Taking Kids to Tel Aviv’s Zapari Bird Park

Tel Aviv is a congested, fast-paced city and, for the most part, industrial, which can give it the impression of being quite dirty.That being said, visitors can explore pockets of natural beauty and one of these examples is the park named after the city’s late mayor, Joshua Rabinovici, called Ganei Yehoshua.

Taking the Kids to Tel Aviv's Zapari Bird Park tree
The park; a peaceful oasis, filled with bike paths, closed off dog trails, picnic spots, children’s playgrounds, basketball hoops and rock climbing walls, is a real urban gem.

Taking the Kids to Tel Aviv's Zapari Bird Park benches

Traversing the park is the notoriously dirty and unswimmable Yarkon river, still used by paddle boat rowers and canoeists adding to the tranquil scene.The real swimming and surfing happen at the nearby beach with its clean shores and blue waves.

Keeping with the trendy fitness culture; there are paths for joggers,working-out points, and designated exercise areas.As the park is in a more upscale residential suburb of Tel-Aviv,  the park is always filled with people working out or enjoying a peaceful stroll with their families.Understandably, it can get even more crowded on weekends and late afternoons.
Among the other attractions the park encompasses are; a working amphitheater, a mini amusement park, and the Zapari, the largest bird park in the Middle East.

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The Zapari Highlights

Though it initially started as a bird park, the place is now home to some reptiles, and domesticated mammals as well as birds. As visitors enter, they can see parrots from around the world along with other exotic birds.
Surprisingly, some of the birds are caged while others roam free though at a safe distance from visitors, which some younger kids might find terrifying.

Our son with autism was especially surprised to watch the albino peacock (they are spectacular when they spread their wings) and a polish hen that raced about looking like Rod Stewart on steroids, shadowing him the entire visit.

Taking the Kids to Tel Aviv's Zapari Bird Park hen

Not to be missed are here the interactive parrot show, petting zoo, animal feedings as well as a working bird nursery that teaches visitors how the Zapari institute takes care of occasionally found bird eggs that were abandoned by their mothers.
The day we visited we got to see a sheep giving birth to a lamb; son tothe birth process mesmerizing to the point that he couldn’t bring himself to leave.

Taking the Kids to Tel Aviv's Zapari Bird Park colorful

Autism Travel Tips.

  • The ground is mostly unpaved and somewhat uneven, so have your kid wear closed-toe shoes and avoid going on rainy days.
  • If possible go on a weekday, since it is a favorite place to host events like birthday parties for younger children and the place, can become extremely busy.
  • Most of the Zapari park attractions are outdoors, with no real shady areas, which can be uncomfortable during the summer days.,especially for temperature-sensitive kids.
  • There is an entrance fee of 70 shekels for everyone over the age of two.
  • Bring a water bottle along and don’t forget your sunscreen and insect repellent!
  • The park has public clean bathrooms, and there are a few stalls that sell snacks. However, I f your child is on a GFCF diet, you might want to bring your snacks with you.

Taking the Kids to Tel Aviv's Zapari Bird Park goat

  • To tire kids out; parents can rent a bike (bring your helmet) or have them play on the monkey bars. Be aware that the old fashioned monkey bars are made of untreated wood, and your kid can end with a splinter so come prepared with a first aid kit in your purse.
  • If your children are hungry after the visiting head to  ‘Shut Haikarim’, the organic farmers’ market that is about half a mile away for some fresh sashimi and baked goods.

Taking the Kids to Tel Aviv's Zapari Bird Park peacock white

 

Top Family Friendly Sites to Explore in Israel

The country of Israel, though barely a speck marked on world maps is a land that appeals to tourists of all religions, all countries and  all walks of life. Whether you like wildlife, history, archeology, geography or culture; you are guaranteed a unique sensory experience.
So, for those who have never visited as well as those busy planning their next trip; here is our top ten family friendly items to scratch off your bucket list.

