I remember York Castle Museum from my childhood as "the one with the Victorian street".

It's not the only one, of course, but recreations don't come much more atmospheric than this.

Historic Kirkgate is now even bigger and better than before with the addition of new alleyways and shops.

A £300,000 refurbishment has seen all the shops now based on real examples from Victorian York including gun-making, grocery and musical instruments.

A new backstreet show the poverty-stricken side of bustling 19th century York, including a peasants' hovel, and another leads to the smelly Cocoa Room and a funeral directors' parlour.

Kirkgate is the centrepiece of the Castle Museum but there's far more to enthral families in these three linked two-storey buildings.

We've returned many times and there's always enough to keep my kids occupied for several hours.

The focus is on the everyday -- with lots of imagination to interest children as much as nostalgic adults.

Grown-ups of any age can enjoy exploring wide-ranging collections of costumes, furniture, toys and household implements.

In recent years there have been several major additions including, for 2013, an enthralling new toy gallery.

Visitors of all ages will looking back at their own childhood's playthings and talking with each other about how the toys have changed.

Each display focuses on a different room of the house -- living room, girl's and boy's bedrooms, even the bathroom -- with toys from every generation mixed together.

We spotted something else for the first time, even though it's been there been several years, the entrance hidden in the corner of the old prison yard.

A door leads out to the riverside where a Victorian mill has been rebuilt stone by stone, complete with water wheel outside and informative displays inside.

It took a while to reach that part of the museum, since Kirkgate kept us occupied for more than an hour due to its new exhibits and an excellent educational trail.

Each one of us picked up a separate 'slate' which had the story of a child or grown-up from Victorian times, such as a teenage dad, a heavy drinker and a policeman.

We had to walk back and forth along the streets and alleys in search of objects.

Elsewhere in the museum, the Civil War displays are rather dry but the Second World War gallery is more user friendly.

Lots of 1940s memorabilia is placed around dummies dressed in the uniforms of soldiers and Home Front organisations.

The Castle Museum incorporates the old York prison, which in recent years has had a makeover -- now there is dramatic narration from costumed actors playing the prisoners, projected onto walls of the cells.

Another major addition of recent years is the 1960s gallery which showcases many aspects of life during the swinging decade.

A full-size recreated street has a fashion boutique, TVs playing 60s programmes and a working jukebox, along with many other iconic -- and nostalgic -- images.

In short: a fascinating and wide-ranging visit to the past.

Duration: around three hours.

Age suitability: little for pre-schoolers; primary-age children and younger teenagers should be interested; fascinating for children, parents and their grandparents!

Access: disabled parking outside; seating around the museum; several staircases; pushchairs must be left in foyer (baby backpacks available); baby changing around museum. Free entry to wheelchair users and one carer, but only the Victorian street, prison and 1960s gallery is accessible to wheelchairs.

Extras: shop, cafe, outdoor picnic area.

Open: 9.30am-5pm.

Prices: £8.50 adults, free for children under 16, £7.50 concessions. Tickets valid for whole year -- "come back for free". at Tickets are valid for a whole year - see Come Back For Free below for details.

Getting there: follow pedestrian signs from railway station; car drivers use Park & Ride at various points in the York ring road (free parking, bus fare £2 return for adults, two children free with each adult).

Website: yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk