Whether you live locally in Northern Ireland or are visiting this superb part of the UK, here are the Family Travel Pro’s A to Z of things to do with kids in Northern Ireland.
A – Armagh Planetarium – Your little (and not-so-little) astronauts will love this opportunity to learn more about space and the solar system. They have shows on throughout the day, which are suitable for slightly older children.
B – Bangor and Pickie Park – no summer in Northern Ireland is complete without a family trip to Bangor and to the refurbished Pickie Park. Bring your swimming costumes to enjoy the splash pads at Pickie and leave plenty of room for ice cream!
C – Carnfunnock Country Park – a great day out for families in Northern Ireland! Woodlands, gardens and coastline, and throughout the summer months there are tonnes of extra attractions for kids including a maze, bouncy castle and mini golf.
D – Drumawhey Junction – a miniature railway, situated about 10 minutes from Bangor. The railway is open on set days throughout the summer so always check opening times. Great fun for younger kids – and for Peppa Pig fans, just like Grandpa Pig’s ‘miniature locomotive’!
E – Enniskillen and Lough Erne Boat trip – Northern Ireland’s very own ‘lake district’, a trip out to Enniskillen and the Lough Erne area will not disappoint. Take a trip out on the lough, with a company such as Erne Water Taxis.
F – Feed the Ducks at Castle Espie Wetlands Centre – Just outside Comber, Castle Espie is a great day out for all of the family. With ducks to feed, a great café, soft play for younger kids, an outdoor play park and zip line as well as bird watching, you’ll have a great day out here! Pre-book online to save 10% on admission fees.
G – Gruffalo Trail – Oh help, oh no, it’s a Gruffalo! Northern Ireland’s only official Gruffalo trail, this free activity is situated in Colin Glen Forest Park, in West Belfast. It takes around 30 minutes with kids and is a good walk. It’s reasonably buggy-friendly too! Look out for your favourite Gruffalo characters along the way.
H – HMS Caroline – Situated in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast, HMS Caroline is the official Museum of the Royal Navy and the last survivor from the Battle of Jutland. With pirate-themed activities on throughout July and August 2019, this is a great day out for kids this summer in Northern Ireland. Why not continue the nautical theme by combining with a trip to Titanic Belfast, the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction in 2016?
I – The Imaginarium – Situated in Newry City Centre, the Imaginarium is Northern Ireland’s first dedicated arts venue for children and young people. It has an arts café where kids can do art projects, a story telling space and a creative play space. Check out all of their programmes on the Imaginarium website and remember to book during the school holidays!
J – The Jet Centre – We love the Jet Centre in Coleraine! Situated on a large retail park near the North Coast of Northern Ireland, this kids paradise has a cinema, bowling alley, arcade with ticket machines, mini golf and a soft play area. With a very reasonably priced Premier Inn just moments away, this can be a great base to enjoy the Jet Centre and explore everything the north coast has to offer, such as the Giant’s Causeway and towns such as Portrush and Portstewart.
K – Karting – Karting makes a great family day out. There are loads of places to try Karting in Northern Ireland. Why not check out Eddie Irvine Sports, Need4Speed Indoor Karting, or Campsie Karting Centre. This can be a great thing to do with older kids in Northern Ireland.
L – The Lagan Valley LeisurePlex is great for all of your water babies! Although this Lisburn-based leisure centre has a 25m pool, diving pool and various other sporting facilities, the jewel in the crown is the leisure pool which boasts some of the best slides around as well as a lazy river and a great ‘aqualand’ area for children under 8 years old. They also run inflatable challenges in the 25m pool throughout the year. Let’s get splashing!
M – Fermanagh and the lakelands are some of the most beautiful areas of Northern Ireland and are well-worth a visit. Our ‘M’ is for the Marble Arch Caves, which are situated near Florencecourt in Fermanagh, just west of Enniskillen. You’ll be able to visit the network of caves and underground rivers, even taking a boat tour through the network of waterways and underground caverns.
