19 mid-term activities to keep the kids happy - including Ireland's answer to Alcatraz
As schools prepare to close once again, parents are left scratching their heads as to how to keep their little ones occupied. Kathy Donaghy has the low-down on the best activities on offer throughout the country
Mid-term is fast approaching. Stuck for stuff to do with the kids? Look no further. We've compiled a list of the best activities for you and your family to take the stress out of what to do when school's out, covering outdoor pursuits and cultural activities alike. Bored? Not a chance.
The National Gallery of Ireland is running a series of mid-term break camps for children aged from four to eight ranging in price from ¤40 to ¤60. Book early to avoid disappointment. On February 11 and 18, there are free family tours as well as a new free parents' tour on Monday, February 12 at 2pm. Check out nationalgallery.ie for more information.
Down on the farm
Leahy's Open Farm in Midleton, Co Cork has lots of farmyard friends to visit as well as one of the biggest mazes in the country and a digger park with real working diggers for kids. Open from 11am to 5pm daily. Entry costs ¤9.50 per person and children under two go free. See leahysopenfarm.ie for more information.
Love is in the air
Older teens may enjoy a free tour of the National Gallery of Ireland's romance-themed works at 1.15pm on February 14 which will include a special viewing of Hellelil and Hildebrand's tragic love affair, as depicted by Frederic William Burton in his painting, The Meeting On The Turret Stairs. The delicate watercolour, normally only on display for two hours a week, will be on show all of Valentine's Day.
The dead zoo
The Natural History Museum at Merrion Street is hosting a Spring Activity Trail for visitors. You can pick your pack up at reception, just don't forget your pencil! Admission is free.
Get in to nature
Situated in west Offaly, Lough Boora Discovery Park offers a wide range of off-road walking and cycling pathways. Enjoy the outdoor sculpture park, lakes and a fairy trail, along with an outdoor deck café and bike hire. The park is open every day of the mid-term and is free with a €4 car parking charge for the day. See loughboora.com for more information.
Glasnevin Cemetery is hosting two new tours specially designed for families this month. The cemetery's 'Mid-term Tales' will take part in the oldest part of the cemetery and tell stories of grave-robbing, prison escapes and deadly animals. They also include a visit to the grave of Michael Collins. Tours will run at 11am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm on February 10, 11, 17 and 18. For more information, visit glasnevintrust.ie.
Calling all fashionistas
The Little Museum of Dublin on St Stephen's Green is hosting a new exhibition this month paying homage to the Irish designers who put Irish fashion and fabrics on the map. The exhibition, 'Ireland's Fashion Radicals', which runs until March 25, includes pieces by Ireland's couture queen Sybil Connolly, who dressed former US first lady Jackie Kennedy in Irish linen. See littlemuseum.ie for more information about tours and times.
Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal played host to the Millennium Falcon during the filming of the latest Star Wars instalment. The country's most northerly point is home to plenty of wildlife, such as dolphins and wild geese. A trip to the head and a walk along the country's extreme northerly promontory is breath-taking and free. Visitors can call into the information point at the Malin Head Community Centre from 9am-6pm Monday to Friday for information on things to see and do in the area.
Chinese New Year
Celebrate the Year of the Dog with a special workshop for families at Collins Barracks on Febraury 16 between 2.30pm-4pm. Admission is free and all art materials are provided although booking is required. See museum.ie/Visit-Us/Events for more information.
May the force be with you
Intrepid adventurer Bren Whelan, who has over 25 years of experience as a guide walking, mountaineering and rock climbing across Ireland and the world, is hosting tours of the Star Wars locations at Malin Head. Photography tours and climbing tours can also be arranged. For more information, see donegalclimbing.ie.
Budding palaeontologists will be delighted to find a dig site at Dublin Zoo where they can learn about the lives of fierce predators in special workshops on February 15 and 16. The zoo is also running a junior conservationist workshop for older children aged between 13 and 16 on February 16. For more information, see dublinzoo.ie.
King of the castle
Want to experience medieval life in one of Ireland's most iconic and dramatic castles? The King John's Castle activity camps in Limerick are just the ticket. One and two day camps are available at a cost of ¤30 and ¤50 respectively. Contact email@example.com for more info and booking.
Children and adults can take free self-guided tours in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin this mid-term. Current trails include the "plant partners" trail, which explores the fascinating interactions between plants and animals, and the "bark life" trail that explores our trees and their different types of barks. See botanicgardens.ie for more information.
Knights and ladies
In medieval times, a lady would give a knight a love token to carry into 'battle' for good luck. Join other history hunters on February 14 between 2pm-4pm at the National Museum on Kildare Street in Dublin to find out more about courting in medieval times and make your own love token to bring home. No booking is required and admission is free. See museum.ie/Visit-Us/Events for more information.
Ireland's answer to Alcatraz
The award-winning tour to Spike Island, formerly a prison and fort, in Cork reopens for the season on Saturday Febraury 17. The tour starts at Kennedy's Pier in Cobh with a ferry at 12pm and 2pm. You will be met on the island for an hour-long guided tour and then some free time to explore before returning to Cobh. Tickets are priced at €18 per adult and €10 per child. If you're brave enough, you can take the after-dark tour. For more information, see spikeislandcork.ie.
The National Museum of Country Life at Turlough Park in Mayo is hosting a collaborative workshop for families on February 13 with artist Nuala Clarke. A puppet show and a crochet workshop are also among the museum's free events this mid-term. Booking essential. See museum.ie/Visitus/Events for more information.
Follow the clues and learn how to think like an archaeologist by trying to solve the puzzle of some mystery objects during this two-hour tour at the National Museum on Dublin's Kildare Street between 2pm-4pm on February 16. Admission is free and no booking is required. See museum.ie/Visit-us/Events for more information.
Waterford Greenway is Ireland's longest greenway and the spectacular 46km off-road cycling and walking trail is suitable for buggies, roller skates, bikes and trikes. Bring your own wheels or hire them along the route. See visitwaterfordgreenway.com for more information.
Bricks 4 Kidz is offering a range of Lego themed workshops during the mid-term for children aged 4-12 years. Themes include Frozen, Super Mario Bros & Friends, Minions, Minecraft, Star Wars and Jurassic World. Camps are taking place in 14 locations across Wexford, Dublin, Donegal and Louth. See bricks4kidz.ie.