Cloud 9 is the perfect place for the kids to burn some energy – it’s a massive space with lots of jumping options, a climbing wall, extra-deep foam pit and a gaming arcade. Happily for parents, you can enjoy a coffee in the café while your kids jump, because the café is right beside the trampolines, with additional visibility through a wide-screen TV showing all trampolines. There is play area for toddlers in the café, and a separate trampoline area for those under 5 years or 110cm. Don’t forget your drink bottles – the water refill station is free and jumping certainly works up the thirst!
Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and Heritage is great for kids. There’s a play area called Tamariki, which has a kid-sized kitchen, building wall, treehouse, reading nook (with books in both English and Te Reo), a Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Beca electric car. In the outdoor play space there is a dino dig – a sand pit with “fossils” buried underneath. The museum “works beyond boundaries”, celebrating diversity, courage and curiosity, shaping the future as well as remembering the past (and, how great is this museum – in the school holidays there is a regular Drag Queen Storytime). The adult exhibitions are well worth a look, often thought provoking and boundary pushing.
Victoria Esplanade on the edge the Manawatū river has it all – 26 hectares of bush walks, bike tracks and formal gardens. For the kids there is Manawatū’s largest playground (includes a mouse wheel, swings, various forts, slides and spinners), the Junior Road Safety Park (where kids can ride their bike or scooter, pretending they’re on real roads with traffic lights), paddling pool in summer, and rose gardens (5,000 roses!) perfect for taking some beautiful phone portraits or having a family picnic. The best thing is it’s all free.
At the Centre of Victoria Esplanade, the Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery is a very special facility: it’s a place where wildlife recovers from injury or illness before being released to the wild. Many of the patients were treated in Massey’s Wildbase Hospital. There are also resident animals who live there full time. Inside there are four rehabilitation aviaries on public view, two breeding aviaries for whio and pateke, and a walkthrough aviary where you might see a range of native birds and even tuatara. You’ll learn a lot from the passionate guides, and entry is free.
Cycle or walk along He Ara Kotahi and Manawatū River Pathway where you can feed eels at the new Urban Eels feeding platform. This concrete platform on the Turitea Stream where it connects to the Manawatū River was established so that the public can watch and feed the eels and learn why they are so important to Māori and to the health of the waterways. The stream and the surrounds of the river had a rahui placed on it in 2020, making the area a sanctuary for eels (tuna), allowing them to thrive. If you want to take the kids to feed the eels, go at sunrise or sunset, and take food for the eels – meat is best, and be sure to throw it into the water rather than handfeed, for safety.