Free Things for Families to do around Ireland Summer 2013

Looking for ideas this summer for things to do with your child that won’t cost a penny?  Here at Mykidstime, we have rounded up the pick of free things to do with kids this summer around Ireland.

Summer Reading

Summer Reading Buzz 2013

Love books? Like a challenge? Then we’ve just the thing for you this summer.  Children all over Dublin, Longford and Kildare are invited to join a FREE summer reading challenge in a wonderful initiative from public libraries. Going Places with Books: the Summer Reading Buzz aims to encourage children to read in the long summer break.

Children registering to take part in the Buzz will be given a Summer Reading Buzz membership card and asked to enter their name and library card number.

Every time they read a book, their Summer Reading Buzz card is stamped with a specially designed Bee stamp. When they have completed the card (i.e. read 10 books) they simply hand the card into the library where it will be entered into a draw for fabulous prizes. There will be rewards along the way too with specially designed bookmarks, pencils, wristbands and bee stickers.

Follow Summer Buzz on twitter @summerbuzz

Kilkenny Libraries Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge

Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge

Kilkenny County Library’s Summer Reading Challenge for children is free and takes place from July 1st to August 24th. Drop into any Library, and register for the “Creepy House” Pack!

As children read books, they earn free incentives such as wristbands, notebooks keyrings etc.  There will be lots of fun and creepy books on display for your enjoyment!

It’s a great way to keep up your reading skills throughout the Summer hols! See and find them on facebook.

Cavan Libraries Summer Reading Lists

Relax, sit back and enjoy your summer with the Cavan Libraries jam-packed roundup of terrific titles. This is their ninth summer reading list and Cavan librarians have worked hard to bring you the best in great reads for adults, teens and kids.  Novels, memoirs and some non-fiction titles feature; and for our Gaelic language readers, they have included their choice of the best “As Gaeilge” summer reads. Enjoyment guaranteed! Download this year’s Summer Reading list for Adults.

They have also handpicked some of the best reads to keep your children occupied during this summer break. Download this year’s Summer Reading list for Children.

Roscommon Libraries Reading Tree Summer Challenge

This summer County Roscommon Library Service will be introducing their first summer book challenge in the form of a reading tree. The challenge will take place through the months of July and August and children will receive a gift for taking part, they will be completing book details on a leaf to be placed on the tree in their local library.

Many other libraries around the country are using the challenge organised by The Reading Agency in the UK. So stop by your local library and ask them all about it!

Wexford Libraries Creepy House Challenge

Join in the Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge in Wexford. The challenge for children is to read six books over three visits to the library during the summer.

Participants will collect incentives and record their progress in their own Creepy House Log Book as they read their way from the Awful Upstairs, through the Gruesome Ground Floor to the Spine-Tingling Cellar. Help your child avoid the “summer holiday dip” in reading ability while encouraging their reading with stickers, free gifts and library events.

Free Entertainment

Free Children’s Workshops at a Shopping Centre near you

During July Edutainment will be coming to a Shopping Centre near you with free children’s workshops. These Fun, Interactive and Educational workshops will keep the kids entertained, so come along and have fun with your kids whatever the weather. Free Parking at all the Centres.

Galway Shopping Centre on Wednesdays between 1pm and 4 pm

Dates: July 3rd – Petting Zoo, July 10th – Fun Science Workshop, July 17th – Fun with Numbers – Kiddies Bingo, July 24th – Puppetry Workshop. All events take place between 1pm to 4pm

Laois Shopping Centre on Thursdays between 2pm and 5pm 

Dates: 4th July – Fun with numbers, Kiddies Bingo and Face Painting, 11th July – Fun Science Workshop and Face Painting, 18th July – Pupperty Workshop and Face Painting, 27th July – Wizard School and Face Painting

Donaghmede Shopping Centre on Saturdays between 1pm to 4pm

Dates: July 6th – Fun Science Workshop and Face Painting, July 13th – Fun with Numbers, Kiddies Bingo and Face Painting, July 20th – Wizard School and Face Painting, July 27th – Puppetry Workshop and Face Painting

