37 things to do in York this half-term holiday, May 28-June 5 2016

The Romans are coming! But don't worry, they're only little. Photograph: Visit York
27 May 2016 @ 4.01 pm
| Entertainment

Don’t panic. The Romans haven’t invaded again. Those loud people poking you with sharp things and demanding food are your children.

Yes, it’s half-term again. Hurray!

Here are a lot of things for them to do. You’re welcome.

For crafty kids

A live colouring show - CBBC's Mr Maker brings his tour to York
A live colouring show – CBBC’s Mr Maker brings his tour to York

Mister Maker Live

Grand Opera House, Cumberland Street

Jun 3, 4pm



Arts and crafts hero Mister Maker – yes, him off the telly! – arrives in York as part of his first ever live theatre tour.

We hope his sidekick triangle will be appearing too – it’s our favourite shape.

Elmer Day!

York Explore, Library Square

May 28, 11.30am-3.30pm


More info

This is your chance to celebrate everybody’s favourite patchwork pachyderm (because there are so many to choose from) with a host of family arts and crafts all about Elmer.

Attendance is free, but it’s best to book as they’re expecting quite a crowd. Maybe you can give them a trunk call…

Colourful character… Elmer
Colourful character… Elmer

Sand Art

York Explore, Library Square

May 28, 2pm-3pm


More info

If you’re aged four to 12 and like messing about with sand, this is your opportunity to make a fantastic picture made out of the stuff and take it home.

Note to mums and dads: you’ll be tipping sand out of their shoes for weeks.

Nature Activity Fun

York Explore, Library Square

May 31, 10.30am-11.30am


More info

As summer starts to warm up (summer is still the warm season, isn’t it?), all the birds, bugs and crawly things starts to make their presence known, occasionally by emerging from a small child’s pocket.

If your littlies (aged four and over) love a bit of nature, this is their chance to make bird and insect feeders and giant bugs, which they absolutely promise not to leave under grandma’s duvet.

Peg dolls

York Castle Museum, Eye of York

May 28-Jun 5, 9.30am-5pm


More info

Dress up a peg doll in a costume inspired by the museum’s vast collection.

And while you’re there, have a look at the fabulous Shaping The Body exhibition, which features all kinds of fashionable ephemera including an arsenic dress that could actually kill you (giving a whole new meaning to ‘to die for’).

Tiger Moths & Memory

York Art Gallery, Exhibition Square

May 28-Jun 5, 11am-5pm


More info

Make model aircraft and memory moths (no, we’re not sure what they are either, but they sound intriguing) at a drop-in workshop in the studio.

This event is part of the gallery’s ongoing project marking the centenary of the First World War.

For outdoorsy types

When do the kids get a go? Photograph © Alan Levine on Flickr
When do the kids get a go? Photograph © Alan Levine on Flickr

Slide The Uni

East Campus, University of York

Jun 3, 9am-7pm


More info

You asked for a 70m vinyl slide with a splash zone at the end, and here it is!

All right, you probably didn’t ask for it because that would be weird, but you’ll still be queuing excitedly with your towel with the rest of us.

Meet the Minibeasts

St Nicks, Rawdon Avenue

May 30, 10-noon


More info

Enjoy a family-friendly morning of fun wildlife activities on a minibeast safari, making bug hotels and playing games.

After the event, you can picnic in the garden of the Environment Centre. The lovely people who run it will even provide drinks and biscuits for a small donation if you can’t be bothered to butter your own sandwiches.

Spring Bank Holiday at Murton Park

There be cowboys in them thar Murton Park. Photograph: Yorkshire Museum Of Farming on Facebook
There be cowboys in them thar Murton Park. Photograph: Yorkshire Museum Of Farming on Facebook

Yorkshire Museum of Farming

May 29-30, 10am-4.30pm


More info

Battling hordes of re-enacters will be jostling for supremacy at the Yorkshire Farming Museum over the bank holiday weekend.

Actually, it’s probably best to keep the cowboys of The Trailblazers and the Jorvikingi and Svartland Vikings apart. We don’t want to scare the animals now, do we?

Holgate Windmill Open Weekend

Holgate Windmill, Windmill Rise

May 28-30, 11am-4pm


More info

You’ll find knowledgeable volunteers in the mill who can give you lots of information and answer any questions you may have about Holgate mill or milling in general.

There’ll be displays and storyboards depicting the history of the mill and merchandise to buy (yes, there will be bags of flour).

Wetland Meadow Planting

St Nicks, Rawdon Avenue

Jun 4, 10am-2pm


More info

Help to create a new wetland meadow on St Nicks Nature Reserve and make a whole bunch of insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals very happy indeed.

All willing workers will get a free lunch and the chance to feel really rather good about themselves.

Open Farm Sunday

Various venues

Sun Jun 5


More info

Friendly farmers across the country are opening their gates and inviting visitors to have a good old nosey around.

