Vacationing with teens can be a challenge, but you won’t need the luck of the Irish if Dublin is your next destination. This city is packed with enough sights and thrills to keep even the most laconic kids interested, and parents will still be able to visit the spots that excite them. From a fabulous city scene to the place where that famous velvety brew is crafted, Dublin will leave the entire family wanting more.
While many adults enjoy aimlessly wandering through vibrant cities like Dublin, most kids don’t derive as much excitement from poking into every nook and cranny to see what hidden spots may be found. If you’ve got your heart set on some roaming, ride the DART (Dublin’s rapid transit system; visit www.irishrail.ie for fares) to Temple Bar. This happening area on the south bank of the River Liffey (like London’s Thames, it courses through the heart of the city) has winding cobblestone streets, quaint shops, fantastic eateries and pubs, and is oozing with Irish culture. It has enough old charm to please parents, but embodies the modern Dublin vibe, and features a number of hopping bars that teens can aspire to someday visit–and parents can pop into once the kids are in bed. During the summer, Meetinghouse Square screens outdoor films, and on any given night, live music abounds. Families could easily spend a day exploring this section of the city, but a quick jaunt will keep less-enthused kids on their toes as they mingle with tourists, natives and local artisans.
After soaking in a bit of the Irish culture, take a cab (taxis are usually privately owned and fares run from four euro for the first kilometer and around one euro for each kilometer thereafter) up to the Guinness Storehouse–originally built in 1904–to get an inside scoop on the brewing process. The kids might not be old enough to imbibe, but they are certainly welcome to tour the museum and enjoy a complimentary soda once they reach the Gravity Bar. As Ireland’s number one tourist attraction, the famous St. James’ Gate Brewery knows how to please visitors of all ages with seven floors of history, hops, and insider secrets. Tickets run around 34 euro for a family of six; individual prices range from five to 14 euro, and there’s a 10% discount for those who book online. Visit www.guinness-storehouse.com for visiting hours and further information.
Unwind from the whirlwind tour of crafting Ireland’s favorite drink by taking a stroll in one of the city’s many parks. While old buildings and long walks might bore some teens to tears, there seems to be something about a bit of nature in the heart of a city that can bring a smile to anyone’s face. For a relaxing afternoon, pack a lunch or grab some local cheese and fresh-baked bread and sit by a pond of under a shade tree. The kids will delight in watching ducks and squirrels, or perhaps even partaking in a bit of people watching. Rolling lawns and meandering paths invite a quick game of tag or hide-and-seek, and it’s not unheard of for parents to join in! While the city centre boasts six major parks, St. Stephen’s Green is the best bet. Close to phenomenal shopping and great eateries, the 22-acre park has landscaped flowerbeds, a lake, a bandstand, and plenty of room to roam. Check out www.dublintourist.com/details/ for location and further details.
If you’ve got a young girl in your clan, chances are she has an interest in horses or ponies. If you’re in the city in August, plan a day around a visit to the Dublin Horse Show. It’s an internationally recognized equestrian event featuring animals and exhibitors from around Ireland, as well as international competitors and world-class show-jumping competition. Housed at the Royal Dublin Society center in Ballsbridge (a short ride away from city centre), the show has been running since 1864. General admission tickets are 21 euro for adults and 15 for children, or 54 euro for a family pass, and give visitors access to the show grounds, vendor hall, cafes and bars. For the major events, tickets to the main arena–a vast rolling field set inside a noble stadium where the world’s best riders go to battle–are extra, but well worth it. Visit http://www.dublinhorseshow.com/ for ticketing information and directions. The 2011 show runs from August 3-7, and tickets are on sale now.
Two more stops worth seeing might not please the kids so much as worry them, but are venues worth visiting all the same. Both Trinity College and University College Dublin (UCD) are city staples, and are excellent institutions of higher learning. A few years down the road, your former teens will be itching to leave home, and–like it or not–may be thirsting for a taste of life in a foreign land. Even if they decide to stick close to home, having visited an overseas university will add perspective to the imminent college search. Trinity College was founded in 1592, is located in the heart of Dublin, and features 24 schools ranging from Medicine and Engineering to Humanities and Business. The campus is stunning and is a tourist destination in itself. Be sure to stop by the bookstore and pick out a college sweatshirt or take a peek at the book of Kells, a gospel manuscript from the 9th century housed in the college’s library. For more information on Trinity, please visit http://www.tcd.ie/.
Writer James Joyce called UCD home during his formative years, and today the school is a modern institute on the cutting edge. Originally located at St. Stephen’s Green, the university moved a few kilometers from the city centre to Belfield in the 1970s. Featuring five colleges, UCD has first-class facilities and extensive research programs. Check out http://www.ucd.ie/ for further information about the university.
To be honest, there is so much to do in the city of Dublin that one could spend a year and possibly not take in all the sights and events, and the great majority are truly kid friendly affairs. Teens may not be as easily excited as younger children or as eager for knowledge and culture as young adults, but they should have no problem delighting in the many nuances and surprises this city has in store. Perhaps the best way to keep your teens on their toes is to save a few days for pure unplanned exploration, and simply see what comes up. Purchase tickets for the city’s Hop On/Off Tour bus–a bright red double-decker vehicle that allows pass holders to get on and off at over 20 stops throughout the city. Like it or not, the tour is also narrated, but you can easily tune out the factoids and allow the kids to pick where to get off if something catches their eye. Fares for a two-day pass begin at 14 euro, and children under 14 can travel free with a paying adult. Visit http://www.loveireland.com/ for further information.
Dublin is a fantastic city to explore with the family, and with the combination of excellent sport, food, culture, shopping, parks, education, and museums, there will be little time for kids to complain–or get bored.