50 free days out to enjoy with the kids this summer

50 free days out to enjoy with the kids this summer

School’s out for summer – but keeping the kids entertained doesn’t have to cost a fortune, or indeed anything at all, writes Ciara McDonnell.

1. Laya City Spectacular, Dublin and Cork

Over 250,000 people are expected to attend the annual street carnivals in Dublin and Cork this year, and it’s easy to see why.

There’ll be over 300 shows, all kinds of activities to keep the kids enthralled, from storytelling to football skills and a n epic food village.

Details: Dublin’s Merrion Square on July 12-14 and Cork’s Fitzgerald Park on July 20–21.

Visit the website here.

2. Spraoi, Waterford

An August bank holiday institution, walk the streets of around Waterford to experience the best street performers from all over the world, before booking into Garter Lane Arts Centre for some workshops as part of the SprÓg Festival.

Details: August 2, 3, and 4.

Visit the website here.

3. Sneem Family Festival, Kerry


Good old-fashioned fun is had by all at this yearly extravaganza. Go crab fishing before heading off to see some sheep being sheared; and don’t forget to register for the children’s fancy dress parade — an essential part of the weekend.

Details: July: 17–22.

More details here.

4. Foroige YUM Festival, Cork

Happening today in Fitzgerald Park, this incredible celebration of youth music is not only a great way to hear the next big talents of the Irish music scene, but also a wonderful way to experience different genres of music.

Details: Today, 7.45–11.15pm

Visit the website here.

5. Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny

A veritable wonderland for the whole family, it is extremely easy to while away an entire day exploring this fantastic park. There are walks to suit all abilities, as well as lots of fairies and magicalcreatures hiding along the trails.

Visit the website here.

6. Durrow Scarecrow Festival, Laois

Now in its 10th year, this week-long festival is a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with Ireland’s best scarecrows at the All–Ireland Scarecrow Championship. Entirely family-focused, expect great food and one of the best playgrounds in the country.

Details: July 28–August 5.

Visit the website here.

7. Doll House In A Shoebox, Cork

Head along to Nano Nagle Place with an empty shoebox and make your very own dollhouse in this special workshop.

Details: August 22, 11am–12:30pm, register here.

8. Cycle a Greenway, Galway and Waterford

Choose either The Great Western Greenway or The Waterford Greenway, and spend a day free-wheeling on safe, easily navigable cycle tracks that are designed with families in mind.

Visit here. and here.

9. Picnic In a Quarry, Cork

Cork Nature Network is hosting a family picnic in Cork’s Beaumont Quarry, where they’ll be running bug hunts, painting faces and teaching kids all about the world of nature around them.

Details: August 18, 12.30–3pm

Visit the website here.

10. Lough Boora Discovery Park, Offaly

Load up the bikes, pack the binoculars and head off to Lough Boora, where over 9km of cycle tracks traverse this spectacular park. You’ll have a chance to spot more than 120 species of birds and fish in a lake brimming with carp, trout and bream!

Visit the website here.

11. Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

Free to explore, and utterly family friendly, the Chester Beatty Library is one of the capital’s true gems.

As well as a full summer programme of free workshops for children, it runs free bilingual storytelling sessions and weekly family workshops.

Visit the website here.

12. Summer Stars, Nationwide

Introduce your child to their local library this summer through the Summer Stars programme.

They’ll get a list of recommended age-appropriate reads, and receive stamps on their very own reading card for each book they finish.

Visit the website here.

13. Find Some Dolphins, Clare

The Kilrush Dolphin Trail takes you from the town centre on a bracing walk where you might spot some of the elusive Shannon dolphins — even if you don’t, it’s a wonderful starting point to an adventure out west.

Visit the website here.

14. Seen and Heard Playspace at Crawford Gallery, Cork

Crawford Gallery has transformed a space into a play area called Seen and Heard until October. For the month of July,Dowcha Puppets will be delivering free puppet-making workshops at the space.

Visit the website here.

15. Cork LGBT + Pride Festival Family Fun Day, Cork

Celebrate Pride with rainbow festivities for the whole family at Fitzgerald Park. There’ll be a kid’s disco, a dog show, yoga for children and much, much more.

Details: July 28, 12–6pm

Visit the website here.

