Family Vacation in Jerusalem: Places to Go, Things to See in Israel’s Capital with Kids
Descend down into the underground tunnel of the Western Wall, pay a visit to the Biblical Zoo, go for a ride on the Time Elevator, check out a multimedia show on the walls of an ancient fortress, study ancient trades that people used to practice, get a taste of the newest technology, view a miniature model of Israel, and much more – find out about all these exciting places and more in our review of family vacation ideas in Jerusalem.
Visiting Attractions and Museums in Jerusalem with Kids
People usually first acquaint themselves with Jerusalem by going for a walk through the Old City and its surroundings. The fortress walls are surrounded by the relics of various religions: Temple Mount, the Jewish Western Wall, the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Muslim Dome of the Rock, Al-Asqa Mosque, and Christ’s road from the Lion Gate to Golgotha. Behind the walls of the Old City is the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Gethsemane Garden, and the Valley of Hinnom, a ravine that’s much less daunting than its name suggests. You can also get all the help you need by selecting a sightseeing tour in a wide selection of languages from one of the tourism information centers.
Not far from the entrance to the Old City is the Tower of David, the Jerusalem Citadel. At the citadel, it is possible to catch a glimpse of ancient ruins and check out a model of Jerusalem, the way it used to be during Biblical times. Opening at the very top is a panoramic observation deck, where in the evenings, a show called “Night Mystery” is held. For the event, the city’s historic images from various epochs are projected onto the walls of the tower.
It is possible to go underground and check out the remains of ancient edifices of the Temple Mount, on a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels. In the 485-meter corridor, the guides will talk about ancient Jerusalem, its construction, and the destruction of the wall during the Roman Empire, as well as about various archaeological findings, sights, and relics of the Temple Mount. For instance, it is possible to see the Western Rock in the tunnel, weighing more than 500 tons, which is one of the heaviest stones to ever be lifted by man, without the help of technology. The tour lasts a bit more than an hour and is conducted in Hebrew and English (in August, it’s conducted in French as well).
Next to the Western wall, The Generations Multimedia Center is open to visitors as well. The three thousand years of the history of the Jewish people are presented in its various halls with sound and light effects, holograms, and glass columns with signs written in Hebrew. The museum tour, which is conducted either in English or Hebrew, lasts about an hour and it is recommended for visitors who are at least 6 years old. It is also possible to wander through the museum independently, audio guides are available in Russian, French, German, or Spanish.
Visitors are invited to come embark on a journey into the past, by taking the Time Elevator: Maalit Hazman. Three-thousand-years of history are shown in thirty-minute movies, that are played in theater with moving chairs and other effects, such as wind, light flashes, and water spraying. In a half hour, visitors have time to fly through Jerusalem and descend down under the ground and become witnesses to the destruction of the Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple, the beginnings of Christianity, the era when the Romans and the Muslims ruled, and the creation of the state of Israel. It is possible to listen to the narrator with in headphones, there are 8 languages to chose from.
Anyone who is interested in the history of the Bronze Age, the Solomon’s Temple, or the Second Temple is highly recommended to visit the Archeological Park of the City of David. On the tour of the settings of various biblical legends, visitors learn about the city’s ancient district, climb up top and check out the city’s surroundings, and then - descend down to the site of archeological excavations, the Gihon Spring, and the Hezekiah’s Tunnels.
The Israel Museum is dedicated to history and culture: there is an ethnographic department with clothing and ornaments from Jewish communities all over the world, and an art department with pictures and sculptures. For families, there is the Kids Department as well, where annual interactive exhibitions take place, along with a kids’ art room, and a library of illustrated books for children. It is possible to go for a walk around the Art Garden with contemporary sculptures and check out a large model of Jerusalem, as it was during the days of the Second Temple. The Dead Sea Scrolls with ancient biblical texts are presented at the Shrine of Books.
The Jerusalem Nature Museum is dedicated to biology and ecology. There visitors will find effigies of animals, birds, creepy crawlers, and illustrated exhibits about the structure of the human body. At the park museum, it is also possible to see dinosaur sculptures, visit bee gardens with a beehive, and stop by a petting zoo.
All about what the Jewish people had to go through during the World War II years is told at The Holocaust History Museum Yad Vashem. The museum depicts the horrors of the days of the holocaust, the gallery is organized so that all of the events are presented in chronological order: first how to Jewish oppression began and what it led to, describing the construction of Jewish ghettos and concentration camps, as well as how prisoners used to live and how they fought for their freedom. At the Theresienstadt Ghetto exhibition, visitors get to see the Monopoly game that its prisoners made with a playing field in the form of the ghetto itself; and the Warsaw Ghetto exhibition has a part of its main street with buildings reconstructed, and shows what people’s daily lives were like at the ghetto. For the artworks of the Holocaust victims, there is a separate Art Museum, and it is possible to see thousands of documentaries in the Yad Vashem movie theater. Visiting the Yad Vashem Center is free of charge, but the museum only allows children over the age into the indoor showrooms. For younger children, it is recommended to take a walk around the outdoor exhibition and pass through the stone labyrinth of the Valley of Destroyed Communities and the Valley of the World’s Righteous with trees planted in honor of those who helped to save the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
The Yad La-Shiryon Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum in just a half an hour bus ride from Jerusalem. There, visitors have the opportunity to see the Israeli Merkava tanks, American Patton and Sherman tanks, modified Soviet Tiran tanks, armored vehicles, guide trucks, armored trucks, jeeps, and around two hundred different forms of military vehicles, that have been used by the Israili army in battles. Some tanks are “dissected” and all of their inner parts are visible through the see-through glass, it is possible to climb on top of some of the automobiles and take pictures. The museum has a memorial commemorating the tank operators who lost their lives in battle, and visitors can sometimes see how new recruits take an oath.
In Latrun, you can visit Mini Israel Park. Presented outside are more than 350 mini-copies of sights from all over the country: visitors can see pilgrims at the Western Wall, the Bahai Gardens with real dwarf bonsai trees, Tel Aviv skyscrapers, the Dutch heights, a sea beach, and a dessert. Some of the models motion-capable: there is a soccer match going on at a stadium, a work shift is taking place in a factory, and visitors can see the entire exhibition in the form of the Star of David from above, by climbing up onto the observation deck.
Where to Go for a Walk in Jerusalem with Kids? Entertainment for Kids in Jerusalem
Families are invited to take a look at animals mentioned in the Holy Writ at the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens. Inhabiting the trees and waterfalls there are sloths, tigers, hippos, crocodiles, and 200 other species of animals.The zoo features a lake with a “monkey island” and water-inhabiting birds, such as flamingos, pelicans, swans, and geese. There are penguins in the aquarium, and an information center for visitors in the Noah’s Ark. The sculpture park with a play zone and worth a visit, as well as the Underground World exhibition with huge windows for viewing the animals above.
At the Bloomfield Science Museum there are indoors and outdoors interactive exhibits to see. Visitors are invited to come play with the light and the shade, blow giant soap bubbles, rack their brains over optical illusions, visit the science theater, study the structure of electrical devices, and turn on pumps at the water exhibit. All of the exhibits have informative descriptions available in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
Kids get the chance to time travel and become masters of ancient trades by visiting the Ein Yael Living Museum. In the outdoor museum there is a special atmosphere, there are street artists performing in the ancient Roman streets and terraces with aqueducts, and it is possible to feed the animals in the petting zoo. But the main attraction here are the workshops, where visitors can create clay dishes, mosaics or musical instruments with their own hands, also make a baskets, bake bread, and sew clothing the same way that people used to do it a thousand years ago.
As an option, it is possible to take the kids on a walk around the parks of Jerusalem. The biggest park in the city, the Sacher Park has a kids playground, a cricket, baseball, and American football fields, as well as a picnic zone. At the Roses Park and the Wohl Rose Park (with a pond and a waterfall) there are over 400 different species of rose bushes. The Rabinovich park has a sculpture in the form of a monster with three tongue slides for kids. The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens offer visitors to gaze at bonsai trees, find they way through a grass maze, and walk down the Bible Path with the Holy Writ trees and flowers growing along it.
In the evenings, a light and music show is on at Teddy Kollek Park. It might be a good idea to stroll or bike around the Mesila Park with a road paved right along the former railway. At the HaPa’amon Garden with a fountain and a playground, kids can go see a show at the Vagonchik Puppet Theater and climb on the Jerry Dragon sculpture, which is regularly repainted in different colors. Kids playgrounds in Jerusalem can also be found in the Independence Park, the San-Simon Park, and the Gilo Park.
At the Tzuba Kibbutz (in 10 km from Jerusalem), there is the Kiftzuba Park with racetracks for toddlers and teenagers, roller coasters, carousels, little steam boats, bouncy castles, a petting zoo, and a zip line station. In is possible to go on a boat ride, and if the weather doesn’t turn out well, the indoor center offers to play laser tag, board games, and video games.
In 30 km from Jerusalem is the Soreq Cave, or the Avshalom Cave. The largest cave in Israel offers tours in Hebrew and English. First, visitors are shown a documentary and then they are taken to the underground rooms with illuminated stalactites and stalagmites of all kinds of whimsical shapes. After the tour, it is possible to climb onto the observation deck for a view of the Judaen Mountains and Beit Shemesh. The Israeli primate sanctuary & park Ben Shemen is located on the way from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. In the area open to the public, visitors can meet monkeys of different species and enjoy a walk through the forest with some South American monkeys. There is also a children's playground in the park.
Information on the water parks, attractions, and other entertainment and sights of Tel Aviv, Eilat, Haifa, as well as the southern and the northern parts of Israel can be found in our other review. Information on festivals, exhibitions, and other events for the whole family in different parts of the world can be found in our What’s On section.
Photos: wikipedia.org, english.thekotel.org, facebook.com/Israel-Museum-Jerusalem-5777654412/, facebook.com/MiniIsrael, facebook.com/yadvashem, facebook.com/JerusalemBiblicalZoo, facebook.com/kiftzuba/, facebook.com/Bloomfield.Science.Museum.Jerusalem, facebook.com/Jerusalem.Botanical.Gardens/