15 kid-friendly festivals and cultural events for all the family this summer

From arts festivals to gigs, dance shows to mini-raves, here’s our round up of cultural events for all ages over the coming months

1. Cruinniú na nÓg

Countrywidwe. Saturday, August 10th

Cruinniú na nÓg, the only event of its kind in the world, really has gone from strength to strength. This year, it has 600-plus free creative events of all sorts for thousands of young people throughout the island, presented by Creative Ireland, collaborating with local authorities and RTÉ. Events range from forest bathing in Castlefreke or celestial mechanics at the Dunsink Observatory, to a recreation of Clones Town in ceramics, hula hooping in Waterford or sensory soap making in Offaly.

Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network hosts circus skills and street spectacle open days in Cloughjordan, Cork, Dublin and Galway (plus online tutorials). For Rhyme Island, Creative Ireland teamed with the Kabin Studio to get people rapping, culminating in massive rap event at Elizabeth Fort, Co Cork (workshops, open mic sessions and performances). TG4 and Cúla4 supported by the Gaeltacht division of the Department of Arts are involved in Our World/Mo Dhomhan projects including sand art. Dig into the vast programme to see what’s in your area and get planning. cruinniu.creativeireland.gov.ie

2. Kidsyard Family Raves

Various dates and venues

Promising an inclusive family experience where parents (grandparents, uncles and aunties) have as much fun as the kids and old ravers relive their youth and dance with their kids. Bodytonic’s family-friendly raves (Dún Laoghaire and Drumcondra, Dublin) include glowstick crafts, bubbles, parachute games, dance tunes (at safe levels) and disco lighting. bodytonicmusic.com

3. Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers

The Ark, Dublin. June 10th-August 26th

The Ark Children’s Cultural Centre in Dublin’s Temple Bar has a great summer programme celebrating animation, built around Cartoon Saloon’s Oscar-nominated Wolfwalkers. Children aged four to 12 and their grown ups can step into a world of hand-drawn animation, glimpse the work involved in creating Wolfwalkers, the magical and beautiful animated Irish film, and learn some of the methods and techniques used by the animators. The free drop-in exhibition features original art, working drawings and backgrounds from the film.


A collaboration between the Butler Gallery and five-time Oscar nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon (both based in Kilkenny), the self-guided experience shares the story of Mebh and Robyn as they adventure into the mysterious world of shape-shifters and wolves, on a quest to find Mebh’s mother and save the last of Ireland’s wild wolves. There are also visual art workshops for schools, inspired by the studio’s award winning animated movies The Secret of Kells, Songs of the Sea and WolfWalkers, and meet an animator events. ark.ie

4. Kaleidoscope

Russborough House, Co Wicklow. June 30th-July 2nd

Billed as a family getaway for all ages and Ireland’s first fully inclusive family event, the music and arts camping festival for families and friends at Russborough House, Co Wicklow, features music and activities for the whole family.

Headliners for the three-day Carnival of Colour are Nile Rodgers and Chic, Gavin James and Bewitched and the line-up also includes Róisín O, the King Kong Company, Cairde, Paper Tides, Bruising Shins Dublin Gospel Choir, Fun Lovin Criminals and Newton Faulkner. There’s also workshops, sports, wellness activities, dancing, quizzes, singing, art, sport, adventure and storytelling. With camping, including campervans, caravans and boutique. kaleidoscopefestival.ie

5. Big music festivals

Various dates and venues

Several of the grown-up outdoor music festivals have big programmes of children’s events and activities. Just some of them are Body & Soul (June 16th-18th, bodyandsoul.ie) arts and music festival at Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath, has a children’s programme and family camping area for “Soul Kids”. Forest Fest (July 21st-23rd, forestfest.ie) music and arts festival in Emo Village, Co Laois, has a children arts and entertainment programme from Port Art Collective.

Night and Day (June 24th-25th, nightandday.ie) in Lough Key Forest Park has family fun, as well as the existing activities of the forest park, from ziplines to kayaking. Beyond the Pale (June 16th-18th, itsbeyondthepale.ie) in Glendalough Estate, Co Wicklow, includes circus and family events. All Together Now (August 4th-6th, alltogethernow.ie) has a big children’s programme plus Kids Together family hangout in the walled garden.

6. Theatre for children

Various dates and venues

It is worth your time seeking out locally. As a taster: Pavilion Theatre Dún Laoghaire has two family shows in July for ages three and up – acrobatics, juggling and slapstick comedy from Australian narrative-driven circus company Splash Test Dummies (July 7th-9th); and Dinosaur World Live (July 4th-6th) exploring a prehistoric world of life-like dinosaurs (including a meet and greet!), paviliontheatre.ie

Hey Duggee (Olympia Theatre, June 15th-18th) is an interactive production with music and puppets, featuring Duggee and the Squirrels and others from the hit CBeebies show, 3olympia.ie.

At Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, summer shows for the family include Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical The King and I (Irish actor Annalene Beechey in the lead) (June 27t-July 1st); musical adaptation of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh (July 28th-30th); Titanic the Musical for ages eight and up (Aug 1st-5th); Shrek the Musical for five and above (August 15th-20th); and Annie (August 22nd-Sept 3rd). bordgaisenergytheatre.ie

7. Carlow Arts Festival

Various venues. Until June 11th

The festival coincides with Cruinniú na nÓg on June 10th and includes samba drumming, costume workshops and performance in its Cruinniú na nÓg Tent programme (June 10th-11th), with the highlight a Carnival of Collective Joy, co-created with local children, parading through the streets of Carlow Town on Saturday afternoon.

