Wet or fine, children (and parents with “cabin fever”) need to explore the world via full-day or half-day outings. Find interesting places to visit in your area — parks, museums, reserves, zoos, playgrounds, bushwalks, animal parks, and more.
Have you ever noticed that people from out of town always think your town or city is great, but you’re often at a loss when it comes to finding things to do? That’s because visitors are always on the look-out for something different, but when you’re at home you just get caught up doing what you’ve always done.
To find interesting places to visit in your area, you need to “think like a tourist”, and be prepared to revisit places you haven’t been to in years. Often places change or evolve, and we just assume that we’ve “been there and done that”. Take a look at your town or city with fresh eyes, and see what’s on offer.
Parks and Reserves
Every town and city has a multitude of parks and reserves, and many are hidden away or off the main routes. Your local council can provide you with a complete list of reserves in your area, and can also supply information about what facilities are at each. If you are taking small children, you’ll definitely need to know if there are toilets, but they can also tell you if there are playgrounds, barbeques, water access, skateboard ramps and the like.
Contact your local council for a ‘Parks and Reserves’ flyer, or check out their website. The website address for most NZ city councils is www.cityname.govt.nz, for example: www.aucklandcity.govt.nz.
New Zealand has some amazing bushwalks which cater for all ages and abilities, so why not pack a picnic and “go bush” for a half-day. Your local information centre will have a list of bushwalks in your area, or visit www.doc.govt.nz for short walks administered by the Department of Conservation.
You might be surprised at the number and variety of museums right on your doorstep. Spark your child’s curiosity and imagination through the many sights (and sometimes sounds) at a museum. Check out www.nzmuseums.co.nz for a directory listing of museums by region.
Not every town or city is lucky enough to have a museum, but every place has a history. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has a register of all historic or heritage sites in New Zealand, and you can search for them by town or city on their website www.historic.org.nz. Spend some time doing a little research, and then create your own history tour to do with your child. It’s doesn’t have to be old, stuffy and boring; in fact, with a little bit of imagination you can make the tour a highlight of the weekend.
Zoos and Animal Parks
When we go out of town with our children, one of the first things we visit is the zoo or animal park, yet somehow we forget to visit the ones in our own backyard. Small privately owned animal parks are dotted throughout the country, and the intimate hands-on nature of these facilities is perfect for young children.
Many of these parks are not widely advertised because they are more of a family hobby than a business, but with a little research you can usually track them down. Your local pre-school can often point you in the right direction, as these places are often on their ‘to visit’ list throughout the year. The Visitor Information Centre will have details about your bigger zoos and animal parks, and these are also listed under ‘Tourist Attractions’ in the Yellow Pages of your phone book.
Beaches, Rivers and Lakes
These are obvious places to visit in summer, but we tend to forget about them in the colder months. It doesn’t have to be that way. A trip to the beach, river, or lake during winter is a whole new adventure, with all sorts of activities you can do. Marvel at the visual splendour of autumn leaves. Delight at nature’s beauty in the spring. Wrap up warm and take the children on a scavenger hunt, build sandcastles, go rock climbing, skim stones, build dams and explore places you have never explored before. There’s more to these areas than just swimming, so make the most of the colder weather and enjoy what’s on offer outside of the water.
Every town has their tourist hot spots, but most locals never get there unless they are taking out-of-town guests. Check out the ‘Tourist Attractions’ in your Yellow Pages, and choose one to visit when you develop “cabin fever”. Don’t worry if you think you’ve seen it all before, because chances are the attraction has well and truly changed since you were a child. Most tourist parks offer some sort of discount for locals, because they know they rely on you to recommend them to out-of-town friends.
When away on holiday most people end up doing a bit of shopping, and it’s always fun to visit shops you’ve never been to before. Shopping isn’t always high on the list for children, but visiting small suburban shopping centres can sometimes turn up hidden treasures. Instead of heading into the city centre or your local mall, take the back streets and hunt out some little boutique shops. Make it a little “treasure hunt” for the kids, but best to plan ahead.
Have a ‘push play’ day, and hunt out some action activity centres in your town. You could try rock climbing, ten pin bowling, mini-putt, archery, go-carting, blow-carting, roller skating, ice skating, skateboarding, paint ball, laser gun, and golf. There’s no one category to find these under in your Yellow Pages, but ‘Tourist Attractions’ is a good place to start. You could also check with the Visitor Information Centre for contact details.
Community events may not have all the hype and hoopla of corporate activities, but they are usually reasonably priced, lots of fun, and cater for the whole family. Find out if and when you have a local Farmers Market, with fresh organic produce. School holidays and weekends are a popular time to hold community events, so check your local council website, local newspapers, pre-school newsletters, school newsletters, and local flyers for up-coming community events.
With all that in mind, there’s no reason to be bored. It just take a little imagination and a little planning. Pretend that your town is a whole new place and start exploring. As the old saying goes – make sure you see your own backyard first.