Top Ten Family Friendly sites to explore in Israel cesarea
Caesarea 

Located halfway between the coastal metropolises of Haifa and Tel Aviv, this Mediterranean city has a long history.
It predates the renovations by Herod the Great, and it is considered one of his masterpieces. Herod named his great work after the Emperor Caesar Augustus 63 years before the first millennium CE.
In the National Park, you can see remarkable ruins of what was once an elaborate port city comprising luxury dwellings with mosaic floors, store rooms, communal baths, open squares that were marketplaces, foundations of an undersea harbor, and an amphitheater which is still used today for open-air concerts. A pleasant tactile experience is being able to climb on all the ruins, stand in various parts of what was a palace and look out at the azure seas, visualizing what it was like over 2000 years ago.
Children of all ages like climbing the horses and chariot sculpture in the Hippodrome while imagining themselves racing in the Roman times. Our son got a kick out of discovering the ancient public toilets where you sat in a long row and could chat with others while doing your business.

 

Akko

For intrigue, mystery and adventure, this UNESCO  world heritage site on the Mediterranean coast, just north of Haifa must not be missed. With a fascinating history dating back to the Phoenicians and including the Israelite, Greek, Roman, Crusader, Mameluke, Ottoman and even the Knights Templars occupations, there has been continuous habitation in this port city since the Bronze  Age.
You can imagine that with so many different types of cultures dwelling there from age to age, the archeology is fascinating. It is all preserved so well!
To do this city justice, make use of the Visitors Center. They will no doubt you all about the perfectly preserved Turkish bathhouse, the Templar Fortress built in the 1300’s and extensive tunnels that you can explore that even go under the sea!
If you or your child is claustrophobic or scared of the dark like ours, skip the tunnels and explore the colorful market in the Old City where you can take in all the sights, sounds, and aromas instead. Our son loved the hummus and shish kebab stands as well as the different sweets offered at the various stalls.

Top Ten Family Friendly sites to explore in Israel tel aviv

Nazareth Arab market

Situated about 15 miles from the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth is home to many archeological, historical and religious sites, so there is no shortage of tourists, archeology students, and pilgrims throughout the year.
With a population of over 50,000, it is a thriving hub with lots to offer. Our favorite spot is the Arab market that has more or less stayed the same for many decades.

The atmosphere is friendly, and overall it provides a more pleasant experience than the markets in the Old City of Jerusalem as it is smaller and more contained
With winding alleyways, stone paving and arches, aromatic fragrances, brilliant colors, visual and the auditory hustle and bustle; this old-world open-air market feel like a journey back in time.
It is a good way to introduce your children to a new culture.
Voted by our son with autism as the best outdoor market he has seen, it offers a plethora of spices, fruit, olives, vegetables, clothing, and souvenirs that shouldn’t be missed.

 

Rosh Hanikra

At the northwestern most point of Israel, sharing a border with Lebanon, there is an amazing geological phenomenon that reminds people of the UK’s Cliffs of Dover.

At the Rosh Hanikra nature reserve, one can get a ride down the cliffs in the shortest but steepest cable car in the world to explore the grottos, caves and tunnels in the chalk rock, and enjoy the swirling, splashing, turquoise Mediterranean up close.
Geared towards visitors from all over the world, one can now watch a short documentary, enjoy the benefit of a tour guide and even eat at the restaurant overlooking the azure waters.
There is a souvenir shop and various activities like bike rides and hiking trails making this a worthwhile and affordable destination for children and adults alike!

The ground inside the caves is pretty slippery so make sure you bring a pair of closed well fitting shoes for your kid to walk in especially if he or she have motor coordination difficulties.

Top Ten Family Friendly sites to explore in Israel beach

Masada

From the introductory movie to visiting the museum, to exploring the palaces and cisterns, Masada being one of the top tourist destinations in Israel is not to be missed.
Taken from the Hebrew word meaning “mountain fortress”; this iconic, flat-topped geographical feature near the Dead Sea, really lives up to its name.

There are many myths and legends associated with Masada but what is known for a fact is that the palaces, cisterns, storehouses, bathhouses and many other archeological finds were constructed under Herod the Great. The very well preserved ruins and mosaics have been reconstructed in places, and many more discoveries have been made in recent years.
Children and adults can enjoy the magnificent view of the Judean Desert as they hike up via the Snake Path or catch a ride in the cable car like we did. If you are visiting in summer, make sure you bring hats, sunscreen, water bottles and own fans if your child is temperature sensitive.

