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Fifty great things to do with your family this summer

From petting zoos to natural history museums, here are the best options to keep kids busy over the summer

School’s almost out for summer for the primary school kids, while the long summer holidays have already begun for our teens. Trying to keep them occupied over the next couple of months is the challenge that awaits us. But fear not, because we’re back with our list of 50 great things to do with your family this summer, with something for all the ages – and all the weathers.

Explorium, National Sport and Science Centre, Sandyford

Have you ever seen lightning dance? Well, that’s just one of the treats in store at the Explorium in Sandyford, where science has never been so much fun. Spoiler alert – dancing lightning is absolutely a-may-zing to witness. You don’t need to be a science buff to begin with, but there’s a good chance you will be by the time you leave.

Explorium is one of those unique places that the entire family can enjoy, irrespective of the age spread. For younger children, there are spaces to test their imagination, dress up, bring drawings to life and engage in sensory play in the unique ways. There’s a big slide that you can whizz down on large inflatable rings – what more could a child ask for?

For older children and adults, the science area offers the opportunity to lie on a bed of nails, see how much power you can generate by getting on the hamster wheel, test your sporting reactions, speed and strength and have an anti – gravity experience (which is every bit as cool as it sounds). While the climate area evaluates your carbon footprint with games that will help you find ways to reduce it. And if that’s not enough there are climbing walls and VR and AR areas too.


Ticket prices vary depending on experience, and details can be found at

Emerald Park, Meath

With a brand new land, Tir na N’Óg, that contains two new intertwining rollercoasters, Na Fianna Force and The Quest, Emerald Park is the perfect outing for those with children of all ages, right up to adulthood. And there’s plenty to keep everyone occupied for the whole day.

There’s a junior zone with an array of rides for younger children (and us less brave adults), including a driving school, traditional carousel, spinning honeypots, a crazy bus and lots more. And a whole other section with terrifying and dizzying rides for those who are not so faint of heart.

Experience it yourself, or supervise from the safety of terra firma, as your children scream with delight from the Cú Chulainn rollercoaster and its ilk, showing no fear whatsoever. And let’s not forget the zoo and the 5D cinema. You can bring a picnic or buy food on site. Plenty of options available.

One personal tip is to leave the Viking Splash ride until towards the end, because traipsing around the park in wet clothes for the rest of the day is less craic than you might think.

Under 3s go free and there is free entry for accompanying carers of guests with additional needs. Other ticket prices vary from €25-€52, and can be booked at

Zombie Apocalypse at Zero Latency, Swords and Sandyford

Let she who has never imagined herself partaking in a zombie apocalypse cast the first stone – or fire the first shot. In the virtual reality sense, of course.

It’s hard to anticipate until you’re there and zombies are coming at you from every direction, just how much fun the virtual reality experience can be. Though you’re wandering around on level ground in the safety of an arena, the experience will convince you that you’re going up and down in elevators, are delicately poised on a building’s external air shafts, and even hanging on for dear life in open helicopters, all the while watching out for zombies who can appear out of nowhere and cause you to scream in fright and fun.

Suitable for age 8 right up to adult, it’s a group activity that all the family (within that age range) can enjoy together. And if zombies aren’t your thing there are lots of other VR experiences to try.

Prices vary depending on experiences chosen and details can be found at

Clara Lara Funpark, Wicklow

Rowing boats, go karts, amphicats, water slides, climbing frames and nets, crazy golf, and Tarzan ropes over giant puddles that are only going to end one way, are just some of the fun activities that families can enjoy at Clara Lara outdoor fun park.

There are plenty of areas for picnics and lots of picnic tables across the entire fun park, and if you’re a fan of barbecues, then bring along a disposable one, because there are barbecue stalls scattered plentifully around the park too.

The one thing that you can almost certainly count on, is that your children will be soaking, and likely extremely mucky too at the end of a day spent having fabulous, outdoor fun. So, bring towels and a change of clothes (or two). And make sure children wear their oldest, oldest shoes.

