One of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland is Tayto Park, but it’s one that many overseas visitors skip because they haven’t the faintest idea what it is.
Tayto Park is Ireland’s answer to Six Flags or Disneyworld. It’s primarily a theme park, but it also involves a small zoo, and was conceived as a marketing stunt for a potato crisp company. (In America, they’re called potato chips, but in Ireland they’re crisps.) Consequently, nobody but Irish residents know what the heck Tayto Park is… After bringing my two kids there this summer, we can all vouch for the fact that Tayto Park is tremendous fun!
While there are the usual and obvious attractions of a zoo, as well as huge play grounds, gem mining, and the usual bouncy, splashy, climby, and hidey amusements, there’s also the biggest zip line in Ireland, a 60-meter-high climbing wall, the longest, twistiest slide outside of a water park, and other crazy machines. Oh, and ice lollies and twisted potatoes, too. (What’s a twisted potato? Read on and find out…)
The zoo part of the park has many bizarre, but not necessarily exotic, farm animals, like the humble turkey or the long-horned highland cow. But, they also have a lot of big cats like cougars, cheetahs, and even a tiger! We were there for feeding time, and had front-row seats to the Tiger’s demolition of a huge side of beef. Those teeth are sharp! So, there’s both educational value for children who grown up without any contact with farms, and novelty value in seeing exotic animals up-close and personal.
For younger children, there are several playgrounds. One of which is the most massive children’s playground I’ve ever seen, and one of our rules for travel is “never pass a playground” (unless you’re in a hurry to catch a flight). The ticketing structure allows you to enter the park, see the animals in the zoo, and enjoy the various playgrounds for one set price, and for young children that is ample. You could easily spend half a day wandering the park, playing furiously, and enjoying a few snacks without spending anything extra for the more-spectacular amusement park rides.
But children grow quickly, and look for new challenges and things to do. There are two advanced fun zones in Tayto Park that cater to these energetic, growing children. Both require additional tickets (tokens) that can be purchased after you enter.
The younger “advanced play” area, the “Geronimo Thrill Zone,” features mechanical bull rides, gem mining, bungy trampolines, industrial-strength super soakers, a beginners climbing wall, as well as real and mechanical pony rides. These are high-energy activities, and can be thrilling challenges to growing children.
Older children and teenagers (and their parents) will enjoy the “Sky Eagle Adventure Zone,” where the attractions are a bit more “extreme.” The “Sky Walk,” is an elevated obstacle/high ropes-type course, the “Extreme Climbing Wall” is a 21-meter-tall (64 feet) high climbing wall, and the “Zipline Extreme” comprises eleven of the longest and fastest ziplines in Ireland. The line for ziplining can be quite long, but worth it. My eldest daughter was thrilled to be flying through the air 60 feet above the ground.
Insider’s tip: if you get to the park early, within the first hour after opening, the lines for the adventure zone tokens will be long, as everybody will be waiting to buy theirs. There are only two ticket offices, one for each adventure zone, so the early lines can move slowly. If you arrive after midday, lines for the token booths are much shorter. There is no wristband or other “unlimited ride” option, so my advice is to explore the park and zoo first, then buy tokens for the extreme attractions you really want when the lines are shorter.
I mentioned earlier that the park was conceived as a marketing stunt for a potato company. Tayto Park is built adjacent to the potato crisp factory, and visitors can go on a factory tour to see the production process. This fascinates younger children, but older kids might be less enthralled at the idea. However, on exiting the factory tour there is a “Vortex Tunnel” (actually there are two) which while being relatively simple compared to other rides (the surroundings revolve at speed making you feel like you’re falling over) was a great hit with all the kids there when we visited. Many of them went sprinting back to have another go, while the parents gratefully waited at the end, letting our dizziness abate.
Taking their cue from Disneyworld, where costumed characters stroll around and post for photographs, Tayto Park features Mr. Tayto, their potato-man mascot and Irish kids mob him like he’s Mickey Mouse. My own were a little wary of the costumed version (but then they are similarly unimpressed by the costumed mascots at baseball games as well), but did deign to humor their dad by posing with the Mr. Tayto statue.
Being dedicated to the celebration of the humble spud, Tayto Park concessions offer a variety of potato creations, but their speciality is the twisted potato, a whole potato cut in one continuous spiral and deep fried. It is surprisingly good, delicious with a little salt and vinegar. (Who says Irish food is unimaginative?)
Tayto Park is a great day out for the whole family, young and old. It’s a nice change of pace if you’ve spent your vacation dragging your children around ancient neolithic tombs, crumbling castles, and sessions in crowded pubs. Being close to Dublin and the historic heartland of County Meath, Tayto Park is very convenient if you wish to combine a half a day at the park with more conventional sightseeing.
As you leave, you get a packet of Taytos to munch on the way home. In the car, my girls declared them the best potato chips ever. Now, who says marketing doesn’t work?
Frequently asked questions:
Is there a bus service from Dublin to Tayto Park?
Yes, Bus Éireann’s 103 service serves Tayto Park. Most days it departs Dublin city center once in the morning and returns once in the evening. More details here…
Is Tayto Park expensive?
A family of four gets in for 44 Euro (prices current as of the summer of 2014), which gets you access to the zoo, the playgrounds, the factory tour and many other things. Younger children will be delighted with these attractions. Older children and adults can purchase tickets for the more adventurous attractions. overall, prices are reasonable. In comparison, Dublin Zoo costs 46.50 Euro for just a zoo experience, and Funtasia Waterpark in Drogheda costs from 66 Euro per family. By those measures, Tayto Park is not particularly expensive. Current ticket prices…
When is Tayto Park open?
Tayto Park is closed during the winter and only open seven days a week during summer. It also opens for brief periods during school holidays. Complete opening times can be found here…
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