As a mum of six, family days out are an adventure in themselves! But now that the kids are getting older, we have gone further afield than the local playground and these are my top 10 ideas for action-packed family days out in Ireland – you’ll love them!
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We have the best woodland walks, playgrounds, castles, museums and animal farms right on our doorstep but sometimes we want something a little different. As my own kids get bigger, family day trips tend to get more adventurous, in some cases thrilling, but most of all…expensive. That’s the joys of having a large family, but we personally budget to make it work.
When I’m planning days out, I try to go off-peak and bookmark all discounted sites like Living Social, Groupon and Pigsback. We use Tesco Clubcard Boost for discounted admissions, we watch out for special offers on social media, and we are signed to all attraction newsletters so we never miss a good deal. It pays to be savvy – otherwise, we would be spending our days in the local park, and let’s be honest, that gets extremely boring after a while!
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Turn Family Days Out into an Adventure
With that in mind, here are my top 10 family days out in Ireland, with everything you need for an incredible outing and a truly memorable experience – whatever the weather!
Clara Lara, Wicklow
Located in the hidden valleys of Rathdrum, County Wicklow, the 50-acre water-based adventure park provides families with healthy and creative fun in a world away from screens.
Bursting with activities such as Tarzan swings, rafts, boating lakes, kiddie-karts, water slides, rope bridges and an assault course, Clara Lara Funpark is a great day out for all ages. Complete with a dedicated section for little explorers including a sandpit, woodland playground and pirate ship.
Shoes must be worn (even in the water) so make sure to bring some old runners, along with spare clothes, towels and a hearty packed lunch.
My tip: Keep an eye on the back of Dunnes Stores till receipts, they regularly have a buy four tickets and get one admission free voucher – perfect if you have a large family.
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Emerald Park, Meath
Located in Kilbrew in Ashbourne, Tayto Park is Ireland’s only theme park based on the Irish potato crisp, Tayto. With over 100 attractions including a zoo, the fun-filled activity park is one of our must-do family days out during the summer.
Thrill-seekers will love to go on Europe’s largest wooden rollercoaster, The Cú Chulainn Coaster, while smaller or less adventurous kids will adore the Eagle’s Nest, a children’s area with over 15 amusements to explore.
As well as the exciting rides, you can enjoy the animal zoo, walk through Dinosaurs Alive, burn off energy in numerous playgrounds, hit new heights at the climbing wall or zipwire, go on a working Tayto factory tour, splash in water features, and lots more.
My tip: Buy tickets online at least 48 hours prior to your visit to receive a 10% discount. Also, every year Tayto Park offer massive price reductions for opening weekend in April.
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W5 Interactive Discovery Centre, Belfast
It’s all in the name – Who, What, Why, When and Where. The W5 in Belfast is the perfect indoor rainy day activity where children can explore the world through games, play and hands-on activities.
With over 250+ interactive science and discovery exhibits, kids can stimulate their curiosity and increase their understanding of so many exciting things.
The science museum covers a variety of topics including flight, biodiversity and electronics just to name a few. And with live shows and science demonstrations taking place each day, we found that all ages had something to take part in. Youngsters can build roads, cars houses and railway lines while tweens and teens can explore geology, health, technology and sustainable development.
The interactive discovery centre opens daily, and there is no limit on your stay
My Tip: Make sure to check out their ‘What’s On’ page before you go so that you can see plan for upcoming exhibitions and events.
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Fort Lucan Outdoor Adventureland, Dublin
Set within a huge wooden Viking Fort, Fort Lucan is Dublin’s only fully supervised outdoor Adventureland complete with hidden towers, crazy golf, slides, go-karts, zip lines, a playground, and a mini wooden maze perfect for those who like to keep their feet on the ground.
For the adventure seekers, try crossing the 40ft-high suspension bridges, crash down the raging river and get soaked on the waterfall slide.
The adventure park is perfect for children aged 2-12 years. After entry fees, rides are charged individually so getting wristbands for unlimited rides is advised.
Remember to pack a picnic, and spare clothes are essential.
