Are you considering traveling to Israel with kids? Visiting Israel this past year with my son was one of the big surprises on our year away. This complicated country often gets bad press and as such doesn’t end up high on family travel destination lists, but it should! Israel offers a myrida of great things to do for all ages and types of travelers.
Whether you are religious or not, Israel is an amazing place to travel due to the fascinating history, unique landscapes and of course the delicious food. Read on to find out why we loved Israel and think that more families should put this little country rich in history on their wishlist.
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15 Fantastic Things to Do in Israel with Kids
Float in the Dead Sea
One of the most fantastic experiences you can have in Israel with kids is a visit to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is made up of 33% salt, which is about 10x the amount of salt found in the ocean. Due to the high salt content, you can float with ease, which makes it even more exciting for kids who might be timid in water.
For a little more fun, head over to the shops to purchase Dead Sea Mud to cover your body in googy muck before hopping in to wash it off. This is a must do for any family trip to Israel and is much better here than in Jordan (in my opinion!). We loved the free beach Ein Bokek. Parking is not free and is with coins only, so come prepared.
—> The salt water HURTS if you have cuts or sores or if you get it in your eyes. Make sure smaller kids know to not splash around like in regular water.
Hike at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
Israel is filled with amazing nature landscapes, however most itineraries just do not have enough time to make use of these. However, one great place that is convenient to other must visit sites in Israel is the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. This desert oasis is the perfect spot to start or end your day in the Dead Sea area. The kid friendly hike is filled with water play areas, adorable animals and even a path through a cave!
To make a full adventure of the area and to cross another item off your to do list, consider staying at the nearby Ein Geddi Kibbutz.
Ride a Cable Car at Masada
Another top tourist attraction in the area of the Dead Sea is Masada. King Herod’s desert fortress was built in 30 BC on the top of Masada and offers a great view over the surrounding area. While the climb may not be the most enjoyable thing for little kids, they will have fun taking the cable car and exploring the ancient fortress. If it is hot outside, go early as the absolute lack of shade is torturous!
Snorkel in the Red Sea
Some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world is at the Red Sea at the tip of Israel. Spend a day or two in Eilat exploring desert landscapes, migrating birds and the beautiful sea. I will be the first to admit the Red Sea is quite chilly, so for kids, make sure to have a wet suit on hand with foot booties too. If you can manage the cool temperatures, the underwater world waiting for you is like none other!
Experience the Western Wall in Jerusalem
One of the most fascinating experiences as a religious or non-religious person is visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This ancient limestone wall located in the Old City of Jerusalem is a highly spiritual place for many. The Western Wall is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount, which lies directly behind it. Since there are strict entry restrictions for Temple Mount, the Western Wall is the most holy place where Jews can pray. Here you will see all sects of Jewish people praying, celebrating and slipping prayers into the holy wall.
—> While you are at the Western Wall, make time to check out the Western Wall Tunnels. Visitors age five and up can explore hidden segments of the Temple Mount retaining wall which was destroyed approximately 2,000 years ago. The tour includes interactive models of the Temple and archeological findings such as large stone arches, water pits and an ancient aqueduct. Mostly though, kids just find it cool to be underground in a tunnel!
Play matkot on the Beach in Tel Aviv
On a sunny warm day in Tel Aviv, the streets are pumping and the beach is packed, which means this is where you need to be! The beaches in Tel Aviv are beautiful with soft white sand against the brilliant blue waters. With a myriad of playgrounds, restaurants and people watching you can easily spend a weekend just on the beach. If you want to get into the local vibe, purchase a matkot set at a local shop to practice along with everyone else at the beach. Matkot is basically ping pong paddles with a little ball that you hit back and forth. With no net needed, players can be found all over the place! The knock knock knock sound can be heard up and down the beach any day of the week.
—> The Tel Aviv Port is a non-stop entertainment hub for all ages. With a carousel, playgrounds and a sandpit this is a great place to spend some time while in town. Parents beware, the port also has trendy toy and clothing shops for kids which will mean spending some money.
Explore the Ruins of Caesarea
The Caesarea Harbor National Park is a great place to explore to learn a little history while also having fun splashing around. Here kids can splash through the ancient aqueducts, run around on the beach as well as have a history lesson at the Travel Through Time show. Highlights of the show include a virtual tour of the city as it was during the Roman times, with figures from the different time periods, such as King Herod. If you are looking for a unique day trip, this is a great one to put on your to do list.
Eat Your Way Through The Markets
One of the best things about travel is trying all the local foods on offer. In Israel this is even better than other destinations in that the country is made up of a fair amount of immigrants from around the world, which means great food! Our two favorite markets to check out for families is the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. Here you can try amazing local pressed juice (right at the entrance by the umbrella awning), a variety of delicious hummus, candy stands, and more.
