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A Weekend with Kids in Dublin – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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.

The calm before the storm. The boys loved watching planes take off and land. They weren’t as thrilled about their own 7-hour flight once en route…
The calm before the storm. The boys loved watching planes take off and land. They weren’t as thrilled about their own 7-hour flight once en route…

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.

Dublin Rainbow

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.

The Croke Park Hotel. Photo by Sean MacEntee.
The Croke Park Hotel. Photo by Sean MacEntee.

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.

Support sustainable tourism and buy local by visiting this family-run department store in Dublin. A family-run business that is one of the world's oldest manufacturing surviving manufacturers, Avoca has something for everyone. Photo by William Murphy.
Support sustainable tourism and buy local by visiting this family-run department store in Dublin. A family-run business that is one of the world’s oldest manufacturing surviving manufacturers, Avoca has something for everyone. Photo by William Murphy.

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.

Beautiful gardens, a playground and lots of space to run make St. Stephen's Green a family favorite in Dublin. Photo by J.-H. Janßen.
Beautiful gardens, a playground and lots of space to run make St. Stephen’s Green a family favorite in Dublin. Photo by J.-H. Janßen.

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.

Phoenix Park in Dublin, with its herd of deer, is a must see. Photo by Superchilum.
Phoenix Park in Dublin, with its herd of deer, is a must see. Photo by Superchilum.

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.

Sandymount Strand with the tide out. I've heard some people have ended up with wet shoes because they walked all the way out only to have the tide start coming back in faster than they could retreat. So, if you decide to make the trek out at low tide, be sure you know when the tide is going to start coming back in! Photo by William Murphy.
Sandymount Strand with the tide out. I’ve heard some people have ended up with wet shoes because they walked all the way out only to have the tide start coming back in faster than they could retreat. So, if you decide to make the trek out at low tide, be sure you know when the tide is going to start coming back in! Photo by William Murphy.

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.

The bike path along Sandymount Strand in Dublin. Photo by William Murphy.
The bike path along Sandymount Strand in Dublin. Photo by William Murphy.

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!

A harbor seal in Howth Harbor hoping for some fish scraps. Photo by William Murphy.
A harbor seal in Howth Harbor hoping for some fish scraps. Photo by William Murphy.

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.

One of the many pubs serving fresh seafood in Howth Village and along the pier. Photo by William Murphy.
One of the many pubs serving fresh seafood in Howth Village and along the pier. Photo by William Murphy.

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.

Imaginosity interactive children’s museum in Dublin. Photo by Maurice Fraser.
Imaginosity interactive children’s museum in Dublin. Photo by Maurice Fraser.

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!

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(1) Comment

  1. Kimberly Norton

    Thanks so much for all of the great ideas. It worked out perfectly because my family took a trip to Dublin the weekend after you published the blog. While it rained almost the entire time we were in Dublin, you are right that even in the rain, it is still a great city to explore. We loved Avoca (great recommendation) and enjoyed an incredible brunch in their cafe (they had a great children’s menu). Our little boy loved exploring their toy section. We also went to St. Stephen’s Green, which was gorgeous. Thank you again for the great recommendations!

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