Ireland is a grand country, if only we could roof it.
We've all heard the refrain... but you don't have to be outdoors to have fun. Here are 20 great things to do on a rainy day in Ireland, no matter what your age!
Why: Standing for Who, What, Why, Where and When, W5 is a brilliant interactive discovery centre that will engage everyone from toddlers to teens and adults. Try experiments, figure out puzzles, learn through games and challenges. With 250 exhibits over six themed zones, everything from robots, nature, technology and outer space to inventions and science are brilliantly brought to life. A captivating day out.
If you like that, try this: Imaginosity in Dublin is an interactive children's museum where younger kids get to play grown-up - from driving cars to building structures, running and shopping in a supermarket to learning about the environment. imaginosity.ie
Where: Dingle, Co Kerry
Why: A Polar penguin display of Gentoo penguins, Ireland's largest collection of sharks, a new jellyfish tank and an Ocean Tunnel are just some of the reasons Dingle aquarium is a top-class attraction. Playful otters, scaly reptiles, turtles and seahorses are all on the bill too - as are scheduled feeding times, allowing you to plan a visit around a reptile, otter or penguin encounter.
If you like that, try this: Handy to the Dart and with enthusiastic staff, there are 70 different species to enjoy at the National Sea Life centre in Bray, Co Wicklow. sealife.ie
Why: Take the family on a treasure hunt with a visit to the Museum of Archaeology on Kildare Street. The beautiful building will take time travellers back to Ancient Egypt, and Viking, medieval, Celtic, Iron Age and prehistoric Ireland. The impressive hoard includes ancient jewellery, vessels, ceramics, weapons and an original Viking board game from 10th-century Dublin.
Details: museum.ie/archaeology, admission free.
If you like that, try this: With three museums in the Viking Triangle, Waterford Treasures tells the 1,100-year-old story of Waterford, from a virtual reality Viking adventure to Reginald's Tower and the Bishop's Palace. waterfordtreasures.com
Where: All over!
Why: Ever heard of the word “horological”? We hadn’t either. Horology is the study of the measurement of time, and now Ireland has its very first horological museum — the Irish Museum of Time in Waterford (€5). Here, you’ll find incredible artefacts like the oldest Irish-made grandfather clocks and watches, as well as pieces from all over the world. You’ll also learn about the incredible craftsmanship that goes into creating timepieces. And it’s not the only new museum in town — the Irish Silver Museum has opened, too. Here's a list of six recently opened museums in Ireland, including an Irish Racehorse Experience and Dark Sky Observatory, and here are six revamped attractions, from the Céide Fields to a new National Famine Museum.
Details: waterfordtreasures.com; free admission.
If you like that, try this: Trinity College's Zoological Museum (as distinct from the Natural History Museum) opens each summer. tcd.ie/Zoology/museum
5. Cork City Gaol
Where: Cork City
Why: Kids are always fascinated with prison, and Cork's old gaol allows them step back in time to learn about Irish life in the 19th and early 20th century, both inside and outside the prison walls. The era is brought to life through figures, furnished cells and sound effects, with more cells and interactive content on track for 2019. A new walkway around the perimeter of the gaol building will open too, allowing visitors to explore the site further.
If you like that, try this: Head down the road to Lifetime Lab, the Old Cork Waterworks Experience, and journey through the era of Victorian architecture - discovering 100-year-old machinery, Cork's industrial heritage and learning about environmental issues. lifetimelab.ie
Where: Drogheda, Co Louth
Why: So what if it's raining? Why not get wetter with a family jaunt to Funtasia? A classic water park that's crucially indoors, this boasts a heap of water-based activities. Think slides, including the double-rider, gravity-defying Boomerang drop, toddler splash areas and an adults-only Jacuzzi. A bowling alley and indoor adventure centre are onsite too, if you fancy changing things up.
Details: funtasia.ie; booking online is cheaper.
If you like that, try this: AquaZone at the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin is an action-packed water park with water slides, surf machine, lazy river and thrilling rollercoaster that blasts riders uphill on water jets. aquazone.ie
Where: Balbriggan, Co Dublin
Why: A tour of Ardgillan Castle, the Taylor family home from 1738 until 1962, is the ultimate step back in time. You'll get to experience castle life - from the fascinating period kitchen complete with Victorian gadgets and an old range to the formal dining room, taxidermy, musical instruments and old books. A guide will ensure the children are kept entertained and, once there's a break in the weather, dash outside to the fairy trail, beautiful walks and top-class playground. Don't miss the treats, served inside the castle's tea room with a roaring fire.