Plus, Bombinate Theatre’s show for little ones, Goodnight Egg and Wires, Strings and Other Things, is an interactive performance that explores the art and mystery of how musicians compose and improvise. And, outdoor cinema with a singalong screening of Encanto. carlowartsfestival.ie

8. Cairde Sligo Arts Festival

July 1st-9th

The festival has tons of free and accessible family events including The Lonesome Boatman with clown Juanita, plus a two-day immersive Cairde in the Park (July 1st-2nd), with acrobatics from Síolta Circus, trapeze from Tumble Circus, family yoga, walkabout performers, a giant singalong. cairdefestival.com

9. Arts festivals

Various dates and venues

Many of the multi-arts festivals, big and small have brilliant events for children and families. Check out, for example, Bloomsday Festival (June 12th-18th, bloomsdayfestival.ie) including storytime, workshops, young writers competition and community events. The one-day UCD Festival (June 10th, festival.ucd.ie) with interactive science, creative workshops and family-friendly activities. Galway International Arts Festival (July 17th-30th, Giaf.com) has Branar’s inventive You’ll See, described as Ulysses for children (aged eight and up), with the anarchic Helen Gregg; a street spectacle Dragon parade; and the return of Silent Disco walking tours.

Cork Midsummer Festival (June 14th-25th, corkmidsummer.com) has family friendly events including a Midsummer Parade, Island of Foam and a Fidget Feet aerial dance show. Plus, Clonmel Junction (July 1st-9th, junctionfestival.com), Galway Folk Festival (June 13th-18th, galwayfolkfestival.ie), West Cork Literary Festival (July 7th-14th, westcorkmusic.ie). Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival (August 4th-12th, birrvintageweek.com).

10. National Steam Rally

Stradbally, Co Laois. August 6th-7th

A good family outing for the August bank holiday weekend and for more than just Thomas the Tank Engine fans. Celebrating the country’s rich, often overlooked, steam heritage for nearly 60 years, Ireland’s premier steam and vintage festival on the grounds of Stradbally Hall, Co Laois, is organised by the Irish Steam Preservation Society. More than 70 full-size and miniature steam engines are either on display or working.

Steam trains will run on the Stradbally Woodland Railway in the forest. A parade of steam engines from one end of Stradbally village to the rally grounds on Saturday evening. There’s also a carnival, bouncing castle, kids’ area, pet farm, dog show, blacksmith’s village, trade stalls, vintage cars, tractor display, steam-powered saw bench demonstration and live music. Engines this year are powered by a biofuel coal alternative. irishsteam.net

11. Waterford Festivals

Various dates and venues

The city has a run of free festivals with lots of family appeal. Spraoi International Street Arts Festival (August 4th-6th) street party hosts 200 shows of local, national and international artists and musicians performing street theatre, music, contemporary circus, comedy and spectacle, plus a festival parade and fireworks spraoi.com. SprÓg Children’s Festival is a sort of “pre-Spraoi” (July 29th-August 3rd) week of arts and science experiences at Garter Lane Arts Centre, with WIT Calmast, garterlane.ie.

A week later, Waterford Walls (August 11th-20th) hosts artists from all over the world creating large-scale spectacular murals around the city and county, with activities including live art, workshops, walking tours and music, wallsproject.ie. And, if you’re in Waterford/east Cork this weekend (until June 5th), the last few days of the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival has free (booking required) open-air lunchtime recitals for all ages, in Youghal today and Fermoy tomorrow, featuring members of the festival chorus, with children welcome to run free and dance to the music. blackwatervalleyopera.ie

12. National Concert Hall

Various dates

The NCH has an eclectic range of family events over the summer. For the very young, Bring Along a Baby (June 27th) is an informal, accessible chamber music recital for parents and babies or very young children, who can sleep, feed and play on mats and with soft toys to encourage interaction with the music.

At Junior Songschool (July 10th-14th), eight to 12-year-olds learn about writing, performing and recording songs, while Songschool (July 17th-21st) is for secondary school students interested in writing and recording songs, performing, making a video, using music technology.

For Cruinniú na nÓg (June 10th), there’s The Wild Turkeys interactive family concert of Irish traditional music. The film of Superman (June 16th-17th) has National Symphony Orchestra’s live accompaniment of John Williams’ triumphant score. The NSO’s Music of Harry Potter (June 30th). Ulster Youth Orchestra 30th Anniversary (August 10th). Musical Picnic with The Summer String Quartet (August 12th), an interactive concert and meet the musicians in an indoor picnic. NCH.ie

13. Dublinia

30th anniversary celebration. Various dates

At the heart of Viking and medieval Dublin, Dublinia celebrates its 30th birthday with several events. In June, discover how birthdays, weddings and other special occasions were celebrated in Medieval times. Join an interactive family tour in July on Family Saturdays – try a Viking costume, sword or shield, visit a medieval fair and take a flying visit over the medieval city in an audiovisual show. In August, play Viking and medieval children’s games. www.dublinia.ie

14. Hek Hek Hoo

Wilton Park, Dublin 2. Sat and Sun in June, noon-4pm

a short film, free in the open air at Living Canvas at Wilton Park, Dublin 2 (Saturdays and Sundays in June, noon-4pm). A month-long workshop collaboration between RHA Kids (art-in-education) 3rd class pupils and artist Julie Weber resulted in a short film about the transformative potential of the everyday and its wildness and playfulness. On exhibition at Living Canvas, IPUT Real Estate’s energy-efficient screen on the banks of the Grand Canal. rhagallery.ie

15. Family concert

Killruddery House, Co Wicklow. June 10th

This concert by Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective founding members Tom Poster (piano) and Elena Urioste (violin) presents a fun and eclectic family programme, drawn from their Jukebox days when they recorded one music video every day they spent in Covid isolation. Being held as part of Cruinniú and the Dublin International Chamber Music Festival (free, booking required). dicmf.com