Holiday survival guide: Is it beginning to look a lot like cabin fever?

Things to do with the children before they go back to school

The tree is drooping, the turkey is a bare carcass and there’s only a couple of hard toffees left at the bottom of the Roses tin; Christmas Day already seems ages ago, yet it’s another week before the children go back to school.

If you’re lucky, Santa’s toys are at least still intact – if perhaps a little played-out. But is the family lounging around within your own four walls beginning to look a lot like cabin fever?

It’s time to get out and about and make the most of the children’s freedom before they return to their classrooms on January 6th. Here are some ideas for outings to mark the end of the holidays, in a selected guide to events and places to go.

New Year’s Festival

The New Year's Festival is a three-day affair in Dublin, from December 30th to January 1st. A family highlight is the Procession of Light on the 31st, assembling at St Stephen's Green at 6.30pm, at which there will also be an attempt to break the record for the world's largest bodhrán session (register on website to get involved). There will be storytelling and art workshops for children (aged six to 12) with Paul Timoney at Smock Alley as part of the Resolution Day activities on January 1st (tickets €10).


However, there are other free events to enjoy including “Luminosity” – 3D projections of Irish legends onto the facade of Iveagh House, St Stephen’s Green, each evening from 5pm until midnight and the Spoken Word festival at various venues. See

Running free

There will be New Year’s Day fun runs all over the country to kick-start those resolutions and many are in a good cause. For example, it will be the third year of the Caragh 5km and 10km run in Co Kildare, in aid of Temple Street Children’s Hospital. See

The Allianz Resolution Run is a 5km road-race through Galway city on January 1st; there’s a new 6km January Jog on January 3rd in Thurles, Co Tipperary, in aid of the Suir Haven Cancer Support Centre and, on the same day, in the grounds of Kilcornan, Clarinbridge, Co Galway, there is a 10km aimed at runners, joggers and walkers of all levels. Details of all three are online. See

Give it some wellie

In the Co Kilkenny village of Castlecomer, they like to do the New Year’s Day run in their wellies. First held in 1981, the Wellie Race is now a huge fundraiser for charity and attracts a fleet of colourful floats, with plenty of family entertainment. See

Up the walls

If you’re climbing the walls at home, take the children out to scale the heights at an indoor climbing centre. Awesome Walls in Finglas, Dublin, and on the Model Farm Road in Cork (both closed January 1st) run Family Taster sessions. Gravity Climbing in Dublin’s Goldenbridge Industrial Estate (closed January 1st) does a 90-minute family introductory session; call 01 7078585 to reserve a slot. At The Wall in Sandyford, Dublin, children should be booked in (closed January 1st).

Play at Height Climbing Centre in Dingle, Co Kerry, is open daily, 11am-4pm, until January 4th, where there’s also Splatmaster Paintball, suitable for ages over nine. See;;;

Bounce away

An indoor trampoline park is another good place that’s not weather dependent for letting off steam and burning up calories. Check out Jump Zone’s new Sandyford premises in Dublin, due to open at 71-73 Heather Road this week; also across the city in Santry. Bounce Zone does the business in Cork, open daily noon-5pm but closed December 30th and 31st, and there’s Jump Lanes in Limerick and Derry. See;

Wild goose chase

Almost 12,000 geese, mostly Greenland White-Fronted geese but also Brent geese, spend the winter in the north and south slobs of Wexford. Learn all about them in the visitor centre at the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve (open daily, 9am-5pm), 3km north of the town, before viewing them in the flesh from the observation tower or hides.

There are also swans, ducks and waders, among others, to look out for. Dress for the weather and if you don’t have a pair of binoculars, you may be able to borrow a pair at the centre. Admission free. See

Watch the birdie

On the other side of the country, beginners and young birdwatchers are very welcome on a short outing organised by the Galway branch of BirdWatch Ireland for January 2nd at 10.30am, meeting at Claddagh slipway on Nimmo’s Pier. Contact or tel. 087 237 8051.

Dig it...

At "Family First Saturday" on January 2nd in Dublinia, hear how archaeologists work and then have a go at finding artefacts and treasures in a dig session. This entertaining, educational slice of Viking and medieval Dublin is open daily 10am-5.30pm. See

What ’s in the stars?

Children can send a message to space and enjoy a planetarium show, as well as gunnery and turret tours, at the Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork. Open daily 11am-5pm (closed until 1.30pm today and January 1st).

Meanwhile, the Armagh Planetarium reopens today and runs its holiday programme of family shows 10am-5pm until January 2nd (closed January 1st). The shows vary in length and some are restricted to children over six. Pre-booking is essential for all shows. To reserve tickets call 048 37 523 689 (use prefix 028 if ringing from the North). See;

Winter Funderland

The swings and rollercoasters of Funderland (noon-10pm) that we parents grew up with are now combined with Fossett’s Circus (up to four shows daily) and iSkate-on-Ice (10am-8pm) at the RDS complex in Dublin – take your pick, until January 10th. See

Ice work

It’s the one time of year when many families have a temporary ice rink somewhere near them, so get your skates on before they melt away (after January 10th at most, but earlier at some). Options include: Blanchardstown, Dublin and Mahon Point, Cork (; the “on ice” rinks in Dundrum and Swords in Dublin, Galway city, Dundalk, Waterford and Limerick; the Magic Wonderland in the City West Arena ( and Malahide on Ice at the Christmas Kingdom in Co Dublin (

Meanwhile, Belfast’s SSE Arena is the only place on the island you can watch professional ice hockey; the Belfast Giants play there tonight, tomorrow night and January 2nd; all matches start at 7pm.

