Family outings for the post-Christmas lull
Step away from the table and enjoy shared activities with friends and relatives
Enjoy a tour of the Aviva Stadium.
There may be hardly a minute to spare as we hurtle towards December 25th but, as soon as the turkey and ham are digested, it will be a different story.
While you might not feel like getting your family out of their PJs on the day after, fresh air and exercise is a proven antidote to the effects of too many selection boxes and too much time in close proximity to certain relatives.
The post-Christmas lull is a lovely period for family outings and to meet up with friends and relatives over a shared activity – be it just a winter walk – rather than around yet another laden table. Here are some suggestions – for both outdoors and indoors, free and paid-for – to bring you from St Stephen’s Day until the children go back to school on January 5th onwards.
This is the season to get your skates on, with temporary ice rinks operating all over the country. They reopen on St Stephen’s Day and will continue until at least the end of the first weekend in January.
Venues include: Dundrum, Blanchardstown, Swords, Cork’s Mahon Point Shopping Centre, Galway’s Harbour district, Arthur’s Quay in Limerick, Wexford, Waterford, Dundalk and Derry’s Ebrington Square. A family ticket ( two adults and two children) ranges in price from up to €35 (off-peak) to up to €50. Most of the websites are found by prefixing the name of the city or town to onice.com – information for the Blanchardstown rink on iceskating.ie. For a permanent, Olympic-size rink, head to the Dundonald Ice Bowl in Belfast. Family of four £23. theicebowl.com
On your bikes
Get those bikes into a park near you – or into one of the State forests that are ideal for sheltered, safe, off-road cycling. Check coillteoutdoors.ie for details of the leisure cycling trails in various wooded locations, including Curraghchase Forest Park in Co Limerick and Portumna Forest Park in Co Galway. And, of course, the country’s longest off-road trail is the 42km Great Western Greenway in Co Mayo (greenway.ie).
For a more muscular cycle, Coillte has six venues that offer designated mountainbiking trails – including Ticknock in Dublin and Ballinastoe, Co Wicklow, at both of which you can hire suitable bikes through biking.ie (from €30 a half day, including helmets), while at Ballyhoura Trail Centre in Ardpatrick, Co Limerick, trailriders.ie offers full-day rentals from €35.
Horses for courses
Equine fans aged under 16 get in free to the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, December 26th-29th (adults pay €22 online or €25 at the gate). On the opposite side of the country, the final day of the racing festival in Limerick, over the same dates, has been designated “family fun day”, with off-course entertainment for children. Again under 16s go free, but a €50 family ticket on December 29th covers admission for two adults and a three-course lunch for them and two children. leopardstown.com and limerickraces.ie.
Hunting the wren
It may take local knowledge to locate the time and place of the age-old “Wren Boy” musical festivities on St Stephen’s Day, but Sandymount, Co Dublin, Dunleer, Co Louth and Dingle, Co Kerry, are good bets. Colourful “mummers” dressed in straw costumes parade to music (originally with a dead wren – “the king of birds” – on a pole for which they collected money to bury).
See the fairy folk in the newly built Elf Village at the Castlecomer Discovery Park in Co Kilkenny. Visitors can enjoy walking trails in the 80-acre park and the Timber Tumbles playground, with a mini zip wire and climbing wall. All-day parking €2. Check updates on discoverypark.ie.
Castlecomer village also hosts a New Year’s Day 5km charity fun run with a difference – all participants must wear wellies. For the 35th running of this event, the race personality is Helen Carroll of RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground. There will be family entertainment from mid-morning, with the race due to start at 1pm. wellierace.com.
A family walk/run/buggy push over 4km or 6km in aid of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin is being held in Tinahely, Co Wicklow on December 27th at 11am (registration from 9.30am. Children go free and there will be post-race refreshments. Race entry €25. popupraces.ie.
The sky at night
Children will be amazed at what they can see if transported away from urban light pollution. Pack rugs to lie on, good binoculars, hot chocolate in flasks and a stargazer app (such as The Night Sky) so you can tell them what they’re looking at.
There’s a special Moon Watch open night at Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork, on December 29th, 5pm-8pm, to which it’s free admission and no booking is required. It is paid admission to the science centre during the day, where you can see planetarium shows, take a “dungeon and turret” tour and view a self-guided Cosmos at the Castle exhibition where you can send a message to space. Reopens December 27th, 11am-5pm (closed January 1st and 2nd). Family (two adults and two children) €18. See bco.ie.
Up to six different digital theatre shows run daily at Armagh Planetarium. Reopens December 27th, 10am-5pm (closed Sundays and January 1st). Family (two adults and three children) £20 per show. Show tickets must be pre-booked by telephone on 048 3752 3689 (from Republic). armaghplanet.com.
