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 imaginosity.ie
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.
CROKE PARK STADIUM TOUR Croke Park, Dublin 3
Tel: (01) 819 2300 crokepark.ie
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!
IRISH NATIONAL STUD & GARDENS
Tully, Co. Kildare
Tel: (045) 521 617 irishnationalstud.ie
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 dublinzoo.ie
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 WILDLIFE PARK
Fota Island, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork Tel: (021) 481 2678 fotawildlife.ie
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 aquadome.ie
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,
Tel: (091) 585 100 nationalaquarium.ie
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 jumpzone.ie
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 taytopark.ie
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 greenanmaze.com
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 rathwood.com
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.
CARLINGFORD ADVENTURE CENTRE
Tholsel St, Carlingford, Co. Louth Tel: (042) 937 3100 carlingfordadventure.com
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 atlanticairadventures.com
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 discoverypark.ie
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 shannonheritage.com/Craggaunowen
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 butlerschocolates.com/chocolateexperience
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.
C A S T L E C O M E R D I S C OV E RY PA R K