Dublin with a 5 year old
January 8, 2020 3:37 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I will take our daughter to Dublin in mid-February for a week's vacation. We have a few things on the itinerary. I asked previously where to stay, and you kindly also shared some recommended activities. Can you recommend some other activities within our parameters?

We don't have any family in Ireland, and it's been years since my wife and I have visited, so we're essentially first timers. This will be daughter's first foreign trip to an English-speaking country, though she's been abroad before. We're happy to cater to 5yo's interest in history (esp. castles), magic/whimsy, and kid activities/kid museums, with a bit of big kid stuff for mom and dad thrown in to keep expanding her mind.

We will not have a car, but would be happy to Uber/cab to places that we can't reach by train or bus.

This is the list we have so far (completely unordered and uncategorized--and we're not planning on hitting everything!):

National Gallery of Ireland
Dublin Castle
Imaginosity, Dublin Children's Museum
Kilmainham Gaol
National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology
National Leprechaun Museum of Ireland
National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts & History
Drimnagh Castle
Marsh’s Library
National Concert Hall
The Good Food Store
Yamamori South City
Old Dublin City Wall
Irish Museum of Modern Art
The Winding Stair
Chester Beatty
Queen of Tarts Cow's Lane
Malahide Castle & Gardens
Dún Laoghaire

We're staying at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel.

Is there anything else we should be sure to hit? Any places where we should be sure to eat (haute cuisine is probably out!)? Thanks!
posted by Admiral Haddock to Travel & Transportation around Dublin, Ireland (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There’s a big adventure playground called fort Lucan that looks cool and we’re going to try and visit some day.
posted by catspajammies at 3:59 AM on January 8, 2020

Sorry, just did a bit more research and looks like fort Lucan is closed until April.
posted by catspajammies at 5:35 AM on January 8, 2020

Not to be a downer but don't over-sell the castles. Dublin Castle is a short Norman turret sandwiched between a variety of Georgian buildings. Drimnagh Castle is small and dark because, you know, heating. The best castle on your list is Malahide, which is beautiful but the interior is a Georgian renovation. We are short of fairytale castles.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:58 AM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

When I took my five year old to Dublin the biggest hit was walking along Sandymount Strand. You can get pretty good kid food at the burger place on Sandymount Green. Be warned, if you do wander the neighborhood streets your kid will notice the creepy bin the poo signs and become obsessed.
posted by Morpeth at 6:29 AM on January 8, 2020

We were in Dublin in August, so it's still fresh in my mind. :-)

The EPIC museum was excellent if you have any interest in the emigration of the Irish to... well, everywhere. It is very heavily digital and interactive... our group had some younger kids and they enjoyed it as well.

We had a lovely meal at the Woolen Mills at the north end of the Ha'penny Bridge. Really good fries. We didn't have any other fries in Dublin, so I can't compare, but as a family, we all agreed these were the best we had in a long time.

On the other side of the Ha'penny, through the arch was the Bubble Waffle place. Ice cream sundae in a fresh-baked bubble waffle cone. It can be messy but it was really good too - nothing particularly Irish about it, but we haven't found it stateside so...
posted by neilbert at 6:30 AM on January 8, 2020

The Fry Model Railway museum is supposed to be (re-)opening in January (at least according to the sign on the gate.) I'm not sure what this new version will be like, but the older version was pretty interesting for me as a kid. I wouldn't probably go to Malahide especially to see this, but if you are already there to visit the Castle, it may be worth a side visit.

Dublinia has exhibitions about Viking and Medieval Dublin that are aimed mostly at a younger audience, and is housed in part of Christchurch Cathedral which can also be visited (check out the mummified cat and rat!).

I'd also recommend small things like visiting the duckpond in St. Stephen's Green or looking at the different colours and designs of the doors of the Georgian buildings on Stephen's Green, Merrion Square, etc.

There are also a couple of visitable farms within fairly easy reach of Dublin - Airfield is a short walk from Balally on the Green Luas line, and Newbridge House and Farm claims to be 15 minutes walk from Donabate railway station.
posted by scorbet at 6:33 AM on January 8, 2020

Dublin's a great city for theatre. Here's one show your daughter might like.
posted by Paul Slade at 6:51 AM on January 8, 2020

We were in Dublin for a week and one of my highlights was taking the commuter rail from the Tara St Station to Howth (around $10 r/t and 40 minutes). We got a map at the info booth and used it to go for a hike, then ate seafood on the pier. We took the train from the Tara St station. I was third trimester pregnant and did the short hike in sneakers.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:58 AM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I second Dublinia. When we were there a few years ago with a then 7 year old we accidentally ended up there (my husband thought he was guiding us somewhere else (maybe the children's museum?) and I wasn't really paying attention and then there we were) and it ended up being one of the kiddo's favourite parts of the trip.
posted by velocipedestrienne at 8:15 AM on January 8, 2020

We spent almost 3 weeks this past summer staying with my inlaws just outside of Dublin in Malahide/Portmarnock.

Definitely take DART to Howth which has lots of casual food options. If you have good weather, go to the Beshoffs take away and grab fish/chicken and chips to sit out in the green near the playground. There's a sit down Beshoffs if the weather is not to your liking. Then grab some gelati and use the walking paths around the harbor which has kid friendly exercise stops. If your little one can handle it, go for the cliff walk above the harbor. You also might be interested in taking the little ferry over to Ireland's Eye, a tiny island with little to do but it's ruggedly beautiful and a nice boat ride if you have great weather.

