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March 27, 2013

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Ideal Family City Breaks

by Julianne Mooney
Photo Credit: Amsterdam Tourism

Photo Credit: Amsterdam Tourism

I remember being around 5 years old, standing on a roadside, beside a car, changing out of my pyjamas, while looking up at the skyscrapers of New York. Dad had driven us from Cape Cod in the early hours of the morning and I’d awoken to the sounds and smells of a city bigger than I could ever have imagined. I had never known buildings could be so tall or cars so yellow.We must have looked strange, five pyjama-clad children, pulling clothes over pyjama tops, our mother trying to shield us from the questioning eyes of passer-bys.

That night we went to a restaurant with green leather seats, glasses of coke the size of my head and pizza with the stringiest cheese I’d ever seen.

These are my memories from a months holiday in America. I don’t remember the beach or the friends we made, I remember the day we spent in what I thought to be the biggest, loudest city in the world.

Family holidays don’t have to be confined to sandy beach resorts or forest campsites, in fact, sometimes three days in a city discovering museums, fun restaurants and chaotic theme parks is just the tonic needed to ensure a fun-filled family break. Of course, the cities should be chosen wisely. If you’re only going for 2-3 days, flights need to be short and accommodation should be child-friendly and close to affordable family activities.

There’s something magical about visiting a city different to our own. It’s exhilarating, a journey of discovery and something enjoyed by young and old. This morning, Thursday 28 March, on Ireland AM at 9.10am, I discussed some great city breaks for families. All information from the slot is below.

PARIS, FRANCE

Photo Credit: Paris Tourism

Photo Credit: Paris Tourism

Paris is not just for romantic couples or cultural buffs, in fact, with so many families living in and around Paris, it’s a great place for families to visit. The most obvious attraction is Disneyland, where children and adults are whisked off to a fantastical land of princesses, cartoon characters, pirates and fairytales. You can step off the plane in Charles de Gaulle or Orly, jump aboard a bus and be in this magical land within 45 minutes.

However, it’s not just Disneyland that families flock to in their droves and below are just a few family attractions not to be missed.

Bois de Boulogne is located in the west of Paris and a great place for families to while away an afternoon in the sunshine. Hire bicycles and cycle the woodland trails, go horse-riding, take a pedalo out onto the lakes, go fishing or simply let the children run about one of the playgrounds.

Photo Credits: Paris Tourism Thoiry Wildlife Park – set on 150 hectares, on the grounds of a 16th century chateau, Thoiry, was Europe’s first wildlife park. Here, you can do a safari drive in your own car or on a tour bus and spot some of the 800 animals that roam freely through the park. Explore by foot, from a glass tunnel, the lions den or picnic in the botanical gardens.  The zoo is located 35 miles outside Paris.

Asterix Theme Park – located 40 mins from Paris, is the exciting Asterix Park. Filled with water-slides, Viking boat rides, rollercoaster’s and other fun attractions, families could easily pass a full day in the park. Shuttle buses run from Paris city centre to the park.

Cite des Sciences, located in Parc De Villette, in the north-east of Paris is a fantastic museum with a dedicated children’s area, where children are introduced to science and technology through interactive exhibitions and activities. There are activities for children as young as 2 years old, fun exhibitions and a cinema.

Photo Credit: Paris Tourism

Photo Credit: Paris Tourism

During the summer, the banks of the Seine are converted into man-made beaches. Take the kids down with buckets and spades, build sand castles and picnic by the river, in the shadows of some of Paris’s most beautiful buildings.

Take a boat trip down the Seine, a fun way for children to explore the city and see some of the major sites.

 

 

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

Photo Credit: Iamsterdam

Photo Credit: Iamsterdam

Flat roads, 400kms cycle lanes, parks, canals and stunning architecture, lure tourists from all over the world to Amsterdam. However, it’s exactly these things that make the city such a great spot for families. Children can jump on bicycles and explore the city or take pedaloes along the canals through the city and brush shoulders with the stars in Madame Tussauds. Some other things not to miss:

With flat roads and a multitude of bike trails and paths (over 400kms), cycling around Amsterdam is the perfect way to get around the city. Alternatively, hire a boat or even a pedalo and explore the canals of the city. Boat tours are available for those not wanting to sail on their own. In August, the Canal Festival puts on magical performances on and around the canals.

  • Visit the Artis Royal Zoo, surrounded by beautiful gardens, it houses over 800 species of animals, has an aquarium and a planetarium.
  • Children will love seeing their idols in Madame Tussauds and after, may feel brave enough to descend into the Amsterdam Dungeons (combined ticket from €25 child).
  • Nemo Science Centre, situated at the old Amsterdam harbour, brings science and technology alive through interactive games and exhibitions for children. Children can play computer games or even help out constructing a robotic installation.
  • This year marks the 400th anniversary of the canals in Amsterdam and there will be celebrations on the canals throughout the summer.

Getting There Direct to Amsterdam from €50 one way

Hotel Accommodation from €80 per room per night or check out www.staycity.com 

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