Free and Inexpensive Family Trips in Israel: Guest Post by Robin

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Appolonia National Park, by Robin

Appolonia National Park, by Robin

Since Robin from Around the Island is always taking her family to interesting places, I invited her to share ideas for inexpensive summer activities.

Hi everyone, I’m Robin from over at Around the Island. My family loves to escape the urban jungle get out and enjoy this beautiful country we live in so I was excited when Hannah asked me to share some of our favorite destinations. Since I could easily write a book about the subject (hey, there’s an idea, any publishers out there want to pay me to write one?) I’ve focused on day trips in the center of the country. Follow the links to learn more about these great family destinations.

Summers in Israel are HOT HOT HOT, and with summer vacation nearly upon us we’ll all be scrambling for fun places to go to beat the heat (and at least some of the crowds) without breaking the bank. Even better if they’re close to home and can be easy day outings.

Here are a few of my favorite “staycation” ideas for those in the center of the country.

The beach is always a popular choice but there comes a time (usually about mid-July in our family) when parents need a break from shlepping the kids and the food and the blankets and the chairs and the matkot and the sunscreen and the umbrella and the sand toys and the everything else you can possibly imagine (Israelis are not exactly minimalistic when it comes to the great outdoors) all the way from the car, across the hot parking lot, and all the way down to the water yet again.

Here are some fun ways your family can beat the heat this summer:

Picnic in the park:

Throw some cold drinks and food into a cooler and head for one of Tel Aviv’s municipal parks – the earlier the better to find a comfy spot in the shade. Better yet, pack a breakfast and head out really early, then come home and bask in the glory of the air conditioning once things really heat up. Here are two parks we particularly enjoy:

Park Darom (also called Park Menachem Begin): Located in South Tel Aviv, Park Darom offers large green lawns, paved paths (good for strollers or bicycles), picnic tables, playground equipment, bathroom facilities, a (very) small zoo, a small pond with water fowl, and my personal favorite – the chance to watch the wakeboarders at the cable-waterski site. Admission to park: Free with free parking. Parking is scarce during the busy season.

Park HaYarkon (Park Ganei Yehoshua): Tel Aviv’s largest park, this massive park right across from the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds has it all – grass, trees, ballfields, playgrounds, animals, paid attractions (rowboats, a little train, climbing wall, etc.). Admission to park: Free, but you must pay a flat rate for parking. [Note: The free play area alone is worth the trip.]

Visit the area’s ports and marinas:

Want to go abroad for an hour or two? Stroll around the Tel Aviv Port or the Herzliya Marina and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another country. Spring for the price of a cold drink or ice cream (and an iced coffee for mom!) at a waterside café to complete the experience.

Visit some of Israel’s national parks:

The stalactite caves of Maarat Hanetifim are a great escape from summer’s searing heat, or for beautiful scenery and accessible history you can’t beat Apollonia’s Crusader ruins and stunning sea views. For low-key history and lots of imaginative potential, try Park Afek – in addition to the usual park facilities, it’s also got a stream to push your sister into play in and the ruins of a Crusader castle, and all just a few minutes from home.

Nahal Alexander’s sea turtles and nutria are sure to get the whole family smiling, and Ein Hemed gets you up into the slightly cooler air of the foothills of Jerusalem.

Admission: Standard national park fees apply. Check the board for discounts as well, sometimes various “gold” credit cards are eligible for reduced fees. [Note: You can also buy a year’s family pass that comes with a nature magazine, for the price of  approximately three visits.]

Camping is always an affordable option for those wishing to venture farther afield. We had a great time camping at Ganei Huga last September (this one may be too hot and crowded for the middle of the summer, use your own judgment) and plan to check out some of the campsites listed here (Hebrew only) next time as well.

While I was looking up links for this post I also came across a website (in Hebrew) called All4Free, full of great ideas and you guessed it – all for free.

Have a wonderful time wherever your travels take you this summer – and don’t forget to drink! And once you’re back home again swing by my place each Sunday to share photographs of your adventures as part of my Summer Stock Sunday photo project.

