We have just returned from another 30 hours in York. This is two years after our first 30 hours in York weekend stay and we are still yet to do everything that there is to do within this great City. We had such a great time that I just couldn’t wait to start writing about it. This time we were visiting courtesy of Visit York and BuyAGift. Visit York kindly provided us with a York Pass for the weekend and BuyAGift with a one night stay at Mercure York. In this post, I will provide information about the York pass such as what it includes, the cost and more. Plus what we managed to cram into 30 hours using just our York Pass. In a separate post, I will be covering our top 15 family-friendly things to do in York. Plus another post for our ultimate weekend itinerary for families. (coming soon).
This post covers day 11 and 12 of our #80dayschallenge to take at least 80 days out in one year.
York Pass – What does it Include
Currently, the York Pass includes entrance to 25 attractions within York and 18 attractions outside of York. From April 2019 the pass will also include entry to 8 more attractions and ASK restaurant, York are offering York Pass holders a choice of 3 pizza or pasta dishes between the hours of 3 pm – 5 pm. ( excludes drinks & sides ).
Plus much more such as discounts off meals at some of the Cities best restaurants. Money off walks and tours and even discounts on your shopping. A York pass also includes a 1-day ticket on the City Sightseeing hop on hop off bus and a cruise on the York City Cruises.
You also receive a really handy guide book that fits perfectly in your pocket and contains a great little map with locations of the 25 attractions within York. Plus full details of all the attractions in and out of York, discount vouchers and more.
Attractions Within York
JORVIK Viking Centre, DIG, York Castle Museum, York’s Chocolate Story, Yorkshire Museum, York City Sightseeing, York Cold War Bunker, York Dungeon, York Minster, Barley Hall, Mansion House, Merchant Adventurer’s Hall, NRM Road Train, The Richard III Experience, Roman Bath, Treasurer’s House, York Army Museum, York Art Gallery, City Cruises York, York Brewery, Fairfax house, Goddards House and Gardens, The Henry VII Experience, Clifford’s Tower, The Bar Convent.
York also has a number of free attractions such as the National Railway Museum, walk the City Walls, York Chocolate Trail and a few free walking tours, plus don’t forget to include a walk down the historic Shambles. There’s also a few parks such as Rowntree park and Yorkshire Museum gardens which include the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey. Plus the Homestead which has a Lord of the Rings-inspired garden with a little hobbit home.
Attractions Outside of York
Beningborough Hall and Gardens, Castle Howard, Captain Cook Museum Whitby, Eden Camp, Helmsley Castle, Helmsley Walled Gardens, Yorkshire Museum of Farming, National Centre for Birds of prey, Newby Hall and Gardens, North Yorkshire Moors Railway, Rievaulx Abbey, Ryedale Folk Museum, Scampston Walled Garden, Scarborough Castle, Scarborough Sea Life, The Deep, York maze, Yorkshire Arboretum.
York Pass – How much does it cost
The longer you require a pass for the better the savings. A one-day adult York Pass is £42.00 per person and £28 for a child aged 5-15 (under 5’s are free). Two-day adult York Pass is £60.00 per person and £32.00 for a child and a three-day adult York Pass is £70.00 per person and just £40.00 for a child. The savings on a one week pass are even better with an adult pass costing £130.00 and a child pass £70.00 perfect for if you are staying in the area for a week.
Our Weekend in York using the York Pass
We have previously visited York Minster, York Castle Museum and the National Railway Museum. We were keen to visit places we’ve never been to before or wanted to revisit after many years. Plus of course to show just how much you can fit into one weekend with a York pass in hand. The main sites in York and all within walking distance and some are incredibly close to each other.
As we were staying a little way outside of York we parked our car at the Grimstone Bar park and ride and met my Mum there at 9:30 am. All four park and rides in York cost just £3.20 per adult for a return and children under are 16 free when travelling with an accompanying and paying adult. This is a great saving compared to the cost of parking within the City. We arrived at the recently restored Jorvik Viking centre just before 10 am. They have no cafe on site so we had a quick pit stop before entering the centre.
The Jorvik Viking Centre
We were astounded at how quickly the queue builds up for Jorvik Viking Centre. They stagger the people entering so if you don’t want to queue for long get there for opening at 10 am. I haven’t been to the Jorvik Viking Centre in years and I have to say the flood that meant they had to redo the whole centre has done them a favour. I have fond memories of the place but the improvements to the ride are huge.
Once you have shown your pass, online ticket or paid for admission you enter a room that shows Viking excavations from the Coppergate dig. You can spend as long as you wish in this room before boarding the ride.
