Summer Sundays: Family Fun

Belfast offers fun for all the family

There’s so much for all the family to enjoy together in Belfast. Why not start off in style with breakfast (7am to 11.30am) at the Fitzwilliam Hotel (tel: 028 9044 2080), in Great Victoria Street, next to the Grand Opera House. Its restaurant. With a menu by Kevin Thornton it offers a choice overseen by one of Ireland’s finest chefs. They also have a special children’s menu, ‘Little Treasures’, and a magnificent afternoon tea.

Around the corner at Donegall Square, take a Metro No 1 (A to G) or 2A to Belfast Zoo (tel: 028 9077 6277 www.belfastzoo.co.uk, open 10am to 7pm), about twenty-five minutes away. One of Europe’s leading conservation zoos, it has spectacular views of Belfast from its position high up on Cave Hill. Highlights include watching sea lions in their underwater enclosure, an exotic bird park, rainforest house, monkey and elephant houses and a ‘train’ that takes you around its winding paths. There are special Sunday events all through summer, including Birds of Prey (May 17th), Spooks Birthday (June 19th) and a Reptile Display (Aug 2nd).

Lunch is just a short walk away in the Cellar Restaurant at the beautiful 19th-century Belfast Castle (tel: 028 9077 6925, www.belfastcastle.co.uk) or check out the display on Cave Hill Country Park at their Visitor Centre (open 9am to 6pm) and take a picnic there, it’s not far. The kids will love the Cavehill Adventurous Playground (for ages three to fourteen, open 11am to dusk), adjoining the Castle. The Castle also has a delightful garden.

Back in the city centre, why not take a spin on the Belfast Eye (open 10am to 9pm until August), the city’s hugely popular Big Wheel, in the grounds of City Hall. Then take a short walk to the Odyssey Pavilion (Queen’s Quay, tel: 028 9045 1055, www.odysseypavilion.com), just over the River Lagan, or get a Flexibus – every 30 minutes – from the Europa Hotel in Great Victoria Street.

There’s so much for all the family to enjoy you could easily spend the rest of the day here and still want to return. You could start off with the tenpin bowling at Odyssey Bowl (tel: 028 9046 7030, noon to 10pm), before exploring the award-winning discovery centre W5 (tel: 028 9046 7700, noon to 6pm), which has over 180 interactive exhibits for all ages and is hosting numerous special events this summer. Between May 9 and the first week in September, the Wings, Winds and Waves exhibition tells the story of Northern Ireland’s aviation and maritime history and there’s lots of ways for kids to get involved with over 30 hands-on exhibits and interactive displays.

Follow that with burgers and milkshakes US-style at the authentic Soda Joe’s American Diner (tel: 028 9045 8555, open 11am to 7pm) before taking in a film at the Odyssey’s state-of-the-art Storm cinema complex (tel: 028 9073 0134, open from 11am).

If you’d rather get a taste of Belfast’s past, what about taking the family to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra (tel: 028 9042 8428, www.uftm.org.uk, open from 11am to 6pm), just seven miles from the city centre, where original buildings and living history craftspeople take you back to the early 1900s. The whole family will enjoy their transport, Titanic and X2 Flight exhibitions.

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