Traveling with kids is easy — said no parent ever. Even the most well behaved children can become (understandably) cranky when subject to the trials and tribulations of airlines, jetlag and unfamiliar cultures and cuisine. Disney has always been a foolproof family vacation option — guaranteed to bring joy to any child’s face. But how many times can you return to the same theme park? What if you could get a comprehensive Disney experience anywhere you might want to travel, from China to Peru?
Since 2005, Adventures by Disney has been bringing the “Happiest Place on Earth” to destinations around the globe, thoughtfully planning vacations so that the whole family can relax and have a great time. Disney’s adventure guides are now leading trips to 36 destinations on six continents, ranging from a long weekend in Nashville to 10 days in Egypt.
A trip to Ireland led by patient and enthusiastic Disney tour guides is a great way for families to explore the Emerald Isle. No children younger than six are allowed, so you don’t have to worry about screaming toddlers, and at several different points “junior adventurers” are chaperoned on separate activities, like shamrock hunting at the Rock of Cashel, to give parents some time to themselves.
During your time in Dublin, you’ll cover musts like the Guinness Storehouse and Book of Kells. An amphibious tour of the city with Viking Splash cruises by historical must-sees like St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin Castle, along with modern public art and Google’s and Facebook’s European headquarters. After visiting the Jeanie Johnston tall ship, one of the “coffin ships” that brought Irish immigrants across the Atlantic during the potato famine, you’ll never complain about airplane bathrooms and lack of legroom again.
There’s plenty of time on your own worked into the itinerary, so you can rest and explore. Shop at Avoca, Ireland’s oldest weaving mill founded in 1723, for mohair, cashmere and lambs wool throws, along with home furnishings, fashion and accessories. Chocoholics will love Cocoa Atelier, and Temple Bar right across from The Westin Dublin has a great nightlife scene. Cross the Ha’penny Bridge and enjoy lamb sweetbreads, Irish beef cheek burgers and panko-crusted sweet potato wedges at The Woollen Mills, one of Dublin’s newer restaurants.
There’s a lot of rain in Ireland, but it’s often just a light drizzle that gives you no bother so long as you’re dressed appropriately. It’s all the rain that nourishes the vibrant green grass and incredible bouquets perched on windowsills, with every flower in full bloom. The hydrangeas outside Killarney Park Hotel are particularly luscious. Even a cold and rainy bike ride through Killarney National Park is totally worth it when you arrive at Torc Waterfall and the sun begins to peek through the forest, revealing more shades of green than you ever knew existed. Kids will be enchanted as they imagine faeries and leprechauns hiding around the bend. Tour the Muckross House to take a break from the rain and imagine what life was like in a 19th century Victorian mansion. Queen Victoria visited for just one night and bankrupted the family, who spent years preparing for her visit.
Back in town, stop by Murphy’s Ice Cream on Main Street for the best artisanal ice cream in Ireland. Dingle sea salt is the top-seller; and for grown-up taste buds, the Irish coffee pairs well with butterscotch, or try a scoop of gin ice cream with blackcurrant sorbet. If your little travellers aren’t afraid of the dark, take a ghost tour in the evening around Muckross Abbey, where you’ll learn spooky history and search for ghostly orbs in your photos.
Ireland has thousands of castles — more than England, Scotland and Wales combined. One of the grandest and most lavish is Dromoland Castle. A bounding pack of foxhounds leads arriving guests up the drive, where the staff is lined up outside the majestic castle to greet you (it’s almost like stepping onto the set of Downton Abbey).
Explore the castle grounds, where you can enjoy archery, falconry, clay shooting, fishing and horseback riding. For a more relaxing day, a stroll through the resplendent walled gardens or around the lake to the lily pond followed by a soothing spa treatment is just the ticket. Try the Royal Dromoland signature facial, using VOYA’s organic Irish seaweed products to give your skin an ethereal glow.
A meal at Earl of Thomond restaurant is not to be missed. It’s worth getting up early for the breakfast buffet and made-to-order brioche French toast. A tasting menu dinner might include Irish beef filet topped with glistening seared foie gras, tangy St Tola ash rind goat cheese and the silkiest dark chocolate truffle mignardise.
The dramatic Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most-visited natural attraction. Kids will recognize the jagged ridges from both “Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince” and “The Princess Bride.”
The balance of history, nature, art and entertainment in Ireland make it a perfect destination for families. Disney can help you have magical trip for all ages (even the adults will feel like kids again). And don’t forget to kiss the Blarney Stone on your way to County Clare!
More from Make It Better: