The Giro d'Italia for Families
Besides the high speed racing action, the Giro d'Italia is traditionally a great family event, with a carnival atmosphere and plenty to see and do. Read on for a lowdown on enjoying a fantastic Giro family break in Northern Ireland this May.
The Giro d'Italia's opening stages, known as the Grande Partenza or 'Big Start', will be hosted in Northern Ireland between 9 and 11 May. Watching cycling's elite battle it out as they race along our stunning landscapes and through our historic cities will be a spectacle for all the family to enjoy. There's plenty more going on along the route however, so it's a great opportunity to come along and enjoy the festivities.
**Get your photo taken with Freddie Forte as he travels around the Giro route this week!
The Giro d'Italia Opening Event: See your idols up close and personal
The excitement kicks off on the evening of Thursday 8 May with the the Giro d'Italia Opening Event - Come Meet the Riders! in the grounds of Belfast City Hall. The nine super fit riders from each of the 22 teams will be presented along with a range of family entertainment, to celebrate the start of the race in the city the following day. Unfortunately tickets have now all been allocated. For information on collecting tickets from Visit Belfast see here.
The Caravan: Soak up the atmosphere
A highlight of any Giro d'Italia is the Caravan. This colourful race convoy of branded cars will tour the route before the race arrives, bringing with it a real wave of excitement to the towns and villages along the way... as well as plenty of freebies! Watch out for the last vehicle in the Caravan, The Broom Wagon, which sweeps up everything left behind. The Caravan will stop at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Day 1 of the race (the Team Time Trial in Belfast ), as well as a number of locations on Days 2 and 3 (Belfast to Belfast via the Causeway Coast, and Armagh to Dublin respectively).
For full detail of Caravan stops, see here.
Special Giro Events
Why not head along to one of the special Giro-themed events and festivals taking place at locations all along the route?
Belfast will host a major Giro 'Get on yer bike!' festival from 3 - 11 May with attractions for all the family to enjoy. Grown-ups will enjoy the Italian-themed movie season at the Queen's Film Theatre while children will love the fun activities and family movies at the Ulster Hall, plus cycling-themed street theatre and performances as part of the always-popular Festival of Fools (3 - 5 May). The whole family can head along to the 'Get on yer bike! Hub at Cathedral Gardens and Writers' Square (8 - 10 May) which will celebrate all things cycle-related through talks, maintenance workshops, have a go sessions and more.
The fellow start city of Armagh will also host a full programme of events on Saturday 10 May to celebrate the Giro's visit the following day. These will include a speciality Italian/Armagh market, family entertainment, the city's fascinating, historic buildings opening their doors for the day and culminating in an evening Concert on the Mall.
Details of all Giro-themed events can be found here,
Attractions along the Route
While you're here, why not visit some of the world-class attractions close to the Giro route? On Day 1 these include the world's largest Titanic visitor experience, Titanic Belfast, Belfast Zoo, the family science and discovery centre W5, and the open-air Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
There's a wealth of attractions close to the route on Day 2, as the race heads north to meet the stunning Causeway Coastal Route. These include Antrim Castle Gardens and Clotworthy House, Dunluce Castle and Carrickfergus Castle, the world-famous Old Bushmills Distillery, the iconic Giant's Causeway World Heritage Site, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Glenariff Forest Park in the beautiful Glens of Antrim. Day 3 brings the race to Ireland's ecclesiastical capital of Armagh, where attractions include two cathedrals dedicated to Saint Patrick - Catholic and Church of Ireland, Armagh Planetarium where you can travels to the stars, and the Navan Centre which explores the adjoining mythological site of Emain Macha or Navan Fort. Also near the route are Gosford Forest Park and Slieve Gullion Forest Park, with its scenic drive and adventure playground.
Enjoy a Cycling Break
Why not get into the Giro spirit and enjoy a family cycling holiday in Northern Ireland? We have a fantastic network of dedicated cycling routes and many pass close to the Giro route, meaning you could even go for a cyle on the morning of the race. Options include the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way running between Jordanstown, Belfast and Lisburn, the Giant's Causeway to Benone Cycle Route along the stunning North Coast and the Newry to Slieve Gullion Courtyard through the scenic Ring of Gullion in County Armagh. You can even stay at a dedicated 'Cyclists Welcome' accommodation property.