My Tip: Groupon regularly sells day passes at a reduced price throughout the year, so keep an eye out.
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Lough Key Forest Park, Co. Roscommon
Located in Boyle, County Roscommon Lough Key Forest & Activity Park provides hours of entertainment for all the family set on the old King-Harman Estate on the shores of island-studded Lough Key.
Pick an activity and you can probably find it at Lough Key! Take your pick from walking and cycling trails, orienteering, zip-lining, woodland segway trails, boat tours, woodland safari….it is all a big adventure.
My kids really enjoyed the brilliant Adventure Play Kingdom, an enclosed outdoor play area with climbing frames, swings, puzzles and towers to explore. It was a great way to while away a sunny afternoon.
You can also test your mental skills and physical agility at the Swedish-inspired Boda Borg challenge, which has numerous puzzles and challenging activities for your family to solve as as you make your way through its 47 rooms.
If you prefer to get out and explore nature (or stay longer to make the most of the activities), you can explore the woodlands and even camp in Lough Key’s dedicated caravan park.
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Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny
Castlecomer Discovery Park in Kilkenny has it all when it comes to adventure, and my kids just couldn’t get enough!
The big draw for us was to soar high on Ireland’s longest zip wire, while the little ones were excited about the enchanted elf and fairy village.
There are also two lakes that you can pedal or paddle around, then unleash your inner Robin Hood with a crash course in archery or dig deep in the Coal Mining Museum.
My Tip: Download the digital scavenger hunt – your kids will have a great time playing the game and solving riddles and puzzles as it leads you on a tour of the park.
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Fota Wildlife Park, Cork
Located on Fota Island near Carrigtwohill, the wildlife park is an excellent choice when it comes to family days out in Cork.
Wander through the park at your own pace visiting each animal sanctuary and enclosure. Check the feeding times for the day you visit, and you might see the penguins, seals of gibbons getting fed. There’s also a chance to witness the speed of the Cheetahs at the Cheetah Run!
We love that this feels so natural, and that the enclosures are really large. If your little ones are anything like mine, they will be so excited to see the animals roam!
My Tip: Keep an eye out on offer sites for discounted VIP packages that give you the chance to experience what really happens ‘behind the scenes’ at Fota Wildlife Park.
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Round Tower Clondalkin, Dublin
Small but mighty, the Round Tower Clondalkin has loads of free interactive activities to keep the family happy.
From dressing up to building your very own round tower to seeking out Milly the mouse who is hiding in every room of the exhibit to learning about different plants and herbs in the monastic garden, a visit combines fun with history and education.
My Tip: Discover some of the history and lesser known sights around South Dublin when you download the free interactive heritage trail app.
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Dunmore East Adventure Centre, Waterford
I guarantee that your kids will be exhausted after a day at Dunmore East Adventure Centre! This non-stop adventure for kids and teens brings stand up paddle boarding to a whole new level and boasts Ireland’s only WiBit Wipeout Aquapark.
If that isn’t enough, you can also go caving, sailing or kayaking, test your target skills with archery or head for the heights with a challenging climbing wall.
With both water and land-based activities, the weather won’t affect your fun.
My Tip: There is an on-site tuck shop, but it is definitely a good idea to bring your food and drink for the day with you.
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And last but not least, no round-up of family days out would be complete with a trip to Dublin Zoo! Located in the heart of Dublin city, Dublin Zoo is one of Ireland’s top attractions with millions visiting from around the world each year.
Although Dublin Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world, it is constantly enhancing the visitor experience. And there has been a whole heap of baby animals born in the past few years, so there’s always something new to spot. We love the herd of magnificent Asian elephants, as well as watching the Orangutans climb the ropes over your head (watch out for a ‘surprise’ dropping from a height…!).
Make time for as many of the keeper talks as you can, they are a great way to learn more about your favourite animals and what life is like as a zookeeper.
My Tip: Check out the Eco Explorers Trail when you first arrive. This free app shows kids what Dublin Zoo is doing to protect the planet, while also teaching families how to be more sustainable.
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