Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dublin, Our Playground // City Centre

Welcome back to the Dublin, Our Playground series with installment #2! Did you enjoy the first post featuring our local Cabinteely Park? Well this post takes us 25 minutes north into the city center and focuses on recommendations for places to visit with children. I often get emails from friends asking for suggestions for where they can take their kids when visiting the city. Assuming most travelers like to stay centrally located in Dublin city and don't necessary need to rent a vehicle, you'll find that every listing below is accessible by either walking, public transport or a quick taxi ride. I've also broken the list into 3 sections for quick reference: playgrounds, museums and other options. 

Depending on your interests, timing and location, there is loads to do when visiting Dublin and the list below offers a few recommendations for places that I would (and often do!) take my two young kids. And while this list was created for those with children, I should note that outside of The Ark and the playgrounds, all places listed below are great options for adults too! 


Stephens Green on a sunny day 
St Stephens Green
Located in the very center of Dublin city, this expansive park has plenty of flowerbeds, fountains, and statues throughout the grounds, as well as lunchtime concerts in the summer months.  Hungry ducks and swans float by in the ponds, so grab a bread roll at one of the convenience stores on Grafton Street if you’ve no stale bread supply.
Great place to stroll and people watch. The playground within the park has plenty on offer, including baby & kid swings, separate climbing structures outfitted with slides for both toddlers and older children, as well as other play things like a balance beam, music makers and spinner seats.  It's a great, enclosed spot for the kids to run off some energy and plenty of picnic areas available just outside the playground fence should you choose an outdoor luncheon. 
Cost: Free (But a breadroll in the local shop will run you €0.65)

Giant's Garden includes a massive climbing castle
Head straight for the ‘Giant’s Garden’, Merrion Square's playground which is inspired by Oscar Wilde’s short story, “The Selfless Giant”. My kids and I absolutely love this playground for its whimsical and creative touches, including a giant buried in the ground that doubles as a climbing area. Outside of the playground and within the park's grounds, there are many statues to be found (look for the colorful statue of Wilde), as well as a memorial site and a gorgeous collection of vintage street lamps. 
One of the largest Georgian Squares in Dublin, there is always something happening here. On Sundays the park hosts an Open Art Gallery and Thursdays you can find the park filled with stalls for their market day. Conveniently located across from the Museum of Natural History (see below) so you can see both attractions in a quick visit.
Cost: Free
Merrion Square offers plenty of seating options

Additional PARKS & PLAYGROUNDS to consider... Phoenix Park Playground, Herbert Park Playground

Make no bones about it... this museum is great!
This one is nicknamed The Dead Zoo for very obvious reasons… loads of taxidermy! The museum includes several giant Irish deer, which I had to immediately Google to confirm that they did indeed once exist! It's free admission here so you can pop in & out easily enough and not spend a dime, although a donation is always encouraged. In addition to its cool exhibits, its location is across the street from Merrion Square Park and the Giant’s Garden Playground (see above), so you can easily check out both sites.
Cost: Free Admission // Donation Encouraged 
Address: Merrion Street Upper, Dublin 2

Harry, my junior archaeologist 
Interesting museum for adults and kids includes Bog Bodies (what I thought was most fascinating there!), plenty of artifacts from pre-historic Ireland, ancient Egyptians, the Vikings and more.
An activity cart on the first floor offers a selection of printed materials that can enhance your child's experience (we colored our Vikings in at lunch). Another museum with free admission, but this one has a cafe on premise so you might spend a few bob.
Cost: Free Admission // Donation Encouraged
Address: Kildare Street, Dublin 2

This historic institution has over 15,000 works of art on display. While my kids don't have much of an art appreciation at their young ages, they do enjoy pointing things out in the paintings, especially animals. Ask for a Family Pack at the desk and you can follow the designated scavenger hunt-esque trail to many notable pieces. Free audioguides are available for older children. And a play area for the kids isn't going to exactly increase their art knowledge, however, it is an incredibly handy spot so that adults can grab a seat and sip a coffee in the bright atrium while the children play. 
Cost: Free Admission // Donation Encouraged 
Address: Merrion Square West, Dublin 2