Events include tractor rides (we’ve got your attention now, haven’t we?), welly wangling and barbecue scoffing.

For older children

It's all good, clean fun at York Sport Village. Photograph ©  USAG- Humphreys on Flikr
It’s all good, clean fun at York Sport Village. Photograph © USAG- Humphreys on Flikr

Colour Fun Run

York Sport Village, Lakeside Way

Jun 3, 5.30pm-6.30pm


More info

This is our sort of fun run – no one times you, you can go as slow as you like, do as many (or as few) laps as you like and throwing things is actively encouraged.

You might start squeaky clean but, by the time people have finished lobbing powder paint at you, you’ll look like a slowly jogging rainbow.

The Secret Bank Holiday

York Theatre Royal, St Leonard’s Place

May 27-30


More info

How would you like to make a play from start to finish? OK, now let’s do it in a weekend.

The Theatre Royal is inviting people to turn up on Friday night, when they’ll reveal what the play is going to be, work with directors over the weekend and perform the finished show on Monday night. Easy.

York Fake Festival

York Knavesmire, Knavesmire Road

May 28, 12.30pm-11pm



York Fake Festival is a tribute-based music event, boasting three professional ‘touring-grade’ bands who look(ish), sound and move like the real rock-stars. So, brace yourselves for Queen tribute Flash, Kazabian and the Really Hot Chili Peppers.

Talented home-grown bands will be providing support and there’s a giant marquee just in case the British weather lives up to its reputation.

Chip Shop The Musical

Wackers Restaurant, Gillygate

Jun 1-3, 6pm + 8pm



Ayla loves grime music. Gram loves Yorkshire brass. You love fish and chips. How can this love story not end happily ever after?

This is a musical love story touring real fish and chip shops up and down the country, with a ticket price that includes a meal and a drink. Genius.

For fair fans

A tombola is just the ticket for a great family weekend. Photograph ©  Barry Caruth on Flikr
A tombola is just the ticket for a great family weekend. Photograph © Barry Caruth on Flickr

Summer Fair

Old Grey Mare, Clifton Green

May 28, noon-3pm


More info

All the summer fair favourites are covered here. Tombola? Tick. Cake stall? Of course. Face painting? Yup, and we’ll raise you a lucky dip.

The event is organised by York Housing Association to raise funds for REal, formerly Homeless International.

Southbank Spring Fair

Millthorpe School, Nunthorpe Avenue

May 30, 10am-5pm


More info

Southbank Spring Fair – set to become an annual event on York’s already packed social calendar – offers a range of artisan food, drink and crafts by local producers.

There’ll also be lots of fun and games on the sports field.

Made In Yorkshire

Parliament Street, York

Thu May 26-Mon May 30, 10am-5pm


More info

Jewellery to ceramics, textiles to wood, photography to art – there’s all sorts of gifts on sale, and you can meet the designer-makers at the same time. There’s also a Made In Yorkshire café within the marquee.

For performers

Oh no, someone's forgotten to tell the audience about the Secret Play. Photograph: Sirastudio
Oh no, someone’s forgotten to tell the audience the Theatre Royal has reopened. Photograph: Sirastudio

Discover York Theatre Royal

York Theatre Royal, St Leonard’s Place

Jun 1, 10am-1pm


More info

If you’re aged seven to 12, you can explore the new-look Theatre Royal, learn about its recently uncovered past and chat with members of staff about the various aspects of staging a production.

Oh, and you can also have a go at performing on the main house stage.

Alice in Wonderland

Joseph Rowtree Theatre, Haxby Road

May 28, 2pm + 7.30pm



Join Alice as she meets the strangest of characters in the strangest of circumstances in this family favourite by Lewis Carroll.

You’ll be relieved to know that Johnny Depp is not in the Rowntree Players version.

Play for a Day

Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate

June 4, 10am-4pm


More info

How would you like to join five professional actors and a theatre director for a whole day of drama? Of course you would.

They’ve got the props, the costumes and the stage, now all they need is you, your talent and enthusiasm.

A Dahl-icious Workshop

De Grey Rooms, St Leonard’s Place

May 31, 10am-noon


More info

A two-hour workshop with fun games and exercises for five to eight year-olds inspired by the work of Roald Dahl – now that sounds like fun (and we’re not even being remotely sarcastic).

Among the utterly fabulous books being workshopped are George’s Marvellous Medicine, Revolting Rhymes, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The Bog Baby

York Explore, Library Square

Jun 1, 11am-noon


More info

Here’s a chance for your under-fives to dig in to Mud Pie Arts interactive storytelling performance that puts children and parents inside a story.

It’s also a great opportunity for them to meet a mysterious blue bog baby. Which, naturally, they’ll love.

