Unlike our pre-Jacob adventuring days when our itineraries necessitated almost daily movement, for our Israel trip we mostly stayed at one location. Let’s face it, moving around a base of operations with a one year old means packing up noise machines, baby monitors, changing equipment, suitcases full of diapers, baby food, bottles, milk, and on and on and so on and so forth. Not a great experience.
So for this trip we spent all but one night at the same AirBnb apartment in south Tel Aviv. We did take some day trips to places like Jerusalem, Ramat Gan, and Be’er Sheva. And we did go on our first proper baby road trip for one night into the Negev (which was mostly a great success but more on that later).
For the most part though, we planted our flag and spent most of our time exploring Tel Aviv, which I must say is one of the most baby-friendly cities in the world.
Our daily routine was something like this:
1. Wake up – give Jacob his breakfast
2. Load up into stroller, go for a walk and explore the city around us
3. Baby nap around 10 or so – relax/catch up on work
4. Baby up – go for another walk or drive to location, this time to a restaurant for lunch, and more city exploration
5. Back to the fort for second nap around 3 or 4 pm – watch sunset into the Mediterranean if Jacob cooperates
6. Baby up – dinner at the apartment or restaurant and if not too cool after nightfall (remember it was January!) more city exploration
7. Baby bedtime routine around 7-ish – sleep time
8. Dinner out for Liran and Ariel if grandparents could babysit
On days we would go for a long-ish drive (like to Jerusalem) one or both of the naps just happened in the car.
Unfortunately for us, our first couple of days were a mess because Jacob had an ear infection, and the first week we had to do nebulizer treatments several times a day plus various medications until he was better. But by the middle of the first week we pretty much settled into the above routine.
The key thing about Tel Aviv – and especially the older part of the city where we were – is that it’s designed to be completely walkable. Sidewalks are basically everywhere. And most places in the city are no more than a 10-20 minute walk from the beach and promenade which features restaurants and beach playgrounds – this alone is enough to occupy you and your little person for weeks. And obviously if you stay at a hotel on the beach – you’re right there!
But the beach is far from the only draw.
Tel Aviv is chock full of playgrounds for a wide variety of ages. For us there were at least three playgrounds within a 10 minute walk of where we were staying. And the great thing is that during the week they’re mostly empty since all the Israelis are in school, so you can really have your run of the place. Oh and they’re all completely free.
There are also tons of museums within walking distance of pretty much wherever you are. The IDF museum (which was unfortunately moving to a new location), Independence Hall (where the 1948 Declaration of Independence was signed), an old railway station that was part of the pre-state Cairo/Istanbul train line, and the Irgun museum, were all places we visited – all within a 10 minute walk of where we were staying. And there were SO many more to go to, we just didn’t have the time.
And the restaurants – oh the restaurants! Aside from being just amazingly delicious and easily accessible (literally you cannot walk more than 100 feet in Tel Aviv without seeing a restaurant), over our two weeks we visited at least a dozen venues, and 100% of them had high chairs and were baby friendly. This isn’t just Tel Aviv, this is all over the country – but especially in Tel Aviv where there are just endless options.
Even the malls in Tel Aviv have play areas for children. Again – all free – and suitable for a wide variety of ages.
The city itself is an amazing place for a baby. Jacob had so many new sights and sounds to experience, he never got bored just being pushed around in the stroller. Even the graffiti around South Tel Aviv is often colorful and message-driven. There are tours that actually take you around to see graffiti, if paying someone to show you vandalism is your kind of thing.
For us, walking along the beach was just a great, relaxing experience every time we did it. If that wasn’t enough, on a walk around Rothschild Boulevard, we discovered a little walking tour that led us to historic sites, some of which had beautiful sculptures.
And even though it’s not TECHNICALLY in Tel Aviv, the Ramat Gan drive through safari is a phenomenal experience – worthy of its own blog post. And yes, they still ACTUALLY let you drive yourself through it!
As far as places to stay, Tel Aviv has everything from youth hostels and up to world class five star luxury hotels. But here’s a pro tip if you’re going as a family – get yourself a private residence through AirBnb or some other option. Aside from being more affordable than a hotel… having a second bedroom, full kitchen, PLUS a washer/dryer in the apartment was CLUTCH. And the view was about as good as it gets.
Finally, the close proximity to Jaffa (Tel Aviv and Jaffa are one municipality) meant easy access to ancient ruins dating back thousands of years. The old city has a lovely square with restaurants (all kid friendly) and a port with outstanding fish restaurants such as The Old Man and the Sea (kid friendly!) and The Fisherman’s Restaurant (kid friendly!). You really need to at least visit The Old Man and the Sea for the absurd (and delicious) salad appetizers which give you 10+ varieties to choose from (including all you can eat pitas, homemade hummus, falafel, babaganoush and too many others to count) and are instantly replenished as soon as you are half finished with one.
Beware though when wandering the alleys between the main square in the Jaffa old city and the port. They are awesome, and historic, and you may feel like you’re Indiana Jones. But they are most decidedly NOT stroller friendly (same goes for the old city in Jerusalem) and they’re pretty steep – so if you want to go exploring try and get a babysitter and treat yourself to one of the amazing restaurants like Kalamata (Greek food) in a part of the world that has been continuously inhabited for literally 9,000 years. And then, climb to the top of the hill, cross the “wishing bridge” and take a look at the 21st century lights of Tel Aviv, while surrounded by ruins from the Egyptian conquest of ancient Canaan, 3,500 years ago. Just amazing.
And without getting too political here – there’s something just nice about going to a place like Jaffa where Israelis and Arabs coexist with no drama. The rest of the Middle East should take notes.
The bottom line – Tel Aviv is a PERFECT family destination, no matter how old your kids are. Babies and children will love the activities. You’ll love the world class restaurants, museums, and endless (free or very low cost!) ways to entertain your family.
Verdict: An outstanding use of the time you are given.
And just because, here are some more pictures from our time in Tel Aviv.