Free things to do in York
Dress for the weather and take a look at our suggestions of free things to do in York. Enjoy the space and fresh air!
For a tailored list of activities and events in your local area, get in touch with us on telephone: 01904 554444 or email: [email protected].
Find out more about:
- 25by25 Project
- 50 things to do before you're 11 and 3/4
- Big Butterfly Count
- Cat Trail
- Change4Life Activities
- Cycle the Solar System
- Families Get Active
- Max Card
- National Railway Museum
- Park to Park Walk
- Selfie Trail
- The Squirrel's Trail
- St Nicks Nature Reserve
- Walking the Walls
- Walking and cycling ideas
- Wildlife sites around York
- Wildlife watching
- York Card
- York Libraries
Free cultural experiences to do by the age of 25, across York, the UK and Europe.
Find more information on how to get involved and view activities to cross off your list in York.
50 things to do before you're 11 and 3/4
Give your children a challenge over the summer! The National Trust are running their award winning campaign '50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾.'
From climbing a tree to tracking wild animals, the list is great fun and will be sure to capture the imaginations of your children and inspire them to venture into the great outdoors.
Big Butterfly Count
Take part in the Big Butterfly Count every summer. Spend just 15 minutes in your garden, local park on out on a walk and note how many butterflies you see. You can also download a butterfly and moth identifier so you know what you have spotted.
Have some free fun in York, see the sights and find the cat statues on our self-guided tour. The trail starts at The Cat Gallery shop and takes an hour or so. Find more information about the cat trail and download the trail map.
Change4Life 10 minute Shake Up - Change4Life and Disney have teamed up to bring you Shake Up games inspired by Disney and Pixar's Toy Story 4 and Incredibles 2, and Disney's The Lion King and Frozen. These 10-minute bursts of fun will really get your kids moving and count towards the 60 active minutes they need every day!
Sports and active hobbies are a great way to get active, which is important for everyone's physical health, and can help improve confidence and self-esteem. They don't need to take up a lot of time or money – and it all counts towards the minimum 60 minutes of activity kids need to be doing every day. Check out Change4Life's A to Z of sports and activities or take the Disney themed quiz to discover which sports and activities could be perfect for you.
View more details on Change4Life's indoor activities for children.
Cycle the Solar System
The scale model of the Solar System is spread out along 6.4 miles of the old East Coast main-line railway. Along it, you can find scale models of all the planets in our solar system as well as models of the Cassini and Voyager spacecraft. On the route you can spot many different trees, plants and wildlife too.
Families Get Active
Families Get Active is a project in York, offering lots of free activities to help us become more active. Activities run all across the city and are available to all families. Families Get Active have a range of services on offer in addition to activities. These include Family Walk Maps and activity idea booklets, mentoring for families who may need extra support to become active.
To find out more and to book onto activities, visit the Families Get Active Facebook community group.
Geocaching is a real world, outdoor treasure hunt game. Geocaching is where you use a GPS to find hidden items. The items are usually something with little value (such as a pencil), and they are usually hidden with a notebook and pen, so the finder can note when the item was found. There are geocaches all over the UK and many in York.
To get started, go to the Geocaching website or download the geocaching app. The app and website will tell you where the nearest hidden item is!
If your child has a disability or additional need, they will be entitled to a Max Card. This card provides free or discounted entry into many attractions across the UK. In signing up for the Max Card, you also sign up for our myFIS+ newsletter which provides enhanced information for families who have children with disabilities and additional needs. To sign up for the myFIS+ and Max Card scheme, please go to the FIS Newsletter sign up page.
National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum is fantastic for a day out, and is completely free! There are family activities and exhibitions on at the museum over the summer.
There are a range of parks in York; you can go to the park for a summer picnic, play in the play area, feed the ducks, see what animals you can find and much more!
Park to Park Walk
Walk from Rowntree Park to Homestead Park (or vice versa) and find out more about them. The leaflet for adults (opens as a PDF) gives a brief history of both parks and suggests a walk between the two. The children’s trail has a map of things for children to spot on the way. The walk takes approximately 1 and a half hours. The last section is not suitable for wheelchairs or large buggies, but an alternative route is suggested.
The Squirrel's Trail
Follow the Squirrel’s Trail of 10 fascinating fact points. Follow the interactive trail by clicking the points on the online map and take part in the online quiz at the end.
St Nicks Nature Reserve
The Nature Reserve is open all year round, just turn up or check out the website for any events that are happening. Come and explore 24 acres of unique green space on the site of a former rubbish tip. Many birds live on or visit the nature reserve and just under 20 species of butterflies have been recorded. There are all kinds of other insects and some mammals too. There is a great variety of plant species, trees and shrubs.
Walking the Walls
Walking the York city walls is a great activity to do with your family, and is completely free.
Walking and cycling ideas
Live Well York has some great suggestions for walking and cycling activities in the city.
Find out more about York Health Walks. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. Dogs are welcome.
Wildlife sites around York
If you would like to know about some Wildlife walks around York there is a great free resource booklet produced by the City of York Council called 'Wildlife sites around York'. The booklet lists lots of different areas to visit all are free and easily accessible.
The booklet is also available at York Explore Library, Museum Street, York and Acomb Explore Library, Front Street in Acomb.
No matter what the season, see how many different types of wildlife you can spot. Whether it is baby animals in spring, bugs and insects in autumn, flowers or birds you can download your very own list or why not create your own bespoke one. For more ideas check out Wildlife Watch or Nature Detectives.
A York Card is your library card, but also provides free or discounted entry into many of York's attractions. The York Card is just for residents of York and can be purchased at any York library. It's free for children (there is a small charge for adults) and is valid for 1 year.
There are always lots of things going on at York's libraries.