Liverpool: Twist and shout in a revitalised city of nostalgia
Magical Mystery Tour
It's just gotten so much easier to get across the river to Liverpool with a new direct flight from Dublin, writes Dave Fahy.
Take Liverpool for a magical, mystery tour... The 'golden square mile' that is Liverpool's waterfront is currently the best value for money in the UK.
There are seven free museums!
Sure there is the Tate at the top end; but don't ignore the brilliantly inter-active, four-floor Maritime or the Museum of Liverpool dedicated to the history of the city and the fascinating Museum of International Slavery, showing the city's part in a dark period.
Or there's The Piermaster's House, which escaped devastating air raids during World War II and which has now been recreated in the style of that period.
There is, of course, The Beatles Story museum - the largest in the world - and the Beatles Walking Tour for those who want to gen up on the Fab Four.
You can book online on beatleswalk.com, with tickets costing £18 per person, or £30 for two, taking in the Eleanor Rigby and John Lennon statues, record stores and anything else connected with Liverpool's most famous export.
There is also the atmospheric Cavern Club where The Beatles played so many of their earliest gigs (it's also got tours, including the Magical Mystery Tour by bus, related to the band) and the various other mop top-associated places such as Penny Lane and John Lennon's house dotted about.
But Liverpool is also the home of slightly more modern acts, many of them chart-toppers during the 1980s.
They include Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, The Christians, OMD, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and others who made another Liverpool club, Upstairs At Erics, famous.
The club is across the road from The Cavern on Mathew Street, in the heart of the nightlife area, and is open again to the public.
Throw in the number of quality city-centre budget hotels (Days, Holiday, Premier, Travelodge, Mercure, Ibis) cutting out travel costs and the family budget will be well under control.
Then again there are some bijou joints including a number of barges that double as apartments on the waterfront - one is a yellow submarine, another a slanted, sinking Titanic.
If you want to book a sleeopver on the water, check out the website yellowsubliverpool.co.uk.
Fast food and burger joints can be avoided with a number of Wetherspoon-type places such as The Welkin (€12 for two meals, two drinks) to be availed of. It's also handily located on Whitechapel, just a few minutes' walk from the likes of the Cavern.
Note too that almost every eating venue from the high-end restaurants to the pubs has revitalised 'Scouse' - which is essentially Irish/Polish stew. It is usually very competitively priced.
The large shopping precinct adjacent to the waterfront is known as Liverpool One (see liverpool-one.com) and has been designed as a covered walkabout of shops and streets as opposed to a claustrophobic shopping centre.
Liverpool or Everton football teams are a short way across the city, although for matches, be advised it is best to contact the clubs in advance - it is very, very difficult to get tickets.
But if you're out of luck, the two clubs offer fascinating tours.
Liverpool has an array of options, from the standard tour starting at £9 (£6 for seniors and under 16s) and which currently takes in the Steven Gerrard collection, showing all his memorabilia, including medals (the only big absence being a Premier League medal).
Check out liverpoolfc.com for more info, including tours where you can meet club legends.
Across at Everton's Goodison Park, home to a large contingent of Irish players, the tour costs £12 for adults, or £6 for under-16s and seniors.
Check out evertonfc.com for details, and remember to book in advance.
And if you're a neutral, you can combine trips to both stadiums - they're less than 20 minutes' walk from each other.
Meanwhile, if mum or dad want to slip off for a day's golf, the 'Golf Coast' where three of the best 10 golf courses in England lie - Royal Lytham, Royal Birkdale and Royal Liverpool - is nearby.
That's the beauty of our sister city across the sea - it's got culture, shopping and sport in abundance. And it's just gotten that much easier to get there.