Details: ardgillancastle.ie, park, fairy trail and playground free; castle tour ticketed.
If you like that, try this: Wells House in Wexford is a beautiful, welcoming historic estate offering tours, woodland walks, seasonal events, a fairy trail, adventure playground, animal farm and restaurant. wellshouse.ie
Where: Burncourt, Cahir, Co Tipperary
Why: The entrance may be underwhelming, but it belies the vast subterranean world that awaits inside Mitchelstown Cave. One of the largest and most complex cave systems in Ireland, guided tours here will take you along more than a kilometre of well-lit passageways to explore impressive caverns and learn about its history and geological secrets. Surprisingly warm in winter and cool in summer, the constant 12˚C temperature means there's no bad time to visit.
If you like that, try this: Check out Ireland's other exceptional caves in the four corners of the country - Crag in Kerry, Ailwee and Doolin Cave in Clare, Marble Arch in Fermanagh and Dunmore in Kilkenny, for starters.
Where: Merrion Square West, Dublin
Why: The perfect place to hide out on a wet day, the National Gallery is a bright, engaging space filled with wonderful canvases and imagery. Family-friendly tours, baby workshops, Sunday drop-in family workshops, seasonal activities and creative packs are all on offer from the inventive education team, with workshops for older children scheduled too. Look out for performance events, and don't miss the popular, child-friendly café.
Details: nationalgallery.ie, free admission.
If you like that, try this: Family Sundays at The Glucksman in Cork offer free creative workshops for children. Fuel their imaginations first with a walk around the impressive art collection. glucksman.org; purecork.ie
Where: Santry and Sandyford, Co Dublin
Why: Go for a natural high with a giggle-inducing mass trampolining session. Jump Zone is an indoor trampoline park that's great for burning off excess energy on a rainy day. Get competitively high, try some flips, launch yourselves into the foam pit or take on a bouncy game of Trampoline Dodgeball. Open jump sessions last 60-90 minutes and there's a new Ninja course (and West Dublin venue) about to open. Children must be over five years of age, and booking is recommended.
If you like that, try this: With two South American-themed mini golf courses at Rainforest Adventure Golf in Dundrum Town Centre, the whole family can take on the Inca or Aztec courses in this high-tech, colourful indoor facility. rainforestadventuregolf.ie
Where: Loughrea, Co Galway
Why: A farm visit mightn't seem ideal on a damp day, but Turoe Pet Farm's 14 acres are well set up for the rain. Cue the indoor Inflatable City and Jungle Town, a large café as well as an all-weather walkway that's both wheelchair and buggy-friendly. Once the weather clears, there's an outdoor playground, plus resident pigs, ponies, shaggy Highland cows, llamas and donkeys.
If you like that, try this: Reptiles your thing? Kilkenny is home to The National Reptile Zoo. With over 50 exhibits, you can handle snakes and meet everyone from crocodiles to chameleons. nationalreptilezoo.ie
Where: Lough Key Forest Park, Boyle, Co Roscommon
Why: Up for a bonding Crystal Maze-style family challenge? The two-storey Boda Borg is an adventure quest house at Lough Key Forest Park that's suitable for adults and children (aged seven-plus) with three to five people required for your team. The real-world gaming environment presents a mix of mental and physical challenges, with success required each time to unlock the next challenge. Neither video game nor virtual reality, Boda Borg promises a thrilling real-world experience like no other.
If you like that, try this: Check into Athlone's Exit Escape Rooms for a family-friendly themed challenge, where you're locked in a room with an hour to work as a team to solve the clues and escape. exitathlone.com
Where: Cork and Dublin
Why: Test your strength, agility and bravery as you scale these rock-like climbing walls in Dublin and Cork. Walls are graded to suit all levels, from complete beginners to pros, and there are ropes and harnesses to keep everyone safe. Don't underestimate the ability of younger children either. Their tenacity and bravery will astonish you.
If you like that, try this: Hit up Delphi Adventure Centre in Connemara for a day of outdoor fun that might include kayaking, a bog obstacle course, zip-lining or bushcraft survival. Don your waterproofs and have fun. delphiadventureresort.com
Where: Kilkenny city
Why: The world's fastest and oldest field game, hurling is celebrated in style at The Kilkenny Way. A family visit combines a visit to Legends Hurling Museum with a video of the history of GAA, a skills session on a pitch (real hurlers don't mind a drop of rain!) and the chance to watch a skill-packed televised hurling game while tucking into a bowl of Irish stew afterwards. A perfect daytrip for GAA fans and newbies to the sport. We also have a list of ten more unusual adventures in Ireland, from bog challenges to axe-throwing.
