In colloboration with @Jucysnooze, @JUCYworld, Jucy, Christchurch.
Christchurch winters are bright and cool compared to Northern Europe or the northeast of the USA, even with snowy mountains as a backdrop, and ski weekends just 30 minutes away. So from May until December, layer up and prepare for city center days that mix indoor action with outdoor fun!
10 am International Antarctic Centre. Christchurch is one of five gateway cities to Antarctica. Of course it is here, just outside of the airport! And just as obvious is the fact that any visit to Christchurch should begin here, a port city to ‘the bottom of the world’. Ride in a Hagglund, the military grade vehicle used on the icy Antarctic terrain. Brave the freezing temperatures of the storm simulation room. Move the earth around the sun via large scale ceiling . Pet a Husky. Watch little blue penguins feed and play. Most of all, learn about how human activity is endangering the region. This may be in the top 3 museums we have visited in our trip around the world.
1pm Brunch at Luciano! Christchurch has a surprisingly vibrant coffee culture. Luciano’s is the restaurant of an award-winning barista. The location looks like a car wash at first glance, but the inside is cozy, and the food and coffee brought rave reviews from our entire family of four!
3pm Pioneer Sports Centre for a swim. The Pioneer sports centre is hopping when we arrive on a Sunday afternoon, even as everyone has school the next day. It seems all of Christchurch’s families are here. There is a volleyball tournament going on in the gym, dozens of children still on the playground, and the pool is full. Never mind, we don our swimsuits and dive right into the wave pool, which has a basketball net, a baby wading pool, and lots of floating devices to go around. Some of the parents are in the nearby seating area reading or looking at their phones while their older children frolic. We, of course, are riding the waves with our littles. So much fun! But now we are starving.
6 pm Dinner at Velvet Burger. We brave the Westfield Riccarton mall neighbourhood for this stellar burger joint with more-ish fries (that is you just want more and more!). In the evenings, the crowds dissipate, the shops close, and Velvet Burger transforms into a cool, local haunt. The great veggie ‘Animal Rights’ burger features the kumara potato, a Māori staple.
10 am Footie or rugby in the park. On a Saturday or Sunday morning, the parks are full of kids football and rugby leagues. Come with coffee, hot chocolates, and muffins to watch the young ones duke it out. Enjoy the games, or bring a ball, or a kite and join in on the action.
11 am Botanic Garden. If you’ve only got a limited amount of time in Christchurch, Halsey is the best park to hang out in on a Saturday morning. Not only are there lots of locals engaged in sport about, it leads into the Botanic Garden. This may be our favourite botanical space in the world. Most of it just looks like rainforest. Take a shuttle ride through the gardens in order to see as much as you can.
1 pm Brunch and shopping at Addington Coffee Co-op. Between the fair trade coffee, the delicious vegan brunch, the outside space, and the shop, Addington is one of our best Christchurch finds. The amazingness of the shop cannot be understated: a selection of multicultural books, slick eco-friendly travel mugs and t-shirts, beautiful prints, homemade jewellery…just try not to leave all of your money there.
3 pm Punting on the Avon. Admittedly, there are no locals doing this. But people on lunch break or leaving work to pick up their children got a kick out of watching us struggle upstream with two complaining children in a canoe. (Don’t worry, no children were harmed. Complaining is a love language!) You can always choose to take a guided, group tour of the river, but we enjoyed the physicality of rowing our own boat, and chatting endlessly about the different species of ducks we encountered (5!)
Walk toward the Canterbury Museum, where there is a Discovery Center for children, should it be too cold to explore outside. Alternatively, across the street, you can hop on the historic tram for a tour of the downtown area. It was warm enough for us to walk, so we explored by foot. We crossed through the arch of the Bridge of Remembrance, through the high street shopping district, on to Cathedral Square and past the Tūranga Library, until we reached…
4 pm Margaret Mahy playground. A big beautiful space with climbing apparatus, swings, water play, large slide, sand box, zip line, and even a little bike park across the street. By this time in the afternoon, Margaret Mahy is packed with Kiwis, even if its cold!
5 pm Head to Rollickin' Gelato for ice cream and coffee. They call New Regent Street New Zealand’s most beautiful, and that doesn’t sound like a stretch. Pastel painted houses, cobblestone streets, and adorable shops. The Rollicking Gelato has yummy ice cream, coffee, and those wood cabin, home fire feeling you need to recharge after a long, cold play.
7 pm Dinner at Commi. There are plenty of restaurants in the city centre to choose from. However, we have a car, so ventured out into the Sydenham neighborhood to eat at popular Asian fusion joint, Commi, Food for the People. We get a kick out of the name, and the small delicious dishes are filling enough for children, and spicy enough for adult palettes. Everyone goes to bed tired, happy, and full!
Still in Christchurch? Make a full day out of any of these three activities:
If it’s a Sunday, consider Steam Scene. Only a ten minute drive from Christchurch Airport (and Jucy Snooze!), Steam Scene is a railroad museum with an actual steam train that operates on the first and third Sundays of the month. The playground gets crowded, but there is a lot for the kids to get into, with a bit of history and engineering for the adults.
Spencer Park is a wildlife reserve just 30 minutes outside of the city. The RV park is vast, with clean facilities, and a playground. There is also a sprawling sand beach, and many hiking trails. Download Spencer Park’s Agents of Discovery app and choose an adventure for a day of learning and fun! (Don’t forget your pack a picnic lunch!)
The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is the best place to see kiwis in New Zealand. The Reserve is also home to wandering swans and ducks who can get a bit aggressive if you plan on feeding them. The reserve has farm animals to interact with, endangered species such as the super cute kuna pig, and the kea bird.You can also just go for the 4:30 kiwi tour to see the elusive birds come out of their little wooden homes for their nocturnal romps. NB: They serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday!