Whether you, like me, are more likely to be found drinking tea than tequila on an average Saturday night, or if you’d just like a few ideas of the fun you can have in York which doesn’t assume alcohol as fuel, here are some suggestions!
- Cafés, cafés, and more cafés!
You may have heard that York has a pub for every day of the year. But what strikes you when walking around the beautiful city is the volume and variety of cafés. There are of course the likes of Costas and Starbucks if you want a familiar pit stop, but wander around inside York’s walls and you’ll find an incredible wealth of places to have a cuppa and some food. Coffee connoisseurs head to the classy Spring Espresso; veggie-heads to Goji for irresistible carrot cake; chocoholics to Brew & Brownie; the list goes on and on. If the weather is good, take in the wonderful views across the city by walking along the walls, stopping at every Gate for a refuel in the cafés near each one! (a more civilised version of the pub crawls you’re likely to be tempted by in Freshers’ Week!) Every time I’m in town I notice a new independent coffee shop or fairytale-wonky sidestreet filled with interesting cafés. Go and explore!
- Nature, nature everywhere
My favourite thing about living on campus in first year was being right next to the lake. True, it’s not the most picturesque of campuses in grey weather, but the lake provides a lot of welcome open space, greenery and fascinating (and adorable in spring) birdlife. Head to the Quiet Space next to Heslington Hall to get lost among the giant hedges, or take a picnic out to the grassy expanse of Walmgate Stray. And if you’re in town, the beautiful Museum Gardens are not to be missed – a little pocket of peace and quiet in the middle of town. If you’re looking for something a bit more outgoing, hop on a bus or a train and go for a walk in the Dales national park, or to the seaside at Whitby or Scarborough! It takes less than a couple of hours to be swimming in the (cold) sea and it’s wonderful to have a change of scenery.
- Ooh, I wanna dance with somebody…
If you want the thrill of loud music and dancing around like nobody’s watching, you don’t need to confine yourself to club nights. Every Monday in V-bar on campus there’s a student-run jazz night, where really talented musicians jam together and you get to watch and listen for free – definitely try and get there at least once, but it happens every week! There are also ceilidhs every month in town, which are both more fun and more exercise than you might assume.
- Go on, be a tourist…
One of the great things about living in a tourist-friendly town like York is that you can never get stuck for something to do in town. If there aren’t festivals going on, there’s still the famous Shambles (it really, really does look like Diagon Alley), countless buskers (look out for the Magic Glass Ball Man), a Cat Trail (trust me), ghost tours and surprisingly well-stocked museums and galleries (yes, they’re actually interesting). There’s always something going on, so if you need a break from studying or something a bit more stimulating than sitting in a bar, head into town!
You may or may not know that there are a few chocolate factories around, and if the wind’s blowing in the right direction the whole place genuinely smells like chocolate. It’s amazing. If the smell isn’t enough for you though, there are an impressive number of chocolate and fudge – shops around town, where you can watch the gorgeous stuff being made and even learn about the history behind it in “York’s Chocolate Story”. Personally, I think chocolate’s a much more delicious mind-altering substance than alcohol…
So there you have it, just a few ideas of what to get up to around York if you’re less into clubbing and hangovers than the stereotypical student. It’s very much possible to have a great time at uni without drinking, so don’t worry about not finding things to do. Freshers’ Week can be full of people wanting to get drunk a lot, but there will also be lots of other people not necessarily as keen on it (at least not every night!) and there are PLENTY of other societies.
But of course, if you still want a bit of tipple, there is a pub for every day of the year…
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