Malahide castle is pretty small but the tour guide was great. The gardens surrounding the castle are beautiful with a butterfly glass house. I really enjoy the home goods, clothing and food at Avoca located at the castle.

In Dublin, your family might enjoy the EPIC museum which is interactive and gives out little passports that can be stamped at the different exhibitions. A fancy food court is attached to the entrance so you can grab snacks before or after. There's a great tourist center there with helpful staff to answer questions and offer a million brochures.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 8:40 AM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

We were in Dublin last February, and on the "something for adults" list, I heartily recommend 14 Henrietta Street - it's a Tenement Museum, but with an interesting twist. The guide was excellent, and there's a lot to take in. We bought our tickets online, ahead of time as recommended. It was one of the very best things we did in Dublin.
posted by dbmcd at 8:53 AM on January 8, 2020

O'Connells in Howth has good food, and great views of the harbour/Ireland's Eye/Lambay Island from the upper floor. They have woodburning stoves, which may be nice in February, depending on the temperature and wind!
posted by scorbet at 8:57 AM on January 8, 2020

Dublin zoo is great for kids from what I've heard. You can check out Phoenix park at the same time as it's right beside it.
posted by Lucy_32 at 9:30 AM on January 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you are going to Howth, the Hurdy Gurdy Museum there is neat. Also if you walk along the harbor there you might see some seals - we did in summer anyway.

Newgrange might be a bit far afield for you but is pretty awesome.
posted by exogenous at 9:48 AM on January 8, 2020

Get some ice cream? Honeycomb caramel and elderflower recommended.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 9:54 AM on January 8, 2020

There's the Viking Splash Tours
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:11 AM on January 8, 2020

See if there's anything on at The Ark childrens culture center in Temple Bar. Dublin Castle isn't a castle, but between it and the Chester Beaty library (with the lovely hidden garden feel and the coach houses nearby) there is the courtyard with it's blue doors and guard posts which is fun.

I don't know if a 5 year old can manage a whole day trip, but there are day-trips around the country which would get you a look at the Rock of Cashel, which is a daycent castle up on a rolling hill and the whole nine yards. Many stately homes like Russborough House have farmers markets and mazes and kids events and things.
posted by Iteki at 11:29 AM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you want a proper medieval castle, the best one fairly close to Dublin is probably Trim. It’s about an hour from the main bus station in Dublin on a bus, apparently. Swords also has a recently restored small castle, that kids can run around in, rather than a furnished one like Malahide.

I do feel obliged to point out that while the Rock of Cashel is definitely worth a visit and is castleish, it’s a collection of religious buildings - a cathedral, round tower and chapel, rather than a castle. It’s relatively far from Dublin though (about 2 hours from the main bus station in Dublin by bus.)
posted by scorbet at 12:13 PM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’ve been to Dublin twice in the last few years, and one of the great things about it is that you can walk, bus or take the light rail EVERYWHERE. It’s awesome.

I would highly recommend getting the 72-hour passes to the hop-on, hop-off tours because it’s a really easy way to sightsee. It circuits the city continually, and you also get discounts to a ton of stuff. Well worth the money. There are two major hop-on tours, the green bus (DoDublin) and the red bus. Many of the sights you list are on these tours. Be advised that Dublin Castle and Old City Wall are smack in the middle of town and not very castle-y.

For riding the regular city bus and light rail, get the Leap Visitor Card. A 7-day unlimited pass is 40 euros (per adult), and you can take any city bus, Luas light rail, or DART commuter train. Such a good deal. You can get these at the airport at the SPAR convenience store in Terminal 2 (upper level) , or at the transit office on O’Connell St near the big statue—right next to the DoDublin office, on the same side of the street as the McDonald’s and a few doors down. You will save a buttload of money with these passes!

I can definitely recommend the Winding Stair. Malahide Castle is lovely (although if you take the tour, you’ll be glad you didn’t live there when it was first built), and has beautiful grounds and is a reasonable walk from the train station, but all told, it is quite a lot of walking. Powerscourt is spectacular (the grounds, and definitely the road from Enniskerry village to the manor), but even more walking. In fact, I would just accept now that you’ll be putting in some serious steps. I know 5 is old for a stroller, but it might not be a terrible idea anyway. I would still make the attempt, though, because Malahide is an adorable little town, and Enniskerry is basically a postcard waiting for a photographer. Great little day trips. You can take the DART straight to Malahide, and the 44 Dublin city bus from O’Connell St to Enniskerry. (See above about Leap pass)

If you’re considering going to other cities in the Republic of Ireland (highly recommended, the whole country’s only two hours across) then go to Connelly Station and buy a Trekker or Explorer Pass. If you think you might only go to maybe one other city, then it would be cheaper to just buy the fare for that trip. But if you were to visit more than that, these passes will save you money over the individual fare.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:13 PM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’d also like to give a shout-out to Caffe Nero (multiple locations, but I went to the O’Connell St. one most frequently) for being a very pleasant place to take a breather or begin the day with a nice cup of coffee and a pastry. I still think fondly of their cappuccino cake.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:25 PM on January 8, 2020

You must go to Tayto Park. http://www.taytopark.ie Do not fail to visit the Taytos factory and eat the cheese and onion Taytos.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:05 PM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Don't miss out on the Little Museum of Dublin. It's right on Stephens Green and has rave reviews.
posted by kev23f at 7:44 AM on January 15, 2020

Oh, don't forget the Natural history museum, called the Dead Zoo by dubliners. Our six year old loved it.
posted by kev23f at 7:46 AM on January 15, 2020

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