In Jerusalem, check out Mahne Yehuda where you will find more of a sophisticated market with bread stalls, cafes, fruit vendors and of course a few delicious frozen slushie stands too!
If you itinerary allows you time to get out of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, head up north to Haifa. The must visit site here is the Baha’i Gardens that are perfectly manucured. These formal gardens “flow” down 19 steep terraces to a domed shrine – the final resting place of the prophet-herald of the Baha‘i faith. Having visited the Baha’i site in India, we had to make a visit here too.
Take a Day Trip to the West Bank
One of the best things you can do in Israel with kids is to expose them to the complicated history that still occupies the minds of so many in this region. Our family goals include raising our son to be a global citizen. One of the best ways to do this in Israel is to take a guided tour to the West Bank. Though the tour is not actually political in nature, it opens up conversations about how and why this area exists and why there is a wall separating the two areas.
In addition to the conversations it opens up, this is a great opportunity to see some famous biblical sights like the Jordan River and learn more about the extremely long history that comes from the Middle East. Our tour was with Abraham Tours – a big bus tour that was interesting and engaging for all ages!
Walk the Walls of the Old City in Jerusalem
One of the coolest things to do for kids in Jerusalem is to walk the Rampart Walls of the Old City. The Ramparts Walk is a gem hidden from locals and tourists alike. Not always easy to find, however, this is one of the most rewarding activities in the Old City. Unfortunately this is not a free activity, but one we do feel is worth the cost.
The Ramparts Walk is divided into two separate walks, just under 2 miles total. The north side walk and the south side walks are both included in the admission ticket. The north side is the longer of the two and covers a far larger area, starting from the Jaffa Gate to the Lions Gate. The south side walk is shorter, ending at the Western Wall, making it easier to combine things in your day.
Definitely something to check out if you have time while in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Not religious? Read this great book on the life of Jesus before your visit to help put these religious sites in perspective.
Visit a Kibbutz
Kids know nothing of this world, but most adults visiting Israel will have heard of the kibbutz system. While you are in the country, make time for a visit or even a stay at a traditional kibbutz. Confused what a kibbutz is? Basically, in the old days, a kibbutz was centered around agriculture, creating a collective community. These days, they exist in a variety of forms with many privatized. As mentioned above, you can stay in one near the Dead Sea at the Ein Gedi Kibbutz or you can make a day trip visit to many dotted throughout the country. It’s a unique experience and concept that will be fun for the entire family to learn more about. Another kibbutz to check out is Beit Guvrin.
Learn to Cook Hummus
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children while traveling is the ability to learn from the local culture. In our family, we often do this through hands on activities like crafting or cooking. While visiting Israel with kids there is no better family activity that has yummy results than to take a hummus cooking class. The most recommended class is in Jerusalem at the Abraham Hostel. This is offered every Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, so no matter when you are town you should have the opportunity to try this out.
Play Shuk Dash
During our visit to Jerusalem, we met a super cool woman who has created fun games to participate in while exploring Israel with kids. If you happen to be in town during a Shuk Dash, you must sign up! If the scheduling doesn’t work for you, Israel Scaventures can also create your own private adventure around town.
Through this fun games, you will explore the story of the people of Israel through the prism of a market. You might be asked to sell fruit, pose with a fish or find someone from a particular country. It is a great way to immerse yourself into the culture and get to chatting with the locals more.
—> During our visit we weren’t able to participate in a Shuk Dash due to the time of year, but instead we went on our own adventure using the Experiential Guidebook of Jerusalem. This guidebook takes you on several adventures and serves as a type of personal guide, on your own schedule and enjoyable for all ages. We had clues and missions, games and trivia and quizzes to test our Jerusalem knowledge. Definitely worth checking out during your visit to help guide your explorations around town.
Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is Israel’s largest freshwater lake. The lake is surrounded by calm and pretty beaches, making it a great family stop on any Israel itinerary. While here you can take in one of the many beautiful short walks, small ruins, or even rent a bike to cycle some of the 60 km perimeter!
Explore the Nooks & Crannies at Nimrod’s Fortress
One of the best things you can do in Israel with kids is head up to the northern border area to explore the Nimrod Fortress. This Crusade-era castle like fortress was initially built as a look out to control traffic to Damascus in the north between 1229 and 1260. Now it is a great place for families to visit, where kids will enjoy climbing walls of old, going up and down spiral staircases, exploring hidden tunnels and more. Nimrod’s Fortress is located in the Golan Heights at the base of Mount Hermon about 20 minutes from Kiryat Shmona at the northern end of Israel. As this is near the border with Lebanon and Syria, you can imagine that there is a heavy military presence here, but don’t let that deter you!