N – National Stadium tour of Windsor Park – for all the football fans out there, you can now take a guided tour of Northern Ireland’s national football stadium, Windsor Park. The Education Centre tells the story of football in Northern Ireland, with artifacts from as far back as 1880. You can then do a full tour of the stadium. Booking is essential.
O – Visit the Owls at World of Owls. Situated in Randlestown Forest, in County Antrim, World of Owls is Northern Ireland’s only owl and birds of prey centre. Kids will love learning about these great birds, as well as reptiles and mini-beasts.
P – Paint-balling! Paint-balling is a great day out for families in Northern Ireland. The Jungle NI, Todds Leap and Eddie Irvine Sports are some of the many facilities to offer this high energy activity.
Q – The Queen’s Film Theatre (or ‘QFT’ as it’s known locally) is in central Belfast, right by Queen’s University. The QFT is an independent cinema which has regular showings of films for younger viewers.
R – Rathlin Island is 6 miles off the coast of Ballycastle. The ferry ride alone is a great activity for kids, but once you’re there you can enjoy puffin spotting and enjoy the upside down lighthouse.
S – Everybody’s going surfing, surfing Northern Ireland! Surfing is a great way to enjoy Northern Ireland’s coastline and there are lots of surf schools to teach younger family members, including in Benone and Portrush.
T – Tayto Castle Factory tour – for anyone unfamiliar with Northern Ireland’s best food products, Tayto is a brand of crisps that is synonymous with Northern Ireland. At ‘Tayto Castle’, near Craigavon, you can tour the crisp factory and find out how all of your favourite flavours are made. Prebooking is required and you must be 5 years old or over to take part.
U – Ulster American Folk Park – The Ulster American Folk Park, near Omagh, tells the story of the emigrants who travelled across the Atlantic to America hundreds of years ago. You can go on board a full scale model of the kind of ship that those making their journey to America would have sailed on and explore over 30 buildings and exhibits at the Folk Park.
V – Victoria Square for shopping, cinema, restaurants and a visit to the dome. Victoria Square is the newer of Belfast’s two main city centre shopping centres and is home to flagship store House of Fraser, lots of high end shops including family-favourites Holister, Build a Bear and H&M. It also has an Odeon cinema and lots of family friendly restaurants such as Nando’s, Wagamama and Pizza Express. You can take the lift all the way to the top of Victoria Square to the ‘Dome‘ for stunning views over Belfast.
W – W5 is an award-winning science and discovery centre in Belfast, just moments from Titanic Belfast. W5 has over 250 interactive exhibits spread over 4 galleries, and is perfect for kids of all ages. It also has a soft play area and regular visiting exhibitions. The ‘discovery zone‘ for kids under 8 years old is very good, with loads of hands on activities, including a play shop, garage and a water play zone. You could easily spend a whole day here!
X – (Please excuse our artistic license here – x was hard!) Our ‘X’ is for ‘Exploris‘ Aquarium, one of our favourite days out in Northern Ireland. Exploris is situated in Portaferry, on Strangford Lough. It is home to a variety of fish, including Nemo and Dory, a delightful family of otters, a crocodile and of course, sharks and rays. The centre also has a seal hospital and we love to read the stories about the ‘naughty seal of the week’ each time we go. Exploris also has a small soft play area and a very good cafe.
Y – ‘Y’ is for ‘Yummy’! Try your hand at fruit picking at one of Northern Ireland’s pick your own fruit farms.
Z – Belfast Zoo is our final thing to do with kids in Northern Ireland. We love to visit the giraffes, elephants and zebras, and enjoy feeding time with the penguins and sea lions. Belfast Zoo has a super playground too. We would advise taking a picnic and for younger children, consider taking a buggy even if you wouldn’t normally – it’s quite hilly and can be challenging for younger kids. Don’t let that put you off though – Belfast Zoo is a brilliant day out for kids in Belfast!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this A-Z guide and if you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave us a comment (especially if you have anything for ‘X’)!
If you’re already thinking about Christmas, check out our guide to the best places to see Santa in Northern Ireland in 2019.