Keeping your kids happy and entertained while on family vacation can be challenging, but Jerusalem has a wealth of child-friendly attractions and activities on offer. From ancient historical sites that appeal to all ages to some seriously good neighborhood parks, Jerusalem will keep your kids (and you) enthralled and amused.
The Biblical Zoo. Photo: Mia Kalkabani
No visit to Jerusalem for families with kids is complete without a visit to Jerusalem's unique Biblical Zoo.
The zoo conserves species mentioned in the Bible, as well as other endangered species from all over the world. In keeping with its conservation efforts, the zoo works to breed those species that have been driven out of their natural habitats in Israel and slowly reintroduce them into the wild. In total the zoo features over 170 species, including kiddie favorites such as lions, cheetahs, and crocodiles. There’s also a lovely petting zoo with goats, chickens and more, as well as a sculpture garden filled with more exotic creatures. Children (and adults) may enjoy the regular rain-rides through the massive grounds.
Address: 1 Derech Aharon Sholov, Jerusalem
Bloomfield Science Museum
Photo: Ariel Shrooster
With something on offer for all ages, the Bloomfield Science Museum makes the perfect family outing in Jerusalem. The museum is filled with original and creative interactive displays and exhibits that invite one and all to touch, experiment, get involved and have fun. There are various ongoing popular exhibits that should not be missed such as Footprints of Light that lets visitors try out the latest technology – light writing – using colored beams of light.
Families and kids can take guided tours on a daily basis or take part in arts and crafts workshops, science demonstrations and interactive performances on Saturdays. If you're a family with a penchant for museums, you may want to spend a couple of hours here before heading to the nearby Israel Museum or Bible Lands Museum.
Address: Museum Row, Jerusalem Phone: +972-72-3932797
The Israel Museum
Photo credit: Tim Hursley
Families with kids who enjoy museums will want to reserve a full day for The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which is Israel's largest cultural institution and considered one of the top ten museums in the world. The museum, which was renovated in 2010, is known for its Youth Wing that encourages learning and creativity in the young ones through hands-on workshops, exhibitions and activities.
The rest of the family won't want to miss out on the famous Shrine of the Book, which houses many ancient manuscripts including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple era. In addition, there are magnificent art and archaeological exhibitions on offer. Round the experience off with a souvenir from the stunning gift store as well as a light snack at the cozy coffee shop near the museum entrance.
Address: 11 Ruppin Boulevard, Jerusalem
Not a far drive from Jerusalem, Mini Israel in Latrun is a must for families with hundreds of life-like miniature models (most of them
lower than seven inches) of nearly all of Israel's most significant archaeological, historical and religious attractions. Kids and adults alike will appreciate the site of ancient buildings and all their intricate details reduced to miniature. You may want to consider visiting on Saturdays and holidays when the museum offers a wide range of activities for kids such as a multimedia room, simulator, craft corner, floor games and even a gymboree for toddlers. You'll want to set aside at least a few hours for your visit.
Address: Latrun, Israel
Bible Lands Museum
Photo: Dor Pezzolo
The Bible Lands Museum offers families with kids the opportunity to really delve into the history of the cultures of the Bible with thousands of artifacts on display from the Canaanite people, the ancient Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Persians and the Philistines. The museum also houses models of ancient Jerusalem and the pyramids at Giza. Kids will enjoy the enriching and educational programs, workshops and tours on offer, including summer camps, activities for the holidays and bar/bat mitzvah tours. Many claim that no family vacation to Israel is complete without a journey through time at the Bible Lands Museum.
Address: 25 Avraham Granot St, Jerusalem
Ein Yael "Hands-on" Museum
Photo: Ein Yael Museum
The experiential Ein Yael Active Museum is a great day out and cultural experience for families with children in Jerusalem. Step back to Roman times with an old Roman street, ancient terraces and agricultural equipment, period actors and musicians, orchards and farm animals.
You'll want to time a visit with one of the museum's regular festivals, which include tours of the lovely gardens as well as kids' creative workshops such as mosaics, paper-making, or pita-baking workshops. Situated across the road from the Biblical Zoo in Malha and not far from the Jerusalem Malha Mall, you can easily visit the zoo, indulge in some family retail therapy, or spend the day only at the museum soaking up the unique experience.
Tower of David Museum
Israel, Old City of Jerusalem, The Tower of David Museum
The Tower of David (also known as David’s Citadel), located near to Jaffa Gate in the Old City, rests on the ruins of fortifications: David's Citadele (King David's Tower), ancient citadel located near the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. UNESCO World Heritage Site made by the Israelite, King David.
The museum brings to life Jerusalem's history and offers exciting changing exhibitions as well as plenty of workshops, story times, theatrical encounters, game stations, plays, tours and fun activities throughout the citadel for children of all ages. The whole family may enjoy exploring the citadel's courtyard, which houses important archaeological ruins, some dating back almost 3,000 years. In particular, you'll want to check out what's on offer at the Tower of David if your family vacation overlaps with a major Jewish holiday like Passover, Purim, Hanukkah or Sukkot.
