Family things to do in York for Christmas 2013

A youngster enjoys the funfair at the Winter Wonderland
13 Dec 2013 @ 12.23 pm
| Entertainment
A youngster enjoys the funfair at the Winter Wonderland
A youngster enjoys the funfair at the Winter Wonderland

York is the most Christmassy place this side of Lapland. But once you’ve admired the tree in St Helen’s Square, shopped yourself silly and eaten your enough mince pies to satiate a squadron of Santas, you might look for something else to do.

That could be a trip to find Father Christmas, a visit to the panto or a carol service at one of York’s churches.

Or you could take the family to enjoy the festive fun at one of the city’s top attractions…



At the National Railway Museum you can take a ride on a working steam train to make sure Santa receives his letters in time for Christmas.

The museum’s Station Hall has been transformed into the North Yorkshire Pole and the fun begins in Santa’s Depot where children can become immersed in a story where the elves need their help. Once the mail is sorted Santa’s helpers climb on board a steam train and take it directly to the big man. En-route they take part in a story telling session, before meeting Santa and getting a present.

  • When: December 13, 14, 15 and 18 – 24 December
  • Rides start at 9.40am and run at half hourly intervals for most of the day. Last ride: 5.10pm
  • Price: children – £11.50, adults – £7.50, under ones – £3. Increased charges apply on Christmas Eve. More details here

Castle Museum


Take your pick from these festive treats at the A few York Castle Museum.
Mince pies past and present Discover what makes the perfect mince pie and compare contemporary recipes with ones from Jacobean and Georgian England (December 14-23, 10am – 4pm, Kitchen Studio)
Father Christmas The chance for children to meet Father Christmas in the Toy Gallery and write what they want in his Big Book Of Christmas (December 14-24, noon, 1.30pm and 3pm, except Christmas Eve when the museum shuts at 2.30pm)
A Christmas Carol The classic story brought to life on Kirkgate (performances throughout the day from 11am – 4pm)

  • Note that the museum closes at 2.30pm on Christmas Eve
  • For full details see the museum website

Barley Hall

Suzy Cooper and Sian Howard from the York Theatre Royal at Barley Hall with the costumes
Suzy Cooper and Sian Howard from the York Theatre Royal at Barley Hall with the costumes

Decorated to reflect the traditions of its original medieval occupants, Barley Hall is the place to discover how our forebears celebrated Christmas, from food to entertainment. Santa is also making an appearance – see our grotto guide for more.

A big part of the modern Christmas celebrations is pantomime and this reflected in the exhibition with two famous dresses from York Theatre Royal’s panto past.

Both dresses have been worn by long-standing pantomime dame, Berwick Kaler in previous performances at York Theatre Royal and all panto costumes are available to hire via their costume services.

Beningbrough Hall

Willow wreaths at Beningbrough. Photograph: Dragon Willow
Willow wreaths at Beningbrough. Photograph: Dragon Willow

A little out of town tinsel now: Beningbrough Hall is also visited by Father Christmas (that man gets about) and they are also offering some crafty festive fun.

Every Sunday in December you can join the “artrageous” workshops and decorate a bauble for your tree, make a Christmas card, decorate a plate and more.

And on Friday, December 13 and Thursday, December 19, you can join willow weaving workshops to make up to 4 decorations to take home.

Winter Wonderland


Skating and Scandinavian food, anyone? No, it’s not a frosty IKEA, but the Winter Wonderland at York Designer Outlet. After doing your Torvill and Dean impression, tuck into treats like smokey beef chilli and apple-spiced cake at the PapaKitchen chalet café.

You can take to the ice at any time, but if you want to get better, there are classes every Sunday from 8.30am.

  • Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland will be open daily until January 5 at McArthur Glen’s York Designer Outlet
  • Tickets for a one-hour skating session cost £9.95 for adults and £8.95 for children and concessions. More on the website