Emerald park with a six and three year old – yes or no?
It’s a big yes from us. Going out on day trips with the two boys can sometimes be a juggling act. Some destinations are ideal for one age, but not the other. This leads to a lot of stress and empty pockets. With things costing more and more, finding places that work for both ages is key. Thankfully the park formerly named after a potato snack, caters well for the smaller visitors.
We’d visited once previously, this was just before the park closed ahead of its rebranding and it was the winter, so only the junior zone was open. It was fine, but it was a bit bleak.
With everything open again and the brand new shiny gloss of the Emerald Park branding everywhere, it was a totally different ballgame.
The junior zone had two new attractions – The crazy bus and the balloon ride. Both were super suitable for my three year old and there were much younger children able to hop on too. In this section there are a host of other great rides like the hopping frogs and the old fashioned carousel, the race horses and even a small rollercoaster which my three year old loved. There is also an old fashioned train that goes around this part of the park, which both boys adored.
I’m lucky to be a seasoned Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens pro, having cut my teeth on thrill rides from a young age on our family holidays to the states. So I like to think I know my roller coasters. To be honest, I’ve been secretly counting the years until my eldest was old enough, or more to the point tall enough to think about going on roller coasters. I've always assumed we’d have to travel abroad for his first proper experience. Thankfully Emerald Park has come along at the right time.
But could Ireland really ‘do’ a theme park? More on that later but on first impressions Cu Chulainn is that is a proper old fashioned wooden roller coaster. You hear the roar as soon as you get near to it. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the big rollercoasters in the states, it is not to be sniffed at either. With a 32m drop and 90 turn, it’s very much a thrill ride.
My six year old is tall, so he was well over the height required for all the bigger coasters. He was enthusiastic, but I didn't want to over face him, so we tried out flight school first. With smaller drops, but still an impressive 46km per hour it was the idea start. He loved it.
Next we headed to Dino Dash. This is a much newer style of roller coaster and with a speed of 50km and some great drops. This was to be the hit of the day for both of us. We screamed and laughed the entire time and were nicely surprised when we realised we got to go around the track, which was a nice touch.
It felt amazing to have a mini adrenaline junkie in the making. Although he decided to give Cu Chulainn a miss until our next trip. The Viking Splash was closed when we were there, but it looked like good fun.
Queuing time was reasonable, but we were there early. As with Disney, the queues for the bigger riders are well hidden, so check the notice boards for most up to day queuing times. There’s also lots of other funfair style rides, the type I call the ones that go round and around. Not my cup of tea, but if it's yours you'll love it.
There’s several food options on sight. There’s a large main restaurant and food vans dotted around the park serving a variety of chips, burgers, sausages and goujons. The quality was good and the kids polished off most of if after a mornings fun. It would be nice to see more sandwich style options available, so do bring a packed lunch if your crew are not into chips and sadly the coffee was poor.
The park has lots of other things going for it - a very cute fairy trail for one and some beautiful animals, like the Lemus, the tigers and my personal favourite the white foxes… I kid you not I nearly brought one home. And there’s a mega playground with some serious slides too.
Everything is well spaced out and flat and great for strollers and wheelchairs.
So can Ireland 'do' theme parks?
Emerald Park is a great addition to Ireland. It’s never going to be Disney, but that’s clear from the off. What it does have, is amazing potential and I really think in the years to come they are going to add more and more attractions.
We were lucky enough to be asked along to the grand opening and we are counting the days until we do a return visit.
Tickets will set you back €39 for all access to all the ride and €35 for access to the junior rides only. Under 3’s are free. There are special rates for senior citizens and additional needs/carers.