Happy St. Patrick’s Day! If I had to guess, you (Americans) likely are wearing something like this today…
… and you may even be eating something that looks like this…
… or this….
Now while all the above are fun and silly good times for sure, for those of us who have ever traveled to Ireland, it is hard not to think about those authentically Irish memories and trips on a day like today. Now THOSE are GREAT times! I know that for me, almost three full years later, I still remember our family’s time in Ireland with smiles and great longing.
At the time we went to Dublin, it was on the heels of a fun but wholeheartedly non-stop, 8-day trip to London. My family was tired, the kid was getting crabby, and, upon arrival, Dublin was (mostly) rainy. But that was OK. It let us all slow down, settle in, and enjoy the city at a pace that we were able to 9 days into a 16-day European trip with a 5-year-old in tow.
We were fortunate enough to stay at the Conrad Dublin, a full-service hotel within kid-walking proximity of two wonderful open spaces, St. Stephens Green and Merrion Square. Both areas have playgrounds, which is vital when traveling with children. They and we can only museum so much.
Speaking of our glorious full-service hotel, you know your getting travel-spoiled when day after day breakfast (which was included daily with our booking as part of our hotel status) looks like this… and you start to tire of it. I mean European cheeses and smoked fish every day?! Come on now. It’s just too much.
But that balanced breakfast comes in handy once you do decide to get your itinerary back on track and yourselves back into the museums. And when you do museum, be sure to choose some kid-friendly features, like dead things.
T could not get enough of the bog bodies at the National Museum of Ireland, Archaeology and equally was fascinated by the fact that they called their Natural History Museum the “Dead Zoo.” The bog bodies exhibit was a small enough walk-through to keep my young Kindergartner engaged and fascinated, and it even enticed him to want to see more of the larger museum space. And anything called a Dead Zoo sells itself pretty easily. Do note: Bog bodies and taxidermy are not for the faint of heart nor any person prone to nightmares.
If dead things aren’t your cup of tea, how about a pint of beer?
The Guinness Storehouse offers a wonderful tour for young and old, and a free pint is included with admission! Cheers!
Do be sure the littles partake of alcohol-free selections though, or they just might wind up here…
Kilmainham Gaol is an absolute must. If you only have one day in Dublin, go here. Yes, again, this too is kid-friendly, so long as your child can handle about a one-hour tour of old prison cells, hearing stories about some bad dudes, and listen to tales of Irish history for better or for worse. Your child’s ability to befriend the tour guide and remain well-behaved enough to walk ahead with him or her is also a plus. At the time (5-1/2 years old and in TK), T was just at the cusp of being able to handle this tour… and was easily eligible for release for his good behavior once it ended.
So now that we’re out of prison, it’s time to dance!
Of course, no trip to Dublin is complete without a stop along Temple Bar, the infamous (notorious?) strip of pubs, bars, etc. While many are not kid-friendly past a certain hour of night, most if not all open during the daylight hours are more than family-friendly. Just be prepared and well-hydrated (ha!) to chat it up with the locals, kids included.
The stories never stop in Dublin. In fact, there’s an entire museum devoted to that fact (and fiction).
The National Leprechaun Museum is not about Lucky Charms, shamrocks, or all things green, though that might be the impression you get when you find it at its unassuming spot along a side-street of Dublin. Nor is it about the little green guys. Nope. It’s a storytelling museum devoted to Irish folklore and mythology. The visit consists of about a one-hour guided tour balanced between historical accounts and tall-tales (and some actually happens inside of a room where you are made to not feel so tall).
While Ireland is known for those little leprechauns (albeit somewhat inaccurately), what it’s often overlooked for is its extensive Viking history. Don’t worry, there’s a museum for that, too!
Dublinia is located at the crossroads of the medieval city at Christchurch and is another kid-friendly space devoted to local history and customs. While a little large of a museum for toddler-aged children, it’s almost 100 percent hands-on and encourages kids to get dressed up and battle it out medieval-style all along the historical way. In fact, it’s as close as we got to what we American’s call a children’s museum, so I recommend anyone with kids to just go and have fun and do whatever they want to do.
OK, no matter how kid-friendly museums can be, it’s about at Day 3 of museums and guided tours where the kids likely are to cry out… enough of the museums and guided tours! And maybe you are a little burned out as well. Maybe it’s time for a change of scenery. Road trip!
Everyone says to get a car while in Ireland and not to go only to Dublin if spending more than three days. We didn’t listen to any of that advice given the wee one with us and it being our first trip over, but we should have. So we did the next best thing last-minute and reserved three seats on a chartered day-trip out-of-town from our hotel to nearby Wicklow/Glendalough and Kilkenny.
Yes, next time we go to Ireland, we will rent a car so we can see more of this:
After some R&R, it’s time to return to the big city. But that doesn’t mean time to hit the ground running. Maybe hit the ground reading instead?
Trinity College Dublin is where you will find the Book of Kells, one of literature and publishing’s most visually impressive works. With my background in publishing back in the days of paycheck work, this visit was important to me, as was the stop we also made at Cathach Books (now known as Ulysses Rare Books). This book shop is any reader’s respite for first-editions, good reads, and/or rare-finds. Maybe we couldn’t bring home photos of the Book of Kells, but C brought home a first-edition of “The Call of the Wild” from Cathach as a souvenir from our trip, which now sits on prominent display in our home along with about three-dozen other similar beloved and prized publications.
Our time in Dublin was a short five days or so, but the trip wasn’t short on things to do with the family or activities that could keep five-year-old T happy, engaged, and occupied. For a kid who loves to talk and meet new people as much as he does, just the simple act of being in Ireland for him was well worth the journey. Slainte!