26 things to do in York this half term – February 2016

11 Feb 2016 @ 9.35 am
| Entertainment

What do you mean they’re off school again? There’s still a bit of tinsel under the sofa and they haven’t written their thank-you cards yet. It can’t possibly be time for another school holiday!

Oh, but it is. Don’t panic though, there’s plenty to do in York if you know where to look.

And we do.

Jorvik Viking Festival

A pleasant afternoon's marauding… Jorvik Viking Festival's back. Photograph: York Archaeological Trust
A pleasant afternoon’s marauding… Jorvik Viking Festival’s back. Photograph: York Archaeological Trust

The largest Viking festival in Europe rampages through the streets of York from February 15-21, attracting more than 40,000 visitors, a great many of them bearded and horny of hat.

This year’s festival is a week-long commemoration of the millennial anniversary of the crowning of King Canute, the Viking warrior who rose up to be not just King of England but leader of a North Sea empire.

Vikings Invade Coppergate

Coppegate Centre

Feb 13, 10am-4pm


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Join the Vikings in their encampment at Coppergate (close to Fenwick so they can stock up on moisturiser and fancy soaps) where they will have weaponry, traditional crafts and trading ship displays.

Meet the Experts: Hidden Vikings

Barley Hall

Feb 15, 10am-3pm


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Explore some of the techniques of archaeological artefact illustration, both digital and traditional, with the opportunity for some hands-on object drawing.

Little Diggers: Visiting Vikings

DIG, St Saviourgate

Feb 15, 10-11am

£3.50 (inc. accompanying adult)

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Bring the little ones along to meet real live Vikings. Apparently, they’re not as terrifying as you might think and are actually very fond of small children (even though they give them indigestion).

City Camp & Viking Steading

Parliament Street

Feb 15-21, 10am-4pm


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See a longship kitted out for war, discover the animals the Vikings reared in the city and gather in the story tent to hear exciting tales about the famous King Canute. (Bet you didn’t know Vikings always pack a story tent when they go marauding, did you?)

Have-a-Go Sword Combat

Merchant Adventurers’ Hall

Feb 15, 10.30am-4.15pm


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A chance for younger Vikings to get a taste of the art of sword fighting. Please note: parents might want to invest in full combat armour to protect their softer regions from repeated pokings with blunt sticks.

The Gruesome Murders of Sigeferth and Morcar

York Guildhall

Feb 16, 11am-3.30pm


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Let your kids swap the school playground for another combat arena, this time involving the terrifying murders of Sigeferth and Morcar by the dastardly Earl of Mercia, Eadric Streona, a man who would definitely steal your dinner money as soon as look at you.

Poo Day!

DIG, St Saviourgate

Feb 17, noon-4pm


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Learn the grubbiest of grubby archaeological secrets and discover how to recreate a historically accurate Viking poo.

Thorfinn the Nicest Viking

Merchant Adventurers’ Hall

Feb 17, 2-4pm


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Meet the author who created the nicest Viking in children’s literature, David Macphail, and hear tales from his hilarious new series of books (which you could also win).

Kids’ Film Club

DIG, St Saviourgate

Feb 19, 1-4pm

£7 (children must be accompanied)

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Stock up on popcorn for this fabulously fun double bill of How to Train Your Dragon films.

Best Beard Contest

Parliament Street

Feb 20, 3-5pm


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Make or grow your own beard for the chance to win the much sought after best beard trophy. It doesn’t matter how old or hairy you are, everyone has got an equal chance of getting within a whisker of this coveted title.

Arty fun

LED badge-making… one of the things to do with that crafty lot at Vespertine. Photograph: Vespertine York
LED badge-making… one of the things to do with that crafty lot at Vespertine. Photograph: Vespertine York

Vespertine Exhibition & Workshops

York St Mary’s Church

Feb 17-20, 1-7pm


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Catch up with new films, sound pieces and photography and take part in free drop-in workshops led by artists whose work is on display at St Mary’s.

There’s foil face-making with Reetso on February 17; LED badge-making on February 18; a sound and music workshop with Octopus Breadboard Orchestra on February 19 aimed at children aged 8+ who want to improvise using household bits and bobs; and a words and performance workshop with antichoir Juxtavoices on February 20 for ages 18+ singers to learn, rehearse and perform a piece in a day.

Puppet Making

York Art Gallery

Feb 15, 11am-1pm, 2-4pm

Free with a paying adult (£7.50)

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Create characters from the paintings on display or just reach into the depths of your imagination for your very own personalised puppet. This drop-in session is free and suitable for all ages and abilities. Basically, if you like glitter and glue, you’re in.

Billions of Buttons

York Art Gallery

Feb 20, 11am-1pm, 2-4pm

Free with a paying adult (£7.50)

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Just imagine the fun you could have with billions of buttons. OK, so artist Karen Thompson might not actually have billions, but she has a lot – enough, in fact, for whole families of fun-seekers to join her on her bookable workshop.