 

Dead Sea

Israel has some unique features and extraordinary phenomenon-the Dead Sea being one of them.
Named the Salt Sea since antiquity, it is a remarkable marine body known best for the ability to make swimmers buoyant. Adults and Children find that a lot of fun!
The water seems syrupy and viscous from the extremely high salt content but be aware that any small cut or nick in the skin will sting a lot (our son found that out the hard way!)
If your child is adventurous and wants to try something new – there is special mineral mud on the banks that vacationers like to smear all over their skin. When it is dry, you wash it off in the Sea or the showers on the rocky beach.
After you ‘swim’ in the sea you can check out the souvenir stores where they sell beauty and health treatments made from the various Dead Sea products.

Top Ten Family Friendly sites to explore in Israel jerusalem

Haifa – Baha’i Gardens

Another treasure on the UNESCO World Heritage list not to miss is this extraordinarily beautiful, sculpted, terraced botanical display – Haifa’s Baha’i Gardens.
With hundreds of thousands of visitors every year coming to see the geometric designs and exquisite attention to detail in organic form, it is a holy place for pilgrims to the Baha’i religion as well as a preservation site for nature and historical features.
The Gardens are on a slope in the middle of Haifa, and the panoramic views are spectacular. There are 19 terraces with stairs leading to the gold dome shrine at the very top. Our son loved gawking at the exquisite gardens and counting them while looking at the Galilean Hills in the north and the Mediterranean Sea in the Haifa Bay.

 

Eilat

At the southernmost tip of the country, touching the Gulf of Aqaba, is the holiday resort city of Eilat; a vibrant place with so much to offer, especially for children. It is famous for its stunning corals and sea life which you can see on a glass-bottomed boat or with a snorkel and goggles.
There is a dolphin reef, an underwater observatory including a submarine ride and special feeding times for various sea creatures(which both our kids loved!)
Moving away from the water there is a promenade, families can explore with cycle trails, dozens of stalls selling their wares and even street artists that can sketch your portrait on the spot.
The city also offers camel and jeep rides through the mountains, an IMAX theater, a Biblical theme park, a few malls and retail parks and multiple options for accommodation from Youth Hostels to Boutique hotels.

If you wish to venture outside the city for short day trips, I recommend the bird watching and ringing station ( Israel is on a bird migration route of birds on their way to and from Africa and Europe) and Timna Park where you will find the oldest copper mines in the world.

Top Ten Family Friendly sites to explore in Israel views

Jerusalem

There is so much to see, do and experience in this very ancient city that trying to describe it in a few sentences doesn’t do it justice.
Whether you and your children are interested in history, archeology, architecture, culture, arts, science or gastronomy, Jerusalem is the place to go. It features museums, mosques, mausoleums and markets; botanicals gardens, churches, synagogues, forests and even a zoo, so if your touring time is limited, you will have to plan carefully!
This city is important to many various religions, so there are throngs of visitors throughout the year from all over the world to the holy sites for feasts and festivals.
If this is your first time going; make sure you put the Israel Museum, of to the Old City’s  Western Wall and  Church of Holy Sepulchre as well as the Holocaust Memorial of Yad Vashem on your top spots to see.

Tel Aviv-Yafo

This vast metropolis on the Mediterranean coast has a reputation for being the city that never sleeps.
It has sun, sea and surf with white, sandy beaches but it doesn’t stop there. As the business capital of Israel, it is very tourist friendly with museums, restaurants and entertainment available across the spectrum for young and old.
Tel Aviv is famous for its Bauhaus style buildings which gained it the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003,s o you should take a leisurely stroll in the ‘white city’ district and admire the architecture.
The city offers great spots to explore with kids like the Old Railroad Station (Hatachana ),t he Joshua Gardens, the Old Port and, of course, the bustling Carmel Market.
Not to be missed is the town of Jaffa with its ancient history and active flea market .

Top Ten Family Friendly sites to explore in Israel pool

Touring the City of David, Jerusalem

                                                               Guest post by Darya Short

The City of David, considered by many to be the birthplace of the holy city of Jerusalem, is an archeological park detailing the city’s historical past.
Families can tour ancient houses and the watch towers used to defend the water well during numerous enemy sieges as well as a 533-meter long tunnel carved through solid rock that connects the city to the pools of Shiloh.

