Sometimes it seems impossible to have any fun in York without spending a fortune, but there’s actually plenty to do in the tourist city without breaking your fragile bank balance. It’s good stuff too, not the usual free city activities like art galleries and museums (although York does have those on offer too).
Take, for example, the wide variety of buskers. Technically this is hours of free entertainment – and even if you’re feeling generous it’s going to cost you a maximum of a handful of pounds. From the magicians and escape artists to the saxophonist, and the rock violinist to the piano man, whatever your taste there’s something to keep you entertained on many an afternoon in the city.
In good weather the possibilities are endless. There’s the standard Museum Gardens, but widen your park options and that’s where the fun really starts. Although a little out of the way, Hull Road Park is huge at 25 acres and has the river running through it. It’s usually quiet minus a few ducks as well so plenty of space for your picnic blanket. If you’re looking for something a little closer to the city centre and with more activities, there’s Rowntree Park. Complete with a skate park, bowling green, café and basketball court this will easily provide enough entertainment to fill the summer months.
If you fancy a stroll but want something more entertaining than the city walls then why not try York’s cat hunt? It might have passed you by as you wander the streets aimlessly staring into shop windows at clothes you can’t afford, but there’s actually a series of small cat statues across the city. Following the trail of 14 cat statues will take you nicely round the city and still have you home in time for tea, before going back out ready for a ghost walk. There’s a variety to choose from across the city with a range of start times and prices, but none will set you back more than about £10.
The Association of Voluntary Guides offers free guided tours of York which is great for when you have visitors or even if you just fancy learning more about the city’s history yourself.
After all this walking you’ll probably be getting hungry. But even eating in York doesn’t have to bankrupt you. The first rule is to stay away from the Michilen starred restaurants – The Blue Bicycle and J Bakers are non-starters. The second rule is look for deals. Lots of places in York do money off food at the start of the week. Slug and Lettuce can offer you 50% off food on a Monday, and it’s the same at Vodka Revolution. Italian restaurant Caesars do two for one on meals every Monday and Tuesday. If you want to dine out later on in the week try Kao San Road Thai restaurant on Walmgate. It offers a two course lunch deal for just £10 from 12 – 4 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Quite a few of the Asian restaurants do a similar deal so just keep a look out.
For the days when you’re feeling particularly stingy then there’s usually some sort of food market on in the centre – whether it’s the international market, the food and drink market or the Yorkshire market then you can generally blag some pretty good free food samples, and if not the food on the stalls isn’t likely to break your bank either.
And to wash it all down there’s just one solution – Sam Smiths. At under £3 a pint you really can’t go wrong. There’s a variety of Smiths pubs across the city – King’s Arms by the river, Hansom Cab right in the city centre, the Sea Horse a little way out on Fawcett Street and the York Arms on High Petergate. The lager might taste like it’s straight from the Ouse but when nothing else will suffice except a tall, cold pint it’s the best solution available.
So next time you put your hand in your pocket and find it empty, remember all is not lost, there’s still plenty to do come rain or shine in York.