Two summers ago, we took our most ambitious trip yet:  Ireland.  To be honest, Ireland was not on my list of top places to go, but some friends of ours had recently returned and said it was their best family vacation yet.  I was intrigued, looked into it a bit and realized how perfect a trip to Ireland would be for our kids (then ages 10, 8 & 5).  We first considered spending a week in London and a week in Dublin, but decided to spend the full two weeks in Ireland and really see the country.  I had a friend, who I worked with at Hotwire (way back when), who took a month-long trip to Ireland every summer.  It always baffled me why she didn’t want to explore other countries, but she assured me that there was so much to see in Ireland that she never felt she was repeating the same trip.  The more research I did, I learned that many people return to Ireland over and over again because they just can’t get enough.  I didn’t fully understand that logic until we returned.  Even spending two weeks in Ireland and covering a lot of the country, there was so much we didn’t get to.  Ireland is definitely on my list of places to return!

There was only one direct flight a day from San Francisco to Dublin and we were on it!  Our Aer Lingus flight left around 5pm which was great because the kids had a few hours to watch a movie and have a meal and then they fell asleep.  They woke up shortly before we landed at 11am and then we had the whole day in front of us.

Departing SFO.

We booked a room at the Fitzwilliam Hotel which is in the heart of Dublin overlooking St. Stephen’s Green.  One thing I appreciated about the hotels in Ireland is that they are very accommodating to families, offering “Family Rooms” with enough beds to sleep our family of five.  Granted, some of the rooms we stayed in had awkward layouts, but that just added to the charm of being in Ireland and staying in buildings that were often hundreds of years old.

Our plan for our first day in Ireland was mostly to power through our jet lag and stay awake through dinner.  The first thing we did was walk over to Trinity College where the Book of Kells is housed.  We didn’t stand in line to view the Book of Kells, but we explored the college and appreciated the architecture.  We even came upon a cricket match and the kids were mesmerized, especially Jack who diligently tried to figure out the rules as the game went on.

After walking around the campus for a bit, we decided what they really needed was to run around and play so we headed to St. Stephen’s Green and found a playground where they ran wild.  There was a lake and paved trails, but what our kids loved most was climbing & swinging.

I’m happy to say that we all made it through that first day.  We did more walking around and ate lunch at a pub somewhere, but I think I was too tired to take pictures or remember any details.  We were so exhausted that night we ended up eating dinner at the restaurant at the Fitzwilliam which was not half bad!

The next morning we decided we had to take the Guinness Storehouse tour.  I have never been a fan of Guinness, but decided that when in Ireland….  And if nothing else, I knew it would be an interesting tour.  Yes, kids are welcome and ours were not the only ones there.  The Storehouse is situated in the original brewery which first opened in 1876.  We learned all about Guinness’s 250 year history and what goes into making Guinness – the ingredients, the process, the pulling, and finally the drinking.  We all enjoyed the tour and I even enjoyed the beer!  The Irish have a passion for Guinness and after taking the tour it’s easy to see why.

Learning how Guinness is made…

Learning all about the history of Guinness advertising.  I mean, super kid-friendly, right?

The grand finale of the tour is sipping a complementary pint (sodas for the kids) in the Gravity Bar at the top of the Storehouse.  There is a 360 degree view of Dublin and even on this cloudy day we had impressive views.

We still had a 4-hour drive to Cork ahead of us that afternoon, but before we got in the car, we decided to let the kids run around for a bit.  We headed over to the Dublin Zoo in Phoenix Park.  It was a really nice zoo and not crowded at all.  We quickly made our way through the park stopping to watch a Sea Lion show.  The zoo was a little bit out-of-the-way and there really wasn’t anything unique about it that struck me, but if you need a place to let kids blow off some steam after going on a beer tour and before going on a long car ride then it’s a good choice!

When I planned the trip, Dublin was just a rest stop before making our way into the open countryside where the kids could run around and visit castles.  In hindsight, I think one night in Dublin was just not enough.  Our time felt very rushed and I would have liked to take either an organized bus or walking tour of the city so we could have learned a little more about Dublin.  But I think no matter how long we spent at each stop, we would have felt like we needed more time.  That’s the beauty of Ireland and I guess why it keeps drawing people back!

Next Up:  County Cork: Kinsale & Blarney Castle