 

Getting  there

From the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, visitors can take the 1, 1A, 2 and 38 Egged buses to the Western Wall.The closest parking to the Tunnel Tour is in the Karta Western Wall parking lot. Most of the parking in and near the Old City requires a fee.
We came from out of town by car and parked underground in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall. We walked through the outdoor promenade of the Mall which might be a future shopping outing one day!
Then, we went past the King David Citadel, followed the signs to the Western Wall, known as The Kotel in Hebrew, all the way to the Tunnel tours on the Northern side.

Touring the City of David, Jerusalem kotel

 

When to go

The only way to go on this tour is by making reservations ahead of time through the Western Wall Generation Centre.
In our experience, it is extremely busy regardless of the time of day or week, so there is no advantage to booking an early in the morning versus a late in the afternoon tour.
When we arrived, we saw that there were groups scheduled for every 10 minutes and each group was full.We found that they were punctual and organized so make sure you arrive before your scheduled time slot to avoid a chance of missing your tour.

The tour runs Sunday through Thursday from 7 AM to 8 PM. On Fridays and on the eve of the celebration Biblical festivals, they are shorter from 7 AM to midday.On Shabbat (Saturday) and the somber Biblical festivals as well as the day before Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and on Tisha B’av – the day the Jewish Temple was destroyed, the venue is closed.

During the week-long holidays like The Feast of Tabernacles, Chanukah and Passover, except for the first and last days of these festivals, the site is open as usual.

Make sure to choose the language you want your tour to be conducted in, at booking since it is impossible to switch later.
The tours are in English and Hebrew but in August, there are also tours in French.  Touring the City of David, Jerusalem citadel

The  Tour

We began our tour by going underground down some stone stairs.  Without lights, it would be pitch dark, but it was well lit and smelled like a cave which added to the whole experience.

All the low arches were padded, so we felt safe and secure. We were shown into a room where our guide gave us a brief overview with a visual display condensing a few thousand years of history in fifteen minutes. It was incredibly fascinating!

As it was a bit disorientating being underground, it was good to be shown where we were and in which direction we were going to be walking. Bear in mind that what you see on the outside is nothing like what you experience inside!

The whole tour lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, and we went through eons of time with history, archeology, geography thrown in; enthralled with everything we heard and saw.

We passed narrow passages, high archways and large rooms that were used to hold drinking water for the city’s population.  The guide pointed out how every part of the tunnel looked different, because of the various functions each part fulfilled over the different centuries. Some ceilings even had chimneys and trap doors in places which added to the mystery and fun. On the way, our son even noticed a few stalactites clinging to the ceiling rock that were beautiful.

Much care has been done to make sure that tourists are safe, so there are railings along the whole route of the tour, which includes the stone stairs visitors use to climb and down. Our guide did an excellent job of warning our group that steps were uneven in places and that we should all be careful; a fact we thought was great especially for special needs travelers. We all liked the individual glass panels on the ground in several places where guests could see deep down all the way to the bedrock.

The tour ended in the section of the Wall directly under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.We climbed the stairs and came into the market area which is famous for dining as well as bargain shopping. We wandered into the Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter before making our way back to our car.
Overall, we had a fantastic day and our child with sensory needs mentioned how he didn’t feel claustrophobic and asked when we could come back which made us all very happy.

Touring the City of David, Jerusalem wells

 

 

Autism Travel Tips

  • Jerusalem is a very densely populated city with over 3 million tourists visiting each year.Respecting personal space doesn’t always get a chance to feature. There are ongoing archeological excavations, drilling and building all over the city, including underground, so there is a higher decibel of noise.  This adds to the incredible atmosphere that is Jerusalem but can be hard for a traveler with noise sensitivities. Make sure you pack noise canceling headphones if needed
  • The stairs are uneven and slippery when wet.Wear non-slip, comfortable walking shoes when you visit the Old City of Jerusalem
  • The Old City with its narrow streets and alleys can be quite confusing, so I recommend having a map of the Old City to avoid getting lost.
  • Depending on the time of year, one can make this into a day trip. No matter how long you are planning to stay for, ensure that you have drinking water with you at all times.

 

 

Darya  Short lives in Jaffa, one of the oldest still-functioning port cities of the world.  Her husband, Antony, is the Headmaster of Tabeetha School, established in 1863.  Together with their two teenaged children, one of whom has Sensory Integration issues, they try to see as much of the Israeli countryside as possible, visiting National Parks, museums, and historical sites.  

