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


The best family days out around the country.


The Plaza, Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford, Dublin 18

Tel: (01) 217 6130 imaginosit­

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 irishnatio­

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

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 fotawildli­

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 nationalaq­

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

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 greenanmaz­

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 carlingfor­

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 atlanticai­radventure­

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, Co. Kilkenny

Tel: (056) 444 0707 discoveryp­

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 butlerscho­­xperience

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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