Israel is an extremely child-friendly society, and this “we’re all family” feeling is best experienced on the local travel circuit. There are dozens of family-oriented activities to enjoy across the country from beaches to park play, archaeological adventures to holy sites.
Even better, the following top 10 things to do with kids in Israel won’t make a dent in your wallet.
1. Go to the beach
Israel’s beaches along the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Sea of Galilee beckon Israelis and tourists throughout the year. With nary a shark in sight, gentle waves and warm water, just about every stretch of golden sand will make for a great beach experience for you and the kids. Israel flies the international Blue Flag at 21 beaches. Just watch out for matkot players and jellyfish.
2. Play in the park
Israel’s outdoor play areas are amazingly fun. Municipalities are constantly updating and renovating their playgrounds for the younger crew. Success is best measured when families from one city migrate to another to try out the latest slides, climbing walls and swings. Some of the best playgrounds in Israel include Friendship Park in Ra’anana, Herzliya Park with its enormous slides and omega line, Tel Aviv Port ‘s new omega ropes park, Gan Ha’em (Mother’s Garden) in Haifa and Sarona in Tel Aviv.
3. Holy sites and sights
Visiting Israel’s holy sites as a family is a memorable experience for all. From the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem to the churches around the Sea of Galilee to the Baha’i shrine and gardens in Haifa and Acre (Acco), dozens of must-see religious places are open free of charge.
4. The ports of Tel Aviv-Jaffa
The Port of Jaffa in the south and the Port of Tel Aviv in the north of the municipality are popular entertainment venues, especially on weekends. The Jaffa Port offers art, fishing boats and restaurants along its boardwalk. The Tel Aviv Port has stores, restaurants and a farmer’s market as well as open spaces for kids to run and play, plus a great playground. Both ports host a variety of street performers.
5. Nature trails
Most of the 60 national parks and nature reserves across Israel require a small entrance fee, but plenty of trails are free to all. Hof HaSharon is a beautiful nature reserve just outside Tel Aviv that affords gorgeous views of the Mediterranean Sea. Pack a lunch (there are shaded picnic tables) and get ready to sand-surf on the dunes. In spring, this is a prime ogling spot for wildflowers. Or, head to the Carmel Mountains and take a family stroll through Little Switzerland Forest. Sataf, located in the Jerusalem hills, is another popular family hiking site, while Nahal Hakibbutzim offers a cool water hike.
6. Archaeology adventure
Take a step back in time and visit some of the ancient ruins peppered around Israel. Among those that are free of charge: The archaeological courtyard behind the Afridar shopping center in Ashkelon (open every day but Saturday until 3pm) boasts two Roman sarcophagi said to be “the most beautiful found in Israel.” The ancient synagogue in Bar’am in the Upper Galilee is one of the best preserved in Israel. The Cardo marketplace in Jerusalem was originally paved by the Romans in the second century CE.
7. Flower selfies
Every spring, Israeli families head out in droves to take selfies among the country’s kalanit (anemone), rakefet (cyclamen), narkis (narcissus) and tourmus (lupine) and other brilliant wildflowers. If you’re in town during February’s Red South Festival in the Negev Desert, don’t miss out on the anemones carpeting the otherwise sandy area.
8. Skip in the fountain
What kid doesn’t like playing in water fountains? The new Teddy Park in Jerusalem, the public space across from Mamilla and the Old City walls, is the hotspot for kids at the moment. The fountain features a light-and-water show at certain times, but in between you can find children running through the jets of water. The Port of Tel Aviv also has an area with water jets free to the public.
9. Sound-and-light shows
The Agam Fire & Water Fountain in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square has been renovated and revamped. Take a seat on one of the benches and enjoy the water and fire spurting out of the sculpture while it plays music four times a day – at 11am, 1pm, 7pm and 9pm. In Jerusalem, head to Teddy Park across from Mamilla. Shows take place at 8 and 9pm most nights. And there’s a sound-and-light multimedia presentation on the Sea of Galilee, on the southern end of the Tiberias promenade every evening at 8:30, 9:30 and 10.
10. Street festivals
If you don’t mind pushing your way through the crowds, Israel’s many outdoor street festivals are must-sees. Some of the festivals mix paid with free performances, such as the International Festivals of Puppet Theater in Jerusalem and Holon, White Night in Tel Aviv, the Israel Festival in Jerusalem, the Childhood Sounds Festival in Holon, Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, the Jerusalem Light Festival and the Acre Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater. Completely free of charge are the Old City Knights in Jerusalem and Rehovot International Live Statue Festival.