If you like that, try this: A game-changing introduction to Ireland's national sports, Experience Gaelic Games is a super spot to bring overseas guests, offering an interactive hands-on cultural and sporting experience in Dublin; experiencegaelicgames.com
Why: Backstage at Croke Park, the third-largest stadium in Europe, is a thrill for anyone who's ever watched an All-Ireland final. This access-all-areas tour takes in the dressing rooms, media area and a walk pitchside via the players' tunnel. Insider secrets and defining moments in Irish history will be revealed too at this top day out. The excellent GAA Museum is onsite... leave time to test your football and hurling skills at its Game Zone. In addition to the Croke Park stadium tour and GAA Museum, if you have a head for heights, 2022 marked the tenth anniversary of the Kellogg’s Skyline Tour at Croke Park - a thrilling 17-storey high rooftop tour suspended over the pitch.
If you like that, try this: Bring your little fans to Thomond Park, the home ground of Munster Rugby, with a stadium tour that takes them to the dressing room, tunnel and places accessible only to players and officials. thomondpark.ie
Where: Rath, Tullow, Co Carlow
Why: A chocolate workshop sounds like a kid-proof day out that will turn a rainy day into one that's truly delicious. Learn all about chocolate making, cocoa growing and how handmade chocolates are made, before having a go at making and decorating your own chocolate product, which you get to take home. There are tastings too, and you'll learn how ice-cream is made at this artisan producer. Workshops must be booked in advance.
If you like that, try this: The Butler's Chocolate Experience in North Dublin sees visitors watch a chocolate movie, explore the interactive museum, enjoy a demo and decorate their own chocolate to take home. butlerschocolates.com
Where: Limerick City
Why: A top-class exhibition brings to life over 800 years of King John's Castle and Limerick city's history through CGI animation and touchscreens. Period dress-up, firing cannons, crawling into a siege tunnel and the medieval castle animators ensure everyone has a fun and engaging experience. Allow 80 minutes to visit the exhibition area and the castle courtyard and explore the viewing towers.
If you like that, try this: A tour through Carlow's quirky 17th-century Huntington Castle - with a temple to Isis in the basement and mesmerising family history, artefacts and architecture - makes for a fun and fascinating day out. huntingtoncastle.com
Where: Doagh Island, Inishowen, Co Donegal
Why: On the northern tip of the Wild Atlantic Way, Doagh Famine Village reveals the history of a Donegal community surviving through Famine times right up to the present. Original thatched dwellings, still inhabited 20 years ago, stand alongside a Presbyterian Meeting House, Hedge School and Republican Safe House, depicting the diverse history and culture of this corner of the Inishowen peninsula. Guides will keep children engaged as they learn the links from past to present.
If you like that, try this: Telling the story of Irish emigration and Cork's maritime history, this Cobh Heritage Centre celebrates Queenstown's special place in Irish history. cobhheritage.com
Where: Coolruss, Tinahely, Co Wicklow
Why: Can't go to the beach in the rain? Well, there's always Wicklow's indoor beach! The Activity Barn at Tinahely Farm also offers pedal car tracks, traditional games, ping-pong, foosball and an animal walkway with donkeys, ponies, pot-bellied pigs and goats to pet and feed. With tearooms and a farm shop for stocking up on artisan treats, there's much to engage parents too.
If you like that, try this: Engage curious minds with a trip to Mayo's exceptional Museum of Country Life. The free programme includes activity sheets, games, a dress-up station and cool handling table. museum.ie/Country-Life
Where: Powerscourt Estate, Co Wicklow [TEMPORARILY CLOSED *2022*]
Why: With children more environmentally aware than ever, Cool Planet is an on-point day out at the Powerscourt Estate. Taking visitors on an immersive hour-long experience, it uses high-tech displays, games and competitions to reveal what climate change is all about. Kids will love time-travelling to 2050 to try and save their city, and learning about how simple, everyday choices can collectively make a difference. Powerful and fun.
If you like that, try this: Perfect for budding space explorers - learn about outer space at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, with its pan-galactic email station and award-winning exhibition on extreme life forms on earth. bco.ie
NB: This story has been updated since it first appeared online on 11/11/2018. All prices/details subject to change.
Maybe it'll be a long, hot summer full of paddling pools, water fights and forts in the park. Or maybe our Irish weather will strike, and summer days will suddenly become a lot more stressful. But don't worry - with our arsenal of indoor antics, there's no way your kids will think their summer holiday has turned into a washout. Who says you need the sun to have fun?