The Phoenix Park Visitor Centre

Another weekend morning where I woke up, frantically googling ‘things to do with kids in Dublin’. I like to try and make the most of our family weekends together and get up and out early on a Saturday morning to get the momentum going. This morning, we opted to stay local. The Phoenix park is an amenity we are beyond lucky to live near. We do visit a bit, but in all honesty, probably not at much as we should. The Zoo, Pope’s Cross and Farmleigh House are our usual spots. Today though, we explored a little deeper and made our maiden voyage to the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre and it’s surrounds.

Of course we were pleasantly surprised, the boys had great fun exploring and I had chocolate, so all was well. There are quite a few things to do in the environs of the visitor centre with kids, making it an inexpensive and fun filled morning out.

What’s there to do?

The Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden

This is a two and a half acre walled garden, set just alongside Ashtown Castle and the Visitor Centre. We spent quite a bit of time here, and the boys enjoyed sniffing the flowers and spotting the different colours and bees! There was such an incredible variety of beautiful flowers to see, even for a flower novice like myself! It was hard not to be impressed to be honest.

The Playground

Kicking myself that we haven’t visited here before, because in fairness this playground is up there with one of the best around Dublin. Ardgillan Castle wowed me, with the equipment and sea views, but this playground is really set up for younger kids to be able to use nearly everything. I didn’t have to keep inventing age requirements to deter  Luke from killing himself on mad slides and monkey bars. Honestly, this was a welcome change. Spacious, soft ground, gated and clean. Need I say more.

The Visitor Centre

This was probably more tailored to older kids and adults, but lots of interesting history about the park through the ages with some nice exhibits. Entrance is free and I know my husband would have loved to have a snoop around without us to read some more about the history of the Phoenix Park.

Ashtown Castle

A pretty impressive medieval tower house, the castle stands proudly alongside the visitor center. Tours run throughout the day and free, though we didn’t feel the boys would be feeling it today! (maybe in a few years!).

The Phoenix Cafe

The Phoenix Cafe shares a beautiful cobbled courtyard with the visitor center, boasting lots of outdoor and indoor dining space. We opted for hot chocolates, milk for the boys, scones and cookies. It came to a total of €12 for the lot. We sat outside which was lovely, the staff were friendly and helpful and the baked goods were spot on. There were lots of savoury options available too, quiche, paninis etc. with different choices of salads. I also spotted homemade granola with mountains of fresh berries. The food overall looked really great (think Avoca, without the notions).

The Verdict

All in all the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre, is an easy spot to find, with great facilities for adults and kids alike. The car park was spacious and within easy walking distance (for little feet) to the playground, gardens and cafe/visitor centre. You could easily spend 2 hours exploring and feasting here, maybe a little more with older kids. More importantly, everything bar the food was free which is always a bonus. Well worth a visit, and we’ll definitely be making better use of it in the weeks to come!

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