Derry City - A must see already but is it a family break destination?

Derry City may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of a family break but perhaps it's time for a rethink, suggests Dolan O'Hagan.
Derry City - A must see already but is it a family break destination?

At this stage Derry City's rebirth and growing reputation as a bustling retail, entertainment, cultural and foodie destination has been well recorded ... but should it also be on the radar if you are thinking of a family break?

This writer, his wife and two young children (7 and 3) recently spent two action packed days in the City and are glad to report the concept of boredom never arose - and that was without even considering the obvious distractions of local cineplexes and indoor play parks.

Basing ourselves out of the well appointed four star and reasonably priced City Hotel on Queen's Quay - a location which truly delivers on that liberally used and often abused moniker of 'centrally located' - we set ourselves the goal of finding family friendly activities beyond the obvious.

We were not disappointed.

On day one we settled into our hotel and after a wonderful lunch from the varied and flexible bar menu we set off for a vist to the award winning Tower Museum - set within the City's historic walls - and quite literally 10 minutes from the hotel ... at 3-year-old walking pace.

The museum - with family tickets priced at just £9 - is open from 10am-5:30pm (last admission 4pm) and will certainly not disappoint yound or old.

Permanent and well told exhibitions at the museum include 'The Story of Derry' and 'The Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera'.

The museum also boasts the only open air viewing facility in the heart of the city centre with stunning panoramic views of the city and River Foyle.

Throughout the year the museum also plays host to a range of temporary exhibitions which should be checked out.

We spent one and a half hours at the museum and could have spent more but for an appointment at the Brick Wonders LEGO exhibition in the City's award winning and brilliant Nerve Centre.

Again a family ticket here can be purchased for just £15 and entitles you to full access to the exhibition and as much play and create time as you like afterwards.

Showcasing over 70 LEGO models the exhibition covers not only the seven ancient wonders, but also seven old, modern and natural wonders.

Using LEGO bricks, artist Warren Elsmore creates stunning scenes with easy-to-follow instructions. While many of the original seven ancient wonders have crumbled away, here we see them in their full glory. Brick Wonders also takes a look at new wonders of the world; treasures from the past millennium that remain standing today. The exhibition will run until the start of May this year and includes a quiz that can be taken by kids as they travel through the exhibition.

Holly O'Hagan  points out her name on the lego wall at the Brick Wonders LEGO exhibition in Derry's Nerve Centre

Holly O'Hagan  points out her name on the lego wall at the Brick Wonders LEGO exhibition in Derry's Nerve Centre

With bed time fast approaching on day one we decamped for an early sitting at the City Hotel's award winning Thompson's Restaurant which, besides an excellent and varied menu, has unrivalled views of the City's famous River Foyle.

After an early night for all - and at this point I shoud say it would be nice to have more family friendly hotel rooms in the city in which children could be housed in annexed areas that would allow parents to at least watch TV over a relaxing glass of wine - but alas an early night was needed by all.

After a wonderful breakfast which catered to every taste and childish whim - both the childrens and the adults - we set off for more relaxed culture at the City's newly opened Siege Museum at Society Street.

Sean O'Hagan pictured on his way to the Siege Museum via Derry's iconic Guildhall

Sean O'Hagan pictured on his way to the Siege Museum via Derry's iconic Guildhall

The Siege Museum and Exhibition is a permanent display of the history of the Siege of Derry and of the Associated Clubs of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, including artefacts, video and interactive media. Wile not as family friendly as the Tower museum the visit was compelling for the young and not-so-young alike.

After a lovely lunch in one of the city's many fine city centre cafes we set off for the city's Waterside Theatre - the one and only time we had to call on the car - to see a wonderful adaptation of the Charles Dickens's classic, A Christmas Carol, in the Theatre's 372 seater auditorium.

The Waterside Theatre hosts a range of quality arts and entertainment throughout the year such as drama, dance, comedy, live music and children's theatre and to check out what's on during your stay and to book very reasonably priced tickets (entry to the show was just £1 per person!) contact the Waterside Theatre on (028) 71 314000 or check out their website

To round off the day and burn of some off the sweets which accompanied the adventures of Roo, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore, we stayed on the city's Waterside and travelled the short distance to one of the North's newest and state of the art public leasure centres, the Foyle Arena

The Foyle Arena is located in the beautiful St Columb’s Park (which deserves exploring in its own right) and is a Centre of Excellence for Wall Climbing, Judo and Wrestling. We settled for a swim in the 25m swimming pool and separate children's play pool with the appropriate shower sprays and slides.

All in all the Foyle Arena provided two hours of fun for the princely sum of £6.90!

Two very tired youngsters were then treated to a pizza and ice cream from the Hotel's fine bar menu before decamping to bed where they were soon asleep.

At this juncture a very grateful Mommy and Daddy were relieved for a few hours by a very kind sister and local resident (Thank-you Joan) and walked the two minutes required to enjoy what must be one of the North's finest eating (and cocktail) experiences in 'Browns in The Town' on the City's Strand Road.

However that has nothing to do with a family break and is for another day ... we hope.

So the Bottom line ... Well, to use some local lexicon, it is definitely time to 'catch yourself on hi' and make Derry part of those family break considerations. It has plenty to offer already and shows every sign of having even more in the months and years to come.

For more information check out Tourism NI, Derry City and Strabane District Council and Visit Derry

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