This is a quirky little place- a museum dedicated to the history of print, including displays of old print presses. Housed within a converted chapel, this museum is fairly small, and appeals more to an adult but what stands out for the kids here is the Education Area where a child can chose to make something from a range of arts and crafts or read at the junior library. Free admission but the guided tour is very reasonable and worth it if there’s any interest at all in design by yourself or your visitors.
Cost: Free Admission // Guided Tour €3.50 Adult // Guided Tour €7.00 Family
Address: Beggars Bush Barracks, Dublin 4


Concentrating on her creation at The Ark
A magical little land the kids made
A cultural center dedicated to children. Located in the popular Temple Bar area, this place has a constantly changing selection of exhibits, workshops and performances. Some really cool things going on here! Definitely check out their calendar of events page for more info and to book ahead. 
Cost: Varies 
Address: 11a Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Giraffes on exhibit at the Zoo
Great for a day out because it’s pretty much guaranteed fun, seeing as most kids love animals! All the usual animals you would expect to see in a zoo, including lions, zebras and 3 adorable baby elephants (as of early 2015). Children's play areas are situated throughout the park. Recommend to purchase your tickets online for fast track entry.
Cost: €16.80 Adult // €12.00 Child Age 3-16 //  Free Child Under 3
Location: Phoenix Park, Dublin 8

Play areas located throughout the Zoo's grounds

Viking Splash Tour 
See Dublin by land and water...and be silly while wearing a viking helmet enjoying the sights! The start of the tour is located at Stephen’s Green so it's central and you could also walk the park and utilize the playground (see above) before or after the tour. This tour is entertaining & informational for kids and  adults.
Cost: €22 Adult // €12 Child Age 2-12 // €16 Teenager Age 13-17
Departure Address: St. Stephens Green North, Dublin 2

Walking Grafton Street
The buskers (street performers, artists, magicians & musicians) provide lots of entertainment on this bustling pedestrian-only street. And there’s always the Disney Store if you need to instantly stop any major toddler meltdowns! 
Cost: Free (until you enter that Disney Store of course!)

Impressive architecture and cobblestone walkways at Trinity

Walking Trinity College
Young kids might not be too impressed with the Book of Kells exhibition on display there (adults- it's amazing!!), but if some in your party want to go check out these incredible manuscripts, kids can enjoy roaming the university’s grounds (although the cobblestones might prove tough to maneuver for new walkers).
Cost: Free to walk the University's Grounds // Book of Kells Admission Adult 11.50 // Admission for Children Under 12 is Free

More to be seen at Trinity 

The colorful Georgian Doors are always a hit with tourists- why not turn browsing for doors into a fun, interactive game with the kids? Search for your favorite colored doors or try to find a door for every color in the rainbow? Roaming the streets and looking at doors can be fun! Try Leeson Street, Harcourt Street, Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square for some fab doors! Check out my previous blog post on this activity.
Cost: Free

Additional OTHER OPTIONS you might want to consider... Hop On Hop Off Bus TourGaiety Theater for a ShowChildren's Afternoon Tea at the Shelbourne Hotel, Horse and Carriage ride through the City, a ride on almost any of the City's public transportation options- especially the front window seat on the second floor of a double decker bus

Well, there you have it! These are some of our favourite spots in Dublin City Center but did I miss anywhere that you absolutely love? Please let me know in the comments section. And for those of you who are looking for ideas, I sincerely hope this list has pointed you in the right direction. Best of luck planning your next trip into Dublin city!

Author’s Disclaimer:  
Check all listing's websites to confirm that the attractions listed here are open to the public on the date you would like to visit. Remember that Irish bank holidays can fall on different dates than other countries, especially the USA. I also recommend to book anything that requires a ticket online because many of the places offer online discounts and/or fast track entry so you don’t get stuck queuing. Also be sure to check out the calendar & event pages too. A lot of these places, especially the museums, offer special family activity days or programs but some might require pre-booking. All opinions and photographs are my own.


  1. Sign me up for the Viking hat tour!

  2. cool post! did not catch all those last time i was there.

    1. That would require leaving the pub :) haha! Luckily, there's always next time!!!


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