Sometimes building Lego, dressing up like a princess or watching 17 back-to-back episodes of Spongebob Squarepants just isn’t enough… you need to get out of the house. And that’s just the dads.
Here are some suggestions of family days out, all within a maximum of 45 minutes from Belfast, which offer something special for kids and parents alike.
1. Pickie Fun Park
As well as the famous swan pedalos at this celebrated Bangor location, there’s disco ducks, a puffer train, floating zorb balls, electric cars, a wet and dry play park, crazy golf and all important changing facilities. To top it all off they’ve got a Maud’s ice cream outlet.
2. Stormont Estate
The Mo Mowlam Playpark at Stormont is probably the biggest and best in Northern Ireland for toddlers up to children in their early teens. Even though the politicians are in residence at the top of the hill, most days the little kids will outnumber the ‘big kids’ here. The woodland makes for a spectacular stroll and if you or your kids want to expel a bit more energy there’s an outdoor gym.
3. Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park
The first thing that strikes you about Lady Dixon Park is the other-worldly environment you’re stepping into. The trees are altogether mad, the roses are glorious and the rest of the grounds are just begging to be explored. Once that’s done there’s a playpark which includes a sandpit and a zipline and great facilities for picnicing.
4. We Are Vertigo
Newtownbreda Factory Est, Belfast
Northern Ireland’s first indoor Ski and Adventure Centre and Europe’s largest trampoline park. There’s also a dodgeball court, holiday camps and kids party facilities. We Are Vertigo have toddler sessions seven days a week. The kids will be bouncing before, during and after the experience.
5. Carnfunnock Country Park
Family fun and Larne don’t generally go hand in hand unless you’re getting on a ferry to go elsewhere, but Carnfunnock is a notable exception. This 191 hectare park which includes a camping and caravan site came out tops in the 2015 Ni4 Kids mag ‘Family Visitor Attraction of the Year (Large)’ category. Best of all it’s got a maze!
6. A trip to the seaside
There’s any number of harbour towns and villages a short distance away from Belfast, but Groomsport wins its way onto this list because of the infrastructure surrounding its impressive beach. Namely a row of cottages offering a journey into the past, weekly events for kids and adults, and a great chippy.