Scattered around the fun park are wooden huts that children can get changed in as needed.

Children under the age of 2 go free, while other prices vary depending on age. For more details and to book see

Limerick Greenway

Riding a bike is just like erm.. riding a bike and it appears there is truth in the cliche – you never forget. So, if you’re looking for an activity that will get all the family active, why not take to the greenway and cycle to your heart’s content, free from the worry of oncoming traffic or unsteady-on-their-wheels younger children.

There are several bike hire providers along Limerick greenway for all your pedal bike, electric bike and bike trailer needs. And the Barnagh Greenway hub is a joy to stop off at for refreshments and a break. Just remember the padding, if it’s been a while since you were on a bike. Your bum will thank you for it.

More details are available at

Jumpzone Liffey Valley, Santry and Sandyford

Tire out your children at one of Jumpzone’s trampoline sports parks where they can bounce to their hearts’ content from trampoline to trampoline. Play dodge ball, take a swing on the trapeze, test out the assault course, take on the battle beam – Gladiator style, or get to the top of some warped walls.

One of the joys of Jumpzone is that it’s not a weather dependent activity, meaning your kids can get active indoors. Plus it’s open to everyone over the age of five – dads and mums included. Pelvic floors notwithstanding. Jumpzone also runs sensory sessions each month, during which loud music is turned down and whistles are not used by court monitors.

Prices range from €13.95-€19.95. More details at

Jurassic Newpark, Kilkenny

With 12 life-size, (enormous) moving, dinosaurs, Jurassic Newpark will capture the attention of any dinosaur-loving children you may have or know. This is an experience that’s best for younger children (under 12s), and along with dinosaurs there’s a playground, go kart track and a fairy trail to explore.

There are also animals such as sheep, cows, alpacas and emus to meet as you walk through the park. And if you keep your eyes peeled you might even see the lesser spotted tractor-saurus.

Prices range from €6.50 to €15. More details are available at

Fort Lucan, Lucan

A giant wooden pirate ship, wooden climbing frames and nets, slides, go carts, swings and a giant helter skelter are just some of the activities children can look forward to at Fort Lucan. An experience aimed at children under 12, it has the feel of a traditional wooden, playground wonderland and there’s plenty of space to picnic too if the weather obliges.

But that’s not all Fort Lucan has to offer. Two water slides which drench and delight add to the fun of the whole experience.

Tickets must be booked in advance online, and prices vary. For details and to book see

National Stud and Gardens, Kildare

Who doesn’t love beautiful horses? At the national stud, children and adults can get up close to some beautiful horses, stroll the stunning grounds, and if you’re lucky (as we were) it may even be possible to see a newly born foal and feed the older horses.

Learn about the history of the stud, the birds and bees (horsey style), and try out the racehorse experience – complete with mechanical horses, and visit the kid zone which includes swings, slides, climbing frames and a fairy trail. Plus there’s a lovely coffee shop and restaurant on site if you get peckish while you’re there.

For more information and to book see

Archaeology Museum, Kildare Street, Dublin

If you have any budding archaeologists in your family then the National Archaeology will likely be an attraction for them. Discover all about Ireland’s gold and the Derrynaflan chalice and if the kids have learned about Vikings in school, there’s a whole exhibition on Viking Ireland that will mean a lot more to them now. And it’s free.

Take a ferry to the Aran Islands, Galway

A trip on a boat is always a source of excitement for children, and an added bonus when you take the ferry with Aran Islands ferries from Galway to Inis Mór is that you get to take in stunning views of the Cliffs of Moher from the sea, on the return journey.

On the island, there’s the beach to enjoy, if the weather co-operates, or you can hire bikes to get around more efficiently and take in island life. This is, however, Ireland, so take the rain gear as well as the sun cream with you!

More details and booking at

EPIC – The Irish Emmigration Museum, Dublin

A visit to the EPIC museum is different from your typical museum. For one it’s extremely interactive, which helps to keep the kids and adults entertained and engaged the whole way around.

