If you are a history lover, an animal lover, traveling as a family, or you just want to experience a lot in a small area… And you happen to be in Dublin on a Saturday, we have the best way to spend it! Trying to find things that interest the kids and the parent at the same time can sometimes be tricky, but this was a highlight of our time in Ireland.
You’ll have to start the day a little early and it will require standing in line (possibly two), but I promise – it will be worth it. We truly all loved it, even the kids!
So why does it have to be Saturday you ask?
Saturday’s are the only day where you can tour Áras an Uachtaráin – the residence of the President of Ireland (it’s FREE!). You will get to tour inside Aras (we even went right into the President’s office – it was really fun to see his current stack of books, and notice we were reading one of the same ones). As long as weather permits, the tour will then go out into the gardens (the highlight for me!) they are absolutely gorgeous! And, if you get the chance to try the grapes – do it! The president happens to have the best grapes I’ve ever had in his greenhouse.
Paysen got to pet the President’s dogs who came out for some fresh air during our garden tour. And the girls got to pet the President’s horses (but I didn’t get any pictures of the horses, so you’ll just have to go see them yourself!)
It’s important to know that tickets can not be reserved ahead of time. The only way to get them is to stand in line at the Visitor’s Center at Phoenix Park at opening on Saturday morning, but you can reserve different times (I’d suggest a late afternoon tour). Why? Because before that tour you are going to tour Kilmainham Gaol (a historic jail that is going to start your Irish Revolution History lesson).
So, you’ll also want to get tickets to see Kilmainham Gaol, now these tickets can be purchased ahead of time, which I would highly suggest. But if you’re like us and didn’t get them in time (they sell out). Great news, they keep a handful available for first come first serve, but again – you’ll want to be in line at opening.
The two venues open 30 minutes apart from each other, Kilmainham Gaol opening at 9:00 am and The Phoenix Park Visitor Center opening at 9:30 am. They are about a 15-minute car ride apart. So the girls and I got dropped off and got in line at Kilmainham Gaol and Daddy and Paysen carried on to go stand in line at The Phoenix Park Visitor Center. We arrived about 30 minutes before opening at each place and we both ended up being first in line, by the time the doors were opening at Kilmainham Gaol there was a pretty decent queue of at least 25 people – so you won’t want to push it to close.
Now if you can manage it, try to get your tickets for Kilmainham Gaol first and then finish your day with Áras an Uachtaráin (the President’s Home), we did the last tour at 3:15 pm. The reason being, you will get to witness a natural progression of Irish History as you learn about the Irish revaluation and those who were imprisoned at Goal for their part in it and then see Áras an Uachtaráin – where the first President of Ireland resided after the revolution. And Spoiler alert, he also resided at Kilmainham Gaol – I won’t give away who it was.
To finish off your amazing day it’s time to go further into Phoenix Park (where Áras an Uachtaráin is located). Phoenix Park is famous for many reasons but one of our favorites was the Fallow Deer.
HOT TIP! We read that the best place to see the deer was behind Pope’s Cross and that advice did not disappoint! There is a parking lot just in front of Pope’s Cross then you will want to walk out past the cross into the meadow known as Fifteen Acre, which is funny because just that area alone is actually 200 acres! Make sure to bring lots of carrots or apples (we found that sliced apples seemed to be their favorite).
Oh, and you’ll get a GREAT view of the US Ambassador’s home from the meadow. I’m not sure how the U.S. managed to snag this amazing location, but it’s gorgeous! I think it even one-ups the white house! And, our U.S. Ambassador happens to be the President of Irelands closest neighbor, so guess where he’s going if he needs a cup of sugar?! …That’s right! We’re trying to figure out how we can get this posting next!
Image Source. All images are ours (thank you iPhone) except the very first image, which is of Áras an Uachtaráin – we realized we forgot to snap a picture of the front of the house as we were hurrying in to start our tour. [Actual Source]