Where to Stay in Israel with Kids
One of the biggest expenses on a visit to Israel is accommodation. Hotels are not cheap and can add up quickly. During our visit, we stayed in a variety of accommodation, however the most economical and family friendly options were Airbnb options. Note that for families who like to have swimming pools available during their holiday, you will need to stay in larger chain hotels for this type of amenity.
You won’t find a ton of well known chain hotels outside of the bigger cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Eilat, with a few at the Dead Sea. Instead you will find small boutique hostels and hotels catering to everyone from backpackers to older travelers to those looking for luxurious surroundings.
As I mentioned the price is the biggest barrier for many people to experience all levels of hotels. We highly recommend checking out hostels as most feel like basic hotels in the US with private rooms and included buffet breakfast options.
Instead of offering a myriad of suggested hotels, I will instead offer a few neighborhoods to help narrow down your search.
In Tel Aviv, the closer you are to the beach, the better. However the beach extends along much of the city. Honestly anywhere near the beach will be fantastic, but we loved the area around Carmel Market and would highly suggest this as a great neighborhood for families. Jaffa is also a nice area, however it is at the end of the city, so you will have to take local transportation, taxis or buses to get around to the other tourist areas of the city.
In Jerusalem, there are a variety of areas to stay offering different feels for the city. We stayed near the Mahne Yehuda Market which we loved. Much of the areas around this market is filled with orthodox families which offers an interesting perspective especially for visitors. Remember that wherever you stay in Jerusalem, you will need to walk on Friday nights to Saturday nights, so plan that in advance.
The Dead Sea offers a variety of accommodation options spread out over a large area. If your time is limited here, we suggest staying in the non descript area near Ein Bokek. This area isn’t beautiful like much of the surrounding areas, however it provides convenience to the free beach and to several restaurants. If you have time and don’t mind driving back and forth, we really enjoyed staying at the Ein Gedi Hostel. The views were beautiful and it was located next door to the Ein Gedi Reserve which was also high on our to do list while in Israel with kids! Lastly, if you haven’t found the opportunity to stay in a kibbutz yet, the Ein Gedi Kibbutz here is supposed to be fabulous and offers their own private beach for the Dead Sea.
—> Note that some rentals, especially in Jerusalem, will specify that the kitchen is kosher and can allow dairy and fish only. Make sure to be aware of and understand the specific rules before renting.
Getting Around Israel with Kids
Some Israelis will tell you driving is Israel is difficult, but we found it quite easy. However I would avoid doing too much within the city center only due to the parking issues and restrictions. If you plan on visiting places outside of the main cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem when visiting Israel with kids and wish to be more independent, renting a car is a must. Please do not make the same mistakes that we did though by not reading the fine print!
It is not easy to find an amazing car rental deal in Israel, even if you think you have! The cheap online price is often MUCH higher when you reach the rental office to pick up your car. There is a mandatory insurance fee that cannot be waived which increases your price a great deal as well as prickly rules like you must hire the car for a minimum of 72 hours to avoid a surcharge of $200!
Driving in Israel is easy, but just remember to read the fine print and budget a bit extra for unexpected costs! My best tip is to call the rental car company yourself to find out how much things will cost and to avoid booking through 3rd party sites.
Car seats are required in Israel along the same rules as the West, however you will notice many kids not strapped in even though it is the law.
There are a variety of public transportation options to get visitors to and from most sites in the country. However you must remember that transportation is stopped throughout the country from Friday at sundown through Saturday at sundown with most options not operating until Sunday morning. Given this weekly occurrence you must factor in lack of movement during your planning phases.
Otherwise, getting around by public means is simple albeit a bit expensive depending on the size of your family. Other options also include taking tours, but we also found these to be quite expensive in Israel.
Find out more about what to expect when visiting Israel and tips on planning your trip.
Map of Fun Things to Do in Israel with Kids
Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance
Israel is an amazing country for travelers, but it is also expensive, therefore you should make sure to have international insurance in place before you go. This is the one non-negotiable item I make sure to book for any trip abroad. For me personally, I have a year long plan with Allianz.
For a bit more of a comprehensive insurance with higher allowances for things like dental, repatriation of remains, etc, I highly recommend World Nomads. World Nomads does tend to be a bit more expensive for frequent travelers like our family, but their coverage is much more comprehensive. We always use an extra policy by World Nomads when going on any tour. Check their rates here. And as always, read the fine print to know exactly what is and is not covered!
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