Leprechaun lore, cheerful locals, delicious cheeses, beautiful scenery and delightful music … Ireland pretty much has it all when it comes to family travel. Besides the quick hop across the pond, it’s easy when most everyone speaks English and there are plenty of different ways to see the best of city and country (no matter if it’s in honor of Saint Patrick or not!).
Who says you have to skimp on luxury because you’re with kids? At the 5-star Merrion Hotel in Dublin, you can have it all, with a variety of kid-friendly accommodation types (there’s also an in-house bar should you want to bring the teens or college kids for a pint of Guinness). Then your itinerary can include a jaunt to Ashford Castle, formerly owned by the Guinness family. The 13th-century property turned 5-star luxury hotel wakes guests up on St. Patrick’s Day with a bagpiper playing tunes on the lawn. Kid-friendly activities include falconry lessons, an indoor pool, tennis, bicycling, billiards and meetings with the hotel’s iconic Irish Wolfhounds. There’s even horseback riding, archery, tree-climbing and a zipline. One child under 12 years old can even stay in a deluxe room with parents for free, including breakfast. Like in years past, the castle may even be lit up all in green for the holiday.
Step back in time at Ballyfin Demesne in central Ireland in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, where there’s a costume night for grand dinners — the costume closet includes myriad glittery options for the little ones should they opt for a tiara or even velvet cape. There’s plenty of outdoor fun, too, at the lavish Regency mansion, with hiking, horseback riding, canoeing and even target shooting lessons, or just chill at the indoor heated pool. The on-site farm offers hands-on tours and lessons with botanists for the produce and fruits used in the Ballyfin kitchen.
Fota Island Resort, on a private island in Cork, features two-, three- and four-bedroom Fushia lodges with their own kitchens. There’s a large garden for kids to play, an outdoor playground, indoor pool and kids playroom. Want to have some couple time? Sign up the little ones for the kids camps for ages 4–12, an adrenaline center for ages 8 and older featuring kayaking, crafts and more. There’s even a kids buffet and supervised movie nights so Mom and Dad can have date night.
Northern Ireland’s hotel of the year in 2017, Lough Erne Resort overlooks two golf courses and lower Lough Erne lake. The conical lodges are a particular delight, and there’s both upscale and tasty pub grub. The indoor pool is great for families, and there’s also a play room (unsupervised), with table football, air hockey and more. Lough Navar Forest Park and Marble Arch Caves are nearby, as well as Corralea activity center, with fun water trampolines.
Family run for five generations, it takes one to know one at Kelly’s Resort Hotel & Spa. Kids clubs (dress up, arts and crafts, sports, etc.), a five-mile stretch of sandy beach and free babysitting in evenings all add up to a great value, along with a buffet offering child-friendly favorites. Babysitting for a nominal fee is available all day.
The Cliffs of Moher, castles and stunning coasts all beckon in Western Ireland, where the magic of Dromoland Castle also lures in families. Not far from Shannon Airport and close to all the action, Dromoland has a kids club during school breaks and peak travel times, with cookies and milk at night. Babysitting is available at night if Mom and Dad want an upscale dining experience, and there’s archery, boating, jaunting car tours, falconry and more historic fun at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.
If your family travel brings you to the greater New York City region, opt for a taste of nostalgia (or the grown-ups and fun and imagination for the kids at American Dream’s Nickelodeon Universe. Since I don’t have children, I recruited my best friend and her 6-year-old twins, Declan and Delaney, to help me check out the Nickelodeon-themed theme park and all the ways it brings to life favorite characters from cartoons both past and present, like Rugrats!, which I watched as a child, and Spongebob Square Pants, which is more Declan’s speed.
Embark on a family journey through The Last Frontier with Celebrity Cruises® and experience an unforgettable luxury vacation in the untouched natural beauty of Alaska. The breathtaking landscape of this pristine wilderness sets the stage for every memorable moment from up-close, awe-inspiring views of glaciers to observing native wildlife, including whales, bears, bald eagles, and moose. This corner of the world offers not only spectacular scenery, but also opportunities to learn about the history and culture of Alaska — from the native people who’ve lived here for centuries to the adventurers seeking their fortunes during the gold rush. No matter which sailing you choose, you’ll journey through the ever-popular Inside Passage — one of the most popular experiences on any Alaska vacation — and visit Hubbard Glacier or Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier.
Blue Mountain Resort, located in the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains, offers plenty of activities for family travel. This past weekend, Blue Mountain Bike Park officially opened for summer. The park offers Pennsylvania’s highest vertical and largest bike park where all mountain bikers, from beginners to experts, can navigate 29 thrilling bike trails.
Family travelers, there’s a new attraction coming to Saudi Arabia, as it prepares to welcome the country’s first and the region’s largest water theme park, currently under development at Qiddiya, the future Capital of Entertainment, Sports and Culture. Qiddiya will sit outside the capital of Riyadh. Falcon’s Creative Group is behind the park’s master plan.
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The island of Lanzarote, in Spain’s Canary Islands, endured a series of devastating volcanic eruptions in the mid-1700s. More than half the island was covered in several feet of molten lava and ash before hardening into impenetrable stone. Vast areas of this stone still cover Lanzarote in an otherworldly landscape of solidified lava. But all Lanzarote’s volcanoes are not dead, and the most active of them is a good place to begin your family travel on Lanzarote.