From aquadomes and ad­ven­ture parks to sports grounds and wildlife resorts, Ire­land has a won­der­ful ar­ray of at­trac­tions for chil­dren.

Hot Press - - Contents - BY LAURA HARFF

The best fam­ily days out around the coun­try.


The Plaza, Bea­con South Quar­ter, Sandy­ford, Dublin 18

Tel: (01) 217 6130 imag­i­nos­

Spe­cially de­signed for un­der-nines and their fam­i­lies, Imag­i­nos­ity is an ed­u­ca­tional, cre­ative and eco-certi ed en­vi­ron­ment en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to “play, dis­cover and imag­ine” on three lev­els. Level One’s child­sized pro­por­tioned town gives kids the chance to run their own su­per­mar­kets and doc­tor’s surgery, while Level Two promotes learn­ing through role-play, im­prov and more for­mally di­rected the­atre. Maths and prob­lem solving are also given pride of place in the spe­cially equipped Maths House, boost­ing chil­dren’s cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. Else­where,

Level 3 com­prises of the Roof Gar­den – an out­door area where kids can learn about Imag­i­nos­ity’s eco background.


Tel: (01) 819 2300

Treat the lit­tle ath­letes in your life to a Croke Park Sta­dium Tour that of­fers an ac­cess-al­lar­eas trip through the home of Ir­ish sport. Grown-up sports enthusiast­s will be just as riv­eted as you fol­low in the foot­steps of le­gends and visit the hal­lowed dress­ing rooms and play­ers’ tun­nel. Ex­pe­ri­ence the panoramic views from the top-tier stand – 44 me­tres above the fa­mous pitch – and get a bird’s eye view of the arena. This un­ri­valled, state-of-the-art ex­pe­ri­ence also in­cludes ad­mis­sion to the GAA mu­seum, where you can learn about the his­tory of Ir­ish sport – and even test your own foot­ball skills in the in­ter­ac­tive game zone!


Tully, Co. Kil­dare

Tel: (045) 521 617 irish­na­tion­al­

From horses to hor­ti­cul­ture, the Ir­ish Na­tional Stud & Gar­dens en­com­passes a wealth of at­trac­tions all rolled into one. A ram­ble around the Stud Farm and Horse Mu­seum pro­vides vis­i­tors with a riv­et­ing in­sight into the beat­ing heart of Ire­land’s thor­ough­bred in­dus­try, while the Ja­panese Gar­dens pro­vide an awe-inspiring set­ting for chil­dren to ex­plore. St. Fi­achra’s Gar­den is also a vi­sion­ary treat that in­cludes magni cent Water­ford Crys­tal rocks, and a na­ture trail that will keep the kids en­ter­tained as they iden­tify trees and learn about swan life. Fac­tor in the play­ground and lovely restau­rant and you can eas­ily see why this is one of Ire­land’s most pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tions.

DUBLIN ZOO Phoenix Park, Dublin 7 Tel: (01) 474 8900 dublin­

Home to over 400 an­i­mals – many be­long­ing to rare and en­dan­gered species – Dublin

Zoo is a peren­ni­ally pop­u­lar at­trac­tion for fam­i­lies, with over 1 mil­lion vis­i­tors a year! Spread across 28 hectares, there’s a lot of ground to cover – plan­ning ahead might be ad­vis­able in case of lit­tle legs be­gin­ning to tire. It’s also a good idea to check the feed­ing sched­ules on the web­site, as it’s worth watch­ing the li­ons tuck in or the pen­guins get­ting their shy ll. The zoo is open from 9.30am ev­ery day; last ad­mis­sions vary by sea­son.


Fota Is­land, Car­rigt­wohill, Co. Cork Tel: (021) 481 2678 fotaw­

There’s plenty more an­i­mal fun to be found down south, where Fota Wildlife Park al­lows vis­i­tors to get up close and per­sonal. Young­sters – and the not so young – will love the op­por­tu­nity to walk among the lemurs, amin­gos and meerkats, while spa­cious en­clo­sures through­out the park house chee­tahs, mon­keys, os­triches and many more ex­otic species. With fes­ti­vals and events hosted reg­u­larly, there’s al­ways plenty to en­ter­tain, so it’s worth check­ing the web­site be­fore you go. Fi­nally, there’s also a be­hindthe-scenes tour – if your lit­tle ones have ever wanted to feed a pen­guin or get friendly with a gi­raffe, this might be what you’re look­ing for! Open seven days a week. AQUA DOME

Dan Spring Road, Tralee, Co. Kerry Tel: (066) 712 9150

If the tem­per­a­ture of the Ir­ish coastal waters makes swim­ming a less-than-en­tic­ing prospect, don’t fret – Tralee’s Aqua Dome re­ally does have you cov­ered. The im­mensely pop­u­lar – and yes, in­door and heated – fa­cil­ity is a watery won­der­land, with pools, slides, and even arti cial waves and river rapids. And while the chil­dren are splash­ing about, there’s plenty for adults too: a sauna, steam room and plunge pool will pro­vide some much-needed re­lax­ation for the chap­er­ones.

GAL­WAY ATLANTAQUA­RIA Sea­point Prom­e­nade, Salthill,

Co, Gal­way

Tel: (091) 585 100 na­tion­alaquar­

The Na­tional Aquar­ium of Ire­land brings to the sur­face all the won­ders of sea life; ev­ery­thing from cod and pol­lock to a gi­ant con­ger eel over two me­tres in length. There’s also a chance to roll up your sleeves and hold sleepy star sh and scut­tling crabs, and even feed some of the smaller sh by hand. If you’re happy spec­tat­ing, there’s still a wealth of in­cred­i­ble sights to be­hold, in­clud­ing the tow­er­ing skele­ton of a n whale weigh­ing more than ve tonnes! Tours and feed­ing times can be found on­line, and the fa­cil­ity is open daily from 10am.


71–73 Heather Road, Sandy­ford, Dublin 18 Tel: (01) 293 9356

27 Air­ways In­dus­trial Es­tate, Santry, Dublin 17 Tel: (01) 862 3366

Al­ready a huge hit in the US, the Dublin Jump Zone is the big­gest in­door tram­po­line park in Europe. You can free jump, do tricks or par­take in some of the main ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer, in­clud­ing Aer­o­bics and Dodge­ball on the cus­tom made tram­po­lines ad­join­ing the oors and walls. When you’re not bounc­ing, there are re­lax­ation ar­eas, food ar­eas and kids’ party ar­eas to avail of, mean­ing par­ents can re­lax while the chil­dren play. All ages are wel­come, with solo jump­ing start­ing at €13 per hour peak time, and €12 per hour off­peak. Birth­day pack­ages are also avail­able, which in­clude pizza and re­fresh­ments in a pri­vate party room.


Kil­brew, Ash­bourne, Co. Meath Tel: (01) 835 1999 tay­

Of­fer­ing an ar­ray of ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ences with­out leav­ing the grounds, Tayto Park is a guar­an­teed hit. Whether it’s walk­ing the vor­tex tun­nel, strap­ping your­self into the Cú Chu­lainn Coaster, Europe’s largest wooden roller­coaster, or chal­leng­ing your­self on the 21-me­tre climb­ing wall – there’s a tonne of at­trac­tions in the Ash­bourne park. Of course, there’s also the chance to meet the pro­pri­etor, Mr Tayto, him­self!


Bal­li­nanty, Greenan, Rath­drum, Co. Wick­low Tel: (0404) 460 00 greenan­

Out in the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side of the Wick­low Moun­tains, Greenan Maze has enough fun for the fam­ily to ll an en­tire day. The hedge maze is the main at­trac­tion; built dur­ing the win­ter sol­stice and sur­rounded by 21 stand­ing stones, it stands seven feet high and takes up a half-acre. Else­where, at­trac­tions in­cludes the farm mu­se­ums, a na­ture trail and tea­rooms. Greenan Maze is also a work­ing farm, and kids get up close to the an­i­mals in a re­laxed and friendly

at­mos­phere. Tick­ets cost €8 for adults and €7 for chil­dren. Chil­dren two years and un­der are free.


Rath, Tul­low, Co. Car­low Tel: (059) 915 6285

While the grown-ups will un­doubt­edly nd some­thing of in­ter­est at the award-win­ning depart­ment store and restau­rant, there’s a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons to visit Rathwood with the lit­tle ones in your life. From teddy bear pic­nics run­ning dur­ing the sum­mer months, to Harry Pot­ter’s birth­day-cel­e­bra­tions, there’s of­ten some­thing spe­cial tak­ing place – check the web­site ahead of sched­ule for de­tails. Don’t for­get to take the train through the woods – stop­ping to feed the ducks – or get lost in the Maze of Ire­land, be­fore say­ing hello to the deer, goats, geese and minia­ture ponies on what’s sure to be an ideal fam­ily day out.


