Tag Archives: Dublin

Dublin with Kids: From the Dublin Zoo to the Dead Zoo with some unanticipated quantum mechanics

Two must-see attractions for traveling in Dublin with kids are the Dublin Zoo and the so-called “Dead Zoo.” Our order of events was entirely dictated by the forecast which called for perfect park weather on Day 2 and rain on Day 3. Thus we did the live zoo before the dead zoo. We definitely made the right call but if you have a choice, consider reversing these for reasons which will become apparent.

Getting to the Dublin Zoo by public transport from the City Centre involves taking the 46A bus to its terminus at the southeastern edge of Phoenix park and walking for about 15 minutes to the entrance of the zoo. If you don’t have a good map of the park, stick to the road because there’s little signage within the park. Actually, there’s little signage anywhere and we found ourselves following other travelers with short people and hoping for the best.

The Dublin Zoo is shockingly expensive (44.5 euro) to a family from DC where many attractions, including our zoo, are free. But if you couple this activity with the Dead Zoo, which is free, then the hit to your travel budget for two days of fun isn’t too bad.

And it’s a lovely zoo. Is it just me or is the whole thing not laid out in the shape of a giraffe head and neck?

What animal is this?

The highlight for me was getting up close and personal with the tiger prowling in front of the viewing window so closely we could have reached out and touched it.

Tiger, meet your baby

“Baby Bengal, say hello to your ancestor!”

The highlight for the girls was the multitude of playgrounds we encountered in the Zoo and Phoenix Park. (Maybe I should start a Playgrounds of the World with Kids blog since that’s what “adventuring” seems to mean these days. Patience, mama.)

Playground at the Dublin Zoo

Kid magnet in the Dublin Zoo

Phoenix Park itself is gorgeous so do orient yourself and stroll back to the bus stop this way.

Phoenix Park

Just another beautiful Irish pond

Between the bus rides, miles of walking, playground hopping, and bird chasing, this is an all-day affair. One suggestion: Don’t allow yourself to become hostage to the zoo’s greasy lunch offerings, which included the omnipresent chicken nuggets and french fries. Even the “veggie wrap” was a fried potatoey patty smothered in mayonnaise. The less said, the better.

On Day 3 our good weather fortune finally expired. It rained heavily in the morning and we had to go out in it to get to the Museum of Natural History, also known as the Dead Zoo. It’s been dubbed so because of the extensive collection of taxidermy. It boasts quite an impressive collection of stuffed giraffes, elephants, and tigers along with a giant whale skeleton hung from the ceiling. The first floor is dedicated to native Irish fauna with the second floor showcasing mammals from around the world. Upper floors were off limits but, really, how many cases of dead things does one really need to look at in a day? (Answer when it’s pouring rain outside: As many as you can and then some.) Don’t get me wrong, the kids absolutely loved this place but, having gone to the Dublin Zoo the day before, we found ourselves saying, “Hey, we saw a live one of that yesterday,” a lot. The dead ones lost a little of their luster because of it.

Dead Zoo Whale

Dead things at the Dead Zoo

Since it was still raining we headed around the corner to the (also free) archaeology museum. Not so kid-friendly, I enjoyed it for the Viking history exhibit, with miniature model boat and lots of axe heads, swords and spears. Lunch in the cafe was surprisingly upscale food with lots of cold vegetable salads and tarts. Not quite ready to give up we headed to Dublin Castle and walked around outside for awhile. The only way inside was a guided tour and they were booked up for the next few hours. There was a very cool set of sand sculptures in the center that were some kind of paean to Irish science.

William Rowan Hamilton

William Rowan Hamilton

Yes, that Hamilton

Someday I’ll start a Quantum Mechanics Landmarks of the World with Kids blog.

A leisurely stroll back through Temple Bar with a stop off for hot chocolates and coffees.

Hot chocolate

Perfect treat for a rainy day

An attempt to stop in a Spar for provisions for a simple in-room dinner were aborted due to incorrigible behavior by the girls. We ended up getting a pizza from La Pizza (imagine that) and eating in the room. Not our best. day. evar. in Ireland.

Dublin with Kids: What to do on your first interminable day

You’ve just landed in Dublin with two kids after a restless overseas flight on which no one got more than a couple hours of sleep. Bleary-eyed, you catch your Airlink bus into the City Centre, drop your bags at your hotel, and have several hours to kill before you can get into your room. You know you should heed travelers’ advice to stay awake to adjust to the new timezone but nightfall seems so far away. What’s the first thing to do? Find a restaurant that serves all-day breakfast and fuel up. Don’t be deterred by the fact that the place is named for a dish native to Italy, La Pizza serves eggs and beans at any hour! Plus, french fries. Nothing says “vacation” to the little ones like eating fries at 11 am.

Sufficiently sated, you’re still too early to check in so it’s time to wander around the new city. Armed with only the free tourist map from the hotel lobby, because you forgot to pack your daypack for this first adventure, you head for the River Liffey. It looks like all the good stuff is on the other side so you cross and wander in the direction of Trinity College Dublin, home of world class academics and the Book of Kells. Despite having read the children’s book and seen the movie countless times, the kids are not interested in seeing the actual book. Perhaps it’s because you make the mistake of calling its home a “museum.” Or perhaps it’s because waiting in a long line in the hot sun (yes, there are such days in Ireland) to see an old book just isn’t that exciting when you’re 6 or 4. Especially not compared to a huge metallic globe sculpture that spins around.

Arnaldo Pomodoro's Sphere Within Sphere sculpture outside the Berkeley Library

The Big Globe at Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin

Reflections in the Big Globe

This provides a much-longer-than-expected interlude but when the moment is over, it’s over. And when the off-limits grassy quad of TCD tempts the little ones, it’s time to find a proper park. And that is how you end up in St. Stephen’s Green.

The Green is perfect for children because of the duck ponds, flower beds and wide open spaces for frolicking. And then you discover the large playground. You marvel at how quickly little children can make new friends and with what gusto they throw themselves into play. Running, climbing, kicking a soccer ball, experiencing the joy of movement after the confines of an airplane. Jet lag means nothing when it’s time to play! (For them. You’re really feeling it.) The only downside seems to be the lack of water fountains or restrooms. Bring your own drink and be prepared to walk a ways to download it later.

Pond in St. Stephens Green

Pond in St. Stephens Green

Cooling off at St. Stephen's Green

Cooling off at St. Stephen’s Green

Playground at St. Stephens Green

Playground at St. Stephens Green

Cajole your kids into leaving the park with the promise of a snack. Stroll back along touristy Grafton St and stop at a little shop for gelato (more Italian food) and some liquid caffeine for yourself. Take these into the nearby Burger King and studiously avoid acknowledging the signs that say toilets are for patrons only.

At long last, check into your surprisingly spacious Best Western Academy Plaza L-shaped room with one double bed and two singles and smile as the girls squeal over the leopard print sitting chairs. Squeal over the free wifi. Play a few games of Sleeping Queens, play on the iPad for a bit then head off to dinner. Walk all over North Dublin in search of something acceptable to eat, then end up right across the street from your hotel at Toddy’s, the restaurant of the hotel Gresham. Practice patience and compassion as your kids transform before your very eyes into whiny, needy monsters. Be grateful they wake up long enough to nibble a few bites of dinner. Stumble back to the BWAP (they love it when people call it that) and congratulate yourselves on having survived the first day!

You know what to do now.