I know that many of you will be enjoying a little bit of time off this week for the school holidays and I wanted to share my experience of visiting the National Railway Museum with you to give you inspiration for something to do with the little ones during half term (including my tips for surviving the visit!). I visited the museum during the last half-term holiday and was surprised to find that I actually really enjoyed the day out. My husband and I were taking a break in Yorkshire and, even though we didn’t have any children to take with us to the museum, we still really wanted to
visit Paddington bear make the trip into York to see Paddington the trains so we drove into York for the day. Having no prior knowledge of the National Railway Museum, I was totally surprised by the scale of the exhibits – those trains are huge! There was lots more to see than I had imagined and you could definitely spend the whole day there, looking at the miniature railways, the workshop, the historical platforms and, of course, the legendary trains. Here are my tips for a day out at the museum:
Getting there and parking. The first thing I want to discuss is parking because you have two options. First, you could park at the park-and-ride outside York as this bus will take you into the city centre and drop you off right outside the museum. We didn’t park-and-ride at the time, instead we drove into York and parked up at the museum car park. This was really full by the time we arrived at 10:30ish and it costs £9 to park, which you pay for inside the museum (so you can pay on card if needed). This is all-day parking so you could make a day of it and get the Railway Museum’s shuttle train into York city centre after your trip around the museum.
It was busy. As you’d expect, it was really busy at the National Railway Museum during half term but there are plenty of trains and attractions to see, so if one part of the collection is particularly busy, you can always move onto the next thing and come back later. Or skip the main hall and start your visit in the least-crowded parts of the museum, such as the Works so that you’re a step ahead of the crowds and can come back to the main hall as the last part of your visit. Although it’s pretty hard to ignore all those massive trains as you walk through! Also, a train rotates in the main hall twice a day, and it gets packed around the turning circle at these times (as you can see from my photo) so get there early and have a rest while you wait for the turning to start. Ask about the turning times when you arrive and listen out for the announcement. Eating and drinking. There are a few options in the museum for lunch, including hot snacks and drinks (we had a slice of pizza and a cup of tea and paid about £6 I think) in the main hall, a very swish afternoon tea in the exclusive ‘Countess of York’ carriage (we wondered why it was so quiet until we saw the prices, but it would be good for a special occasion) and you can buy sandwiches etc inside dining car carriages on the platforms. I think I would have preferred this ‘authentic’ railway option and it would probably be more fun for children to be eating on the platform but we’d already eaten in the main hall before we reached the platform hall. I saw a lot of people having their own picnics so I’ve since checked on the nrm.org.uk website and they have a picnic area in the South Yard so it’s fine to bring your own food. Free entry. The museum is free entry. There are plenty of places around the hall that you can make a donation if you wish and you can leave a donation at the museum reception as you enter or when you leave (card payments are accepted here too if you don’t have cash on you). A guide book is available to buy for £6 from the museum reception and there is a gift shop full of books, stationary, toys etc if your little ones have some pocket money to spend.
It really was a lovely day out and I spent about 4 hours there without a moment’s boredom. In fact, I wish I could have been there much longer as there were still plenty of things that I didn’t get to see, including an art exhibition and the York Station observation area where you can watch track the real trains coming into and leaving York station. I loved being transported back in time as I walked down the historical platforms, that part of the visit was particularly magical for me. As well as meeting Paddington bear in real life, of course.