Longwalk Shopping Centre Dundalk on Saturdays between 1pm and 4pm

Dates: July 6th – Kids Dance Workshop, July 13th – Fun Science Workshop, July 20th – Fun with Numbers and Kiddies Bingo, July 27th – Wizard School

Letterkenny Shopping Centre on Saturdays between 1pm and 4pm

Dates: July 6th – Fun with Numbers and Kiddies Bingo, July 13th – Petting Zoo, July 20th – Puppetry Workshop, July 27th – Kids Dance Workshop

Parkway Shopping Centre Limerick on Saturdays between 1pm and 4pm

Dates: July 6th – Petting Zoo, July 13th – Fun Science Workshop, July 20th – Kids Dance Workshop, July 27th – Fun with Numbers and Kiddies Bingo

Festivals & Events

Cairde Festival, Sligo

Cairde is a week of music, dance, theatre, children events, visual art, spoken word, street art and spectacle, Park Fest and more… taking place 10th – 14th July.

Bray Summer Fest, Wicklow

Bray Summer Fest taking place 5 July – 5 August is a five week festival with a family friendly ethos providing specialised events for families, children and young people!

Galway Heritage Festival, Galway

The Galway Heritage Festival takes place during Heritage week 2013, 17th – 25th August. The Galway Civic Trust will have talks, tours and walks during the festival and readings for all ages. If you and your family have an interest in museums and other heritage sites then this is the festival for you!

Street Performance World Championship, Dublin & Cork

Watch the world’s best all-round entertainers compete for the coveted ‘Street Performance World Champion’ title at the Laya Healthcare Street Performance World Championship in Dublin from 12th – 14th July and in Cork City from 20th – 21st July

Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival, Wexford

The Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival takes place 4-7 July providing entertainment, camps, food, fishing and more festivities for all the family.

Lobster, Crab & All That Jazz Festival, Dalkey

The Lobster, Crab and All That Jazz Festival is on in Dalkey on August 23rd – 25th. It promised to be a foodies delight with chef competitions, cookery displays and a shell fish barbecue – all washed down with copious amounts of music.

Kids go Free with Northern Ireland National Trust

Planning a visit to a National Trust Northern Ireland venue? Up to 3 children can go FREE with a paying Adult (up until 31 Aug) Download your voucher here !!

Earagail Arts Festival, Donegal

Earagail Arts Festival takes place from 21st June until 21st July this year. With four weeks of music, theatre, visual arts, childrend and lots of other events and entertainment at Donegal’s largest arts festival, the Earagail Arts Festival celerates 25 years in 2013. Some events do require advanced booking.

Also check out Free thing to Do with the Kids in Donegal

Ballina Salmon Festival, Mayo

The Ballina Salmon Festival which incorporates the Ballina Street & Arts Festival promises to be great this year. The Festival takes place from 7th – 14th July this year, includes a Teddy Bear’s Picnic, lots of craft workshops, street theatre, fire works displays and a heritage day gathering.

Monasterevin Venice of Ireland Festival

Monasterevin Venice of Ireland Festival runs 13th & 14th July. This year’s festival will include the Family Fun Day with picnic in the park, and new to this year, a family Fun Run. Lots of events taking place, including exhibitions and workshops, and lots of free entertainment.

Bagenalstown Festival, Carlow

Bagenalstown Festival is a family friendly festival, taking place from 20 – 22 July. Events include free street entertainment, music, a duck race, puppet shows,  a country market and a vintage car display.

Killarney Summerfest, Kerry

Killarney Summerfest takes place between 26 July and 4 August, which sees Killarney come alive with a host of fun filled activities and events for all the family.

Spraoi Waterford Festival

Spraoi 2013 will take place from August 2nd to 4th. This international street festival will offer visitors three days of top quality national and international street art and world music on the streets, squares and parks of Ireland’s oldest city.

national heritage weekNational Heritage Week

National Heritage Week runs during 17th – 25th August with free events across the country.

Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival, Offaly

Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival runs from 2nd – 10th August with free entertainment for children including music, markets and fairs, arts and craft activities and more.

Kilkenny Arts Festival

Kilkenny Arts Festival, 9 – 18 August, boasts ten days of the very best in Irish and International Visual Art, classical music, theatre and dance, jazz, world & traditional Irish music, literature, film, architecture, indie music, craft and children’s events. Many free family events.