16. Queen of the Sea Festival, Cork

Family fun is the name of the game at Youghal’s Queen of the Sea Festival. Expect fancy dress and sandcastle competitions,before one lucky lady is crowned the Queen of The Sea.

Details: July 12-14th

Visit the website here.

17. The Burren National Park, Clare

Get away from it all by spending a day exploring the wild beauty of The Burren. The trails are extremely well marked, and there are wonderful facilities throughout.

Visit the website here.

18. West Cork Literary Festival, Cork

With a full programme for children and young adults, the West Cork Literary Festival is one of the most inclusive event for bookworms on the calendar. Highlights this year include a free workshop with Stephen James Smith and a make-your-own-book workshop.

Details: July 12–19

Visit the website here.

19. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

At the National Gallery, every Sunday is Family Day, when drop-in workshops, tours, and activities all have a family focus.

They schedule a huge range of age-appropriate workshops aimed at kids from toddler stage, right up to teenagers.

Visit the website here.

20. Summer SING, Cork

This week-long children’s signing festival sees over 300 children embrace the rich heritage from their home city and learn how to nurture their natural singing ability.

The finale performance is free to attend and takes place in Fitzgerald Park.

Details: July 18, 2pm

Visit the website here.

21. Kid’s Workshops at Kinsale Arts Weekend, Cork

There are arts and craft workshops created especially with little people in mind at the Kinsale Arts Weekend this year.

They’ll get to make their very own piece and bring it home afterwards.

Details: July 18 and 21

Visit the website here.

22. Cork Puppetry Festival Picnic, Cork

Taking place on the last day of the festival in Fitzgerald Park, the picnic includes puppet shows, puppet-making workshops and incredible performances from the Dowtcha Youth Ensemble.

Details: August 5, 11am–3pm.

Visit the website here.

23. Cobh People’s Regatta, Cork

A fabulous day out, which culminates in a spectacular firework display.

Expect food and music to prevail on dry land — as well as lots to keep the kids entertained.

Details: August 16–18

Visit the website here.

24. Skibbereen Arts Festival, Cork

Whether taking part in one of the many free workshops on offer throughout the week, or attending a family show, the Skibbereen Arts Show makes sure to include lots for the next generation of art lovers.

Details: July 26 – August 4

Visit the website here.

25. Queen Maeve and the Honey Bees at Fota House & Gardens, Cork

In this children’s garden tour, little gardeners will learn all about the importance of the honey bee, by following the hidden bee trail and even tasting some Fota honey at the end.

Details: August 19–23, from 12–12.45pm

Visit the website here.

26. Children’s Historical Treasure Hunt, Cork

This screen-free outdoor fun learning experience is ideal for five-to-12-year-old children (and their parents), to explore the history of Clonakilty.

Even better, there are lots of prizes to be won.

Details: August 17–25, participants should collect forms at Michael Collins House.

27. Lough Gur, Clare

Explore some of our finest examples of buildings and settlements which date back to the Stone Age times.

Lough Gur is not only fascinating, but also has an excellent visitor centre, should you forget to brush up on your Neolithic history prior to arrival.

Visit the website here.

28. Pirate Trail at Inish Beg Estate, Cork

Follow the trail through the stunning grounds of Inish Beg and learn all about the characters involved in the Sacking of Baltimore while you do it.

If pirates are not of interest to your family, the estate also has a gorgeous fairy trail.

Visit the website here.

29. First Wednesday

The Office of Public Works continues to allow families to explore some of our greatest sights and buildings for free on the first Wednesday of the month, and it is well worth putting that down on your calendar.

Visit the website here.

30. Light Up The Castle, Kilkenny Arts Festival, Kilkenny

Celebrate this year’s Arts Festival with a spectacular light show against Kilkenny Castle.

The show will be visible at several points around the city (and you can tune in to KCLR to hear the music accompanying the show).

The best vantage point is the Castle Rose Garden, from where you can enjoy free access to the full spectacle.

Details: August 14–17, from 10.40pm;

Visit the website here.

31. The Festival of Curiosity, Dublin

This four-day cultural feast of science, arts, design, and technology for all ages is celebrating its seventh birthday with a Playful Days and Curious Nights theme — what a wonderful treat for the whole family.

Details: July 18–21

Visit the website here.

