Visitors can leave messages of encouragement for peace on the Peace Wall in Belfast.
The trick to travelling with kids when you want to absorb the history and culture could be making sure they think they are just having fun. Finding educational ways to explore in Northern Ireland happens easily in Belfast, Northern Ireland with its historical tales of woe behind but the architectural evidence still a living art history in the streets. For instance, there is the super snazzy story of the building of the unsinkable ship, Titanic, and its museum. Every meal in the pubs comes with craic ( people's banter) that always has a tinge of blarney and dose of politics. And the sheep speckled countryside has a fair share of castles and Game of Thrones sets to tour on day trips.
Here are a few tips:
If you drive up from Dublin, you will barely notice that you have crossed into Northern Ireland until you have to pay for something. In the south they use Euros but in the North the currency is of the Queen in Pounds Sterling. Most places will happily take either but a credit card is the easiest way to have all that math handled for you.
Belfast is a walkable city and there are self catered apartments as well as B and B's that serve up full breakfasts This will save you time and money in the long run and contribute to that sense of home while abroad. On Discover Northern Ireland (my hosts) there are listings of certified accommodation that will serve every family's need.
Eat lunch or early dinner in the now smoke-free pubs like The Crown Bar and find hearty, traditional food for a few bucks. Kids will be confused to see items things like "bangers and champs" on the menu but pleased to learn it is a simple dish of grilled sausage and mashed potatoes with gravy. Order sharing platters and save a few dollars and prevent over ordering because they don't even have take out containers, it is that uncommon a habit here. It is fun to dine in a "snug" which is a cozy private cubicle and with the added benefit of being a containment stall for toddler.
Don't miss the Titanic Museum They like to tell you all about how she was build here but the sinking was the fault of a Canadian iceberg and an English captain. The interactivity of this spot is cool for everyone from ages 3 to 100. There are loads of words to read on walls festooned with artifacts, of course, but also buttons to push and light up engaging videos as well as experiential exhibits. There is a ride to get on (sit in the front seat) and be lowered into the bowel of the ship where a 14 year old boy's Irish voice will explain what it was like to be a ship builder during the Industrial Revolution plus a 3D film that takes a virtual elevator ride through the core of the ship (stand in the exact middle of the corral for the best sensation) but the sleeper hit exhibit is the walkway containing a film that looks as if you are watching the sea from the bow of the Titanic herself (a la Kate Winslet).Many will walk right on by with a glance but you will hold onto the rail because you now know that it vibrates like the waves of the ocean for full effect.
And speaking of full effect, take a Black Cab tour of town with the likes of Billy Scott. He will orate the entire history and drive you 'round personally telling tales (and fibs to make you laugh so watch if there is a twinkle in the eye...) and vast amounts of history, architecture and legislature. Billy is one of those boyish men who seems to know everyone or is so comfortable around town that everyone is willing to play along. But he did not know about the waving handrail at the museum until I told him and I bet my black beer he will be telling everyone from now on.
Belfast itself embraces a wonderful story of conflict turned to tolerance well on its way to acceptance of difference. The Peace Wall is a great example It is a lesson every child as they grow to understand how safe and lucky they are to live in Canada.
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