My sister in law is Irish. This past holiday season she and my brother traveled from New York to Dublin with their one year old and two-and-a-half year old boys. I’ll just say their flight over was such that three months later they still can’t bring themselves to talk about it and they’ve sworn off air travel with the kids for the next 14 years (hint: the youngest threw up all over his parents 30 minutes into the flight and that was just the beginning).
Apparently the luck of the Irish can’t prevail against the deadly combo of air travel during the holidays … with two toddlers … on an overnight flight … with a six hour time difference.
Travel nightmares aside, once you do arrive, Dublin is a great city to visit with kids, even when it rains. And while you likely aren’t going to come across any leprechauns and their pots of gold (though you never know) you will find plenty of kid friendly activities and entertainment, which is almost just as good.
There are several hotels to pick from, as usual in a large city. One of the most kid friendly hotels, and a good rate to boot, is The Croke Park Hotel. Just note that it is a 20 minute walk into the city center (maybe longer depending on the length of your little travelers’ legs).
Some other kid friendly options are: the Four Seasons, which is located in the beautiful Ballsbridge neighborhood; The Shelbourne Dublin, which has an indoor pool; and The Westbury Hotel, which is known for its high tea and located just off Grafton Street, the main shopping drag.
If you are looking for some unique items to bring home, visit Avoca. The mini-department store, which is just off Grafton Street and across from Trinity College, is full of beautiful items from kids wear and toys to traditional Irish throws and crystal. The bottom level contains an extensive food hall, deli and coffee shop and the top level has a kid-friendly café for lunch or breakfast and some nice views over the Dublin rooftops.
Not far from Avoca is St. Stephen’s Green, a pretty park in center city with a nice playground. If you happen to be doing some shopping on Grafton Street, this is a good place to let the kids run around. At the entrance to the park you can pick up a horse and carriage for a tour of the neighborhood. The prices vary depending on the amount of time you want to ride and most of the drivers are very knowledgeable.
Phoenix Park should be at the top of your list. With a medieval tower house (aka Ashtown Castle), flower gardens, a Victorian walled garden, two new playgrounds, the Dublin Zoo (with a sheltered year-round play area in case of rain), a herd of wild deer and cafés complete with fresh, healthy and organic fare, the whole family will be happy. You can also rent bikes within the 707 hectare park to make getting around easier.
Sandymount Strand is a nice strip of beach about 3 kilometers from city center. When the tide goes out, it goes way out! The difference between the high tide line and low tide line can be nearly half a mile.
With a huge beach, there is a lot of room for kids to roam, play and discover. Paralleling the beach is a paved path for running, cycling, and walking (with strollers). After playing on the beach, you can grab a bite to eat at Mulligans Pub, a kid friendly joint in Sandymount Village. If you are looking for something a little nicer than a pub, check out Dunne & Crescenzi just a block from the Strand, where you’ll find Italian fare, a decent wine selection and a kid-friendly vibe.
Another must see is Howth Village, which is 10 miles north of the city but can be accessed via DART (Dublin Area Rail Transit) or bus. There is a working harbor with great fish shops (shacks) selling amazingly fresh catch, including some that is sushi grade. When my brother and sister-in-law lived in Dublin, we picked up some fish here and made sushi at home that night. Delicious!
There are often seals frolicking in the harbor, which are a huge hit with the kids. Howth hosts the largest farmers’ market in Dublin every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can pick up meat, produce, fish, baked goods, chocolate and even jewelry and other wares to go. Plus, you can get prepared food to eat there. If you prefer sitting down at a table to eat or if you are in Howth on a non-market day, there are a number of family-friendly restaurants and pubs serving up great seafood along the pier.
Looking for something purely for the kids? Then head out to Imaginosity, a great interactive children’s museum in the southern part of the city. It’s a bit removed from the center but is accessible via DART. Kids can pretend to be a mechanic, a construction worker, a doctor, or a banker, to name a few. Everything is hands on and kids’ imaginations can soar. The museum also hosts various guided activities, workshops and events through the day.
So, pack your umbrella and your in-flight patience and head on over to Dublin. You and the kids are sure to have a great time. And, who knows, maybe you will just find that pot of gold!