Dublin is a capital city with the busy pace to match, but its relatively compact size and friendly atmosphere also make it a great destination to visit with kids. From zoos to parks and lots of splash opportunities, Dublin provides a lot of entertainment and educational activities for kids of all ages.
Most kids love zoos, from the budding veterinarian who adores all animals to those who look for the deadliest predators (preferably at feeding time). Dublin Zoo has everything, including the deadly (Amur tigers) as well as the cuddly (red pandas) or funny (meerkats and penguins). It will keep most visitors interested and occupied for anything between two hours and a whole day.
The best areas for viewing, all created in recent years to get the best out of the zoo for visitors and animals alike, are the African Plains, the islands that house chimpanzees and gorillas, the new Orang-Utan habitat (where the big beasts actually may cross your path, high above), and the African forest for the elephants.
Don't underestimate the attraction of the City Farm! But do try to avoid the busy weekend crowds and opt for a mid-week visit whenever possible.
Imaginosity is an interactive children’s museum that is ideal for younger children (up to about age 9). The museum is specially designed for tiny tots and is full of pieces that have been dreamed up to be climbed on, built and deconstructed, touched, pulled and pushed. The exhibits are all educational in their own way, including a play construction zone, a doctor’s office to learn about bodies, and a reconstructed tree house where fairies supposedly live. There are also performances for all ages, with the museum believing that drama helps children develop important skills like concentration.
Kids may tire of sightseeing in Europe's many churches, but Dublin as one particular church that offers a very different kind of tour - one which includes a trip underground to see real-life mummies.
The mummies of Saint Michan's are not for the squeamish, and the tour might not be appropriate for the youngest kids because you will learn what to be "hung, drawn, and quartered" really meant. However, it does provide an hour of spine-chilling fun for bigger kids and their older relatives.
Frolic in Phoenix Park
Dublin’s largest park has more than just an amazing zoo to keep kids entertained. There are play areas and trails to explore, as well as a park visitor’s center which hosts various weekend crafts workshops for kids 6-12 years of age. The park also has deer, which kids love to try to spot, as well as trails for bike riding for the whole family to cycle together.
The extensive grounds of St. Anne’s Park are perfect for a bit of outdoor fun, and there is a great playground as well as winding walks along mysterious towers and ruins that add a fantastic sparkle. After experiencing the park, head just over the road to Bull Island - where you can enjoy views of Dublin Bay, a hunt for the Bull Island mouse, long walks or a good view of a hapless driver's vehicle being swallowed by the tide (a time-honored tradition immortalized in folk songs).
Costumed performers and educational exhibits at this museum attached to Christ Church Cathedral help to bring Dublin's past to life. Dublinia focuses on medieval life in the Irish capital, with a special detour into Viking times. There are reenactments of the plague and even a place where you can hit the guy in the stocks with simulated rotten apples.
Get into the Spirit with Local Gaelic Games
Forget professional soccer! Ireland has its own brand of sports that will delight the whole family, with regular matches at Croke Park. Gaelic football is played exclusively by amateurs and is faster, more creative, and fun for the spectators. Hurling is even faster and is supposedly the sport that inspired quidditch in the Harry Potter books.
The Viking Splash Tour is a bit notorious around the city for its silly hats, the penchant for yelling at bystanders, and flashy yellow colors. This is not a tour a that tries to blend in with the locals – and kids will love the fun, loud approach to seeing Dublin in an open-sided vehicle. The best part? The ridiculous looking bus has such a funny appearance because it is also part boat! After cruising the streets of Dublin, the amphibious vehicle drives right into the water at the Grand Canal Basin so that the whole family can enjoy the city from a different viewpoint. (Though keep in mind that this is only for kids over the age of two, and each child must be accompanied by an adult).
Dublin’s main cultural center for children, The Ark is dedicated to fostering a lifelong love for art in young creatives. The center hosts a regular program of events which ranges from workshops for older kids (like designing their own board games) to family classes on upcycling and engaging performances for all ages. The Temple Bar art center is particularly popular on rainy days so be sure to book tickets ahead of time to ensure your spot.
Need to get out more? On a dry day, Howth is a lovely place for a family trip which can range from just a few hours or create an entire fun day out. The waterside area is easily reachable by DART and offers lots of things to do, including cliff walks, the National Transport Museum, piers to stroll along, areas to watch the seals, and places to have fish and chips al fresco. The sea air is refreshing for everyone, but keep a close watch on little ones near the water and the cliffs.
Skip off to Malahide Castle
Malahide makes for a fun day trip away from the relatively busy streets of Dublin and is especially kid-friendly thanks to its fairytale castle and extensive greens. There is a popular playground right next to the castle, as well as a botanical garden for flower spotting while burning off energy exploring the paths. Plus, bigger kids will love the chance to go inside a real-life castle, and Malahide happens to have one of best castles near to Irish capital.
Indulge in Fish and Chips
There are plenty of fresh veggies growing in the green Irish hills, but when in Dublin, fish and chips are the classic kid-friendly Irish meal. Head to a local chipper for a takeaway feast (and even a battered sausage if you’re feeling particularly generous). The fried cod specialty is also a popular pub lunch, and you may even be able to convince your little ones to try the mushy peas which always come on the side.
Sometimes Irish weather gets the better of all of us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t don your swimsuits for a day at the pool. Take a family break with a trip to the indoor waterpark in Blanchardstown where there is a lazy river to float down and spiraling slides or major drop-offs for the more daring young ones. Under 5’s will love splashing around the pirate ship that is designed for the youngest visitors.
There is nothing boring about Dublin museums, and some of the best exhibits can be found in the National Museums. Kids will particularly like the Kildare Street exhibits on "Kingship & Sacrifice", "Viking Dublin" and "Medieval Ireland". While over in Collins Barracks, the sections on the Easter Rising and "Soldiers & Chiefs" are an exploration of Ireland's military history.
The National Leprechaun Museum may bring to mind little men in green suits, but the private museum is about much more than that. This guided tour will appeal to kids (and the young at heart) who love a good story. The museum experience focuses on Irish myths and storytelling traditions, with the bonus of quirky rooms with exhibits filled with spooky forests or oversized furniture designed to make you feel like an Irish storybook character.