Free Things for Families to do Round Ireland Summer 2012


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.

Festivals & Events

Volvo Ocean Race Grande Finale, Galway

The Volvo Ocean Race is coming again to Galway and there's going to be so much to see and do!  From street performance to free music to festival days to… well, how could we forget the boats themselves, this spectacular event promises so much fun and entertainment for kids and families! 

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 1-8 July.

Bray Summer Fest, Wicklow

Bray Summer Fest taking place 6 July – 6 August is a five week festival with a family friendly ethos providing specialised events for families, children and young people!

Macnas Parade, Galway

The Macnas Parade at the Galway Arts Festival is a visual treat for all ages!  This year's parade themed "This Thunderous Heart" takes place on Sunday 22nd July starting 8.45 p.m. Starting from the Spanish Arch before moving to Quay Street, High Street, Shop Street, Williamsgate Street, Eglinton Street across Salmon Weir to the Fisheries Field.

Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival, Wexford

The Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival, taking place 5-8 July providing entertainment, camps, food, fishing and more festivities for all the family.

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 !!

Earigal Arts Festival, Donegal

Earigal Arts Festival takes place 7-22 July. In its 24th year, this festival offers two weeks of events, including music, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, circus and carnival. Events being hosted in a range of towns throughout the county and in a variety of venues, indoor and outdoors, many of which are free. Some events do require advanced booking.

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

Ballina Summer Festival, Mayo

Ballina Summer Festival is a week long Family festival 8-15 July with lots of great events including Teddy Bears picnic and Heritage Day.

Monasterevin Venice of Ireland Festival

Monasterevin Venice of Ireland Festival runs from 16 – 22 July. Week long festival with music events, workshops and lots of free entertainment, including Pony Parade & Picnic in park.

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 27 July and 5 August, which sees Killarney come alive with a host of fun filled activities and events for all the family.

Spraoi Waterford Festival

This year is the 20th Anniversary of the big festival so it will be bigger and better than ever. Spraoi 2012 will take place from August 3rd to 5th. 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 Week

National Heritage Week runs during August with free events across the country

Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival, Offaly

Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival runs from 3rd – 10th August with free entertainment for children including music, markets and fairs, arts and craft activities and more.

Kilkenny Arts Festival

Kilkenny Arts Festival, 10 – 19 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.

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

Galway: Doughiska Playground

Kilkenny: Kilkenny Castle 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.

The Big Scream Film Morning

The Big Scream-Film Morning takes place for parents with very young children every Thursday morning at Billy Byrne's John Street, Kilkenny City

Castletown House Kildare

Every Sunday from 2-4pm there are free Sunday Summer Music Recitals at Castletown House in Kildare.

Summer Lunchtime Jazz and Soul

Summer Lunchtime Jazz and Soul at the Friday Flea Market in the Milk Market Limerick

McDonagh Junction Shopping Centre Kilkenny

There is free music at weekends at McDonagh Junction Shopping Centre

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 workshops and the second Sunday of the month there is Story Telling 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 Artis 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.

Wicklow Mountains National Park

Wicklow Mountains National Park hosts free family fun days throughout the summer, booking essential.

Parkways Shopping Centre Limerick

The Heros Club through out July has balloon modelling, juggling, magic, and more

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.

Wicklow Mountains National Park

There are a host of events taking place at Wicklow Mountains National Park, such as bat walks, nature trials for families and workshops.


The Summer Reading Challenge

There is a Summer Reading Challenge in all local Libraries – suitable for children of all reading abilities

Watch House Cross Library, Limerick

During July the Watch House Cross Library is running some fun sessions:

Car Boot Sales & Farmers Markets

strawberriesKilkenny Farmers Market

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

Kilkenny Car Boot Sales

There's a Sunday Market Car Boot Sale at Castleinch on Callan Rd, Kilkenny.


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!


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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