Tholsel St, Car­ling­ford, Co. Louth Tel: (042) 937 3100 car­ling­for­dad­ven­

With ev­ery­thing from rock climb­ing and kayak­ing to laser com­bat and a wa­ter tram­po­line, ad­ven­tur­ous young­sters will

nd a world of ex­cite­ment await­ing in Louth. The high­light, with­out doubt, is the Sky­park Zip­topa, the Zip Line ad­ven­ture that will have both chil­dren (age 5+) and adults de­lighted in equal mea­sure. Lo­cated in the medieval vil­lage of Car­ling­ford, it’s the per­fect set­ting to do as much or as lit­tle as you like. Self­ca­ter­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion means that your visit can last as long as you wish.

AT­LANTIC AIRVENTURE Link Road, Shan­non, Co. Clare Tel: (061) 363 687 at­lanti­cairad­ven­

For those who dream of leav­ing terra rma be­hind and tak­ing to the skies, this is one ex­pe­ri­ence that will never be for­got­ten. The whole fam­ily (chil­dren aged 7+) can not only learn how to y an air­craft dur­ing a pre ight ground school les­son, they can then test those the­o­ries with a vir­tual ight in a high-per­for­mance simulator. Your mis­sion? To nav­i­gate the skies of New York to nd the Statue of Lib­erty, with­out leav­ing the comforts of Clare. It doesn’t nish there, ei­ther – the Shan­non Avi­a­tion Mu­seum is a fan­tas­tic in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, pro­vid­ing a keen in­sight for young and old alike. Book­ing is es­sen­tial – visit the web­site for times and de­tails.

CASTLE­COMER DIS­COV­ERY PARK The Es­tate Yard, Drum­goole,

Castle­comer, Co. Kilkenny

Tel: (056) 444 0707 dis­cov­ery­

Whether a lit­tle ad­ven­turer eager to run amok in the Tim­ber Tum­bles play­ground, or a grown-up look­ing to ex­plore the 80 acres of wood­land trails, there’s some­thing for ev­ery­one at Castle­comer Dis­cov­ery Park. Adren­a­line junkies will adore the Tree-Top Walk Ad­ven­ture and Climb­ing Wall, while those in need of a re­lax­ing hour will have fun boat­ing on the scenic lake. You can ex­plore the Elf and Fairy vil­lage, stop by the Canopy Café or even learn about his­tory in a fab­u­lous in­ter­ac­tive coal min­ing ex­hi­bi­tion. Pre­book­ing is es­sen­tial for the big­ger ac­tiv­i­ties. If you sim­ply fancy a stroll through the park, ad­mis­sion is free.


Quin, Kil­murry, Co. Clare

Tel: (061) 360 788 shan­non­her­­en

Step into the past at Craggaunow­en, and see what life was like for our Celtic an­ces­tors over 1,000 years ago. Vis­i­tors of all ages will en­joy a trip to the Cran­nóg – the arti cial is­land dwelling de­fended by a hid­den underwater path – and mar­vel at how hunter-gath­er­ers in the Ring Fort lived. Visit the Brendan Boat, which Tim Sev­erin sailed to repli­cate the transat­lantic jour­ney taken by St. Brendan and Chris­tian monks long be­fore Colum­bus. We as­sure you that school was never quite like this; pre­pare for a fun ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence!

AIRFIELD HOUSE & FARM Tel: (01) 969 6666

Give your child the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the great outdoors whilst learn­ing about sea­son­al­ity, grow­ing and cook­ing! That’s the recipe at what is Dublin’s only 38-acre work­ing farm and gar­den. The charm­ing wood­lands with cherry and honey­suckle trees of­fer a lovely nat­u­ral space for kids and adults alike to stroll in. Add in daily ac­tiv­i­ties like egg col­lec­tion, jersey herd milk­ing and calf feed­ing where the farm an­i­mals, from sheep, goats, pigs and don­keys to Rhode Is­land red hens and more ex­otic Leg­bar Chick­ens – which lay beau­ti­ful blue-coloured eggs – can be seen close-up.



Clon­shaugh Busi­ness Park, Dublin 17

Tel: (01) 671 0599 but­ler­schoco­­la­te­ex­pe­ri­ence

But­lers’ cre­ations are proof enough that choco­late re­ally can make you happy. But what is re­ally go­ing on be­hind the doors of a choco­late fac­tory? If your kids ex­pect Oompa Loom­pas and Willy Wonka, the But­lers Choco­late Ex­pe­ri­ence is for them. It of­fers ac­cess to the Choco­late Mu­seum where they can learn about the his­tory of choco­late, while the bird’s eye view Choco­late Gallery al­lows them to watch the gor­geous choco­late be­ing made. They can also dress-up and be­come a choco­latier them­selves, while But­lers’ staff – skilled in the art of all things sweet – aid them in dec­o­rat­ing their very own choco­lates.




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