While it’s a popular destination as a religious pilgrimage, many people would not place Israel at the top of their holiday destination list. This controversial country unjustly has more negative press coverage than it deserves. It's actually a living history goldmine so deep and ancient you can barely believe it. I find every facet of this country so rich and meaningful and perhaps kids won’t fully appreciate that, but there is certainly something there for youngsters to love.
Travel tip: Check latest prices for a minivan trip from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
What’s not to love about an ancient castle-like fortress with tunnels and staircases, statues and vistas as far as the eyes can see. Hide and seek, history, pirates, princesses, the list is endless on a day of imagination for the kids. Parents are sure to love the history of this location too.
Cost: 22NIS ($7 AUD) per adult, under 5 free.
Location: The park entrance is located on Route 989 between KiryatShmona and Mount Hermon, about twenty minutes east of KiryatShmona (very northern end of Israel).
Most kids dread new food, but not in Israel where eating with your hands is the norm. Every meal is fun when your dipping pita bread into creamy savoury hummus.
3. Mount Bental
Vast views for adults and mysterious bunkers for the kids. While these dark tunnels have a morbid past, they are given new life for your children to scramble through and search. While we were here a group of people released a bunch of red balloons to watch where the wind took them, was a great exercise. This location can also provide kids with a hands-on experience to learn about the pivotal points in history for the modern state of Israel.
Location: Mount Bental can be found in the middle of the Golan Heights, towards the Syrian border.
A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel, often focused on agriculture or other primary production. It’s all about family, neighbours and social responsibility. If you get an opportunity to visit a kibbutz, please do. Your kids will meet dozens of others who love to play, no matter the language. Some kibbutz’ have swimming pools, or local halls where the residents gather every weekend to share a meal.
Cost: An invitation from a stranger.
Location: All over Israel.
At the southern end of Israel, on the shores of the Red Sea, sits the luxurious coastal town of Eilat, with its big resorts and plethora of water activities. Scuba diving, glass bottom boats, sandy beaches are just the beginning for a day of fun in Eilat.
Cost: Varies upon activity.
Location: There are a couple of ways to drive from Tel Aviv to Eilat. One is via Mitzpe Ramon. Another nice alternative is from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea via Arad, stay a couple of days there or just make a short stop and then continue to Eilat. It takes approx. 5 hours from Tel Aviv, and a similar duration from Jerusalem.
6. The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is made up of 33% salt, that’s ten times the typical amount found in the ocean. It is labelled the Dead Sea cause nothing grows in it. It’s high salt content allows you to float with ease, read a newspaper, lift your legs and arms high out of the water - anything. It also holds a healing mud, which kids are going to love spreading all over their body. Which kid wouldn’t love being told to slop themselves with mud? Tip: If your kids have any cuts or sores they will soon know about them in this water.
Cost: Abraham Tours run from Jerusalem every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and costs 275NIS per person (AUD$83) including a stop at Masada, Ein Gedi & the Dead Sea. Or if you go direct by yourself, most beaches charge to get in.
Location: About 1 hour south of Jerusalem.
Spend the day at this oasis in the desert. Enjoy a small hike to the closest waterfall or continue hiking to reach the ones at the top. Kids will love splashing in the waterfalls or playing with the rocks. The views are phenomenal. Like most of Israel, the area is steeped in rich history.
Cost: Entrance was 29NIS ($8.70) per adult and kids under 5 were free.
Location: About 1 hour south of Jerusalem. We went with Abraham Tours.
To be included in your day trip to the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi is King Herod’s desert fortress built in 30BC. The cable car is a fun journey for the kids and then climbing all over an ancient fortress provides hours of fun, as long as the sun is not to hot, then it may prove slightly torturous. So get there early in the morning when visiting in the warmer months. If you don’t mind an early start, watching the sunrise from the top of Masada is a bucketlist experience.
Cost: The cable car is 49NIS ($13.70) per adult and kids under 5 are free. Or you can walk up the “Snake Path” for free (requires some serious stamina).
Location: About 1 hour south of Jerusalem. We went with Abraham Tours.
Our kids loved this afternoon we spent visiting the local markets in Jerusalem and then cooking in the kitchens of Abraham Hostel. In the market they had the opportunity to taste different foods and afterwards provided hands-on help in the dinner preparation.
Cost: The market tour is 80NIS ($25AUD) per person and is held every Monday. Includes the dinner as well.
Location: Jerusalem, Abraham Hostel.
Whether it’s the packed beaches in Tel Aviv with their playgrounds, exercise equipment and mini portable public libraries or the quiet beaches of Haifa with their cafes, you can’t go wrong at the beach with kids.