The deep, dark woods...

If you are reading Julia Donaldson’s

The Gruffalo for the umpteenth time in your house, consider a trip to the Gruffalo Trail at the Colin Glen Forest in Dunmurry, Belfast. The story's characters have been recreated there by sculptor Andrew McIntyre. Admission free. See

It’s cold outside...

Meet some of the old and new furry favourites at the Discovery Zone

at the Natural History Museum on Kildare Street, Dublin, on December 30th, 11am-1pm. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday 2pm-5pm and closed Jan 1st and Jan 4th. Admission free. See

Knot again!

Take a closer look at the Ardagh Chalice in a free family workshop at the National Museum, Kildare Street, Dublin, on December 30th, 2-3pm. No booking is required but limited places allocated on a first come, first served basis. See

Paper art

The Little Museum of Dublin, 15 St Stephen's Green, is hosting one-hour workshops entitled "Origami Lessons for Families" on January 2nd and 3rd at 11am and 12.30pm. They coincide with the last days of its exhibition Coming Home: The Open Mind of Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. Dublin-born Hearn's ghost stories and folk tales are best known in Japan. Register for the event online. See

Rising matters

With the centenary year of the 1916 Rising almost upon us, a visit to the Pearse Museum and St Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin, where Pádraig Pearse lived and ran his innovative Irish-speaking school, would be educational and appropriate. Open daily 9.30am-4pm, admission free. See

Curtain call

There's still time to catch a pantomime before the curtains fall for another year. Dublin's Gaiety Theatre ( is staging Little Red Riding Hood and it's Freezin' at the Olympia (, both until January 10th.

Keith Duffy is the baddie in Jack and the Beanstalk at University Concert Hall (, Limerick, until January 4th.

Jack's beanstalk is also sprouting at The Helix ( on the DCU campus until January 17th and at Galway's Town Hall Theatre from tonight until January 10th. (If you live in Kilkenny, you will have to wait until January 9th-16th to catch Jack at the Watergate Theatre).

May McFetteridge is in her 26th year of panto in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Belfast's Grand Opera House (, while Aladdin is at Cork's Everyman, both until January 10th. Beauty and the Beast can be seen at the Leeside Opera House ( right up to January 16th. Meanwhile, Stinky McRinky is back in the Mill Theatre, Dundrum ( for lunchtime shows three days this week (December 29th-31st).

Musical chairs

The multi-award winning, feel-good musical Mary Poppins at Dublin's Bord Gáis Energy Theatre ( continues until January 9th.

Meanwhile, it could be returns only at this stage, but you never know your luck, for Oliver the Musical at the National Concert Hall in Dublin (, which continues today and tomorrow and resumes January 2nd and 3rd, with shows at 2pm and 6pm each day.

In Sligo, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat runs at the Hawk's Well Theatre (, January 5th-9th.

A curious crib

The Moving Crib at 42 Parnell Square West is a true Dublin curiosity, dating from the 1950s, and a visit here to see the animatronic figures is a ritual for many a family before it is all packed away after January 10th (Monday-Friday, 2pm-6pm; Saturday-Sunday, 11.30am-6pm). The nativity forms only a part of the 14 tableaux scenes, which begin with the story of Adam and Eve. Admission free. See

Trappings of fame

Watched the film? Now see the suit. A seasonal display at the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware in Co Kildare includes the original Santa suit in Miracle on 34th Street, along with costumes and artefacts last seen on stars such as Michael Jackson, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and The Beatles, among others.

Open daily 11-am-6pm (closed at 3pm, December 31st and all day January 1st). See

Animal magic

Dublin Zoo can still be charming in winter and admission is half-price until the end of December. It is open daily from 9.30am and last admission is 3pm in December, 3.30pm in January.

The National Reptile Zoo in Gowran, Co Kilkenny, is open daily, 10am-6pm, until the children go back to school.

For a look at life underwater, there’s the National Aquarium in Galway, and Sea Life in Bray, Co Wicklow, which is open daily 10am-5pm (from noon on January 1st).

In Dingle, Co Kerry, Oceanworld is due to reopen this week after being closed since November 30th and claims to have Ireland’s largest collection of sharks. See;

Hallowed turf

Sports fans young and old love to walk in the footsteps of their heroes. The Aviva stadium in Dublin is open every day 10am-3pm (opening at 11am on January 1st) with tours on the hour. No need to prebook but tickets can be reserved online.

On the other side of the city, the museum is open at Croke Park 10am-5pm with stadium tours starting from there several times daily. And those with a head for heights can take a skyline tour, 17 storeys up. Check tour times online. See;

Go racing

Catch the last day of the Leopardstown or Limerick racing festivals today. Otherwise, it’s gee-gees galore at Punchestown, Co Kildare, on December 31st; at Fairyhouse, Co Meath, and Cork on January 1st; Tramore, Co Waterford, on January 2nd and Naas, Co Kildare, on January 3rd. See

Kids swap

Make a plan with another family to take their children for a few hours, if they will return the favour, so you can go on an outing all on your own. Every effort is made to ensure all information given is correct going to press but please check before travelling.