We asked Fiona Cunningham, Northern Ireland Tourist Board Market Manager (ROI) to give us the inside scoop on what's happening for families this year in Northern Ireland.
Fiona Cunningham Northern Ireland Tourist Board Market Manager (ROI) and her five year old daughter Elise.
Give us the lowdown on the events for families. What can parents expect this year?
Northern Ireland remains well and truly on the world tourism stage this year following a successful 2012 and a great start to 2013 and there is still a host of huge events to come including the World Police and Fire Games and of course the massive programme of events taking place as part of the year long UK City of Culture celebrations.
As UK City of Culture for 2013, Derry~Londonderry will bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Northern Ireland for major events like the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil; the nocturnal winter festival, Lumiere and the highly anticipated Return of Colmcille event.
Families can choose from a huge list of events including festivals, carnivals, stage productions, workshops, shows and unique art and music exhibitions and installations.
Other events taking place throughout Northern Ireland include the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival which is a weekend of fun and activities for all ages from May 25 – 27. The festival celebrates Belfast's unique maritime history with street theatre, workshops and the Exploris discovery tank.
Another family event with a difference is the Twilight Tour of Belfast Zoo on June 28 which gives visitors the chance to see what the animals get up to after closing time.
The Banks of the Foyle Hallowe’en Carnival returns to Derry with a Hallowe’en hooley as never before. The five-day festival, running from October 29 – November 2, will be bursting with family fun including a Dragon Safari, Hall of Horrors and of course the huge Carnival Parade.
What are you most looking forward to yourself?
I’m really looking forward to the rest of the Derry~Londonderry City of Culture events, especially the Turner prize which is taking place outside of England for the first time ever. It’s arguably the world’s most prestigious award for contemporary art and it is a real thrill to have it in Northern Ireland this year.
Other exciting events coming up as part of the City of Culture celebrations are; Hidden Treasures Children’s Theatre Festival, the Carnival of Colours, the Return of Colmcille event, and we even have a world record attempt planned for the longest Riverdance!
Is there anything particularly unique or special that we should definitely not miss?
Yes, definitely the Return of Colmcille! It’s a large-scale public event taking place on June 7 – 8 in various sites on both sides of the River Foyle in Derry-Londonderry. Pageantry, procession and spectacle will unfold over the weekend as the characters of the city’s past and present converge on the banks of the Foyle.
Frank Cottrell Boyce, writer of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, is working with a creative force of artists to tell Colmcille’s story including theatre makers, pyrotechnicians and event engineers who create beautiful shows, fantastic firework displays and amazing events. This exciting event is truly a one-off and will no doubt deliver a wonderful shared experience for all spectators and one they will talk about for years to com.
If you haven’t visited Titanic Belfast, you really should. It has just celebrated its first year with over 800,000 people went through the doors in the first twelve months which is just fantastic.
And W5 is a must for children and the leading visitor attraction and educational centre in Belfast has something to interest children of all ages with 250 permanent exhibits, changing events every weekend and special seasonal events throughout the year.
The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre is also a new addition and of course no visit to Northern Ireland is complete without a trek across the famous Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge in Co. Antrim. The Marble Arch Caves in Co. Fermanagh is a must-see too and a visit makes for a perfect family day out. Also in Fermanagh is the Share Holiday Village. The outdoor activity and adventure centre is located on the shores of Lough Erne and visitors can enjoy everything from go-karting and archery to kayaking, windsurfing and banana boating.
Tell us in 5 words why families should visit NI?
For something a little different!
Did you visit Northern Ireland this year with your family? Tell us about it in the comments below.