants, shops and museums right on your doorstep. For the school holidays, a York half term trip offers the perfect balance of fun, festivities and family activities to keep everyone entertained, time and again.   

York City Walls

York half term activity city walls walk
The magnificent city walls can be walked in a few hours

Founded by the Romans in 71AD, York has always been a heavily fortified city, having once acted as the capital of the Roman province – Britannia Inferior. The medieval stonework that we see today was erected in the 13th and 14th centuries, with earlier portions of the wall – dating back to the Roman times – lying beneath. The walls have witnessed incredible sieges, including that of Danish Vikings, who buried the Roman wall with their own earth bank and wooden palisade. Walking around the walls today affords magnificent views of both the city itself and the landscape beyond, much of which is green belt land. There are many guides and wall trails providing tours of the walls suitable to you and your family. Whether you want to see the most famous areas and enjoy the history behind them, or simply want to admire the view, walking the York city walls is a must during your York half term staycation.

York Ghost Bus

York Ghost bus Shambles
The famously spooky Shambles feature in the funny and frightening York Ghost Bus tour

A ghost tour with a difference, the York Ghost Bus takes its passengers along York’s streets and roads while its conductor conjures ghostly tales with a twist of humour, along with a splash of theatrics. Featuring landmarks such as Knavesmire Gallows, the Shambles, Dick Turpin’s Grave and many more, these tours are not only spooky, but surprisingly informative and enriching – certainly one of the best things to do during a York October half term getaway. The tour is best suited to families with children over five years of age because some younger scare seekers may find it a bit too spooky, but is a guaranteed journey of thrills and chills. Running from Friday to Sunday, these tours fill up fast so make sure you get there early or book in advance to get your seats.

Jorvik Viking Centre

Jorvik Viking man York half term attraction
See Vikings come to life at the Jorvik Viking Centre

As previously mentioned, York became an important Viking stronghold following the city’s siege by Danish Vikings almost 1,000 years ago. In the 1970s, archaeologists discovered and unearthed the remains of Viking houses, artefacts and workshops in the centre of York, and today that site is the location of the beloved Jorvik Viking Centre. Featuring a state of the art ride with animatronic Vikings, reconstructed scenes and genuine archaeological finds, your York half term journey into the past is sure to satisfy your Viking curiosities! If your little ones are inspired to discover their own historic finds, book them in at the nearby, affiliated Dig York site, where they can unearth relics like true archaeologists.

Boating on the River Ouse

River Ouse Boating York
Hire a boat on the majestic River Ouse and make family memories to last a lifetime

Part of York’s charm is that is resides either side of the beautiful River Ouse, with the River Foss also crossing through its centre. These waterways provide not only excellent opportunities for photographs and picnics along their banks, but also the chance to explore the city from the comfort of your very own vessel. With City Cruises York, you can hire your very own boat, with room for up to 8 passengers, for an hour long trip along the river. You are bound to have ample fun on the water charting your own course and enjoying all the sights of the city as a family embarking on a mini adventure. If taking control of a boat isn’t for you, you can also join a sightseeing cruise from multiple points in the city.

National Railway Museum

National Railway Museum York Train in forest York half term
The museum features trains from every era, including beautiful steam locomotives

The National Railway Museum is the largest of its kind in the UK, and houses trains of every kind within its vast grounds. With free entry and literally hundreds of hours’ worth of exhibitions, trains and paraphernalia to discover, a trip to this impressive museum should most certainly be on your York half term itinerary. It is thought that the museum contains over 6000 objects, including 100 locomotives, for guests to appreciate. There are even jewellery collections, boats and hovercraft to see! A favourite with children is the giant, fully functional model railway located in the Great Hall, which provides endless amusement for all those visiting. Also located in the Great Hall is a café serving delicious food throughout the day, meaning you and your family can stay fully fuelled until departure time.

Clifford’s Tower

Clifford's Tower York half term
Clifford’s Tower overlooks the city from its impressive vantage point

The intimidating Clifford’s Tower has a gruesome past, and remains an important historical landmark in both York and the UK as a whole. Originally the site of a wooden keep built by William the Conqueror almost 1,000 years ago, the tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle, which was the centre of government for northern England. What remains is a 13th century stone tower atop a huge hill, offering spectacular views of York Minister and the city as a whole. Taking a trip up to the top of the tower is a fascinating journey into history and provides plenty for all the family to see and discover.

Now that we’ve covered just some of the fantastic sights York has to offer for your York half term family trip, be sure to book your York serviced apartment from our excellent collection. For more insights into York as a staycation location read our first hand account of a family trip to the city. Considering other cities for your holiday? Read our guide to the some of the best staycation cities in the UK and get ready to embark on your next family adventure.

Charles McIntyre

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