Looking for fresh ideas for your next big vacation? Dublin is an incredible travel experience for everyone in the family. This evolving city comes from a rich heritage dating back to the 10th century and embraces a long and proud tradition of great food, drink, music and companionship. With colorful gardens, ancient medieval castles, new and exciting foods and tales of leprechauns and other Irish folklore, Dublin is the perfect destination for kids. You'll always treasure their first-time experiences, where their eyes light up with such exhilaration as they uncover the little mysteries in seeing foreign places and experiencing new cultures. Even as time passes and other vacations come and go, you can't help but smile as they relish retelling the same stories of their first adventure in Ireland.
No matter when you plan to visit Dublin, there's
always something going on. Legendary for its
time-honored tradition of "craic" (good fun), the Irish
culture is full of festivals and fairs year round. The
biggest celebration, of course, is Dublin's St.
Patrick's Day Festival in March, which attracts more
than 500,000 people every year. Another favorite is
Circus Week, a seven-day celebration of Irish and
international circus events throughout the city's
streets. If you're traveling in the summertime, be sure
to attend the Riverdance Festival. Nothing else compares
to the original Riverdance performance— come to the city
where the internationally-acclaimed celebration of Irish
music and dance began in 1995. So leave your worries
behind and live in the moment in Dublin, a vivacious
place full of energy and warmth.
Phoenix Park marks the perfect spot to begin your vacation. One of Europe's largest and most magnificent parks, it is filled with beautiful flora and fauna. You may decide to take a leisurely stroll down the nature trails, view the ornamental gardens or admire deer grazing through the nearby fields. Also check out the visitor center and restored Ashtown Castle to get a glimpse of the park's history dating back to 3500 B.C. Next stop is the Dublin Zoo, Ireland's top attraction for families. Featuring 30 acres of African Plains — and animals big and small, adorable and cunning — this is one place your kids won't be begging to leave! There are many kinds of animals roaming freely around the park, so expect plenty of furry and feathered friends waiting to meet you.
Right in the center of historic Dublin is the Dublin Castle, the original seat of British rule in Ireland until 1922. Explore the glory of the castle's state apartments and chapel, where you'll see extraordinary hand-carvings all through the walls and galleries. Today, the Dublin Castle mainly plays host to European Union presidents, heads of state and other government leaders, but for nearly 800 years, it was a high security prison, control center for war and persecution, quarters for the English colonial administration and repository of the royal treasury. Next, stop by Temple Bar, a maze of cobbled streets on the south bank of the River Liffey best known as Dublin's cultural quarter. It contains numerous Irish cultural institutions as well as an array of nightclubs, restaurants and bars. During the weekend, you'll have the pleasure of browsing through Temple Bar's food and book markets and the Cow's Lane Market, a fashion and design market frequented by many local residents.
Dublinia and the Medieval Viking World is a popular setting for all types of travelers and also a fun, interactive way to introduce your kids to many interesting stories from medieval history. Housed in an ancient neo-Gothic Victorian building, the historic center includes artifacts presenting the cultural traditions of the Dubliners and an exhibition bringing the tales of Viking history vividly to life. Take the covered bridge to Christ Church Cathedral, one of the city's oldest and most recognized landmarks. With a unique combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Victorian architectural designs, the cathedral is an awe-inspiring sight. During your stay, you'll be able to tour the Treasure Exhibition, which archives 1,000 years of history through samples of manuscripts and other artifacts.
A warm summer afternoon is well spent at St. Stephen's Green, a 27-acre square park in the center of the city. Once a marshy commons in medieval times, the area includes a fountain, lake and assortment of trees and delicate flowerbeds. There are several memorials scattered throughout the park commemorating eminent Dubliners like Robert Emmet, an Irish nationalist who led the rebellion against British rule in 1803, and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, a renowned group of soldiers who lost their lives in the Second Boer War. On the west side is the St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, a shopping mall containing more than 100 fashion outlets. The building itself has a very unique design that represents a conservatory on the side facing the Green and mirrors the brickwork design of the Gaiety Theatre on the opposite side.
If there's enough time, a brief visit at the Chocolate Warehouse is sure to be a fun and interesting experience for everyone. Spend just a couple of hours here, and you'll get to learn all about chocolate and make your own box of sweet treats to take home. You may also choose to stop over at Trinity College, Ireland's oldest university and one of the seven ancient universities in the English-speaking world. Located in the university library is the Book of Kells, one of the most beautifully illuminated manuscripts of the world that was originally written around 800 A.D. Travel to the National Botanical Gardens, located on the north side of Dublin, where you can see hundreds of exquisite plants from the diverse climatic regions of the world at your leisure.
Relaxing Day Excursions
Continue south to Bray, a vibrant holiday resort bursting with the finest coast hotels, shops, restaurants and evening entertainment. In July and August, you will have the pleasure of attending the Bray Summerfest, which includes six weeks of live music, markets, carnivals and other free entertainment. While you're here, you can expect to spend some quality time walking on the beach, viewing a colony of swans along Bray Head or enjoying horseback riding. The National Sea Life Centre is a popular place that features the unique wildlife of Ireland's freshwater and marine world. There are 24 spectacular displays, including red-bellied piranhas, tropical sharks and more than 70 different species of underwater organisms. Also, venture deep into Glendalough, one of the most famous enchanting towns in Ireland, on an escorted coach tour. This coastal drive provides the most spectacular view of the Wicklow Mountains, lakes and barren boglands. Along the tour, you'll savor traditional Irish cuisine and visit DunLaoghaire Harbour (home to the rich and famous) and the city's historical landmarks.
When you desire a vacation that fits your family's needs, a travel agent can make it happen. You'll treasure all of the unforgettable memories, endless smiles and laughs, incredibly savory tastes and neighborly faces you experience in Ireland.
The above article is courtesy of the American Society of Travel Agents - ASTA. "Without a Travel Agent, You're On Your Own!"
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