Our maritime haven is bursting with outdoor fun for kids of all ages, offering no end of opportunity to breathe in the pure air of the Atlantic and revel in our natural wonders….
WHALE HELLO THERE!
Take a whale watching trip and marvel at the enormity of a blue whale as it comes to the surface to breathe - the dramatic exhale spray of these beautiful animals is a once-in-a-lifetime moment that will never be forgotten by adults or children. If your boat has listening equipment you can eavesdrop on the mesmerizingly complex conversations between these beautiful beasts. It just goes to show…. it’s not just the humans of Cork that love a chat. You'll find a list of Whale Watching expeditions and other fun on the water here
If you prefer terra firma then there are a number of superb open farms such as Grenagh Farm near Mallow, Rumley’s to the west of the city and Leahy’s near Midelton where kids can get up really close to Ireland’s native animals and a few visitors from abroad who have taken up residency too. Help feed the goats, pet a rabbit, ride a donkey and get up close with ostriches, buffaloes, llamas, chickens, peacocks, parrots and lots more.
Cork kids love animals and nature so it won’t come as a surprise that Cork’s most popular attraction is Fota Wildlife Park near Midleton and Cobh – a short drive east from the city. With a giant 70 acres of parklands there’s so much space for its residents to roam – lions, tigers, rhinos, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes can be seen up close and don’t miss feeding time at Monkey Island and the penguins’ pool.
Cork is also home to a unique donkey sanctuary in Lisscarroll, near Mallow in north Cork. As well as a fun day out for the kids, a visit will also help with the long term care for these highly sociable, friendly donkeys.
For a combination of indoor and outdoor fun discover the secrets of the universe at the Blackrock Castle Observatory. For hundreds of years this beautiful, ancient castle has been keeping a close eye on maritime traffic traveling up and down to the city. These days it trains its eye on planets travelling around the sun and distant, sparkling galaxies. This is a superb attraction for kids culminating in a climb up the old stairwell to the telescope on the roof to see what lies out there in what locals like to call ‘Not Cork’.
Most towns, villages and city suburbs have well maintained playgrounds with fun for everyone from tots to tweens. There’s also a very popular maritime-themed playground at Fitzgerald Park close to the city centre. In general public playgrounds open at 8.30am and closing time depends on sunset – in June and July that means parks stay open until 10pm as it is still bright - perfect for burning off any excess energy to guarantee a good night’s sleep for mum and dad!
Everyone will love the St. Patrick’s Day parades that take place in every Cork town and the city centre on March 17th. Cork also has lots of family friendly festivals with dedicated events for children – some of the highlights are Youghal’s Moby Dick Festival in June which has features a great funfair in the town centre. In July there are two endless days of hilarious, short shows at The Laya Healthcare World Street Performance Championships in Fitzgerald’s Park featuring some of the best street acts from around the world.
The Cork Puppetry Festival also attracts huge crowds in August and Clonakilty’s spectacular South of Ireland Band Championships sees huge brass bands draw thousands of families on to the streets.
Finally, the mysterious Dragon of Shandon makes just one trip out of his lair every year on Halloween night and thousands of Corkonians and visitors to the city come out on to the streets to see the spectacle. The Dragon is followed by a huge, colourful parade of zombies, scary skeletons, frightening floats, crazy clowns and gastly ghosts who despite their frightening appearance seem to be having a suspicious amount of fun - all culminating in a spine tingling fire show on Cornmarket Street.