Create at the Castle

Castle Museum

Feb 13-21, 11am-4pm

Free with a paying adult (£10)

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Join the museum’s week-long trail of Edwardian entertainment and activities by getting crafty with cardboard to create your own beach hut and seaside donkey puppet.

You can also pay an extra 50p to enter a trail competition to win an Edwardian-style toy.


Mad about football? Play with York City FC. Photograph:  York City Football Club Foundation
Mad about football? Play with York City FC. Photograph:
York City Football Club Foundation

York City FC Holiday Course

Huntington Secondary School

Feb 15-18

£16 a day

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York City’s holiday courses are designed for both boys and girls aged four to 12 who are mad about football and looking to take the next step.

Sessions develop the technical, physical, psychological, social and tactical aspects of the young players in a fun, engaging, safe environment.

Total Sports Holiday Club

Manor CE Academy School

Feb 15-19, 8.15am-5.30pm

£16.50 a day

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Children aged five to 12 are welcome at Manor, Huntington Primary School, Our Lady Queen of Martrys Primary School and Archbishop Holgate’s for activities, sports, crafts and fun with a ‘pirates and princesses’ theme.

Really wild

Beningbrough Hall gardens last spring… there'll be many more blooms this year. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
Beningbrough Hall gardens last spring… there’ll be many more blooms this year. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr

Bulb Planting

Beningbrough Hall

Feb 13-21, 11am-3.30pm

£6-12 (free to National Trust members)

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Leave a flowering legacy by helping Beningbrough Hall plant 300,000 spring bulbs in the new Ha-Ha walk to celebrate the 300th year since the hall was built. Don’t worry, you don’t have to plant all 300,000 yourself.

Wildflower Fun

St Nick’s Environment Centre

Feb 16, 2-4pm


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Find out about different varieties of wildflowers and get your hands dirty planting some for St Nick’s nature reserve.

At the end of the session, you can take home wildflower seeds to plant in your own garden.

Urban Buzz Workshop

Rawcliife Bar Training Room

Feb 18, 1-3.30pm


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You don’t need experience, but enthusiasm is essential if you want to enjoy a full buglife as an Urban Buzz volunteer.

This session gives you an overview of the project; the key needs of pollinators; how to assess sites; and practical outdoor practice (weather permitting).


York Stage Musicals bring Ghost: The Musical to the Grand Opera House
York Stage Musicals bring Ghost: The Musical to the Grand Opera House

Ghost: The Musical

Grand Opera House

Feb 16-20, 7.30pm


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This musical staging of one of the most popular films of all time promises to be a gripping roller-coaster ride of romance, drama and excitement for older kids (and their quietly sobbing mums).

It features extraordinary illusions and, of course, a scene on intense pottery-making (you know the one we mean).

Les Miserables

Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Feb 17-27, 7.30pm


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It’s in its 30th year in London, has broken box offices records across the world and consistently comes out on top in polls to find the nation’s favourite musical.

Les Miserables is, then, a very astute choice for Pick Me Up Theatre’s youth production, giving the young stars something to get their teeth into and guaranteeing bums on seats.

Punch & Judy

York Castle Museum

Feb 13-21, 11.30am-3.30pm

Free with a paying adult (£10)

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That’s the way to do it! Or rather, this is, if you want to keep the kids happy for a while. Traditional Punch & Judy shows will run throughout the school holidays as part of the museum’s season of Edwardian entertainment.

Punch & Judy’s Railway Adventure

National Railway Museum

Feb 13-21, 11.15am, 1.15pm, 2.15pm + 3.15pm


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The under-6s and their families are invited to take an exciting trip to the seaside with two very special guests, one of whom might repeatedly hit the other one until the police have to be called.

Quiet Time

Spectacular Sagas and Fantastical Fables: storytelling sessions at the Yorkshire Museum with Viking Adrian Spendlow and storyteller Mary Passeri. Photograph: David Harrison
Spectacular Sagas and Fantastical Fables: storytelling sessions at the Yorkshire Museum with Viking Adrian Spendlow and storyteller Mary Passeri. Photograph: David Harrison

Story Chair Days

York Art Gallery

Feb 13-14, all day

Free with paying adult (£7.50)

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Pull up a patch of carpet and settle down for some family fun with artist and storyteller Mary Passeri, who’ll be sitting comfortably in the Story Chair all day long.

Stargazing Night

York Observatory, Museum Gardens

Feb 16, 6-8pm


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Spend a dark winter’s evening learning about the stars, planets and York’s historic astronomers as expert volunteers open up the city’s historic observatory.

You can learn about the historic Cooke Telescope; take a sky tour; create a crater; and walk to the sun (not really – all will be revealed on the night).

Chess Club

York Explore Library

Feb 15, 2-3.30pm


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It doesn’t matter if you don’t know your rook from your bishop, everyone is welcome at the library’s new kids’ drop-in chess club. Pop in, learn a few moves and maybe play a game or two – you never know, you might be a grandmaster in the making.