York is one of my favorite places to visit at any time of the year. However, there’s something truly magical about visiting the city at Christmas time.
Having visited York multiple times over the festive period in the past decade we believe we’ve found the very best things for families, couples, and friends to do in the city. From shopping for gifts to indulging in luxurious food and drink right through to being thoroughly entertained with wonderful shows. There’s something in York for everyone.
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1. Yorkshires Winter Wonderland
Yorkshires Winter Wonderland is hosted at the York Designer Outlet just outside of the city centre and runs from November through to the beginning of January.
Exact dates can be found near the winter months on the Yorkshire Winter Wonderland website.
The wonderland plays host to the largest outdoor ice rink in the North of England and an incredible 30ft high Christmas tree.
Alongside the ice rink, you’ll find an alpine themed café, where you can dine on hot dogs, toasties, sweet treats or even a cup of mulled wine.
Through the wintery forest, you’ll find a vintage funfair with incredible rides and Santa’s log cabin where you can go to have your photo taken and collect a special gift.
Once you’ve experienced all that Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland has to offer you can even visit inside the York Designer Outlet and pick up some last-minute gifts or grab a bite to eat!
2. St Nicholas Christmas Market
The St Nicholas Christmas Market has become an icon of Christmas in York and makes up a large part of the York Christmas Festival.
The market plays host to over 100 vendors who sell a range of handmade arts and crafts, personalised gifts, homeware and food and drink from wooden huts across the city.
After all that shopping you’re likely to be hungry. Luckily, Thor’s Tipi is open daily from 10am until 11pm and is the perfect spot to enjoy a tea, coffee or one of the speciality local ales and stouts.
The St Nicholas Christmas Market is popular with both tourists visiting York on day trips and locals who go year on year to experience the festivities.
While it’s quieter in the daytime, our personal favourite time to visit is early evening as nightfalls. You still get moderate crowds but the experience seems to enhance as night falls and the cabins are lit up.
3. Experience A Pantomime
There are two theatres in York City Centre, and every year they provide an incredible Pantomime with an incredible cast.
York Theatre Royal has lined up Cinderella as the pantomime of choice for 2020 and has discounted family tickets available as well as affordable adult, child and concession tickets when booked online.
The Grand Opera House is playing Dick Turpin Rides again this Christmas. Tickets are already available to be booked online. With showings running from the 12th December through until the 10th January.
This is a fantastic evening experience, which can easily be partnered with a magical, super festive day in York.
4. The Gingerbread House At York Mansion House
Mansion House is a fantastic tourist attraction in the centre of York, and since Christmas 2019 the attraction has hosted an event known as ‘The Gingerbread House’.
This entails the house taking on additional festivities and attractions designed for young and old alike.
Some of the festivities at the Gingerbread House include; a gingerbread trail, a dressing up box and mulled wine and gingerbread treats.
Experiencing the Gingerbread House is included with the purchase of a ticket to York Mansion House which can be booked online in advance or upon arrival. York Mansion House is also included in a list of places you can visit for free with the York Pass.
We think the Gingerbread House at York Mansion House is great as you’re able to experience one of the best attractions in York City Centre while also getting that bonus festive feel that comes with the Gingerbread House experience.
5. Fairfax House Yuletide Fayre
Head to Fairfax House (located in the city between the Tower of York and the JORVIK Viking Centre) to take part in their incredible Yuletide Fayre.
The Yuletide Fayre is available on set dates throughout the festive period and is an additional benefit to visitors of the museum.
The evening includes exclusive discounts in the museum shop, music from the local Theatre Choir and traditional food and beverages.
This is a great opportunity to experience the after-dark atmosphere of the museum, and an insight into a traditional Georgian Christmas by candlelight.
Tickets currently cost £7.50 for adults and £3.00 for children, so be sure you want to visit the Fairfax House museum as well as experience the Yuletide Fayre prior to visiting.
6. National Railway Museum’s Santa’s Steam Adventure
The National Railway Museum is another fantastic year-round attraction to visit in York which puts on the special Santa’s Steam Adventure during the festive period.
In our opinion, if there’s one thing you do as a family in York at Christmas then this should be it!
This interactive story takes place on a journey to the North Yorkshire Pole where visitors young and old will travel to ensure Santa receives his postbag in time for Christmas.
Tickets are exclusively available for this experience as the museum itself is free to enter. This is one of the most popular things to do in York at Christmas so I’d suggest booking in advance if you’re wanting to visit.
There’s a snack cart and plenty of meal options and upgrades available for those who would like to enhance the experience even further.