Robin, thanks so much for sharing your expertise with my readers. I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments. If there are enough I’ll put them up in a separate post.

Here’s a free hike suitable for families:

Adventures in Nachal Sephunim

Butterflies, Bees, Horses and Caterpillars at the Kula Forest

View more of Robin’s photography at Around the Island Photography

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Comments

  1. If you have a large family you might want to invest in a matmone card. This card from the Israel Parks and Nature society entitles you to free enterence in all the National Parks.
    Often credit card companys offer discounts for points.
    It saves my family lots of money every year.
    http://www.parks.org.il/BuildaGate5/general2/company_search_tree.php?mc=378~All

  2. I also would like to ask you about camping. We LOVE camping, but I HATE camping in Israel. WE have done quite alot of camping in Israel and abroad and the campsites here (that I know of) are dirty, crowded and lack proper facilities. Do you have any ideas about good places to camp? Our best bets have just been camping in the woods, but sometimes an acid party “happens” in the middle of the night and you spend the night with your tent vibrating.

  3. Very informative post.

  4. I thought that photo looked familiar. I thought, where did I see it before? This post makes me want to go back to Israel even more.

    Robin, start a travel in Israel blog (and get ads for $$$). Great idea.

    Good job, Robin and MiI.

  5. Robin – Thanks for these great ideas!

  6. Yehudit says:

    These are nice. However, some suggestions for trips that work on buses with children would be helpful(limited ablility to sit still eaten up on bus plus supplies limited to backpacks).

  7. I would recommend Park Ranaana as another free park activity, which includes a very small zoo, nice lake with ducks and storks and numerous play grounds and mazes. Just please don’t come during Chol Hamoed, it’s completely packed and quite unpleasant.

    The sataf is also a great, moderately difficult hike ( we did it with my 6, four and 1 year old and managed ok. The parking lot has a good booth offering lots of maps and info.

  8. Though this isn’t free, it’s rather cheap, especially if you have isracard ( you can use points): http://www.utopiapark.co.il/

    We’ve been there twice and it’s a fantastic day for older and younger kids. Very clean and managable (not too big). And nothing beats a butterfly garden!

  9. mominisrael says:

    Thanks, Abbi, for the ideas. Park Raanana is only free for residents, at least during school vacation.

  10. I really like the Sataf too, especially when combined with a visit to Shai Setzer for cheeses! (That was actually on the list of possible destinations for this post, but the list got too long so I limited it to the easiest and most accessible places.)

    Ariela, re the camping I tend to agree with you. I really really wish they had lovely private (and wooded!) spots here with all the appropriate amenities, but I’ve accepted that that just isn’t how it’s done here. I look at camping in the US as a way to get back to nature, I look at camping in Israel more as a cheaper way to get away, close to the water. I’m less bothered by the disparities that way ;-).

  11. Actually, it’s free for everyone now. The previous fee for non residents was deemed illegal. They now charge for parking, but you could conceivably park a few blocks away on a side street and walk, if you didn’t want to pay for parking.

  12. I wonder if that means that that big new park on the road out of Afula to the north (by Porriya) is also free to non-residents now. It would make a great halfway get out and stretch your legs stop for those with kids if it weren’t so expensive.

  13. Great post, I hope we get to try something out, although nahal Alexander is awfully hot.
    New camping concept that someone asked about is that some places offer you to stay in “Indian tents”, instead of what are called Zimmers (guest bungalows). I have seen an advert for tents in Meron, with a central fridge and cooking area, showers and toilets!
    Also a few places in the golan have them.
    Could be worth checking out.

  14. Tiberias has camping all along the Kinneret(Sea of Galilee). There is a seperate beach which costs 35nis per person. At night it is “family style” it is clean and has clean bathrooms and showers, offers mattresses and use of refrigerators. We spent 2 nights there, one was quiet, the other was a concert. There are all sorts of options near by.

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