Let's face it - travelling with young children can be difficult! Most kids require constant entertainment and plenty of outdoor space to expend their energy, putting a lot of pressure on Mum and Dad. Thankfully, Christchurch is one of the more family-friendly cities, with plenty of places for kids to play and explore. Here is a guide to five of the most fun-filled family activities in the Garden City.
Situated on the fringe of the eastern side of Hagley Park, close to Canterbury Museum and the Christchurch Arts Centre, are the beautiful Botanic Gardens. The gardens have been around since 1850, about the time Christchurch was founded.
They are filled with exotic plants, beautiful architectural pieces and historic features including the Edwardian-era Peacock Fountain. Let the kids run free amongst the gardens or grab a loaf of bread and feed the ducks that hang out in and around the Avon. For something special, hire kayaks or a paddle boat from the nearby Antigua Boat Shed. During the summer, you can catch one of the children's events, like the annual Teddy Bear's Picnic.
If you're staying at a Christchurch inner-city hotel, a great place nearby for the kids to expend their excess energy is the gorgeous Hagley Park. The park is the largest of its kind in Christchurch and is over 164 hectares. It is made up of lengthy fields and beautiful tall trees, making it perfect for cyclists and joggers. The team at City Cycle Hire in Christchurch offer a range of mountain and bike rentals for kids and adults delivered to your hotel of choice. The bikes are well-maintained; helmets and safety gear are provided and the hire fees are very reasonable.
New Brighton Pier is a 300-metre long pier stepping out across the gorgeous stretch of sand that is New Brighton Beach into the beautiful Pacific Ocean. New Brighton Beach itself stretches 18km up the coast, making it a great area to take the kids to play, picnic and quickly wear them out!
During the summer, there are plenty of swimming areas supervised by the local surf-club. If the wind picks up, the idea of picnicking may not be realistic, but the New Brighton village is particularly cool with plenty of cafes and takeaway shops. If it's not swimming season, cycling and walking around the plantation areas up the northern end is also very popular. To get to New Brighton from the CBD, you can catch a number of buses from the central city bus depot.
The coolest animal experience around, Orana Wildlife Park is a non-profit organisation set on 80-hectares of land. Situated close to Christchurch airport, if you're booking a hotel in the area, Orana is an open-range operation benefiting both the guests and the animals. More than 400 animals from 70 different species, including zebras, lions, monkeys and exotic birds are given free roam in large enclosures bordered by mounds, banks and streams. This provides security for the public and freedom for the animals at the same time. Orana Wildlife Trust consists of a group of charities dedicated to conservation. Hence, they promote animal education and welfare, and spearhead a number of breeding programs for endangered animals.
A stroke of genius, Chipmunks combines adult relaxation with a killer kid's playground in one setting. Parents can enjoy a cappuccino while their children go to town on Chipmunks' indoor playground - complete with mazes, slides, computer games, toys, swings, ball pools and a flying fox. Safety comes first and foremost; all areas are protected by padding and mats, and there is a no-shoes-allowed in the playground rule. There is also a separate area for those under the age of 3. The opening hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and there is even a drop-off service available for 5-11 year olds where kids can play for up to three hours at a cost of $20 while you go shopping or site-seeing. That's a fairly affordable babysitting service!
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