It’s nearly school holidays so we’ve put together a list of things to do to keep the kids entertained and to spend some quality time together in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Heading away over the holidays can be expensive, so we’ve got some wonderful staycation ideas for activities you can do without leaving town. As the saying goes, there’s really no place like home.
On a fine day, make the most of the great outdoors.
About a one hour drive out of the city is the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail at Snells Beach. It can make a great place to visit with the kids to get out and about, exercise and stimulate creative minds.
Best of all, kids under five are free. It’s a two kilometre walk along an easy trail through a beautiful setting of native trees and continually-changing exhibitions.
There’s also a restaurant by the trail (with a kids menu) so you can stop for a meal once you’ve all worked up an appetite.
Other outdoor options for Auckland include the eight tracks in Centennial Park which are suitable for most ages and fitness levels and are around four kilometres.
While those tracks aren’t suitable if you have a buggy, one that is fine is the Grey Lynn Explorer which is just over five kilometres. There are a few steps, but these are navigable with a pram.
Or when it rains, head indoors to the Museums.
There is, of course, the iconic Auckland Museum and Maritime Museum. The Auckland Museum has a kids area in the Weird and Wonderful Discovery Centre, and during July there will also be the special exhibition, ‘The Secret World of Butterflies’.
Both museums are free to Auckland residents.
There’s also the Stardome Observatory & Planetarium which has special kid focused programmes over the school holidays.
For a taste of the arts, try the kid-friendly theatre shows
The joy of going to the theatre doesn’t need to be reserved for adults. During the July break, there are plenty of shows that your kids will love.
The tale of the Big Bad Wolf will come to life at the Bruce Mason Theatre (recommended age 4+), and the old lullaby The Owl and the Pussycat will be performed in the Wintergarden at the Civic (recommended age 5+).
There’s also the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra who will be performing The Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s Child towards the end of the holidays at the Aotea Centre.
Woah Studios is a great option for a full day activity. Not only are there studios for watching live shows, but there is also an incredible adventure playground out the front, which looks just like it’s out of a movie set too. Best of all it’s just $10 for a full day wristband for the park.
There’s also a licensed restaurant there with delicious food that the adults will enjoy (and even handmade ice creams for the kids).
When it comes to playgrounds, one of the other favourites is Tui Glen Park in West Auckland with its pyramid towers and flying fox. Another popular choice, this time on the other side of the bridge, is the Takapuna Beach Playground with intertwining pipe slides.
For more intense activity, the Adventure Park in Silverdale has over nine rides, and whether it’s the luge, the zipline, the vertical bungy or the 7D cinema experience, there will be something for everyone.
Enjoying the winter sunshine
There are wonderful walks in Christchurch that gain the attention of tourists from across the globe and these can be challenging outdoor activities for the older kids during the break.
There’s the famed Bridle Path Walk (around three hours) or for a much less physically challenging option for younger ones, there’s the Riccarton Bush Walk which is about a kilometre in length (and buggy friendly too).
A visit to the free community gardens is another great option for getting in touch with nature. The gardens are scattered through the city and in fact, there are now around 30 in total in Christchurch and the surrounding areas, and you can check the map here for the one nearest to you.
Community gardens are a great way to teach kids about how our food is produced, it’s a chance for them to interact with the community and also they get rewarded with delicious herbs, fruits and vegetables at the end. Mandarins, passionfruit and rhubarb are all in season at this time of year.
If you’d prefer not to be walking, the Ferrymead Heritage Park has Steam Sundays on the second Sunday of every month where you can have unlimited rides on the steam train and tram.
The first Sunday of the school holidays is a Steam Sunday, making it an active day out to start the break. Family passes for Steam Sunday are $30 for two adults and three children.
Museums for rainy days
Christchurch has many wonderful museums on offer, starting with the Canterbury Museum with its impressive collections, exploring everything from World War One to Striking Spiders.