For history buffs

If you fancy a quiet one this weekend, don't head to Yorkshire Air Museum. Photograph: Visit York
If you fancy a quiet one this weekend, don’t head to Yorkshire Air Museum. Photograph: Visit York

Thunder Day

Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington

Jun 5, 10am-5pm


More info

See the museum’s aircraft doing what they do best – making a satisfying loud noise.

There’ll be thunderous rumbles from Cold War jets and big piston aircraft engines (as long as the engineers finish tinkering on time and the machinery co-operates).

Eboracum Roman Festival

Museum Gardens

June 1-5

Most events are free

More info

The armies of ancient Rome are marching on York again this week as part of a new festival complete with military parades, siege weapon demonstrations, guided walks and expert speakers.

Six Roman legions will be setting up camp in Museum Gardens to give fighting displays and put children through army drills. By the left!

Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar

Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens

June 3, 2-4pm

£2.50 (museum admission not included)


Julius Caesar visits Asterix’ home village in this 1999 film starring Gerard Depardieu to see why his tax collector keeps leaving empty-handed.

There’s then some jiggery-pokery involving a magic potion, Obelix falling into a pot and people dressing up as druids. Apparently, it’s almost like watching a documentary on the History Channel.

Living History at the Hall

Barley Hall, Coffee Yard, Stonegate

Jun 1, 11am-3pm


More info

The award-winning volunteers at the Barley Hall bring history to life, showcasing what life below stairs was like in the medieval period.

There will be pinnies.

Need for Speed

National Railway Museum, Leeman Road

May 28-Jun 5, 12.30pm + 2.30pm


More info

Why do we always try to go faster? Which famous locomotives have broken incredible speed records? Can I drive the engine?

We don’t know! Luckily, however, there’s a nice chap at the NRM who does and he’s around all week to answer questions as part of a fast-paced interactive science show.

Storytelling with Caroline Lawrence

Caroline Lawrence with a Roman
Caroline Lawrence with a Roman

Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens

Jun 4, 11am-noon


More info

Meet author Caroline Lawrence as she reads from the first book in her new series, Roman Quests: Escape from Rome.

Her previous series, The Roman Mysteries, sold over a million copies and was the inspiration for a children’s BBC show.

Chocolate and the People of York

York Chocolate Story, King’s Square

Every day, 10am-5pm


More info

This tasty new exhibition explores the contribution the people of York have made to the chocolate industry (let’s just say Yorkie, KitKat and Smarties and leave it at that).

Learn about the lives of the factory workers who manned the production lines and the founding fathers, whose inventiveness and dedication created world famous brands. Then eat a lot of chocolate.

A Century of Shoes

Fairfax House, Castlegate

Every day



Witness the rise and fall of the Georgian heel as Fairfax House celebrates the visual splendour and dramatic forms of a century of shoes from this opulent and extravagant era.

From the fanciful footwear of the wealthiest to the functional mules of the down at heel, this exhibition reveals the fashion and function of Georgian footwear.

Happy Birthday DIG!

DIG, St Saviourgate

Jun 4, 10am-5pm


More info

It’s a whole decade since DIG opened its archaeological adventure in St Saviour’s Church, so it’s celebrating with games, competitions, party crafts, presents, balloons and, of course, birthday cake.

Whether you’re digging in the excavation pits or enjoying games in the garden, be prepared for lots of surprises and special party guests.

Happy Birthday Beningbrough!

Happy birthday Beningbrough!

Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens, Beningbrough, York YO30 1DD

Tues-Sun until October 30, 2016

Admission: adult £10.80, child £5.40, family £27, National Trust members free

More details

In other birthday news, this year Beningbrough turns 300. And to celebrate there are a host of exhibitions telling some of the fascinating stories from the last three centuries. Look out for the tea trays tumbling down the stairs!

Meanwhile young adventurers can climb a tree or track down the many weird and wonderful bugs hiding in the grounds, as they try to complete the popular bucket-style list 50 things to do before you’re 11¾.

Muddle & Match Dress Up

York Castle Museum, Eye of York

May 28-Jun 5, 9.30am-5pm

£2 per book (+ £10 admission)

More info

Follow the clues round the galleries to find a variety of outfits, collect the costume cards and build up your own muddle and match dress up book.

Remember this is aimed at children – so, mum, get your own dress-up book.

Demolition and restoration

Treasurer’s House, York

Daily 11am-4.30pm

Admission £3.60-£8

More info

Treasurer’s House has an exhibition revealing how it was saved from demolition – and the fate of many more old Yorkshire houses which weren’t so lucky.

There’s also an indoor house trail for the youngsters – perfect for wet days in the city centre.

Dolls House & Miniatures Fair

York Racecourse, Knavesmire Road

Jun 5, 10.30am-4pm


More info

Explore teeny-tiny showhomes from a variety of historical periods, enjoy talks from full-size experts and do a little shopping at the 80+ exhibitor stalls.

The organiser states that the fair is staged over three floors, but doesn’t specify whether they are miniature floors.

Facetious? Us?