8 Days in Northern Israel with Young Kids
Israel is a kid-friendly country, and exploring it through a child’s eyes will add new levels of meaning to your journey. The country is a tale of two halves. Southern Israel is filled with attractions and sites geared to kids, from camel-trekking in the Ramon Crater to riding in glass-bottom boats above the coral reefs of Eilat to floating in the Dead Sea. Even archaeological sites, such as Masada, are filled with adventure and drama for young ones. Touring the northern part of Israel with a child, however, requires more careful planning. Only the most pious child will enjoy darkened holy places, the rubble of archaeological sites, and being hounded by shopkeepers in the Jerusalem bazaars trying to sell child-size crowns of thorns. So this itinerary is designed to help you navigate the northern spots without taxing you or your child’s patience.
No matter where you travel with your kids, always read the Friday Haaretz/Herald Tribune and The Jerusalem Post and check in with tourist information offices. Especially in summer, there’s usually an array of street performers at night on Jerusalem’s Ben-Yehuda Mall or Tel Aviv’s beach promenade, puppet shows, and special museum exhibits and activities aimed at kids.
Days 1 & 2: Jerusalem’s Old City
Spend your morning in the Old City, exploring the bazaar and Jewish, Christian, and Islamic holy sites. Be sure to visit the Crusader-era Church of Saint Anne, where groups and individuals of all religions are welcome to try out the exquisite acoustics with religious songs of any tradition. Check the Via Dolorosa between the fourth and fifth Stations of the Cross for shops selling simple Kanafeh (an ancient kind of sweet cheese pizza). Jaffar and Sons Pastry Cafe on the Suq Khan es-Zeit Bazaar is always a big hit.
Day 3: Jerusalem's New City
Visit the Israel Museum. Children will especially enjoy the Children’s Museum; the wall of Chanukah menorahs from all over the world in the Judaica Wing; and the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden filled with works by Picasso, Rodin, and others. For older kids, the Bible Lands Museum, next to the Israel Museum, contains awesome, interactive computer explanations of scarabs and ancient inscriptions and brings ancient artifacts to life. Move on to the excellent Tisch Family Zoological Gardens.
Day 4: To the Galilee
Drive north through Jordan Valley. Stop to swim at Sachne, which has a water park for kids; check out Belvoir Crusader castle and Hamat Gader hot springs, with its alligator farm, vast ruins of ancient baths, and a good Thai restaurant. Take a swim in the lake before dining at Ein Gev on incredibly fresh Saint Peter’s fish.
Day 5: The Galilee
Swim in the lake at Ein Gev’s beautiful beach, explore the nearby ruined Roman-era Jewish village of Korazim, and then ride the quiet Galilee countryside on Vered HaGalil’s beautiful horses. End the day on an evening party boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Day 6: To Tel Aviv via Nazareth & Caesarea
Explore Nazareth Biblical Village for its replicas of biblical-era houses and synagogues and then head off to explore the vast seaside Roman and Crusader ruins at Caesarea, which includes a great multimedia presentation. Check into a beachfront hotel in Tel Aviv before dining at Manta Ray in Jaffa, which has acclaimed food and a relaxed seaside setting. Take an evening stroll through romantic Old Jaffa.
Day 7: Tel Aviv
See the Eretz Israel Museum’s exhibitions of living crafts, planetarium, and ancient glass; there’s a great museum shop for kids and adults. For older kids, move on to the Diaspora Museum; for younger kids, try the wonderful drive-through Safari Park, where children find the thriving giraffe herd fascinating. Take a late-afternoon Mediterranean swim.
Day 8: Back to Jerusalem
Stop at Mini Israel, located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where kids can explore miniatures of virtually every landmark they have visited in Israel. Stop off in Jerusalem for last-minute shopping and a good-bye dinner in West Jerusalem. Head off to Ben-Gurion Airport for a late-night flight home or spend 1 more night in Jerusalem and fly home the next morning.
More Kid-Friendly Picks in Israel
Dan Caesarea: Set amid vast, lush gardens, with an enormous pool and a kid-size basketball court, this is a fun place to relax for a day or so while taking in the region. The nearby ancient ruins of Caesarea come alive with a modern, multimedia presentation.
Dan Carmel Hotel: The energetic children’s summer staff and evening entertainment captivate kids, and the swimming pool is deliciously warm by August. The Dan Hotels’ children’s clubs are excellent throughout the country.
Taybet Zaman Hotel and Resort (Petra, Jordan): The entire Petra experience is exciting for kids. The unique Taybet Zaman hotel, created from a traditional Bedouin village, is charming and itself an interesting place to explore.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.