The ride takes you slowly around re-created Viking life in York back in the 10th Century. The capsules are state of the art with screens in front of you that show images as you travel around and play a commentary behind your head in your chosen language. There’s even a kid-friendly version for the little ones. You will experience all the sights, sounds and even smells of life back then with fabulous animatronics for not just humans but animals as well.
After the ride, you can explore their new exhibits showcasing what they found during the Coppergate dig. There are some very rare artefacts including a fossilised Viking poo which, of course, fascinated my son. Around the centre all the staff are dressed in authentic costumes of the time and in the exhibit area there was a man playing Viking music which was lovely to hear. Our visit lasted just over an hour.
Yorvik Viking Centre is open for most of the year (closed Dec 24/25/26). Opens at 10 am.
We were too early for lunch so we visited Merchant Adventurer’s hall as it was on the way to our afternoon destinations.
Although our entry to Jorvik was included with the York Pass we were given a ticket that means we can return for no extra cost for the next 12 months.
Merchant Adventurer’s Hall
The Merchant Adventurer’s Hall is medieval and is one of the finest Guildhalls of the world. They have handheld devices which you can take around with you and listen to a commentary. This was more for my Mum and I than Jamie as they don’t have any interactive exhibits. It was interesting learning about the Merchant Adventurer’s entrepreneurs. They have toilets on site plus a small cafe. The hall is in a lovely timber-framed building with an undercroft, a chapel and two floors to explore.
The hall is open from 10 am and may occasionally be closed for a private function.
The Roman Bath was mostly a time filler for us as we were a bit early for lunch but in the area. I wasn’t expecting a huge amount of this Roman Bath find under a pub but literally, we were in and then out again. It was excavated back in 1930 when digging out an old cellar. You can now visit the ancient remains and there is a small dress up room at the back. It was a bit like wandering into someone’s living room. (but with a Roman bath in it and no windows). But it was included in the pass and we would probably never have visited otherwise. That’s the beauty of the pass as you can see things you may normally overlook.
We then stopped for some lunch but sadly didn’t take advantage of any of the discounts at restaurants and cafes around the city via the York Pass. Our own error! But we did have a wonderful lunch at Carluccio’s which is across from the world famous York branch of Betty’s tearoom.
After lunch, we popped into the Chocolate story to pre-book on a tour for the next day. We had been advised to do this as at busy times the slots soon book up.
We then headed off on a short walk to DIG. This is a relatively new attraction to York and created by the same people as the Jorvik Viking Centre.
DIG – An Archaeological Adventure
DIG is located in a church which I wasn’t expecting. I’d seen the posters and read the leaflet but I had never realised that it is in a church.
When I asked my 5 year old what his favourite thing to do during our weekend away was his answer was ‘DIG’. He really loved it there and the family next to us were on their third visit because their kids love it so much there. When you arrive you join a guided tour around the museum. Luckily we arrived just as one was starting so we didn’t have long to wait. There is however a gift shop to look in plus a well designed waiting area with plenty to keep the kids entertained if you do arrive having just missed a tour.
You start the tour in a room with a skeleton and your guide. Our guide was very good and very engaging. She talked about skeletons, how we date finds, animal skulls and more in a way that was interesting and informative, even for little ones. We then all had to pick a trowel and enter the excavation area. There’s a number of areas each with hidden things buried in grit and it’s your job to excavate with your trowel and find what is hidden there. Each child was given equal attention with their finds and they were taught about what they had found.
We then moved to a table where we had to sort different ‘finds’ such as bone, shells, pottery and more. This was a great way of teaching kids what’s what. There were also some bones to identify which we pretty much gave up on. After that, you are free to look around the exhibitions, watch a video and play at the different tables making and learning about various things. It was a good hands-on experience for kids and one that I’m sure many kids will find inspiring.
Open nearly all year except for December 24/25/26. Open from 10 am.
Although our entry to Jorvik was included with the York Pass we were given a ticket that means we can return for no extra cost for the next 12 months.
After DIG we were about done for the day although we could have perhaps fitted in one more visit somewhere. For us, it was time to head to our hotel, for dinner and bed ready for….
We took a different Park and Ride into the City on Day 2. This was running at a slightly later schedule on a Sunday. We wanted to try out the City Sightseeing bus so we arrived near to York Minster. (The Minster is shut until 12:30 pm on a Sunday but open from 9 am on other days).
City Sightseeing Bus
The number 1 stop on the City Sightseeing hop on hop off bus route was just a short distance from York Minster. With a York Pass you are entitled to one 24 hour ticket on the Sightseeing Bus. It has 20 stops around the City, although it does not stop at each one unless you request it. A lot of the roads within the city are now pedestrianised so the bus route takes you around the outskirts of the city and near the city walls for a lot of the journey.