Family art holiday
The National Gallery on Dublin’s Merrion Square West is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its five-day Christmas Art Holiday (December 27th-31st). Each day there are family tours of the gallery at 12.30pm (no booking necessary), art workshops (bring your own sketchbook and colours) at 3pm, that must be booked for December 27th-29th and musical performances. nationalgallery.ie.
Art of Winter
The Ark, the children’s cultural centre in Dublin’s Temple Bar, is running The Winter Art Studio for Families (aged four-plus) on December 27th, January 3rd and January 10th, at 10.30am, 1pm and 3pm. Costs €8 (adult) and €8 (child) – all children must be accompanied by an adult. ark.ie.
Days at the museum
The doors of the four branches of the National Museum – three in Dublin (Archaeology, Kildare Street; Natural History, Merrion Street and Decorative Arts, Collins Barracks) and the Country Life one in Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co Mayo, all swing open again on December 26th (closed Mondays). Admission is still free to these wonderful treasure troves. There are family trails and drop-in activities to engage them (see museum.ie for information on all four venues).
Procession of light
A family friendly parade on New Year’s Eve with illuminated performers from LUXe will start at St Stephen’s Green at the top of Grafton Street at 7pm and wind through Temple Bar on its way to reach the Dubh Linn Garden in Dublin Castle by 8pm, where a “spectacular” conclusion is promised. It’s part of the capital’s three-day New Year’s Festival (December 30th-January 1st), which also includes Luminosity – state-of-the art 3D imagery lighting up Dublin Castle (interactive fairy tales for children), Trinity College and Wolfe Tone Square, from 5pm-midnight. nyfdublin.com.
Field of dreams
Sports fans enjoy a bit of grandstanding – behind the scenes at a stadium. The Aviva in Dublin reopens December 27th (closed January 1st) with tours on the hour from 10am to 3pm. Family (two adults and three children) €25. avivastadium.ie. On the other side of the city, tours of Croke Park and its museum restart on December 29th (closed January 1st), from 11am. Family (two adults and two children) €34. And those with a head for heights can take a skyline tour, 17 storeys up, 11am and 2pm. Family ticket €52. crokepark.ie.
A trip to Dublin’s seasonal Funderland, now in its 41st year, can be one of nostalgia for parents who used to go as children and who are now bringing their own off-spring. This Christmas it is operating alongside Fossett’s Circus and iSkate ice skating, all at the RDS. Reopens December 26th, until January 11th. Funderland family pass (two adults and two children) €75.15 for four hours; circus family ticket €31.50; iSkate family ticket €36. winterfunderland.ie.
King of the castle
The 13th-century King John’s Castle in Limerick city reopened last year with a brand new visitor centre that recounts history in 21st-century style, with touch-screen technology, computer-generated animation and 3D models. Reopens December 27th, 9.30am-4.30pm. Family (two adults and two children) €20.60 when booked online. shannonheritage.com.
For the high jump
Family members aged five to 55-plus can bounce off Christmas excesses at the Jump Zone indoor trampoline parks on both sides of Dublin city – Santry and Sandyford. There’s a foam pit and organised dodgeball to mix it up a bit. Reopens December 27th, 11am-8pm (16+ after 7pm); opening hours vary during the week. One-hour jump from €9 per person. Booking ahead recommended. jumpzone.ie.
At the coalface
Kids love the drama of the underground tours at the Arigna Mining Experience near Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Roscommon – the darkness, the dripping water, the cramped spaces all evoke what work must have been like for the men down the pit, which finally closed in 1990. There’s an exhibition centre and coffee shop above ground in which to linger. Reopens December 28th, 10am to 6pm, with last tour 5pm (closed December 31st and January 1st). Family (two adults and two children) €28. arignaminingexperience.ie.
The little ones can bellow their hearts out at sing-along screenings of Disney’s Frozen at the Limerick School of Art and Design Gallery on Clare Street. December 27th, 10am, 1pm and 4pm. Admission free; bookings 061 525 031. limerick.ie.
The Museum of Style Icons at the Newbridge Silverware Visitor Centre in Co Kildare made the top 10 of the Republic’s most visited free attractions for the first time in 2013, coming in at fifth place. The glamour is plain to see in the display of outfits of stars such as Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana and Michael Jackson. Reopens December 27th, 11am-6pm (closed January 1st).
Geo park it
There’s an interpretative centre and 4.5km of new trails at the award-winning Cavan Burren Park, which was officially opened last May. Near Blacklion, Co Cavan, it is part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
A New Year’s Eve fireworks spectacular at the family friendly time of 7pm will be staged on December 31st at Manor Park, Tralee, Co Kerry, as part of the town’s “Christmas Spraoi”.
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