Free to go: summer outings for all the family
A selective guide to places that won’t cost a cent to visit
Two months of free time as the State’s 3,000-plus primary schools close their doors for the summer at the end of this week – it’s a delightful prospect for the children, if daunting for parents.
While free time can be expensive to fill, it doesn’t have to be. Over-scheduled children need this break from routine and a chance to kick-back, so don’t fret about “keeping them entertained”.
However, a few fun outings break up the downtime. Here’s a selective guide to places to go free this summer:
There is free admission to the pay-in heritage sites run by the Office of Public Works (OPW) on the first Wednesday of each month, so plan a family outing for July 3rd or August 7th.
Ones to consider include: the Battle of the Boyne site in Co Meath; the State rooms in Dublin Castle; Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin; Castletown House in Celbridge, Co Kildare; Dunmore Cave in Co Kilkenny; and Adare Castle in Co Limerick. It is advisable to get there early as tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. For full listing of OPW sites, see heritageireland.ie.
Join the dots
Guided family tours each Saturday at the National Gallery, Merrion Square in Dublin, from 12.30-1pm help focus your time in the treasure trove of art, which is free to visit, seven days a week. Family packs, as well as audio guides for children aged six to 10, are available at the information desk.
Summer workshops every Sunday, 3-4pm, encourage hands-on exploration of one of the themes of the gallery’s permanent collection.
Suitable for children aged six to 10 who must be accompanied by an adult. Arrive early to avoid disappointment. See nationalgallery.ie.
Seats of power
Have a peek at the Taoiseach’s office during a tour of Government Buildings on Upper Merrion Street. They take place every Saturday at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm and 1.30pm. Free tickets can be collected on the day from the National Gallery of Ireland on Merrion Square West from 10am.
Meanwhile, up the road in the Phoenix Park, you can also visit the President’s home, Áras an Uachtaráin, for free on Saturdays (excluding July 6th and 13th) on one of the hourly tours between 10.30am and 3.30pm, starting from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre, which opens at 9.45am. There is a special Children’s Day at the Áras during National Heritage Week (see below)
As visits to both institutions are subject to cancellation at short notice and tickets are available only on a first come first served basis on the day, children’s expectations need to be handled accordingly.
See heritageireland.ie or tel 01 645 8813 (from July 1st for Government Buildings tour); 01 677 0095 (Áras tour).
Get Up, Get Out!
What should be a mantra for all of us is also the title of a campaign by the children’s activities website, mykidstime.ie, in conjunction with Coillte Outdoors – the body that promotes recreation in the State’s 10 forest parks and more than 150 wooded areas.
They are a wonderful, free (except for parking fees at some) resource to enjoy as a family, whether on your feet or on your bikes. See mykidstime.ie for lots of ideas for free things to do – both outdoors and indoors.
Mingle with knights and archers – or have a go at archery yourself – at the Oldbridge Country Fair this Saturday (June 29th), noon-5pm, at the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Oldbridge, Co Meath. Puppet shows, a magician and a pet dog show are some of the other attractions at what is a free-admission event.
The weird, the wacky and the wonderful will be on view at the Laya Healthcare Street Performance World Championships in Dublin’s Merrion Square (July 12th-14th) and Cork’s Patrick Street (July 20th-21st). It’s a free festival, with contributions to performers at your discretion. See spwc.ie.
There are family drop-in activities, tours and workshops throughout the summer at all four branches of the National Museum, which are always free to visit – to the surprise of many tourists accustomed to paying entrance fees.
The themes of the four branches are: archaeology (Kildare Street, Dublin); decorative arts and history (Collins Barracks, Dublin); natural history (Merrion Street, Dublin); and country life (Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co Mayo). See the full programme of events at each on museum.ie.