One particularly impressive exhibition is Quake City which tells the stories from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. For kids under 15, it’s free if they’re accompanied by an adult.
Then there’s the Air Force Museum which not only has a number of interactive activities for the kids, but also a $5 scavenger hunt for added excitement.
The International Antarctic Museum excites the adventurer in us all. A family pass is $149 which includes two adults and three children. An annual family pass though is $199 so if you’re planning on going a few times in the holidays, or throughout the year, it’s worth the extra $50.
Kid-friendly theatre shows
At the start of the school holidays Te Vaka and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra will be presenting the music of Disney film, Moana at the Isaac Theatre. Children’s tickets are $25 for Premium or A reserve tickets).
The Music of Moana will also be performed earlier in the evening at 6pm, to make it easier for the whole family to attend.
Then, at the end of the holidays, the Imagine You Theatre are bringing Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic, Alice In Wonderland, to life.
This is a part of the annual KidsFest, which has been running since 1992. You might remember some of the circus events, and the KidsFilmFest from last year’s Festival and while they haven’t announced the full list of this year’s events yet (tickets go on sale from June), no doubt there will be plenty to do.
Developed right here in Christchurch, Clip N Climb is described as where ‘theme parks meet climbing walls’. There’s no minimum age, and with 38 different climbs there’s an option for every ability.
On a windy winter day in Christchurch, it’s the perfect weather to go Blokarting for the more adventurous souls. Velocity Karts have these in Bexley along with Driftkarts too. Note that kids must be aged 8 or above but both options are very easy for them to learn.
Finally there is the Adrenalin Forest—an outdoor aerial obstacle course. It’s suitable for any ages as long as they are at least 1.3 metres tall to do the pathways discovery and for the whole course, 1.45 metres tall.
For kids under 18 years old, tickets are $18.
Enjoying the winter sunshine
The Rimutaka Forest Park is easy to get to from Wellington and has a number of short walks at the start. These are all between 30 to 45 minutes in length, in the ‘Catchpool Valley’ including the Catchpool Loop Track, the Nature Trail and the Tawa Grove Walk.
There are also plenty of picnic areas along the way too, so you can all have a snack stop.
For a more central nature option, there’s the Wellington Botanic Gardens. To entertain the kids as they walk around, the Gardens have ‘explorer backpacks’, free to borrow from the Visitor Centre and filled with activities and equipment.
To venture a little closer to home, the Wellington City Council provides a list of every playground in the city on their website which is a good excuse to try out some new play areas in your suburb.
The site will also tell you if the park is fenced, and for what age groups they’re most suitable for.
Museums in Wellington
Te Papa always has plenty going on in the school holidays, including their Storyplace for toddler-friendly activities and the Discovery Centre for a hands-on approach to learning.
However, there’s also the Wellington Museum in the heritage building on the waterfront that has plenty to offer too.
A ten minute cable car ride away from the Wellington Museum is the Cable Car Museum, located in the original winding house and showcasing cable cars from as early as 1902.
A short walk from there is the Space Place with interactive galleries and workshops for kids and a fun planetarium show experience.
Kid-friendly theatre shows.
During July the children’s theatre company, Little Dog Barking, will be performing the aptly-titled Black Dog, based on the bestselling children’s book.
Both will be held at the Circa Theatre which is right next to Te Papa Museum, so can be a great addition to the day out.
Escape games are fast becoming popular across the globe and the craze is certainly making its mark on New Zealand too. Escape Mate in Wellington is a live action group game to test the family’s problem-solving talent.
It also encourages everyone to work together to solve the clues. Kids must be aged eight or above, as some puzzles are more complex and also obstacles may be out of reach for the little ones.
Another great active option is Uptown Bounce. With wall-to-wall trampolines, Uptown Bounce gives kids a chance to feel like they’re flying and it’s a great form of exercise too.
Sessions run on an hourly basis and passes start at $10 an hour (for mini bouncers under 110 cm).