32. Museum of Ireland, Dublin and Mayo

There is a rolling programme at the four campuses of the Museum of Ireland that seek to inform children about our past in the most wonderful way.

From knitting to tours of the Dead Zoo, treat yourself with a visit this summer.

Visit the website here.

33. Watch a Whale, Nationwide

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group have come together to offer a few days of whale watching tips on all the prominent headlands around the country.

A sighting is not guaranteed, but you will learn heaps, regardless.

Details: August 24

Visit the website here.

34. Catch your breath on the Copper Coast, Waterford

The Copper Coast Geopark in Waterford offers a huge range of beautiful scenery, beaches to run on, and a road where your car goes backwards up a hill.

No, really.

Visit the website here.

35. Become A Beach Explorer, Nationwide

Take your shovel and your bucket and start beach combing at your local beach.

Afterwards, it’s time to wash those sandy toes in our fabulous ocean.

Visit the website here.

36. Meet The Gruffalo, Belfast

A 20-minute walk through a gorgeous wooded glen will bring you to larger-than-life sculptures of the Gruffalo and his pals.

It’s certainly well worth the journey.

Visit the website here.

37. Family Sundays at The Glucksman, Cork

Bring the whole family along to the Glucksman galleryon Sunday afternoons from 3-4pm for a free art workshop.

Details: 3pm

Visit the website here.

38. Climb A Tree, Nationwide

Thanks to Coillte, we have an abundance of forests and woods that are equipped with picnic tables and family-friendly trails.

Take a break from the height of summer and investigate your local wood.

Visit the website here.

39. Bray Air Display, Wicklow

Ireland’s biggest air show takes place over two days with a carnival beneath it as Bray’s seafront transforms into a food village.

It’s just beside some of the best amusements on Ireland’s east coast, too.

Details: July 27 and 28

Visit the website here.

40. Clara Bog Nature Reserve, Offaly

With 454 hectares of raised bog and a fantastic boardwalk traversing it, a trip to Clara Bog Nature Reserve is to step away from life as we know it.

There is wildlife galore to be discovered and an excellent onsite visitor centre.

Visit the website here.

41. Pirate Day Hook Lighthouse, Wexford

As well as tours around the lighthouse itself, during the summer months, Hook Lighthouse hosts games on the lawn, art classes, and pirate-themed high jinx for little people.

Visit the website here.

42. Wobbly Circus, Cork

The best street circus show is returning to Fitzgerald Park this summer, teaching their audience all about mime, manipulation, and circus skills.

Details: August 18, 2–7pm.

Visit the website here.

43. Happenings Outdoor Cinema, Cork

Now in its fifth year, Happenings is bringing its outdoor cinema back to Fitzgerald Park.

Having previously shown classics like Stand by Me and Back to the Future, the question is: what will they screen this year?

Details: August 25, 7.45pm.

Visit here to see more.

44. Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Armagh

With walking trails galore, a giant’s lair themed children’s trail and playgrounds to rival any other, you could easily spend a weekend exploring all Slieve Guillion has to offer.

Visit the website here.

45. Climb The Sugarloaf, Wicklow

It may seem imposing at first, but it only takes an hour to climb the Sugarloaf.

Pack some biscuits and promise the family a lunch out in Johnnie Foxes afterwards.

Visit the website here.

46. Digital Scavenger Hunt, Cork

Let your child use your phone for some good, outdoor play for a change along a digital scavenger hunt created by Ronan Leonard in Fitzgerald Park.

Details: Tuesdays, 2pm & 4pm

See here to know more.

47. Visit The Phoenix Park, Dublin

It’s not all about the zoo, you know. The park has an excellent playground, lots of deer, wide-open spaces, oh — and The President’s house.

Visit the website here.

48. Wexford Maritime Festival, Wexford

Taking place this weekend, the Wexford Maritime Festival celebrates the town’s rich maritime heritage, with lots of family-friendly activities to enjoy along the way.

Visit the website here.

49. Blackrock Observatory Open Night, Cork

Once a month, Blackrock Observatory and its scientists invite the public inside free of charge, to show them all the incredible advances in space technology.

Visit the website here.

50. Cork Heritage Open Day, Cork

The city is throwing open its doors to 43 of its most incredible buildings for us to bring our families to explore. The full programme has yet to be announced, but this is going to be spectacular.

Details: August 17

Visit the website here.

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