THIS year’s Primary Times STAR AWARDS 2012, as voted for by parents, reveal the best of what Ireland has to offer families. The readers of Primary Times magazines – the largest free family magazines and website in Ireland www.primarytimes.ie –voted for their favourite family friendly businesses. The results of these unique awards in 2012, which attracted thousands of votes from parents, yet again provide a vital snapshot of what’s tops with families in a harsh economic climate – and give the worthy winners a well-deserved round of applause.
The country’s Best Family Visitor Attractions reveal – by region – who is tops with families searching for service and value, as well as entertainment. Dublin Zoo, Fort Lucan and the National Museum of Ireland came first in Dublin while Tayto Park, Castlecomer Discovery Park and Lullymore Heritage Park are loved by Leinster families. Trabolgan Holiday Village, Aquadome Tralee and Fota Wildlife Park scored with families in the South, while families in the West rated the Lough Key Forest & Activity Park, Bunratty Castle & Folk Park and Westport House & Pirate Adventure Park.
Fun-loving Dubliners voted to ensure the National Aquatic Centre scooped the regional title in the Best Play & Activity Centres category. The Dome in Carlow lifted the Leinster accolade; Dennis’s Den in Ennis got full marks in the West, while Cork’s Monkey Maze came first in the South for the second year in a row.
The all-important party venue was another hotly-contested category. The National Aquatic Centre grabbed the Best Party Venue title in Dublin, Tricky Tricksters Magic Castle in Naas took the Leinster crown, Busy Bees in Galway scooped the West title, and Perks Entertainment Centre in Youghal romped home for the second year running in the South.
With the witching season fast approaching, it’s illuminating to look at the Best Halloween Events league. Spooky goings-on at Dublin Zoo secured the venue another regional title, Causey Farm made Leinster families shudder, freaky fright nights at Fota Wildlife Park got full marks in the South and things that go bump in the night at Turoe Pet Farm scored tops in the West.
And with Christmas not too far behind, the results of the Best Santa Visits are a must. Dublin families voted in force for Dundrum Town Centre, Leinster loves Lullymore Heritage Park while Blarney Woollen Mills and Aillwee Caves cleaned up in the South and West.
Summer Camps shone in their specialist category and the national top five according to PT readers are GAA Cúl Camps, Let’s Go, FAI Soccer, Anyone 4 Science and Starcamp. By region, Whizzkids at UCD claimed the top Dublin spot; Drogheda Leisure Park was first in Leinster, Fota Wildlife Park claimed another title for the South while the Hunt Museum in Limerick topped the table in the West.
NEW to this year’s awards was a look at fun and educational trips for primary school children around the country. In the School Tours category, Dublin Zoo excelled in Dublin; Tayto Park won first place in Leinster; University of Limerick Activity Centre passed with flying colours in the West; and Trabolgan Holiday Village went to the top of the class in the South.
And if you want to know where to book that perfect family break, the Top 10 Family Friendly Hotels awards are essential reading. Top spots in the country went to Citywest Hotel Dublin; Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney; Quality Hotels; Kelly’s Resort Hotel, Rosslare; Dingle Skellig Hotel; Hotel Westport; Clarion Hotels; Kenmare Bay Hotel; Carlton Hotels; and The Clare Inn.
Other categories also voted for by parents throughout the country were Best Pet Farms – Newbridge House Pet Farm in Dublin ; Newgrange Farm in Leinster; Loughwell Farm Park in the West, and Leahy’s Open Farm in the South.
For a full list of regional and national winners in the Primary Times 2012 STAR Awards – see their website www.primarytimes.ie