Israel is a kid’s paradise. Photo via Shutterstock.com
Israel is a fun place for kids. The choice of things to do is endless, from extreme sports to swimming in the Mediterranean, picking vegetables in the desert, hiking along a river, making chocolate or even discovering archaeological sites. With so many options, it’s hard sometimes to choose what to do, from visiting museums to discovering archaeological sites.
Gordon Pool in Tel Aviv. Photo by FLASH90
Israel serves up a great variety of swimming options. Head on over to one of the beaches lining the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea or Sea of Galilee. Or try out one of the swimming pools peppered throughout every city, town and kibbutz. Gordon Pool in Tel Aviv, which dates to 1956, is the country’s most unique public pool as it boasts seawater that is refreshed every night. There are also natural streams and springs that make a perfect place for a cool dip.
2. Splash pads, water parks and fountains
Get wet at a splash pad, water park or fountain. From free splash pads (Ramat Hasharon Park, Teddy Park in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv Port, Kfar Saba Park) to paid water parks (LunaGal, Meymadion,Yamit 2000, Sachek Ota, Gai Beach, Shefayim, Ashkeluna, Tzemach Beach, Hafetz Haim). Or, do what the locals do and jump into a water fountain. While Europeans and North Americans might find it strange to play in an outdoor fountain, many of Israel’s water art pieces have become unofficial playgrounds.
3. Selfie with a sculpture
Take a selfie at the LOVE sculpture at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Jerusalem Municipality
Israel is filled with outdoor art sculptures and finding that perfect selfie is actually pretty easy. From the Oranger Suspendu in Jaffa to the Couple in a Sardine Can at Ein Hod; from Jacob’s Staircase in Jerusalem to Uprise at Habima Square in Tel Aviv; from the Hora sculpture in Kfar Saba to the Ursula Malbin Sculpture Garden in Haifa, this unofficial, DIY art tour will give you a taste of the creativity Israel has to offer and secure the best selfie, as well.
4. Pick produce
On the salad trail. Photo courtesy
Orchards and small farms open their doors to visitors wanting to get a feel for the land. In Israel, every season is a good time to pick fruits and vegetables, but summer definitely brings the best produce within your reach. Want to try fresh nectarines, apricots, sabras, raspberries, pears, peaches, apples and grapes? Head over to one of the orchards in the Golan Heights this summer. Prefer to see how Israeli agronomists turned the desert into fertile land? Make your way to the Salad Trail, the tastiest tourist attraction in the country. You can even pick produce for charity. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty but still want to get a hands-on experience, stop at the mutli-sensory Vidor Center in the Arava.
5. Take a hike
Yes, it’s hot outside. But you can beat the heat in one of the country’s national parks and nature reserves. Gorgeous marked trails (easy to difficult) over desert areas, along streams, through forests, in caves, and up hills are peppered across the country just waiting for the next set of trampers to pass by. There are water hikes, hikes through caves, trails near the capital, and the award-winning Israel Trail. The Apollonia National Park in Herzliya and the Tel Afeq National Park near Rosh Ha’ayin offer some the easiest trails of the 60 supervised national parks in Israel. Please remember to keep the trails clean!
6. Dance outdoors
Celebrate summer at one of Israel’s toe-tapping events. Traditional Israeli folk-dance sessions are offered free to anyone who wants to join along the beach promenades of Haifa, Nahariya, Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion, or head to a specifically child-oriented folk-dance circle in Herzliya, Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon, Kfar Saba or Eilat.
If you’re in Tel Aviv on a Friday afternoon, join the drum circle on the beach near the Dolphinarium. And, of course, there are street parties with live musicians, dancing and outdoor fun. Though not specifically for little ones, they’re definitely invited!
7. Enjoy outdoor music
Music at Sultan’s Pool. Photo by Jerusalem Municipality
Not just buskers take to the streets in summertime. You can catch a variety of outdoor music events – catered to all ages and all budgets – from Eilat to Kiryat Shmona. The annual International Klezmer Festival in Safed in August and another Klezmer happening in Jerusalem in July will serve up traditional tunes. For Israeli popular tunes, jazz and international hits, try Friday LIVE in Jaffa, Red Sea Jazz Festival, Hutzot Hayotzer – International Jerusalem Arts and Crafts Fair, or Nitzanim Beach music events. The museums also host outdoor concerts.