Learn about Ireland’s history of emigration, explore what it means to be Irish, and see the routes Irish people took to begin a new life. You can even experience, through the interactive and immersive nature of the museum, what those journeys were like.

It’s a museum experience that hits home a little bit differently when you or people you’ve loved have experienced emigration.

Prices vary. For more details and to book see

Kia Ora Mini Farm, Gorey, Wexford

Kia Ora Mini Farm is a great experience for families with younger children. With Emus, pot bellied pigs, llamas and alpacas among other animals on the farm, there are lots of creatures for children to get up close to.

And in addition to the animals, there’s go karts, crazy football, diggers, a maze, fire truck and lots of other activities for children to do there. There’s a coffee shop on site, but there’s plenty of space to picnic if that’s your preference.

Tickets are €10 and are available at kiaoraminifarm

Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny

A day trip for those who love an active outing. Whether it’s scaling treetops, archery, zip lines, axe throwing, sky walking, bouncing nets, or fairy villages, there’s something here for all the ages.

Activities are booked to fit certain time slots, so allow time to get from one activity to the next. Certain activities have age restrictions. But there’s a junior zone where younger children can get moving too. Bring all your energy and your head for heights if the skywalk or zip line tickles your fancy. And because it’s an outdoor activity, with lots of climbing and clambering, remember to dress appropriately. Bring something to tie up your hair too if it’s long, so it doesn’t get caught, if you’re planning to try out activities such as the zip line.

Prices vary depending on activities chosen. For more details and to book, see

Dublin Bay Cruises

Fancy seeing Dublin from a sea perspective? Dublin Bay cruises offers that opportunity with an activity that all the family can enjoy, big and small. Take a trip around Dún Laoghaire, Dublin city or the Howth peninsula in the comfort of one of their boats and see the capital through different eyes.

If the weather obliges it’s an even nicer trip, though of course it’s always windier at sea, so bring the sun cream and an extra layer of clothing in case. And there’s the option to sit below deck and have a drink and some treats from the on-board bar too.

Ticket prices vary depending on the trip chosen and you can book at

Kildare Farm Foods

Pet farms are always a favourite with the kids, especially the younger ones and at Kildare farm, not only can the kids get up close to the animals, they can even feed them too with special animal feed sold by the farm for €1. The farm itself is free to visit.

On site there’s also indoor crazy golf and a teddy bear factory at additional costs. There’s a sensory playground also and the farm is accessible. And if the parents fancy doing a little farm shopping, that’s an option too.

For more information and to book see

Blarney Castle and Gardens

Kiss the Blarney stone for the gift of the gab they said. What they didn’t say is how many stairs you’d have to climb to get to it. Or the brave lean back required to reach it. Still it’s absolutely worth it for the wonderful view – and to never be stuck for words. The climb will likely suit older children better, due to the narrow, winding and many stairs. The Blarney stone and castle however, are not all that there is to see here.

The gardens are magnificent, and the poison garden a personal hit with my own kids. The murderous potential was endless!

For more details and to book, see

The Cinema

Always a hit with all the family and it’s not weather dependent either, so win-win.

Watch out for family-friendly specials such as kids club morning screenings which are often less expensive. The Odeon cinemas are running Bargain Wednesdays.

Plus, some movie theatres including the Odeon cinemas and Movies At cinemas at various locations around the country, offer autism-friendly screenings making for a more inclusive experience for all the family.

Aquazone Waterpark at The National Acquatic Centre, Dublin 15

A hit with kids of all ages and their parents too. Pirate play area, slides, leisure pool and wave machines all contribute to the brilliant fun that’s had in the water. There are eight different rides and slides available, including the green giant and the dark hole. And a ‘lazy river’ drifts off the main pool.

There are restrictions on adult to child ratio depending on the age of the child, so be sure to check that you have adequate adult numbers before heading off.