Duncannon Sand Sculpting Festival

Duncannon Sand Sculpting Festival, with fun family events and an amazing display of sand sculpted artwork takes place in Duncannon, Co Wexford 9th – 11th August.

Free Play & Activities

Kids love Playgrounds, here’s our list of our favourite playgrounds round the country:

playground_blueskyCarlow: Town Park Playground

Clare: Lees Road Amenity Park, playground, skate park, pitches, tracks and walks

Donegal: Ballymacool Park, 20 acre park consisting of multi use games area, children’s play area, 44 carparking spaces (free) together with park furniture and seating. Located on the outskirts of Letterkenny.

Dublin: Malahide Playground, Marlay Park Playground, St Stephen’s Green Playground, & the playground in the visitors centre in the Phoenix Park is great for pre-schoolers.

Galway: Doughiska Playground

Kilkenny: KilkennyCastle Park Playground

Kildare : Maynooth Playground -3 dedicated play-areas by age.

Laois: Playground beside Leisure Centre in Portlaoise and one in Stradbally has a work out area for adults.

Leitrim: Manorhamilton Playground, Opposite the Old Castle

Mayo: Ballyhaunis Playground

Meath: Balrath Wood is located near Kentstown and has playgrounds, free car parking, nature walks and picnic areas.

Offaly: Lloyd Town playground on Birr Road side of town

Roscommon: Lough Key Forest Park

Sligo: Doorly Park

Wexford: Redmond Memorial Park

Wicklow: Greystones, Mill Road Park

Limerick: People’s Park Limerick City

For teens – build a raft from plastic bottles/containers and sail it on a local river or pond

Make a water slide with polythene and washing-up liquid.

Geocaching is an activity which combines a love of the outdoors with the use of highly sophisticated modern technology. Basically geocaching is like a traditional treasure hunt, but instead of having a paper map with an X marking the spot, “cachers” use a handheld portable device, around the size of a mobile phone, called a Global Positioning System receiver (or GPS as it’s more commonly known) to locate their position on the earth’s surface.  Another type of treasure hunt that doesn’t require a GPS is Letterboxing.

Free Cinema, Theatre & Live Shows

Meath-riverboyneThe Battle of the Boyne

Living History Displays at the Battle of the Boyne site, Co Meath – these take place every weekend over the summer and offer a fascinating insight in to bygone times.

Free Workshops at Ballinlough Youth Centre

Children and teens can enjoy participating in a workshop at Ballinlough Youth Centre absolutely free. It gives children and teens the opportunity to try out the different workshops on offer.

Often over the summer we want to do something that’s different, that allows us to try out new experiences but often it’s the thought of having to make a big commitment that can stop us from trying out something for the first time. With these workshops you can try out a few different things, and there’s no need to sign up or to commit long term. The workshops run by Roundhouse Productions are on a drop in basis for the summer and each workshop is independently designed, so that you don’t miss out if you’re away for a week.

Castletown House Kildare

Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon throughout August & September there are free Summer Music Recitals at Castletown House in Kildare.

Free Museums and Arts & Craft Workshops

MuseumofirelandnewlogoThe National Museums of Ireland in Dublin

The National Museums of Ireland in Dublin offer a great day out and are hosting an array of family workshops and events throughout July and August.

The National Museum of Country Life, Mayo

This award winning Museum of Country Life has lots of great free workshops and events throughout the year. There are interactive exhibitions and a fun games box for the kids.

The Hunt Museum in Limerick

First Sunday of the month there are free Art & Craft workshops at The Hunt Museum.

Castletown House, Kildare

The free Sunday Workshops at Castletown House explore the fascinating history of the house and grounds through different themes every week and are led by Castletown guides.

Booking essential. Adult supervision required.  They take place from 11am-12pm and are suitable for 5-12yrs.

They also have a Self-Guided Nature Trail where you can explore the wildflower meadow, cross a ha-ha or sunken fence on their way to the garden temple or make your way to the river Liffey at the bottom of the meadow.

Butler Art Gallery, Kilkenny Castle

The Butler Art Gallery at Kilkenny Castle is open seven days a week, 10am – 5.30pm and admission is free.