8. Visit the holy sites
Children visiting the Western Wall. Photo by Jerusalem Municipality
Israel wouldn’t be Israel without its holy and historical sites. And there’s no age minimum or limit when it comes to visiting a special place. Make notes before you get to the Western Wall and then let your children add their wishes to the crevices; get awesome views and a spoonful of religious history at the Mary Center, discover the prayer rooms inside the Great Jaffa Mosque, or have fun climbing to the top of the Bahai Gardens. Visiting Nazareth and all its churches is a must-do but leave time for the recreated Nazareth Village tourist experience where you can step back into the days of the Bible. Of course, there are many other holy sites waiting to be visited throughout Israel.
9. Make chocolate
Chocolate visitors centers and chocolate-making workshops are extremely popular in Israel right now as the domestic gourmet chocolate scene continues to grow. From Sweet N’ Karem in Jerusalem toSarina Chocolate in the Sharon region, to Galita Chocolate Farm near the Kinneret to De Karina Chocolate Factory in the Golan Heights, to Hagit Lidror’s Vegan Chocolate in the Western Galilee, hands-on workshops are happening all the time. Israel has a Chocolate Museum in the Upper Galilee and annual Chocolate Festivals. And, there’s even a place to see cacao trees!
10. Visit a museum
The Energy Park at MadaTech, the Israel National Museum of Science. Photo courtesy of MadaTech
Israel has the most museums per capita and a fair share of them are family-oriented. There are youth/children’s activities at many museums (Israel Museum, Tel Aviv Museum, Eretz Yisrael Museum, Bible Lands Museum, Haifa Museum, Tower of David). There are also museums that are aimed at younger audiences but don’t exclude older culture buffs, either – Clore Garden of Science,MadaTech -The Israel National Museum of Science, Technology and Space, Bloomfield Science Museum, Israeli Children’s Museum, the Israeli Cartoon Museum, Nahum Gutman Museumand Lunada, to name a few. And there are the uniquely Israeli museums for the whole family such as the Israel Airforce Museum, Ein Yael, the Tractor Museum at Moshav Ein Vered, among others.
11. Go to the market
Choosing sweets at Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy
The local markets in Israel are not just for residents. They have become tourist attractions. There are produce markets (Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem; Carmel, Hatikva and Levinsky markets in Tel Aviv; Ramla Market; Netanya Market; Tiberias market; Wadi Nisnas in Haifa; the Acre (Akko) Market; Bedouin Market in Beersheva; and the Nazareth Market). There are farmers’ markets. And arts & crafts fair markets (Nahalat Binyamin and Fashionably Late in Tel Aviv; Emek Refaim and Bezalel market fairs in Jerusalem). Don’t forget the Old City markets with a bit of everything in Jerusalem, Acre, Nazareth; or the country’s flea markets in Jaffa, Dizengoff Square and Haifa.
12. Meet Israel’s wildlife
Dolphins and colorful fish greet the country’s southern visitors in Eilat, while kangaroos and wallabies are ready to eat out of the palm of your hands at Gan Garoo in the Beit She’an Valley. The Sde Boker Field School runs child-oriented excursions to see desert wildlife and has a small reptile zoo on site.
13. Float in the Dead Sea
A truly unique experience for all is floating in the Dead Sea. You know you want that photo of yourself holding a book while bobbing gently on the surface of the world’s most salty body of water. So, lather yourselves in mud and enjoy your therapeutic float at the lowest point on earth. Your kids may scream from pain if they had a cut you didn’t see on their body, or may truly love the feeling. Regardless, it’s an experience the whole family will remember.
14. Be an archaeologist for a day
Children explore the tunnels under the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo by Jerusalem Municipality
Pretty much every turn you take will lead you to an archaeology site. Israel’s archaeologists work on more than 300 excavations every year and turn the best ones into national parks for the public. Some of the top archaeological sites for families include: Masada, Megiddo, Beit Guvrin, Tzippori, Beit She’an, City of David and Gamla. If you’d like to dig ancient pottery out of the ground and get a feel of how it’s done, head over to the Dig for a Day experience. Your kids will thank you.
