Half-term’s here again, and before the children drive you half-crazy here’s our guide to the best things to do in the holiday. Vikings, toys, swords and poo – what more could any family wish for?
The weather forecast says “chilly but dry” for at least the first few days of half term, so take the children out to one of the activities being put on in open air York. Kids can build stuff in Acomb Woods, make kites in Rowntree Park, go orienteering at West Bank Park and build nest boxes at Rawcliffe Country Park. Meanwhile the Dig In team want kids to come along and start planting at the Grove Secret Garden.
- Where: At York parks and open spaces
- When: Throughout half term
- Price: £1-£5 for the park events; free for the Dig In event
- More details: See the City of York Council Ranger Service Facebook page for park events, and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust website for Dig In info
Yikes – it’s the Vikes!
Hairy, helmeted and horribly good at fighting, pillaging and craftwork, the Vikings are back. They return to York for the Jorvik Viking Festival over half term and it’s a packed programme – you can browse through the full listing here – and includes family activities, talks, demonstrations and music. You can Meet The Experts and learn about everything from Viking poo to archaeologist crime fighters. There’s combat and comedy at the Guildhall, while the Minster is hosting family activities as well as a reenactment of the Heimkoma, or homecoming, of King Svein and his son Cnut. (Phew! Spelled it right).
- Where: At venues across York
- When: Saturday, February 16 to Sunday, February 24
- Price: Varies according to event. Some events are free
- More details: Online brochure at the Jorvik Viking Centre website
Tootle down memory lane on a Chopper bike or a pull-along train as Toy Stories – Come And Play opens at the Castle Museum. This is the stuff of hard-core nostalgia: from old Lego sets to 1980s games consoles which will have your iPod-toting children hooting with derision. Older items include hand-painted dolls, and children can bring along their own soft toy to ride on Gilligan’s Galloping Carousel, an Edwardian merry-go-round.
- Where: York Castle Museum, Eye Of York
- When: Opens Saturday, February 16, daily from 9.30am until 5pm
- Price: Free entry for residents with a YorkCard, otherwise adults £8.50, accompanied children under 16 free
- More details: On the Castle Museum website
It’s not only the Castle Museum that has opened the toy cupboard. Over at the National Railway Museum, there’s nine days of fun with little locomotives, from children’s pedal trains to rides on indoor and outdoor railways. Big Fun With Little Trains includes family-friendly model layouts and the chance to take part in a Chuggington challenge to stack your track as high as possible. As well as all this toy train fun, visitors can enjoy our regular school holiday activities including explosive science shows, turntable demonstrations and rides behind a real steam engine for a small charge.
- Where: The National Railway Museum, Leeman Road
- When: Saturday, February 16 to Sunday, February 24, 10am-6pm
- Price: Free, although some charges apply for certain rides
- More details: On the NRM website
We may be reduced to notch on the branch line of the HS2 these days, but there was a time when York ruled the land. The new exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum, Capital Of The North, recalls that era when great swathes of the country were ruled from within York’s walls. “Kings ruled the country from here; Archbishops led the Church from here; traders and merchants made their fortunes here,” says the museum’s Natalie McCaul. Designed with families in mind the exhibition includes colourful cartoons of iconic medieval characters with connections to York, including Richard III, as well as prize exhibits like the Gilling Sword.
- Where: The Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens
- When: Opens Saturday, February 16, daily from 10am until 5pm
- Price: Free entry for residents with a YorkCard, otherwise adults £7.50, accompanied children under 16 free
- More details: On the Yorkshire Museum website
Hoop and glory
Beningbrough Hall has gone all Victorian this half term. Kids can swap their X-Box for a hoop and stick and play other old games, there’s storytelling, trails around the house and garden and they can even make their own Victorian servant in the Artrageous creative workshops. Lots of talks and tours, and for those who just enjoy a stroll round the gardens, the snowdrops and winter aconites are already in bloom.
- Where: Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough
- When: Saturday, February 16 to Sunday, February 24 (closed Monday 18th), 11am-3.30pm
- Price: Adults £8.30, children £4.15, families £20.75. Free to National Trust members
- More details: On the Beningbrough Hall web pages