Address: Jaffa Gate, Old City
Photo: Jerusalem Time Elevator (Voyage Terminal)
Parents who want to give their kids (over the age of 5) an overview of the history of Jerusalem in a fun, engaging way in under half an hour should not miss out on the Time Elevator. Narrated by tour-guide Shalem (Chaim Topol of 'Fiddler on the Roof' fame), the Time Elevator takes audience members on a journey through time from the Jerusalem of the Bible to the modern city. The experience is made immersive by surround sound and motion-based seating (adjustable according to the needs of individual audience members), and for those who prefer, there are several stationary seats. Fans of a good 3-D experience can take the opportunity to choose from several additional films, such as a journey into the human body and a journey to India.
Address: 37 Hillel St, Jerusalem
Chain of Generations Center
Families with kids over the age of 13 should not miss out on an interactive half-hour tour of the Chain of Generations Center in the Old City, which relates the dramatic and moving history of the Jewish people using music, sculpture, archaeology and impressive light effects. As visitors move through the different rooms, they get to experience a different period in the history of the Jewish people. The tour culminates in the "Hall of Light", which shares the tale of Rabbi Yisrael Halevi, a Jew who yearned more than anything to be in Jerusalem but died in the Holocaust before ever making it to the Old City. The story sums up the message of hope despite pain that the center represents. Please note that visits to the center are by reservation only and should be made two to three months in advance.
Address: 1 Hakotel Rd, Jerusalem
Theater for Kids in Jerusalem
Although many plays are performed in Hebrew, there is also theater suitable for kids in English, without words and with subtitles. Even many of the Hebrew-only plays can be appreciated by all languages for the marvelous music and costumes. It's worth checking with the Train Theater in Liberty Bell Park for plays suitable for an English-speaking audience, and if you're lucky enough to visit in early August, don’t miss the International Festival of Puppet Theater.
The renowned Jerusalem Theater in the neighborhood of Talbiyeh offers dozens of shows for kids throughout the year. And for cinema aficionados, the Jerusalem Cinematheque outside the Old City walls offer children's movies on weekends and on school vacations. The Cinematheque's International Film Festival for Children and Youth brings together a leading collection of films for kids and young adults from all over the world and offers competitions where the children get to be the judges, as well as exciting film-related workshops.
Parks for Kids in Jerusalem
Many people enjoy taking time out on a family vacation and just hanging out in a park, and Jerusalem certainly has an excellent selection to choose from.
Sacher Park stretches between Nachlaot, Rehavia and Givat Ram and is an ideal location for a picnic or game of frisbee, as well as a playground, basketball courts, soccer pitches, tennis courts, a bike path and a skateboarding area.
Gilo Park is a popular choice for families with its modern playground equipment, picnic tables, basketball court and roller-blading path.
The Monster Park features "the monster" (locally as "the golem"), three red slides from a monster statue's mouth to the sand below. Have your cameras ready.
San Simon Park is a hidden gem in Jerusalem with basketball courts, a bicycle path, an enclosed dog park, playground equipment, and table-tennis tables in a lush, green and peaceful setting. For those who avoid or enjoy crowds, it's good to know that the park really fills up on a Saturday afternoon with local families.
With lots of greenery and shade, Liberty Bell Park makes a great place for a stroll, picnic and playing. The park is equipped with a whole lot of sporting facilities such as ping-pong tables, basketball courts and bicycle routes. You may also want to time a visit to the park with a trip to the Train Theater, which, as mentioned above, stages puppet shows and other performances for children of all ages.
Nearby Independence Park in the center of town is another great option for families with kids looking for a picnic spot or place to kick a football around. Its new playground looks like something out of science fiction with its off-the-beaten-track formations of equipment, all made out of aluminum.
Sacher Park Address: Sderot Ben Tsvi, Jerusalem
Gilo Park Address: Gilo Forest,
Jerusalem Monster Park Address: Rabinovich Garden, Kiryat Hayovel
San Simon Park Address: Hizkiyahu Hamelech Road, San Simon
Independence Park Address: Gershon Agron, Jerusalem
Families with kids who appreciate flowers and nature will not want to miss out on a trip to the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens that features over 10,000 floral varieties from every continent in the world. Highlights include the "flower train" that runs through the gardens every hour, the tropical hothouse, visitors center with changing exhibitions, bonsai gardens, and 500-meter-long "Bible Path" lined with the flora scientists have identified with the 400 species of plants mentioned in the Bible. Families can enjoy a drink or meal at the restaurant near the entrance or may prefer to bring a picnic lunch to eat by the pond.
Address: 1 Yehuda Burla St, Jerusalem