Family fun: Christchurch is great for both the visitor and local alike. Why? Because Christchurch caters for children with fabulous kids-fest events in the school holidays and has heaps of activities for them during the rest of the year too: many of them free, or for a donation, and I’m lucky enough to have a grandson that I can do these things with.
Museums and art galleries are great but need to be done on small doses with young ones: perhaps concentrate on one specialist area with each visit. The fabulous Christchurch Art Gallery always has special events during the school holidays – as does the long established museum.
Right beside the museum and Arts Centre are the Botanic Gardens, which has lots of space for running, picnic spots and of course a kid’s playground with a paddling pool. Still on the water theme is the Avon River and its iconic boatsheds – a trip to Christchurch without boating on the Avon seems unthinkable and its been a tradition for many families over generations to learn to row boats and paddle canoes on this stretch of river.
Remember to bring extra clothing when indulging in water sports – last time we went on the river we regretted not having dry clothes.
The Antarctic Centre is another must on this list of kid’s fun things. Twice voted New Zealand’s best attraction it’s appropriate it’s in Christchurch, long the jumping off place for Antarctic exploration and adventures.
Young ones, and sometimes us not-so-young-ones, are often greeted with a hug from a large penguin. When exploring the frozen spaces in the building you will be supplied with the thick warm coats and boots for all the family and they are certainly needed – especially if you brave the blast of cold air that lets you experience the frozen continents wind-chill factor. Children, adults, and spectators alike love the ice slide so give it a go.
After exploring the centre, it’s almost compulsory to finish off with a ride on the Hagglund. For fifteen mins you will enjoy, or scream, as you race around in doughnut style, swimming through water, over a crevasse, and up and down hills – just as vehicles like this do daily in the Antarctic.
Unless you have a fear of heights, another place on your list should be the Gondola. It will take to the top of the Port Hills – near the bridle path that many of our ancestors walked over in the 1800s.
Once at the top, after admiring the views all the way up I walk with my grandson through the time tunnel and see how the twin volcanoes shaped this area.
Another place that I believe visitors and locals alike need to visit is Willowbank Wildlife Reserve: the only place in New Zealand that you will see live kiwi – of the flightless bird variety – not behind glass. It’s also the place to experience KoTane, the fabulous Maori show that both informs and entertains people from all over the world as well as locals.
What else can you do in Christchurch? Ride the tram ( save by getting a combined ticket for it and the Gondola) ; visit Orana Park, the Air force museum; go ice-skating or roller-blading; see how quick you are at Laser Strike; and have fun as well as learning at Science Alive.
NOTE This is a reprint of an article in the Christchurch Citizen newspaper and still valid! (http://www.kiwitravelwriter.com/pdf/family_fun_in_christchurch.pdf )