One of our highlights each year is going to the Auckland Lantern Festival in the Auckland Domain. Auckland Lantern Festival is a free famiy friendly event held at the end of the Chinese New Year festivities and is celebrated on the 15th day of the Chinese lunar month. This is a popular event with hundreds of handmade Chinese lanterns, music and dance performances, Chinese art and more.
10 useful tips for visiting the Auckland Lantern Festival with children
1. Go early in the evening while it is still daylight.
The lanterns, stalls and rides all start from early in the evening before it turns dark. Then you can decide how long you want to stay after the sun sets. The Lantern Festival gets a lot busier later in the evening, and it is much harder to keep track of your kids in the dark too.
2. Choose whether you want to go on a busy or quiet night
The Lantern Festival is on for four evenings from Thursday to Sunday. Thursday is usually the quietest night to go (as there are only the lanterns and no rides and food stalls) and Saturday night is usually the busiest. The video above was taken on the night before the Lantern Festival opened, so don't se ethe Lantern Festival this quiet.
3. Take some cash
Remember to take some cash with you, in case you the kids want some rides, or want to get a bite to eat from the food stalls. Not everyone accepts EFTPOS. You bring your own picnic for dinner if you don't want to buy food at the stalls.
4. Use a front pack or back pack for babies and toddlers
If you have babies or toddlers, bring a font or back pack rather than a buggy as it will be much easier to get around with the crowds and uneven surfaces.
5. Don't expect to park close by
Parking can be difficult to find, so you may want to catch the bus or train or ride your bike. The closest bus stops are on Khyber Pass Road and the closet train stops are at Newmarket and Grafton. There are secure bike parks at the festival if you family wants to ride.
6. Wear comfortable shoes and bring something warm to wear for later.
Make sure you and your children are wearing comfortable shoes as it may seem like a long walk to the lantern festival for little legs. Once the sun sets it can get colder too, so bring an extra layer for everybody.
7. Have a plan if your family group splits up where to meet.
With so many people it can be easy to get separated, so agree on a meeting place in case you do.
8. Plan a fun trip home
Take some torches from home, or buy a glow stick at the Lantern Festival for your kids, so they can have a fun walk back to your transport. You will be less likely to have to carry them if they are having fun too.
9. Don't miss the fireworks
If you have older children the Lantern Festival closes with a firework display late on Sunday evening.
10. Consider going in the day time if you children are very young
If you have really young children who can't stay up late, it's still visiting the domain to have a look at the lanterns in the daytime.
Auckland Lantern Festival is on each year to celebrate the Chinese New Year. It marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities and is celebrated on the 15th day of the Chinese lunar month.
The 2018 Chinese Lantern Festival welcomes in the Year of the Dog at the Auckland Domain from Thursday 1 March to Sunday 4 March 2018. The event is free to attend. For more information see: www.aucklandnz.com/lantern-festival
The Vector Wero Whitewater Park is New Zealand's first purpose built artificial white water facility and hosted the World Masters Games in April 2017. This massive park has two rivers, a lake and the world’s highest man-made waterfall. It's hard to believe that this adrenaline fueled family fun is just a short drive away from the centre of Auckland.
We were lucky to be invited by Wero to give rafting a try in the summer school holidays. My children (aged 7 and 9 years old) and their cousins (aged 12 and 14 years old) visiting us from Wellington got to go rafting on the Tamariki River Course. The kids all enjoyed it and want to go back again. Next time the parents are going to join in the fun too, rather than just watching the kids have all the fun.
The guides were fantastic and had a great sense of humor and an excellent style with the kids. Your safety is taken seriously so you know your family are in safe hands throughout. You watch a safety film then once you are kitted out in life jackets and helmets, you undergo training as a team and yes, you do get wet.
