I’d planned to write a review of the much loved Jorvik Viking Centre, which reopened its doors in early April 2017 after the catastrophic flood damage it suffered in late 2015. But, here’s the rub, getting in there wasn’t easy, and as the school holidays approach I think this post, on doing your best to avoid the queues will be much more helpful – anyone with kids knows that usually queuing is not their favourite pastime.
Travelling from Aberdeen we arrived late Friday afternoon and went straight to our accommodation. Tip One, if you can visit late Friday before all the other weekend tourists arrive then do it! This wasn’t an option for us.
Totally oblivious and admittedly ignorant to how popular Jorvik might be, we casually ate brunch and rocked up at 10.30am on Saturday morning, along with the rest of the world. We had our fantastic York Pass, offering entry into over thirty attractions and tours, as well as shopping and restaurant offers, but the queue for Jorvik was approximately 45 minutes long. It’s Fast Track queue was virtually empty but I didn’t have a Fast Track ticket. I pitied the parents with little tots in the normal queue and we opted to visit York Castle Museum instead (which is excellent by the way). Tip two, if you are going to visit on a Saturday turn up very early!
We returned on Saturday at 3.30pm thinking we were being cunning but the queue had just got longer. A coach load of tourists with Fast Track passes had created a huge queue in the Fast Track lane. Tip Three, buy a Fast Track pass online for a small additional fee which skips you to the front of the queue. Bear in mind that even with Fast Track you could end up standing behind a busload of other Fast Trackers. Worse, you could get to the front of the normal queue, having waited forty minutes, only for a load of Fast Trackers to gazump you. I’m very British about queuing and I think this would break me. Again, we headed to visit something else – York Minster this time, delightful.
That Saturday evening I tried to buy Fast Track tickets online using my York Pass and failed miserably. Phoning first thing on Sunday morning I was told that you can’t obtain Fast Track tickets using a York Pass, you’d have to buy brand new tickets. The moths in my wallet didn’t like the sound of that so we did something else, a York Cycling Tour which was fantastic. So Tip Four is bear in mind you can’t combine York Passes with Fast Track and work out your finances accordingly.
Then … Sunday evening … 5.30pm … we returned to Jorvik. There was one couple, ONE!, in the normal queue!!!!!!! Nobody in the Fast Track queue. Hallelujah!!!!!!! We sauntered in, using our York Passes, utterly delighted with ourselves. Tip Five, if you can visit late on a Sunday or on a less obviously popular week day period then do it. We almost had the place to ourselves.
The downside was that by 5.30pm on Sunday we were shattered, having walked and explored all day. Tip Six, if you do visit at a slightly anti-social time try not to arrive exhausted, especially with little ones. We spent five minutes examining the archeological excavations in the first room, but for kids and big kids the focus is getting on the carts that drive you round the Viking animatronics so we’d swiftly boarded our ride.
As you journey round the acutely lifelike dummies you hear voiceover through your personal speakers. I’d selected the kids narration which was ideal for mini tourists as a male child narrator explained things simply and clearly. As we ventured from early settler to cobbler, market stall, slave merchant and everyday housing you did get a sense of the sights, sounds and smells of the era. The gentle fifteen minute ride is great fun and educational for all ages and I’m sure most customers would like to go round again and again. Once we’d disembarked we explored a more traditional section of the museum housing artefacts from armour to jewellery. Tip Seven, we spent about 45 minutes in total in the centre, the highlight of which is definitely the fifteen minute ride, so balance out how long you’re prepared to queue with how long you’ll potentially spend inside.
All credit to the Jorvik Centre for being so popular, it’s a problem many attractions would love to face, and people are so excited about the reopening about this iconic York attraction. But if you don’t want to let your mini-Vikings down then it’s something to consider before heading off. Tip Eight is preparing your children (and your partner) for queues in advance, setting their expectations. Perhaps bring some toys, a flask, some snacks, hey go to town with it!
Ultimately I felt I had to see the centre, I couldn’t leave York without visiting Jorvik, in the same way I couldn’t leave Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. Of course the difficulty of gaining access altered the experience but I did thoroughly enjoy it once I finally got my go in the karts.
LOWDOWN – We used the YorkPass for our long weekend. One, two or three day passes are available. An adult pass is currently £38 for one day, £50 for two. A child’s pass is £24 for one day, £28 for two. As most attractions welcome under 5’s for free it’s generally a false economy to buy a pass for this age group. The Jorvik Viking Centre also runs a Pastport scheme which includes Fast Track, discover more here.
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