Reliving Childhood Memories in Jaffa,Israel

Ever thought of taking your kids to a place you’ve  lived in to revisit it through their eyes?
I did that on our recent trip to the ancient city of Jaffa with my two teen sons.Over the course of a rainy afternoon, we ended up having fun and even learned a few pointers along the way.

Set the Mood

We set off from our Renaissance Hotel on the Tel Aviv promenade on a lazy afternoon to explore the beautiful town of Old Jaffa. My initial plan was to coax the boys to walk there (20-30 minutes leisurely affair) but decided against it, since my autistic son was not having the best of days, and his younger brother was in his usual teenage, solemn mood. So, instead of arguing over that we just hopped into a cab and asked to be dropped off at the clock in the heart of old Jaffa.

 

Old Jaffa 2.0 :Reliving childhood memories with the kids tower

Sweeten the deal with snacks

It was the last day of  Hanukkah, and the local bakery was still offering sufganiyot which are very similar in form and texture to the American donuts— so I treated my kids a quick snack before starting our stroll.Our sensory food tasting experience, however, didn’t stop at the bakery. Soon after, we passed by the famous bakery Abu Lafia (where I used to come every lunch time) and shared my all- time- favorite sesame bagel with za’atar.

Old Jaffa 2.0 :Reliving childhood memories with the kids donuts

 

 

Keep your stories short

As we continued up Yeffet Street, I pointed out my old high school Tabeetha on the left side of the street, right next to the  French high school (and across from the now-defunct French hospital.) Last May, Jeffrey and I walked in and chatted with my old principal and some of my old teachers. He got quite a kick out of hearing my teachers’ stories of my high school years and visiting my old classrooms. This time, unfortunately, we couldn’t  enter the school—it was out of session for Christmas break.

 

Old Jaffa 2.0 :Reliving childhood memories with the kids gate

 

Spice it up with  legends

Turning right, we arrived at the old port. Since its foundation approximately 4000 years ago, the area has seen many changes. While its days as a major port are long over ( it currently serves as a local fishing boat dock ), the area’s restaurants and art galleries are hugely popular with tourists and locals alike.
Every year my classmates And I would brave the narrow stairs and walkways to Simon the Tanner’s house, where according to belief Saint Peter helped Tabitha rise from the dead (which in turn, inspired Jane Walker-Arnott to name the school after her) and visit the lighthouse.
Our class trip would always culminate in the place: the old port to gaze out at the famous Andromeda’s Rock.Since both the tower and the home are undergoing renovations, all we could do this time was to sneak a  peek at the smaller- than-I-remember rock.

 

Old Jaffa's narrow alleys Reliving Childhood Memories in Jaffa,Israel

Add  spectacular views

As a teen, I use to enjoy climbing the small, cobblestone steps and wondering around the different art galleries in the area known as the “Sheath HaGadol.” With its open amphitheater setting and old Ottoman Sarai that currently houses the Jaffa Museum, this is also a superb vantage point to look out at the Mediterranean Sea and Tel Aviv skyline (not to mention also teach your kid some quick photography techniques).

 

Reliving Childhood Memories in Jaffa,Israel coastlne

 

 

Mix a dab of  pixie dust

Voted by both my kids as the favorite stop we had on our one-hour walk of Jaffa was none other than  “Gesher Hamishalot,”  which translates as “The Wishing Bridge.” Legend has it that if you touch your zodiac sign marked on the stone while gazing into the sea, you will get what you wish for. To my surprise, Jeffrey decided to venture up the steep stairs in the blowing wind, twice to maximize his potential of fulfilling more than one wish.

 

Old Jaffa 2.0 :Reliving childhood memories with the kids bridge

 

Conclude with retail therapy

Last but not least, after acting as the impromptu travel guide, I  got my reward which was a short stop at one of my favorite local stores called Mango. Its setting inside of an old Ottoman building provides a fitting backdrop to the boutique, which sells eccentric clothing and leather shoes and belts. After spending my fifteen allocated minutes in “retail therapy”, I walked out with my Jaffa version of Elton John-like clogs souvenir.

 

Old Jaffa 2.0 :Reliving childhood memories with the kids boutique

 

Have you ever thought of taking your kids back to some of the places you’ve lived in?
If you did -would you recommend it?

 

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