Cost: Some of the beaches in Israel are charged, these have better facilities and the sand is cleaner. Many of the free public beaches were littered, but there were some diamonds in the rough.
Location: All over the west coast of Israel.
Herod the Great, one of the most fascinating characters of ancient history, built this stunning city. Everything about this city was grand and pushed the limits of technology at the time. After suffering from earthquakes and repeated invasions, all that is left now are ruins. Most of it is climbable, runnable and playable, making it a perfect open space for kids to explore and be kids, while you take in the history. At the northern end of the site is a complex housing interactive holographic displays, which our kids loved, as well as an informative and professionally produced movie complete with 3D animation and reenactments.
Cost: Adult: NIS 38 ($11.45AUD), under 5 free.
Location: On west coast between Tel Avid and Haifa.
12. Templar Tunnel
The Templar military-monastic order built a 350-metre tunnel below the city of Akko (Acre), which connected the palace to the port. This has been restored and is open to the public. The kids will love the dark tunnels with projector images showing movies throughout on the knights and their bravery.
Cost: Adult: NIS 15 ($5 AUD), under 5 free.
Location: North of Haifa in the city of Akko/Acre.
13. Rampart’s Walk
Nothing in the world compares with walking on the walls around Jerusalem. The current walls date back to the 16th century AD, but were rebuilt on top of the location of the original ancient walls. It takes about 1.5 hours to slowly walk between Jaffa Gate around to the Temple Mount, but our kids made the whole trek. Kids just love climbing walls and this was no different. Just make sure you go to the toilet before hand because once you get down, there’s no getting back on.
Cost: Approx. AUD$5 per adult, kids free.
Location: Old City Jerusalem, near Jaffa Gate.
14. Underground Walk
The Western Wall (Kotel) is one of the most iconic religious locations in the world, and the most sacred place for Jews. The only exposed remnants of the 2nd temple which was destroyed by the Romans in the 1st century AD. Now you can get even closer by going below ground with a guided tour. Just like the Templar Tunnel this underground tunnel provides a wonderful adventure for the kids.
Cost: Approx. AUD$10 per adult, kids free (booking in advance required).
Location: Jerusalem, northern entrance to the Western Wall.
Situated about 15 minutes south of Tel Aviv is an outdoor Science Museum. Kids of all ages will love the interactive exhibits where they can learn about physics, biology, chemistry and more. They’ll have so much fun; they won’t even realise they’re learning.
Cost: Check at the time for current special exhibits.
Location: Rehovot, 15 minutes south of Tel Aviv.
This old railway from 1892 didn’t have much use when it closed down, and fell into disrepair. It has now been refurbished into a plaza with boutique shops, cafes and classy restaurants. The transformation included refurbished rail cars, freight terminals and train tracks to nowhere. The kids loved playing on the old train that is open and easily accessible.
Location: 1 Koifman Street, corner of HaMered Street in between Neve Tzedek and old Jaffa.
17. Mount of Olives
The reason kids are going to like this is because there is an iconic old man up there with a donkey. He poses with the kids for a picture and even let’s them feed the donkey for a small tip. He was amusing and we absolutely loved our few minutes spent with him. Plus you can get some great photos of Jerusalem here.
Cost: Tip the Donkey man.
Location: A hill east, immediately outside the Old City of Jerusalem.
Netanya is a lively sea town situated on the Sharon coastal plain, and a center for tourism. It has amazing beaches, plenty of playgrounds and a delightful pedestrian mall with water fountains that kids of all ages splash around in.
Location: 30 km north of Tel Aviv, and 56 km south of Haifa.
The Banias Nature Reserve contains an abundance of natural and historical beauty, from the ruins of ancient cities to the roaring Banias Waterfall – the biggest waterfall in Israel. It’s not big by international standards, but considering it’s in the middle of a dessert, it’s very impressive. There is a beautiful shaded walkway beside the rapids. Lots of red dust and getting dirty makes this a fun day out.
Cost: Entrance Fee 27 NIS ($8 AUD) each, under 5 free.
Location: Upper Golan between the fertile Hula Valley and the Mount Hermon mountain area.
20. Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel. Scattered around the lake you’ll find beaches and the occasional playground for the kids to play on. A number of restaurants can be found nearby or you can use one of the many picnic tables.
Location: Western, northern and eastern coasts of Sea of Galilee, in the Jordan Rift Valley.
So don’t believe everything you see on TV. Israel is actually an amazing holiday destination, and perfectly fine for bringing your family to. This list is just the start of the plethora of things that you can do in this tiny and attention-grabbing country.