Individual ticket prices start at €8.50 but there are family prices too. For more details and to book, see

The Dead Zoo – Merrion Street, Dublin 2

Who’d have thought dead animals could fascinate children so much and yet The Dead Zoo is one museum that children love to go back to again and again. Foxes, whales, hares, fish, badgers, birds and lots more are on display for children to stare at and read about. And they never get bored with it.

And best of all, it’s free!

Cork City Gaol

At Cork City Gaol you can see what life was like in a 19th century prison. You can step inside the cells and wander the corridors and visit the governor’s office. Tour guides are available to take you through the experience, or you can use an audio tour guide, which is also a great option.

It’s an activity that because of its historical nature will likely appeal to slightly older children more, but rest assured all-aged children will enjoy the opportunity it offers to place their parents in the stocks!

A really interesting place to visit.

Self-guided tours start from €7 per person. Guided tours start from €9 per person. You can book at

Museum of Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, Dublin 7

The Museum of Decorative Arts & History has something for everyone. With several floors to explore there’s plenty to keep the attention of younger and older children, with military artefacts, historical clothing and jewellery, pottery, silverware, yachts and even furniture and kitchenware all on display.

With so much to see, you’re likely to spend more time here – and again because it’s part of the National Museums of Ireland, it’s free.

Brigit’s Garden, Roscahill, Co Galway

Brigit’s Garden in Roscahill on the road from Galway city to Connemara is gorgeously picturesque with the Celtic gardens promising to take you on a magical journey into the heart of Ireland’s heritage and mythology. It is set in 11 acres of native woodland and wild flower meadows, and visitors can take in the sun trail, an ancient fairy fort, a thatched roundhouse and a crannóg as well as the largest sundial in Ireland.

Entry for adults is €10, while children’s tickets are priced at €7.

For more information, including details of upcoming walks, and to book tickets see

Airfield Estate, Dundrum, Dublin 14

The 15-hectare Airfield Estate is a working city farm that will keep kids and adults occupied for a decent chunk of a day. There are animals, gardens, woodlands and some excellent food to eat in and take away. As a working farm, children can see some farm practices in play such as egg collecting and cows being milked. And there are plenty of events being organised throughout the summer such as family bat walks and teddy bears picnics. And there’s an indoor play zone too.

Under 3s go free. For details for family passes and other discounts see

Country Life Museum, Castlebar, Co Mayo

Learn all about bees, the natural environment, cycling the country, and Polish folk art with a visit to the Country Life Museum. Children can learn about the sort of clothes children wore in the 1800s and even dress up in them. Try out games from yesteryear and there’s a wooden playground on the grounds of the museum.

And if you want to make a trip to the museum a more active one, you can combine your visit with a cycle on the museum greenway too.

As a National Museum of Ireland, the visit is free.

Squirrel’s Scramble Tree Adventure Park, Kilruddery

If a family climb sounds like your thing, then a trip to Squirrel’s Scramble, in Kilruddery, Co Wicklow should be on your radar. Test your climbing and balance abilities with rope bridges, tree walks, and zip lines as you make your way through the forest, and burn off some of the pent up summer holidays energy.

It’s an activity that’s suitable for children aged five up, though under sevens must be accompanied by an adult.

Prices start from €20 but vary depending on when and how many are part of a booking. For more details see

Family-friendly festivals


Art, history, games, culture, family fun, and music are to be brought to the shore in Dún Laoghaire from June 29th to July 7th. With balloons, music and dance in the park, stunt kites, outdoor movies on the green, kite flying competitions and the opportunity for children to make their own kites at the make and do area, Coastival promises something for all ages. And for smaller children (those aged 2-5), Ollie the Octopus’ picnic party, which is an interactive creative play experience, will take place in the DLR Lexicon. For more information visit

Cork Carnival of Science

The Cork Carnival of Science takes place today and tomorrow. In the real capital there will be a host of science shows featuring family-friendly experiments, games, interactive fun and a whole lot more besides.