Visual Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow

Admission to the galleries at the Visual Centre for Contemporary Art is free of charge.  Gallery tours on Sundays are also free of charge – they take place at 2.30pm & 3.30pm and last 30 mins. No prior booking needed for families and small groups.

Great Picnic Spots

Woodstock Gardens & Arboretum, Inistioge

The Gardens & Arboretum at Inistioge provide a mixture of formal and informal gardens to stroll around. The arboretum contains many specimen trees, the walled garden is abundant with flowers and vegetables. Enjoy strolling through the yew walk, rose garden, Monkey Puzzle Avenue and Noble Fir Avenue. Picnic tables, a playground tea rooms and toilet facilities. (Please note: €4 car parking fee, payable on exit.)

Emo Park & Gardens, Laois

These formal and informal gardens set in the village of Emo between Portlaoise and Portarlington have walks, picnic tables, public toilets, lake and the imposing Emo Court House.

Altamont Gardens, Carlow

Altamont Gardens, near Tullow in Co Carlow, are an enchanting blend of formal and informal gardens. Lovely lawns, floral beds and beautiful woodland go down to the river Slaney. Toilets, picnic tables, Car & coach park, Restricted wheelchair access. Open daily 9am to 7.30pm

The Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

A hidden gem right in the centre of Dublin city, The Iveagh Gardens, Harcourt Street, Dublin 2, is a perfect spot for a picnic on a summer’s day.

Hazelwood, Sligo

Just 3km from Sligo Town, Hazelwood is a lovely forest walk along the shores of Lough GIll, with great spots for picnics. It also has a good looped trail of about 3km. Most of it is buggy friendly (you may have to pick up buggy in a couple of spots though, but it’s manageable). Lots of sculptures along the way too to look out for!

Other nice spots for a picnic:

Fun Outdoor Places

Ballycroy National Park, Mayo

Ballycroy National Park is a fantastic place to visit. Take a guided walk every Sunday, Monday and Wednesday for the months of July & August or let the kids take part in the Clover Club where they can learn all about Nature and Wildlife.

Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny

The Discovery Park is home to 80 acres of mixed woodland with 6 km of walking trails, sculptures, picnic areas, adventure playground, craft yard, nature trails and activities, visitor centre, giftshop and café.

Coole Park, Galway

With walks, a walled garden, deer enclosure, visitor centre where you can play “Hunt The Thimble” and pretend you are Lady Gregory’s grandchildren, Coole Park in Galway is a great place to head out to with a picnic and the kids in tow. Walks take place on Sundays in July & August.

Carlow Town Park

Carlow Town Park is a marvellous 12 acre amenity for all the family along the banks of the River Barrow. It opens during daylight hours and contains a wonderful children’s playground.

Loughcrew Cairns, Co Meath

A visit to Loughcrew Cairns is suitable for older children as it’s a fair hike up to the top of the hills, but it is worth it for the amazing views.

Gleniff Horseshoe, North Co Sligo

with hidden sculptures along the way. Then carry on walking/driving/cycling (it’s approx a 10km loop) this incredibly scenic hidden valley. If you are driving check out the spot where you car will ‘roll up the hill’ too 😉 and keep an eye out for Diamuid and Grainnes Cave too.

Phoenix Park, Dublin

The Phoenix Park is the largest urban park in Europe. It is home to the Zoo, Aras an Uachtarain, Farmleigh House, plus playgrounds & lakes. There is a huge amount of wildlife & a good chance that you will spot deer roaming around.

Car Boot Sales & Farmers Markets

strawberriesKilkenny Farmers Market

The Kilkenny Farmers Market takes place at The Parade, Kilkenny City on Thursdays

Carlow Farmers Market

The old Potato Market is the venue for the Carlow Farmers Market on Saturdays

Village Food Fare, Sligo

The Village Food Fare is an indoor market in Collooney, Co Sligo

Galway Market

St. Nicholas Church Market, Galway – Saturdays & Sundays

Limerick Milk Market

The vibrant Milk Market takes place on Fridays to Sundays

Have a great summer!

Related Articles: North Dublin City Beaches & North County Dublin Beaches


If you have any other favourite free things to do in your local area that you’d like us to share with other parents, let us know in the comments below.

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls