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5 Unique & Unusual Things To Do In York

Bars and pubs are fun in the beginning, but they can get old fast. Instead, try one of these unusual things to do in York on your next weekend or night out.

Unusual Things To Do In York

You may think you know York better than most visitors but we have five unusual things to do in York that we bet you’ve never done before.

1. Axe Throwing at The Hilt

You might have held, owned or used an axe, but have you ever thrown one just for sport? That’s what The Hilt is all about. This Viking-themed attraction offers the chance to throw axes at a target. Bring your mates along and it’s sure to be a brilliant activity. Your one and a quarter hour booking starts with some training and tips from a pro axe thrower. Learn how to stand and pitch your throwing arm overhand to get your axe right in the bullseye (or killshot for maximum points!).

Points? Of course! This is the most competitive fun you’ll have in ages. In fact you might want to pick up a few tips on how to throw an axe before you arrive. Arrange a few different challenges for your axe throwing, perhaps two-handed throws, or three-in-a-row hits in the centre circle. It will really add to the fun. We’ve got even more tips on Viking costumes, food, drinks and skills if you’re planning to visit The Hilt on a stag do in York.

2. Go Cat-Spotting!

Stand in the city centre and look around at the rooftops and buildings. You should be able to spot at least one of the 22 cat statues that have become a York icon. It all began over a hundred years ago when metal cats were placed on rooftops, chimneys and eaves to keep rats at bay.

Fast forward 80 years and sculptor Johnathan Newdick was commissioned by architect Tom Adams to keep the historic tradition alive by adding some new cat sculptures. They were placed on every building designed by Adams. Soon other business owners added their own cat images around the city. The exact number of cats is unclear as new cat sculptures keep being added.

Pick up a map of the York Cat Walk from the Tourist Information Centre, The Cat Gallery on Low Petergate, or any of the participating businesses. Follow the trail on what has to be voted one of the most unusual things to do in York. Along the way, you’ll find several shops in York specialising in cat-themed gifts, china and souvenirs. However, you can’t count cats in the shop window display as part of the 22 landmarks!

3. Go Underground at the York Cold War Bunker

Most people know of the Churchill War Rooms beneath the streets of London, but York has its own secret wartime HQ - the Cold War Bunker. Operated as a nerve centre in the event of a nuclear attack, visitors enter through the original blast-proof door. Explore the bunker and decontamination room with your guide before returning to the real world again.

What’s remarkable about this attraction is that the Cold War Bunker was operational from the 1960s until 1991 and is one of 30 former top secret locations around the UK. You can’t find more unusual things to do in York than that!

4. Explore the Snickelways of York

As a historic city dating back over 2000 years, York city centre is riddled with quaint alleyways, snickets, ginnels and medieval passageways that are barely wide enough to walk along. One of the best known lanes in York is The Shambles with its black-and-white timbered houses leaning precariously over the narrow street.

Many of the alleyways are still used to connect one street with another. In 1983, local author Mark W. Jones renamed them “snickelways” and then devised a trail around the city following these long-overlooked passages. For those who want to know more, he even has a book about these hidden gems.

Keep your eyes open for street signs posted on the sides of buildings in York. These usually indicate the entrance to a narrow snickelway that most people walk right past. The names are straight from the pages of York’s history. There’s Mad Alice Lane, immortalising a wife who was hanged after poisoning her husband. Hole-in-the-Wall marks the shortest snickelway and we can hardly imagine the stories behind Nether Hornpot Lane and Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate. Explore them all as part of discovering unusual things to do in York - it’s fun!

5. Pit your wits in the GR8Escape

Fans of TV’s The Crystal Maze will definitely want to test their wits in the GR8Escape. This live Escape Room Experience is a team event that lasts one hour. In that time you will encounter a series of challenges that you must work out to prove you are a true member of the York Ministry of Wizards. Failure is not an option!

Teams of 2 to 6 people must search the room for clues and puzzles. Combine your knowledge to work out how you can overcome the obstacles and escape. All the codes and puzzles require a little logic and a keen eye to work them out. Tip - don’t take anything for granted; not everything is quite what it seems!

Try Them All!

Why not plan one of these unusual things to do in York every weekend. In just over a month you’ll have seen parts of York you never knew existed and had lots of fun in the process. If you’re exploring York as a couple, you’ll find plenty of romantic date ideas to do in the city in all seasons.

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