For more information visit

Cruinniú na nÓg

Taking place on June 15th, “a day of free creativity for young people” is the promise of this countrywide festival with all sorts of craic happening, from an Aerial Cirque and more grounded circus workshops in Dublin to comic and graphic novel workshops in Galway to Lego stop motion in Limerick. This must be one of the most diverse and all-encompassing festivals for young folk the country has ever seen. You will struggle not to find something to keep you entertained.

For more information visit


Taking place from June 27th-30th, this three-day event in Kells, Co Meath is not a child-specific festival by any stretch of the imagination with writers including Anne Enright, BBC investigative journalist Peter Taylor featuring alongside events focused on Leonard Cohen; fascism and the Far Right in Ireland from the 1920s to the present day; and others, but there are also child-friendly events, including one which asks where all the animals in Ireland live and then answers that question. There’s also a Where’s Wally event which, we presume, is for kids but of course, will challenge anyone to find the goofy-looking eejit.

More details are available at

Night & Day

Taking place from June 28th-30th, the Night & Day festival at Lough Key Forest Park will go toe-to-toe with Taylor Swift’s arrival in Ireland (good luck with that!), offering a family-friendly music festival featuring the apples of our eye Bell X1, our perfect cousins in the Undertones and after all that (sorry, we’ll stop now) the lovely Frank and Walters. Alongside the music is a family zone with dancing, baby bopping, pottery painting and more.

For more information see


Another Irish festival offering an alternative to the Swift juggernaut, Kaleidoscope festival, taking place from June 28th to June 30th, is always super chilled out and a fun way to introduce your smallies to the joys of music in a field before what might be many years of them heading off to the Electric Picnic, Longitude and whatever festivals will be there in a decade. This year The Kooks, Lyra, The Waterboys, Block Rockin Beats and King Kong Company headline the three-day family festival.

For more details and to book tickets see

Spraoi International Street Arts Festival

The Spraoi International Street Arts Festival takes place from August 2nd-4th. Waterford will be alive with artists and musicians for a bank holiday bonanza which will climax with a large parade through the streets of the city, which is set to be watched by more than 20,000 people.

For more information on the festival, check out

Some other favourite things to...

Escape Rooms

A 13-year age gap between the youngest and oldest child has meant family activities have always been a struggle – everything is too childish or too difficult or too boring for someone. Years ago, while on a family holiday, we tried an Escape Room – which involves around 2-6 people finding clues and solving puzzles. It usually has a time-limit of one hour, and often involves several rooms, with tasks completed to move to the next stage. The first time, we got about halfway through when we ran out of time. It didn’t matter. The annoyance at not winning the game was overshadowed by how engaged every family member was and our determination to try again. Since then, Escape Rooms have become an integral part of the family holiday – most recently Breakin’ Escape Rooms in London. The ones in Ireland attempted (with some successfully completed!) include We Escape in Cork, Forbidden Quest in Belfast, and Incognito in Dublin. – Damian Cullen, Health and Family Editor


K Bowl in Naas is great for bowling. It’s a real novelty for the kids and it involves exercising their wee muscles and gross motor skills as well as their numerical skills (knocking over skittles). There are bumpers for kids so essentially, they can’t miss. An added bonus if a grandparent comes along. We found out my dark-horse mother-in-law was a bit of a shark. Apparently she’d honed her craft years ago in Stillorgan! –Aideen Finnegan, Audio Producer

Bird watching

During the height of the pandemic, the world shrank to the house and garden. Feeding the birds suddenly passed for high-grade entertainment. Soon, my two boys were avid bird-watching experts.

So, when travel restrictions eased, the Kilkoole Reserve in Co Wicklow became our favoured haunt. The marshy pools attract Teal, while the eagle-eyed will spot Reed Buntings perching on tall stems. Listen out for the rat-a-tat-tat of woodpeckers and along the shingle beach in summer keep an eye out for little terns, who gather by the shoreline.

