What to do in Wellington: Gale Force Edition

We’ve just returned to Wellington after two months in the United Kingdom spending time with family and friends.

One of the many blessings of a long trip away from home is the space for planning and reflecting, while still distant. I spent some time while in the UK thinking about how I want to spend my time over the next few months, particularly with SBJ, and I thought I’d crowdsource some help from you guys.

So here is some brainstorming of out-of-the-house things that we like to do for an hour, an afternoon or a day with a toddler. It’s based firmly in Wellington, New Zealand, but those from elsewhere will have plenty to add that’s relevant, and the list will be adaptable to your locality, I would think. Please add your ideas in the comments below!

To keep things manageable, let’s start with indoor things for rainy, windy days. Yes, I know that going out in gumboots is also an important part of childhood, and, as my brother-in-law and I were saying through the rain at our local playground in Bath, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes… but still. This is a list of things for gale force days when you don’t want to get wet or blown away.

Rainy Day Adventures

Te Papa (the national museum) has four kids’ Discovery Centres with all sorts of elaborate hands-on fun, as well as the main exhibits. And of course the stairs are plentiful and awesome, for those of us just mastering them.

All library branches run free storytimes and ‘rock and rhyme’ baby sessions, though we have never once managed to get to one on time. Wellington Central Library is full of big bright things to climb on, too, so our time there has often resembled Kindy Gym, as a posse of newfound friends chase each other around the furniture.


SBJ and RJ at our first day at Kindy Gym

Speaking of which, Tuesday mornings at Kindy Gym ($4.50 or a ten-trip ticket for a bit less per visit) at the Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua are a highlight of the week, where dozens of pre-schoolers climb, run, throw balls and generally go mad. There’s a parachute-based music session as part of it, but usually we spend that time on the obstacle courses the staff set up out of gym equipment. They also run a bunch of other things for littlies.

After Kindy Gym, we always crash Angela and Rachel’s ritual visit to Pataka next door, where there’s a library with toys as well as books in the art gallery with a specially designed children’s room, the Tuatara Gallery, full of fabulous things to explore. These are arranged around a central atrium with a kid-friendly cafe and, most popular of all, an empty stage to renegade around on. All of this is free, including the parking, and it fills an entire morning with variety and fun.


Meeting bison at Pataka

My husband has taken SBJ to the Carter Observatory, which will presumably only get more interesting for him as he gets older. Junglerama (Newtown and Seaview) and Chipmunks (Tawa and somewhere else) are indoor playgrounds that cost money but regularly have vouchers on GrabOne. There are probably others, but I’ve only been to three, and would rate them (for newness, cleanliness, convenience, etc) in this order: Tawa, Seaview, Newtown.


Chipmunks, Tawa

Cafes with significant indoor play areas (more than just a toybox), that are good for both adults and kids and are on our regular circuit include Karori Park Cafe, Brooklyn (update: now called Zaida’s), Floyd’s and Rata Cafe at Zealandia (menu now much improved, too), See City Wrigglers’ extensive list for more, but these are our faves at the moment.


The fringe of beads at Southern Cross is awesome, though be warned, it is also right beside the open front door.

Having said that, when I’m with another adult too (so there’s more energy for chasing and entertaining), plenty of other cafes that don’t particularly aim to be kid-friendly are great to be in. As long as the staff are lovely, there’s usually plenty to keep SBJ interested and us sane, so honourable mention to Midnight Espresso, Arthur’s, Maranui, Kaizen, Prefab, the Southern Cross and Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli. Hm. I’m having to resist providing detailed commentary on each of these beloved places. Perhaps I need a whole nother post on cafes and kids… The ASB Sports Centre in Kilbirnie and the Kilbirnie pool both apparently have great indoor play spaces, so they’re on the list to try out.

Swimming pools generally are always great for our family. When we lived downtown there was a small pool in our building and SBJ used it every couple of days. We’ll need to get a pass for whatever is closest when we get settled in a house here.

I’d really like to join a Mainly Music group, but I do find their lack of centralised info online daunting. You mean I have to telephone someone at each church to find out what’s on when? One day I’ll manage that…

Well, what are lists for but creating debate? What have I missed? If you’re in another place, what’s on your rainy day outing list?

If you’d like to write a full post on your hometown, I’d love to hear from you, so leave a note in the comments or contact me by email.

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0 comments on “What to do in Wellington: Gale Force Edition”

  1. Angela Reply

    1. LOVE our Tuesdays!
    2. Ditto the pic of James and the bison.
    3. Tawa at the top of the list, that’s a first! Though it is totally correct of course.
    4. That bead curtain at Southern Cross deserves its own mention doesn’t it? I was thinking the other day how fun it would be to make one.
    5. I think Southern Cross may deserve a full mention of its own regarding the activities it provides, though I am not an expert. As I recall, there are sometimes sessions of facepainting, free massages for Mums whiles the babes play with the toys, weekend morning boogy sessions. .. etc. etc.
    6. There are so many cafes I need to get to!
    7. Get a house with a pool. You know. Indoor please 🙂
    8. Yes I’d love to get to Mainly Music again. The list does provide days, so start with your nearest church and most convenient day. I’d have to say the hardest bit is that they all have such a different feel to them, you really have to go along to see if you like it, and maybe try another. We should make it happen. Some have much better music than others!
    9. Brilliant list. I’m too dazzled by it to think of any more. Oh – I have heard City to Sea Museum for slightly older children.

  2. Karen Reply

    OK, here we go Thalia Kehoe Rowden finally a moment to add a few suggestions/favourites of ours – join a Toy Library and get new toys every week/couple of weeks – we belong to the wonderful (not that I’m biased) Petone Toy Library, but there are great ones all over the Wellington region (and NZ). And now for a few Hutt Valley favorites with toddlers in tow – The Dowse Art Gallery has fabulous exhibitions and generally always a room upstairs with puzzles/drawing/books and other activities for little ones. There is a cool exhibition on at the mo all selected by children and Dowse Square outside is shaping up to be a great place to run about http://www.newdowse.org.nz/en/Exhibitions/Current-Exhibitions/Pic-n-Mix/ And while at The Dowse get some great coffee and food at Cafe Reka – which has a fabulous range of toys for kids to play with and comfy couches http://www.cafe-reka.co.nz And on the cafe theme – Benedicts up in Maungaraki has the most wonderful indoor play area for kids with loads of great toys andride on trikes and even a pet bearded dragon in a tank – and a good range of reasonably priced food for littlies http://www.benedictscafe.co.nz And finally I’d say the best indoor playground for the toddler age, even better than Junglerama or Lollipops (and pretty new too) is Laughalots in Petone.

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