‘AH JAAAYZUS, lads, I can’t believe I’ve got bleedin’ Batman on me bus!” Captain Pat, our Viking Splash tour guide, greets our group, which includes a 4-year-old in a Batman suit.
Me and my aunt — who gets a big hug from Pat when he hears her accent — “Ah, me girlfriend’s from Cork, I love that accent, so I do” —and our kids, aged between 4 and 10, scramble up the steps of the amphibious machine.
Pat explains as we donned our Viking helmets that we were going to be on the lookout for Celts.
The Coffee Celts sit around in coffee shops all day looking cool. The Lost Celts we’ll see on corners looking at maps, basically, anyone not in a Viking helmet is fair game for us to roar at as we pass.
The kids are in their element. And sure, the adults don’t hold back either, to be fair.
The excitement of it all is too much for Batman, he powers off and conks fast asleep 10 minutes in.
When a cyclist passes the bus with an anti-pollution mask on, Pat screeches over the microphone, “Batman, there’s a robber, Batman, get him!” Batman’s out for the count.
I thought I heard “Superhero, me hole,” but I wouldn’t swear to it.
After an informative and very funny tour of the city, the bus pulls into the docklands, we wake Batman up, put a lifejacket on him et voila! the bus drives into the water.
We get a boat tour up as far as The Bord Gáis Theatre, passing U2’s recording studios on the way.
Captain Pat asks us if we know the difference between Jesus and Bono.
“Ya see, Jesus doesn’t think he’s Bono, boys and gurrls.”
We hit the so-called Dead Zoo next, in the Natural History Museum, which first opened its doors in 1857. There’s a comprehensive zoological collection here that is worth a visit.
The kids love it all, the skeletons showing just how closely related to the apes we are, the perfectly preserved birds, the family groups of taxidermied badgers and otters, seeing them so close up, tooth and claw and all, was a treat — and educational — but we don’t tell them that, obviously.
Batman enjoys seeing his brethren represented — although the Flying Fox is actually terrifying.
We’d seen Hotel Transylvania recently so that’s nightmares sorted for the next couple of weeks, thanks a lot, bats.
Another favourite was Spoticus, the giraffe, and the kids got sore necks from gaping at the 20-metre long whale skeleton suspended from the roof.There’s everything from deer to dragonflies, bears to butterflies, don’t miss it.
From dead animals to very much alive ones, we visit Dublin Zoo.
Our timing is spot on and we get to see the king of the Asian jungle having his lunch, devouring a carcass hanging from a tree.
The lads were more fascinated with the enormous poos the zoo keeper is scooping up with a giant rake. Boys will be boys.
We see the Sulawesi Crested Macaques, run through the reptile house, encounter the elephants, have chats with the chimpanzees, get splashed by the sea lion, peek at the penguins and grin at the gorilla. Then we take our own little monkeys back to the Herbert Park hotel to rest up for the next day’s adventures.
Imaginosity is out in Sandyford; a €15 cab drive away from the hotel. We were a little worried the 10-year-old was too old to enjoy it — wrong.
They all loved it, from reading the news on a real television, to driving a racing car and hanging out on the roof garden. There’s nowhere else quite like it and we had to drag them away.
Two stops away on the Luas is Airfield Estate, a gorgeous oasis near Dundrum Shopping Centre. It’s a charitable organisation established by the Overend Family in 1974 for educational and recreational purposes. It’s a 38-acre working farm, and we got to see the newborn baby goats.
Back on the bus to Cork, we asked the boys what was their favourite part of the weekend. “All of it” was the unanimous verdict.
You can’t ask for better than that.
Check out www.visitdublin.com to help plan your trip.
We booked a family return ticket on Bus Eireann’s http://gobe.ie/ for €53. It took under 3.5ours and dropped us right in the city centre. Great service.
Where to stay
We stayed at The Herbert Park Hotel, Ballsbridge. We got the no 7 bus from O’Connell Bridge to very near the hotel. It was really family friendly, excellent breakfast and dinner menus — especially for kids, the rooms were spacious and modern. We got buses, taxis and the Luas easily from our base here. www.herbertparkhotel.ie/ If you want to stay closer to the city, Trip Advisor has a list of family-friendly hotels here: www.tripadvisor.ie or www.visitdublin.com
Where to eat
Bring a packed lunch for the bus and the zoo. We had dinner in The Market Bar in Fade Street and it was perfect for the kids, super menu, huge cool, cavernous space so they could make as much noise as they wanted and it wasn’t bothering anyone, very reasonably priced too. 01 613 9094 www.marketbar.ie
What to do
We planned our itinerary using the www.visitdublin.com site and this is what you shouldn’t miss if you head to Dublin with the kids.
Natural History Museum, entry is free, Merrion St Upper, Dublin 2, 01 677 7444. www.museum.ie/Natural-History
Viking Splash Tour, departs from St Stephen’s Green North, Dublin 2 close to Grafton Street, in front of Starbucks. A family ticket (two adults plus three Children) is €70 01 707 6000 http://vikingsplash.com
Imaginosity, The Plaza, Beacon South Quarter. Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford, Dublin 18. Adults and children’s tickets are €8 each. 01 217 6130 www.imaginosity.ie
Airfield Estate, you can take the Luas from Imaginosity. It’s two stops up and then a five-minute walk to Airflield. 01 969 6666 Family ticket —Entry for two adults and four children costs €36. www.airfield.ie
Dublin Zoo Keep an eye out for the daily keeper talks and Try to time it so you get to see the animals being fed. The lions were especially thrilling. Don’t miss the gorillas, reptile house and the Sea Lion Splash.
— if you have a Fota Park family pass, it’s valid for Dublin zoo too.