There are no buses in December through to the end of February. The first bus is at 9 am and then runs at different intervals according to the season. During our visit in March, they were running every 20 minutes. There was a pre-recorded commentary which we could easily hear even out on the open deck.
City Cruises York
We alighted from the bus at stop number 7 which is very convenient for the City Cruises York. This is a great stop for a lot of the main attractions such as York Castle Museum, Clifford Tower, York Dungeon, Fairfax house and York Army Museum.
The York Pass entitles you to one cruise on the City Cruises York. We caught the first sailing of the day at 10:30 am from King’s Staith Landing.
The cruise includes a live commentary which was informative and the cruise lasted for 45 minutes. It was nice to see the City from a different perspective but it was sad to see so much litter on the banks. They have a licensed bar on board and you can purchase cold or hot drinks and limited snacks. There is also a toilet on board.
It started to drizzle after our boat cruise so we headed up the road from Lendal Bridge landing and into the Yorkshire Museum. This museum has a major new exhibition ‘Yorkshire’s Jurassic World’. Everything during our weekend is perfect for any weather conditions as they are all walkable and indoors.
This exhibition will be at the museum for at least the next two years. It’s an excellent exhibition. In one room they have tables with ‘pretend soil’ for kids to find fossils in. We loved the fossils in the next room with a colourful picture of what each fossil used to look like when it was alive. This is a really good idea and not like anything I’ve ever seen before. In another room, they had some enormous fossils which you could see come to life through the aid of an app that when you move the tablet around it shows you what each part you are looking at used to look like when it was alive. This was super impressive! You can even serve a Sauropod dinosaur its supper with a VR headset. There’s plenty more to be discovered in this great new exhibition.
Also in the museum, they have a Roman York exhibition where you can see and walk on a Roman mosaic which was found in York. Plus a look at medieval York and more. The museum is interactive which is perfect for kids.
30% off our lunch at Banyan with York Pass
We headed for lunch after our visit. With the York Pass you can benefit from money off at a few selected restaurants and cafes across the city. We chose to eat at Banyan Bar and Kitchen where you currently receive 30% off your bill when you show your York Pass. We were all very impressed with the food and the popcorn chicken that my son had was literally the best chicken I’d tasted in a long time. My Mum had a pie which she really enjoyed and I had an excellent Thai red chicken curry.
We were early for our reservation at the Chocolate Story so we paid a quick visit to Barley Hall. I soon regretted it just being a quick visit as it’s a really interesting place to visit. It had everything that the Merchant’s Adventurer Hall didn’t have. There were so many interactive exhibits and it was wonderful to be able to visit a museum without loads of signs saying not to touch. Instead, we were positively encouraged to touch and feel everything in there. This was like putting a kid in a sweet shop, my son had a wonderful time and it was hard moving him on from things. We are going to have to return and take our time.
Barley Hall is a medieval townhouse which was once home to the Priors of Nostell and a Lord Mayor of York. It was hidden under its relatively modern facade and it wasn’t until the 1980s when it was facing demolition that they realised it’s stunning medieval structure and history of the building.
Magic and mystery is the new exhibition to the hall and we loved the potion making room.
York’s Chocolate Story
The final destination of our weekend in York was our pre-booked visit to York’s Chocolate story. The tour lasts for around 1 hour and 15 minutes and I have honestly never had so much fun learning about chocolate. I could enthuse about this place all day. As soon as you even enter the shop area and where you wait for your lift to the exhibitions your nostrils are filled with the wonderful smell of chocolate….and yes you do get to try some chocolate, more than I was expecting!
When it is time for your tour you enter a lift that takes you up to the top floor. No photography or filming is allowed on this floor but it’s fine to take photos later on. You enter a room that is set out like a street from the past and in there we met our tour guide. He then gave us a brief history of the past 3,000 years of chocolate and we sampled some Victorian chocolate (in the style of – it wasn’t that old honest). The other exhibitions on this floor relay even more of its history through a film and then cleverly animated pictures that our guide interacted with.
We then went down to the next floor where we saw how chocolate is made through all the different processes. We were able to try chocolate in its raw state which was incredibly bitter. The children were all involved with the interactive display.
After this, we gathered around a table where we learnt how to truly taste chocolate. Then we moved on to another section where we each made our own chocolate lollipop which we were able to take home to enjoy. Finally, we saw how they make really fancy chocolates by their in house chocolatiers. This finished with more sampling of some wonderful lemon filled chocolates. They say that chocolate makes you happy well maybe they are on a win win with this attraction but we all left happy and loved our visit.
Our wonderful weekend in York was over and it was time to head back to the park and ride and then home.
Disclaimer: We received York Passes for the purpose of my review. All words, opinions and photos are my own and must not be reproduced without permission.
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