15. Play in the park
There are dozens of parks around the country and many of them have shaded play areas to keep the hot sun temporarily at bay. In recent years it seems like each municipality is trying to outdo its neighboring locale with exceptional child-oriented experiences. Don’t miss the Ra’anana Park (artificial lake, walking and cycling paths, sports facilities, amazing playgrounds, a small zoo, a bird-watching center, a café and art exhibition space); Herzliya Park (state-of-the-art park replete with numerous eucalyptus trees, bridges, slides, biking and walking paths); Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv (extensive lawns, sports facilities, a climbing wall, botanical gardens, an aviary, two small animal enclosures, a water park and dozens of playgrounds, a train, reflexology path, hot air balloon ride, lakes, bike rentals, pedal boats, rowboats and speedboats); Ramat Hasharon Park (giant slides, ropes course, splash pad, soccer pitch, basketball nets); Kfar Saba Park (playgrounds, water fountains, skate arena, fitness facilities, shaded picnic tables); or Liberty Bell Park in Jerusalem (dragon sculpture, sports facilities, 1,000-seat amphitheater, a music corner, playgrounds, puppet theater), among many others.
16. Go to the amusement park
Photo by FLASH90
Israel has a whole range of small amusement parks with carnival rides for the very young and more adventurous. There are flat rides (bumper cars, carousels, trains), gravity rides (small-scale roller coasters, slides), and vertical rides (Ferris wheels, skydiver cars, enterprise gondolas). The parks have a constant look of needing a paint job but that doesn’t stop the summer hordes. Luna Park in Tel Aviv, once the only theme park for kids in Israel, remains the biggest. You can also try outSuperland in Rishon LeZion; King’s City in Eilat, which is built on a biblical theme; nature-oriented Shvil Hatapuzim near Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, east of Caesarea; Kiftzuba on Kibbutz Tzuba, near Jerusalem; or Nachshonit, which also has a water park on site. Get a Hebrew-speaking friend to help you search online for discount coupons.
17. Do something extreme
Manara Cliff extreme activities. Photo courtesy
Fun is one thing, but extreme fun is a completely different experience. And Israel is packed withextreme sporting activities. Try one of the extreme action parks in Acre (Akko), the X Park in Haifa, Galilee Adventure-Manara Cliff in Kiryat Shmona (which boasts Israel’s longest cable car and mountain slide), Top Rope Adventure Park in Kibbutz Kfar Blum, Philip Carriage Farm in Kiryat Gat,HaDov Halavan (The White Bear) in Emek Hefer and Yam Carmel. Or, choose just one extreme activity and make a day of it – river rafting, rappelling, canyoning, paragliding, jeep rides/tom cars,cable ski, sandboarding, wall climbing, bouldering or hot air balloon rides.
18. Learn to surf, SUP
SUP (stand-up paddleboard) surfing or regular surfing is a summer experience your kids will love. And thanks to Israel’s stretch of sandy beaches extending for about 186 miles, with a sea that is virtually seaweed and shark-free, conditions are perfect for beginner surfers. If your kids are at least six years old, you can sign them up for surfing lessons in Tel Aviv through companies including Surf in Israel (972-50-219-3630) and Israel Surf Club (972-3-510-3439). Group or individual lessons (English instruction available) last 90 minutes, up to five days, any day of the week, rental included. At Surf Club, instructors also give stand-up paddleboard and kayaking lessons for all skill levels. Kite Away, a surf school in Beit Yannai near Caesarea run by Olympic windsurfer Amit Inbar, gives courses and offers summer Surf Camps for kids ages seven to 15.
19. Visit urban entertainment hubs
In recent years, the country’s old landmarks have been gentrified into new culture, food and entertainment complexes that attract both a local and international crowd. These family hubs host buskers, outdoor shows for children, and other events. They feature galleries, shops and restaurants. Many of them have playgrounds on site, too. Visit them all or pick just one: There’s the First Stationat the Old Train Station Plaza in Jerusalem, the former German Templer colony in Tel Aviv that is today the beautifully planned Sarona complex, the high-end Tachana complex that used to be the derelict Tel Aviv-Jaffa railway station, Port of Tel Aviv, Old Jaffa Port, German Colony in Haifaand Habima Square in Tel Aviv.
