Last weekend we had a brilliant time exploring the city of York, a place that we’d never been to before, but one that we’ll definitely be returning to. I thought I’d share with you what we got up to there, as a family with two young children, as I see it being an ideal weekend break…
We’re from the Midlands, just north of Birmingham, and from here, it’s a relatively easy journey up north, taking us a little over two hours by car. It’s off M and A roads straight into the city, so great links in. There is also a train station situated right within the centre of York, that makes it easily accessible for non-drivers, too. Plenty of taxis were outside when we were there, and it’s just over a five minute drive and £5-6 to the hotel we stayed at from there.
We were delighted to be guests of the Novotel York Centre, who very kindly offered us an overnight stay with them. Travelling with two lively young children, hotels aren’t always the easiest and most relaxing of options for us, but I was impressed by how family friendly the Novotel is. We had a warm and friendly welcome at check-in, and the children were given toys, too, which is always going to be a hit! The room was lovely, plenty big enough for the four of us, with the sofa beds prepared and made up for us on arrival. There was a large flatscreen TV, coffee machine that the Husband loved and made full use of, a decent sized bath for both children to have a whale of a time in, and a great power shower. Oh, and free robes and slippers. I always like that touch!
Around the hotel, there was a children’s play area with books, large connect 4, stacking blocks and a big chalkboard. Both of the kids enjoyed playing in there, to the extent that my delicious breakfast was cut short as Little Man dragged me off to play in there again! There’s also a Wii, XBox and interactive games table in the lobby, the latter of which we tried and it kept the children happy whilst we were waiting for our dinner. Boo also enjoyed a swim in the pool with daddy, and as that was on Saturday evening, they had the pool to themselves, too, which was lovely. Towels are supplied there, and remember to take a £1 coin for your locker.
We had dinner in the restaurant, and I’d say that was a little on the pricey side, though the food was fine and the staff attentive. It didn’t open until 6, which is later than my kids normally eat so they were very hungry and getting tired by then. They were supplied with crayons and an activity sheet while we waited, and we also had bread to munch on before our meals arrived. The Husband and the children had pizza, I had a chicken caesar salad,and portion sizes were good.
After a good night’s sleep (the Husband slept on one of the pull out sofa beds whilst I had the double with Boo and he said even that was comfortable), we were all keen to get down to breakfast. The children were excited about exploring again, and for the Husband and I, hotel stays are all about the breakfast! It did not disappoint, as we were seated quickly, and the dining room was not at all overcrowded, at just gone 8am. There was a great range of food to choose from, cereals, toast, pastries and croissants, fruit, a fresh fruit and continental section, yoghurt and juices. The cooked food was hot and fresh, and had all you’d expect with a full English, including perfectly cooked fried eggs, moist button mushrooms, delicious hash browns and meaty sausages. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it. Suffice to say, we ate our fill, before checking out (there is an £11 parking fee, which I thought a bit much initially, but when I realised we could leave our car there for 24 hours and easily walk into the city centre, I could see it was reasonable, as we then had no additional city centre parking fees. Do just factor this into your stay), and set off for the day.
Shopping & Sightseeing:
Do check out the McArthurGlen York designer shopping outlet, just minutes from the city, and easily accessed with huge signs that you can’t miss. We actually stopped there on our way to our hotel, and it was then only a couple of miles drive to the Novotel. We’ve been to a few of these outlets over the UK now, but I’d say that this is the best one that we’ve been to so far. It was easy and free to park, the range of shops appealed to us with many of our favourites there such as Paul Smith, Joules, Gap, Nike, Yankee Candle, Hamleys and The White Stuff. The food area was brilliant, with plenty to choose from and all together on the top floor. We opted for Ed’s Easy Diner, and were pleased with how quickly we were seated and served considering we arrived at lunchtime on a Saturday. The kids menu was great for our two, and the Husband and I both enjoyed our burgers, too (I went for a chicken burger, he opted for a huge All Day Breakfast burger, which he loved!).
We kicked off our second day, with that satisfying hotel breakfast fuelling us, by strolling into York by the riverside. The river runs right along the back of the Novotel, so you can walk straight through the lobby and you’re there. The only problem that we had, which is worth a mention, is that there are steps up and down along the way, and we had Little Man in his pushchair, so picturesque, but not the easiest of walks!
We made our way around the city, ambling and meandering cobbled streets, including wandering up The Shambles and popping in and out of pretty shops. The kids were happy to find a Disney store, and we were all pleased to find Waterstones, which was possibly the nicest one I’ve ever been in. It had a huge kids department, complete with superb indoor climbing frame, and a very pretty stationery section. I could wax lyrical about all of that all day long!
We rounded off our amble around York with a trip to the National Railway Museum, a place that several people had recommended to us, so we were keen to go. It’s free entrance, though we opted to take the road train from just round the corner from York Minster to the entrance of the museum, to save little legs and just because it looked fun! It cost us £6 for the four of us to go on it, and it also fit the pushchair easily. The children loved it, of course.
Once there, the kids were off exploring. Both Boo and Little Man like riding on and playing with trains, though I wouldn’t say that either of them are massively into them either, but they were still all ‘wow’ and running this way and that in there. A great place for families to visit, and if you’ve a train enthusiast, too, it really is a must.
And now we’re home and already talking about going back. I’m thinking same time next year, a lovely weekend break again. We’d definitely book with the Novotel York Centre again as it had all we needed and the location was perfect. We’d like to go into York Minster next time, and also to the Jorvik Viking Centre and Jorvik Dig. And then all of the above again! Maybe we’d best opt for a long weekend next time.
Truly one of the most enjoyable UK city breaks we’ve had. The proximity of everything, along with the architecture, places for families to visit and enjoy and the family friendly hotel stay all added up to it being perfect. I am recommending to everyone I know that they should visit!
Have you visited York? What are your must-sees?
Disclosure: We stayed at the Novotel York Centre FOC, but all words and opinions remain my own