Birdwatch Ireland has a list of nature reserves here, including Wexford Wildfowl Reserve; Cuskinny Marsh, Co Cork; Rogerstown Nature Reserve, Co Dublin; Bishop’s Island, Co Galway; and many more. For more information, check out: – Carl O’Brien, Education Editor


Who doesn’t love a bit of Lego? Bricktionary in Dublin’s The Theatre of Light is an A to Z showcase of creations, from the Muppets’ Animal and a giant Nasa space shuttle to giant robots and a zebra. It’s the work of Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught, a certified Lego professional and master builder. But in true Lego fashion, it’s also about getting involved, with several interactive build zones that include an earthquake challenge, robot building and a mosaic that kids big and small can help shape. And the best thing is the Lego is left behind for someone else to stand on. – Ciara O’Brien, Business and Technology Journalist

Cheap, free, and easy activities

Home baking

And when I say baking, I should add that I include making Rice Krispie buns in that. But kids love to cook and bake (even when those skills have completely bypassed their parents) So put them into action with some simple recipes and embrace the mess, and voila – the evening’s dessert is sorted!

A board game and movie marathon

Dust down the board games and get them (and you) off those screens for a little while, with some traditional family fun that all the family can enjoy. Divide into teams if needed and get those strategic hats on. Some personal favourites here are 30 seconds, Twister, Monopoly and chess! Then set up a home cinema with the movies of your youth – and there were some crackers, as we well know, in the 1980s and 1990s. Back to the Future, The Goonies, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Babe, Labyrinth, Never Ending Story, Mrs Doubtfire, Drop Dead Fred – the possibilities are endless.

Draw the curtains, put on some microwave popcorn and Buck’s your Uncle.

Make your own comics or newspaper

Get the kids to put those artistic, imaginative and writing skills to use by designing their own comics or newspapers. Interview siblings and relatives, tell tales of adventure and day trips. And for those not able to write yet, well, they can draw the pictures to be used as accompanying photos.

A teddy bears picnic

Or lunch, or snack, or dinner by any other name. With a teddy bear. To be held wherever needed – in a back garden or green area nearby if the sun is shining. Or on a blanket on the floor of your sittingroom if the rain has appeared. It’s sometimes just about mixing things up and adding a bear. And maybe a song, for good measure.

Go to the library

A visit to your local library can often offer more than you might imagine. Workshops, story times and puppet shows can all be on their list of events. And then there’s the joy of reading that most parents would like to encourage if they can. Choosing their own book can help a lot with that.

Search up ‘how to draw’ videos

T’internet is not all bad and googling ‘how to draw’ videos can keep the children occupied for ages as they follow step by step videos showing how to draw and object or character of their choice. Pencils, crayons and paper at the ready.

Make an indoor tent or fort

Cushions, blankets, chairs, throws, whatever you have and get creative. Build a second one too if need be and the kids can visit each other and play games.

Teach them some old-fashioned outdoor games

Of course, in the olden days, our parents weren’t organising things for us to do constantly because we played outside lots. And if that’s an option, it’s worth encouraging. The hours of fun brought to us by rounders, Kerbs, Red Rover, skipping and the likes can be theirs too if we show them the ways of Gen X and millennials.

Make a home movie

Put the digital devices we spend so much time complaining about to good use, by suggesting the kids make a movie. Bring toys to life or dig deep into the dress up box for a constant flow of costumes changes. Between getting creative, recording and some editing, it should keep them occupied for a while.

Have a scavenger hunt

Indoor or outdoors depending on the weather. Draw up a list of random things for the children to find and set an amount of time for them to complete it. Sure you never know, something you’d considered lost forever might even turn up while they’re on the hunt.

Set up an obstacle course

Or better still get them to help you create one. Again it can be indoors or outdoors depending on space and weather. Encourage them to try to set new personal bests, which should kill a bit of time at least.

Do a sportsathalon

Gather your footballs, tennis rackets, scooters, skipping ropes, whatever takes your fancy, and write out a plan assigning 5, 10, 15 minutes per activity as suits and go from one directly to the other, in pursuit of Ironman/Ironwoman accolades, kinda.

At the very least, you’ll tire them out.

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