20. Go boating
From rowboats to party yachts, rafts to pedal boats, Israel offers tourists a whole range of on-the-water experiences. Eilat’s the place to board a glass-bottom boat. Guided cruise boats sail the Sea of Galilee. Try a gondola ride in Ra’anana Park, or pedal around Solomon’s Mines in Timna or down the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv. There are fishing trips, romantic yacht cruises, sailboats, kayaking and more.
21. Join the ecotourism trend
The Sea Turtle Rescue Center in Mishmoret. Photo by Yaniv Levy
Ecotourism is alive and well in Israel. Kibbutz Neot Semadar, Kibbutz Lotan and Kibbutz Ketura all offer workshops on environmentally friendly topics including mud-brick building, recycled art and architecture, solar energy, wine-making, and medicinal herbs and algae. You can also book a visit to the Hiriya Recycling Park to see firsthand how a garbage mountain is being turned into a gorgeous park. Or, visit the Israel Sea Turtle Rescue Center near Mikhmoret beach, close to Netanya. You’ll get to see the turtles up close and learn how the rescue center keeps the world’s marine turtle populationfrom extinction.
22. Ride a camel (or horse)
A camel ride in the Negev Desert. Photo by Darren Dublet
Do what you probably can’t do at home: Ride a camel. A whole gamut of tour companies and Bedouin-run activities offer the chance to ride on the back of one of these incredibly uncomfortable even-toed ungulates. Get jolted forwards, then backwards, as your camel stands up/sits down, and enjoy the ride through Israel’s phenomenal landscapes. Most of the tour companies will end your camel ride with traditional Bedouin hospitality: an ethnic meal in a goat-hair tent. If you’d prefer a closer ride to the ground, horseback riding tours of Israel’s countryside are also quite popular. Simply decide which of the fantastic panoramic views you’d prefer from the Golan Heights to Eilat and everywhere in between.
23. Go camping
Camping at Ganei Huga, near Beit She’an. Photo by FLASH90
Didn’t bring a tent? No problem. Camping in Israel, like elsewhere, runs from the very basic to VIP campgrounds. You can rent camping gear from the country’s hostels or choose to stay in a Bedouin khan, a teepee or yurt. Or go glamping. Camper tourism is also gaining popularity and there are several dozen private and public campgrounds from north to south in Israel.
24. Bike, skate, blade
Israel is a cycling destination hotspot whether in the city or countryside. Renting bikes is easy throughout the country (hotels, hostels, bike shops) and finding trails to follow is even easier. Stay on your bike or rent a skateboard and head over to the nearest skate park (they’re all over) for extra thrills. Or, grab a set of rollerblades (these can be rented at city parks and shops) and hit the park trails or streets. If you know what you’re doing, join the Tel Aviv Rollers, the city’s loosely confederated group of rollerblading and roller-skating enthusiasts who take to city streets every Tuesday evening.
25. Go to see cool architecture
The art center at Kibbutz Neot Semadar. Photo courtesy
It may not sound like a family activity from the outset, but Israel has some unique architecture that even children will love exploring. The Taj Mahal of the Middle East (Kibbutz Neot Semadar’s Arts Center), is probably the best place to begin. Add to your list the World’s Most Beautiful YMCA (it’s in Jerusalem), the Greenest Building in Israel (Tel Aviv’s Porter School of Environmental Studies), one of the New World Wonders (Holon’s Design Museum), the Montefiore Windmill in Yemin Moshe, the Jerusalem Supreme Court (take a free tour while you’re at it), the Israel Museum, Jerusalem’s String Bridge, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Neighborhoods with great architecture that are also fun to explore include Nachlaot, Neve Tzedek, Rosh Pina, Safed Old City, and all the magnificent Bauhaus buildings on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. And of course, there are five Israeli sites on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s World Heritage List: The Old City of Acre, Masada, the White City of Tel Aviv, the Incense Route – the Desert Cities of the Negev, and the Biblical Tels – Megiddo, Hazor and Beersheva.
And don’t forget to taste Israeli food along the way. Our multicultural population means there’s a smorgasbord of traditional foodstuffs, updated with a dash of chutzpah, waiting to be sampled!
Have a great summer!
Article by Viva Sarah Press
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