Planning a holiday in Christchurch is a fun process but can be a bit challenging if you haven't visited recently and you're not sure what's up and running after the earthquakes. The main tourism attractions are well promoted so we have focused mostly on activities that are free or low cost, to give mum and dad's bank account a rest.
We've pulled together 10 great fun activities to do with your family in the Garden City - any time of year.
1. Boating on the Avon
If you prefer your boating to be complete relaxation, we suggest you try punting, but if you want something that's energetic and lots of fun to do with the kids, visit the Antigua Boat Sheds and hire a few boats for the afternoon. There's also a cafe and push bike hire if you want to go exploring the city.
2. Canterbury Museum and Botanic Gardens
Perhaps one of the best free things to do in Christchurch is a visit to the Museum, followed (on a good day) by a stroll through the Botanic Gardens to the playground and Ilex Cafe. Ilex is a very cool spot for lunch, with lots of outdoor tables and an interactive area inside for the children to use microscopes and play. The Museum also has its own cafe and a special interactive space for children for a $2 fee.
3. Gapfillers: Dance-o-Mat, Gapfiller Golf, The Commons (retro sports) and Gapcaching
The Gapfiller project has been another highly publicised aspect of the Christchurch rebuild, helping to bring visual interest and interactivity to empty sites around the city as they wait for landowners to rebuild. Some of the most populat and successful gapfillers are the Dance-o-Mat, which has been relocated to several different sites around the city and is currently residing on the corner of Colombo Street and Gloucester Street, close to Cathedral Square. The Dance-o-Mat is a dance floor with lights, speakers and a coin operated music player that you can sit your iPod or mp3 player in to play your choice of music to dance to. The mat has been the scene of some memorable moments, including Prince Charles and Camilla dancing with locals during their visit, and this.
The newest innovation from Gapfiller is Gapcaching - a mix of geo caching and letterboxing which is really a treasure hunt that takes you and your children around six of the Gapfiller sites in the CBD. Be prepared by bringing with you a few little treasures to trade with those in the letterboxes. You can download and print off the GapCache map here, or pick up a printed version from The Commons or the Central Library Peterborough.
If you are visiting The Commons to pick up a map, you can also get a few golf putters and balls, and play Gapfiller Golf at the different locations. The Commons also has Retro Sports equipment for public use and green space to play with your kids. The food trucks are there most days, and the seating area is open for anyone to sit and enjoy their lunch or a coffee, even if you don't buy food from the vendors onsite. Follow The Commons on Facebook for updates on any events or activities happening on site (including the Sunday Farmers Market).
4. Imagination Station, Cathedral Junction
If your kids (large and small) love Lego, the Imagination Station is definitely worth a visit. Free entry (donations appreciated) for everyone and you can also book children's parties here. To make your day even more fun, park the car somewhere near the tram loop and catch a tram right to the door!
5. Halswell Miniature Trains
If your kids love trains and you are in town on a Sunday afternoon, take a drive to Halswell and invest $2 per child for a ride on miniature trains at Halswell Domain. Follow their Facebook page for updates on weather and if the trains are running. The volunteers who run these events also run a model boat sailing day on the second Sunday of every month, weather permitting.
6. Airforce Museum, Wigram
If your family enjoy airplanes and history, Wigram Airforce Museum is a must visit, and entry is free. There's a cafe on site to help keep blood sugar levels up and plenty of free parking too. Your budding pilots can also have a go in the flight simulator for $5 per five minutes.
The museum also offers guided behind the scenes tours to see planes being restored and another 11 aircraft that are not in the main display area. Cost for the guided experience is $10 per adult and $5 per child, and they run at 11.00am, 1.30pm and 3pm.
7. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Husseys Road
Cuddly, furry, feathery and slithery creatures are always fun for the family to watch, feed and pat and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve has no shortage of all of these. Most Christchurch based families with young children have annual family passes which are great value, even if you are just in Christchurch on holiday.
For the cost of two family entrance fees you can get a 12 month family pass which means you can go as many times as you like. There's a cafe and gift shop on site and you can also take your own picnic food or use the BBQ area.
8. Riccarton House and Bush - and Farmers Market
Deans Bush, aka Riccarton Bush is the last remaining fragment of virgin native bush left in Christchurch. Originally the home of the Deans family who were one of the pioneering families involved in the very early days of Canterbury settlement, the bush itself is a great place to give children a sense of how the whole of Christchurch used to be. Boardwalks take you through the bush so there's no chance of getting lost or getting bogged down in mud during the winter months.
At the same location is the original Deans cottage, which is set up so people can view how the family lived, and of course historic Riccarton House which is now used as a function venue and restaurant.
In the weekends, a popular farmer's market runs on the site on Saturday mornings till around 1pm, providing a wide range of locally grown produce and food, plus coffee and meals. Parking is usually in high demand on the streets nearby, so be prepared for a short walk and bring a carry bag to take your goodies away.
9. Roxx Clip n Climb
The Roxx has been a popular holiday activity for Christchurch locals for a number of years and was recently bought by the YMCA. Clip 'n Climb is incredibly popular with families and groups of all types. There's no minimum or maximum age, and 34 different climbs to have a go at.
At Clip ‘n Climb you don’t need a belay partner (someone to hold the other end of the rope), because there are automatic belay devices installed on every climb, just clip them onto your harness and away you go. When you are finished just let go and the device will gently lower you back down to the ground – it’s as simple as that!
All Clip ‘n Climb sessions start ‘on the hour’ and include a 15 minute period for getting on harnesses and listening to a safety briefing. This is followed by 60 minutes of full on climbing.
10. Westburn Bike Park
This little gem is one of Christchurch's best kept secrets and the perfect spot to take the offspring if you packed their bikes (or if you are local of course). Westburn Bike Park has been designed with its own little network of streets and intersections to help children practice their biking and traffic handling skills (and race each other around the circuit apparently).
There's also a playground so they can change it up when cycling gets boring. Getting to Westburn Reserve is pretty straightforward. The park is on Westburn Tce, nestled in between Grahams Rd and Greers Rd. There is also a pathway access to Memorial Ave (opposite Burnside High).