You are teamed up in a large inflatable multi-person raft, with one guide. Every crew member is expected to paddle, following the guide's instructions and that's a big part of the fun. With a qualified guide in each raft, you learn how to paddle in unison and maintain control before leaving the lake. You also learn how to rescue one of your crew members and get them back on board, A wide travelator carries you to the start of the course and launches you into the Tamariki River which has 200m of white water.
After you have run the river multiple times in your raft you get the chance to swim the rapids. You jump into the water and float downstream on your backs down the course and at the end swim to the edge. If you aren't a strong swimmer and can't get back against the current you will be thrown a rope to hold onto and pulled in.
The kids really enjoyed themselves and came away confident from learning how to do something new. It was fun to find an activity where the kids could bond together while having fun.
Who can go white water rafting?
Most white water paddlers will have little to no experience and rely on the guide's knowledge of the river. Children must be 5 years old to go on the Grade 1-2 course and 13 years old for the Grade 3-4 course. Children aged 5 to 7 years old need to have a parent or caregiver with them on the Tamariki River rafting course (one parent per two kids aged 5 to 7). The Park does not allow anyone who is pregnant to go rafting.
No matter what level of rapid you’re tackling there’s is a good chance you’ll end up in the water. You don’t have to be able to swim to go white water rafting, but you will need to be able to move into the defensive swim position, lying on your back with your feet floating near the surface and pointing down stream to protect you.
How difficult is white water rafting?
White water rafting difficulty is based on how difficult the river is to navigate. Rivers and courses across the world are usually graded by the International Scale of River Difficulty, that divides white water into 6 categories with 1 being the easiest and 6 the most dangerous. Vector Wero has two river runs; Grade 1 -2: Tamaki River and Grade 3-4: River Rush
What do you need to bring?
You will be provided with a helmet, life jacket and wetsuit boots, raft and paddle. You are best to wear your togs and bring a towel as you will get wet. In colder months, you may wish to bring a thermal top to stay a little warmer. Longjohn style wetsuits are available to hire for $10. Don't wear sunglasses or jewelry as these may get lost. There are changing rooms with showers and lockers on site.
How much does it cost?
The Tamariki River Rafting recreational course costs $45 per child and $55 per adult. Family packages are also available for $160 per family of four people.
How long does it take?
Allow two hours. You need to fill in forms when you arrive, attend the safety briefing, one hour on the water and time to change after the activity. You get to go around the course quite a few times during your one hour.
What else is there to do?
You can go stand up paddle boarding, flat water kayaking on the lake or kayaking as well. The Park also runs a subsidised schools programme that introduces children and youth to white water, rafting, kayaking, and river safety. Rapids Cafe is open during the day and the Sunset Bar is open in the afternoon and evenings. Vector Wero also have Kids Adventure Party packages.
Vector Wero Whitewater Park is at 770 Great South Road, Wiri, Auckland. The Park is open in summer seven days a week from 9am and in winter from Wednesday to Sunday from 9am. For more information see: wero.org.nz
We love the urban playground at Whoa! Studios, especially the giant crochet play net. This summer the urban park is even better, as there are also two fun giant inflatables setup for the summer.
Enjoy the thrill of Whoa! Wet, the giant 3 story water slide. My two daughters were initially hesitant as it looked so high, but after the first slide they loved it. They think the water slide is the best thing at Whoa! Studios and want to go back again. Kids need to be 1.1m tall for the water slide so check the height of your kids before you go, so there is no disappointment on the day if they aren't tall enough.
They also have these really cute changing tents, so if you are going on the Whoa! Wet water slide you can get changed into your togs here.
Test your parkour skills on Whoa! Run the 60m long Obstacle Course. There are two courses an easy and more difficult one. Kids need to be 1m tall to go on the Obstacle course.
Whoa! have added fences that partially surround the urban playground and carpark since we were here last. There are also some new tables and umbrellas around the giant crochet net, which are the perfect spot to enjoy a coffee and watch the kids play.
This summer there are two live shows to see at the Whoa! Studios treehouse stage. Custard of the Caribbean is a fun family show for kids aged 5 to 12 years old and is on Wednesday to Sunday for summer. My nine year old and seven year old daughters both enjoyed watching this show. The Duck of Destiny a Custard's World Mini Adventure is best for children five years and under. When you see a live show at Whoa! you get free all day access to the urban park too.
The outdoor tables at the family eatery The Grounds are a perfect spot for lunch as you can watch the kids play on the urban park while you don't need to rush your meal. If you only want something small to eat, the ice creams at the Tuck Shop are really good.
Whoa! Studios is located at 8-14 Henderson Valley Road, Henderson.
There is a new place to beat the heat this summer with the splash pad at Lloyd Elsmore Park Pool and Leisure Centre in Pakuranga opening today. The splashpad has fountains, mist sprayers and elevated structures for children of all ages and abilities with a free, safe and accessible fun water play area. There are also landscaped picnic areas for families to come together and relax.
We have been to Whoa! Studios a few times since it opened. The kids absolutely loved everything about it the first time - watching the show, the behind the scenes studio tour, the urban playground, especially giant crochet net and the food at The Grounds.
I wondered if the novelty would wear off for my children, but it hasn't. Each time they still have lots of fun, and are still always eager to go back again. Have a look at the pictures below and you can see why Whoa! Studios is so popular.
Whoa! Studios can be found at 8-14 Henderson Valley Road, Henderson, Auckland For more information see: whoastudios.co.nz
Rock climbing at Extreme Edge in Panmure is always one of our go to wet day activities. We started coming here when my daughters were at kindy and they still love it. There are climbing walls just for kids, and if they are tired of climbing there is a fun adventure land with a pirate ship, wobbly bridges and giant slides for kids aged 9 years and under.
We visited New Zealand's first Virtual Reality (VR) Studio in Auckland to see what it was all about. What is VR? The use of computer technology to create a simulated environment, Instead of viewing a screen, users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds.
The VR studio lets you step into fully immersive worlds from swimming, shoot outs, drawing, climbing, flying and more. There is something there to suit everyone, both the kids and the adults. The VR studio was started by Jermaine Leef, Holly White, Robert Le Grice and Shannon Leef to give New Zealanders of all ages the chance to try out high quality VR and be entertained.
We have been to Rainbow's End lots of times as a family and it is always one of my children's favourite places to go.
We started taking the kids from when they were 3 years old as Kidz Kingdom is a fun area for children aged 8 years old and under. There is a kid sized roller coaster, space shuttles, car wash convoy ride, surf n swing, old fashioned carousel ride, magic helicopter bikes, jumping star and more. What I never realised until I went the first time was that the Spectator pass lets ride on the Kidz Kingdom rides with your children, so you don't need to pay for a adult superpass if you stick to this area.
If we are there on the weekend or in the school holidays they are always keen to watch the shows and enter the dance competition on the main stage.
It's such a favourite place that one of my daughters had her fifth birthday party at Rainbow's End too. The kids got a Kidz Kingdom birthday party room, and to ride on the rides for the day. They were happy for you to bring your own birthday cake in too, which was really good so we could keep the family tradition of Nana making their birthday cake each year.
Now that the girls are 6 and 8 years old, they love to go on all of the rides at Rainbow's End. There are just a couple of rides in Kidz Kingdom that they are too tall to go on, but they are in the luckly window where they can go on both the big rides in the main part of the park and the Kidz Kingdom rides too.
I'm amazed that my 8 year old daughter now rides on everything apart from 2 rides, which even she thinks are a bit too scary yet: the Stratosfear and the Power Surge. My six year and I have about the same braveness for rides and are happy to go on the corkscrew roller coaster, the log flume, gold rush and other fun rides.
The Night Rides are still on their list of things to be ticket off that they want to do, especially to ride the rollercoaster at night time.
Rainbow's End can be found at 2 Clist Crescent, Manukau, Auckland and is open every day from 10:00am to 5:00pm except for Christmas Day. For more information see: rainbowsend.co.nz