Whether it’s free (preferably) or costs a few pennies, there’s a whole list of f0amily-friendly things to do with kids over the holidays.
Trail of Lights
If you’re wondering how you’re going to make this festive season extra special, then don’t miss the Durban Botanic Gardens’ biggest annual fundraiser, the Trail of Lights. From 14 to 30 December, the gardens will come alive with thousands of lights, loads of outdoor fun and festive activity. In addition to the trail which will feature magical Christmas characters, a talking tree and the Remembrance Tree of Light, there will be live music by some of Durban’s best local talent every night, between 7.30pm and 8.30pm, and a food garden to suit every taste bud. No food or drinks will be allowed into the gardens. Support KZN-based charities by visiting the kids’ activity garden with pop-up stalls, cupcake decorating and other education stations. This year’s charities include CROW, Feeding the Furballs, Cupcakes of Hope and TAFTA. Tickets are R50 online at www.webtickets.co.za or at your local Pick n Pay. Children under two enter for free. Limited tickets will be available each night at the door for R70. Details: Visit www.trailoflights.co.za
Here’s something adventurous, fun and affordable to do with your little ones this holiday. Drama Dynamics is back with another exciting children’s show by actress, playwright and director, Dee Fleuriot, at the Westville Theatre Club, Saint James Avenue from 17 to 21 December. Join the cast of Santa’s Express and learn more about Santa’s journey around the world, how he manages to get every gift to the perfect spot and, how he overcomes different obstacles in different countries. The Theatre Club will be transformed into a Christmassy dream, there will be an elf waiting to take your ticket at the door and festive food will be on sale. You are encouraged to get into the Christmas spirit and dress up! Tickets are R50 each and shows are at 2pm daily with an additional performance on 21 December from 6pm to 7pm. Booking is essential. Details: Contact [email protected]
The Holiday Express has several superb family orientated one-day train outings to the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market, Scottburgh and North Coast over December. Departing conveniently from the Premier Lounge, Durban Station (Jelf Taylor Crescent) with its own private access escalators and platform, travelling time is approximately one hour to Shongweni or 90-mintes to Scottburgh or North Coast. Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market (which is 100%-wheel chair accessible) boasts nearly 200 stalls, more than half of which offer delectable food and outstanding fresh produce. The market’s child-friendly, soft play area for kids under four is free of charge, allowing moms and dads to shop with peace of mind. Sugar Rush Park (North Coast trip) is a family-focused destination which caters for everyone, from tiny tots to gran and gramps, by encouraging fun outdoor activities such as riding and running, or just plain jungle gym climbing. Scottburgh Beach is an outstanding family beach with a lagoon nearby where you can splash around, go canoeing (canoes are available for hire) or surfing (boards available for hire) and watch some abseiling or orbing. Festive train trips are scheduled for 16, 17, 22 and 29 December to Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market and on 21 and 28 December to North Coast. Trips to Scottburgh take place on 19, 21, 26, 27 and 30 December. Tickets are R280 per adult, R230 for children aged three to 12 (babies two and under sitting on laps ride for free) or R920 for a family deal (two adults and two children under 12). Visit www.theholidayexpress.co.za or reserve your tickets via e-mail at [email protected].
The Magic Drum
Expect a magical theatre outing with this production which runs in The Playhouse Grand Foyer between 6 and 15 December. The Magic Drum takes us on a journey to a village in the beautiful forest of Mathuthu Wonders, where a magical drum controls the order. Through its rhythms we experience the wonder of this magical place. With its underlying moral theme promoting integrity among young people, audiences are given a special experience of rhythmic sounds, boom-bap rap and sing-along tunes sure to leave a lasting memory. Ideal for breaking up parties for school groups, tickets for shows from 4 to 7 December at 10am are R30 each. Public performances on 8, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 December are at 2.30pm and tickets are R60 for adults and R30 for children). Book at Computicket or call 031 369 9540 (office hours)
Museums and galleries
There are a host of museums and galleries in and around the city and its outskirts that do not charge an admission fee. These include KwaMuhle Museum on Bram Fischer Road that gives visitors an exhibition-style window into apartheid from the perspective of Durban residents, how the city has changed and how the different cultures interacted. Open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4pm, Saturdays 8.30am to 12.30pm. Closed Sundays and Public Holidays. Contact 031 311 2237.
The exhibits at the Cato Manor Heritage Centre offer a sobering display of the stark realities of evictions, rebellion, riots and suppression. Open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4pm. Closed Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays. Contact 031 261 3216.
The Durban Natural Science Museum is ideal for learning about the earth and its history. Youngsters will have the opportunity to learn about human origins and Stone Age people with samples of tools on display; they can stand under a life-size reconstruction of a Tyrannosaurus rex and come face-to-face with an Egyptian mummy – just a handful of the exciting wonders tucked away in Durban’s City Hall. The museum is open Monday to Saturday 8.30am to 4pm and from 11am to 4pm on Sundays and Public Holidays. Contact 031 311 2242
For a miniscule fee of R10 an adult and R5 a child, Port Natal Maritime Museum, backed by a panoramic view of Durban Harbour is just the place for your budding sea captain or intrepid explorer. Kids can climb aboard the different exhibits and learn about amazing voyages, dramatic tales and experience what life at sea was like in the days of old and Open Monday to Saturday 8.30am to 4pm and from 11am to 4pm on Sundays and Public Holidays (last ticket issued at 3.30pm). Contact 031 322 9598.
One of the most gorgeous attractions in Kloof, Makaranga lodge offers locals and visitors the chance to wind their way down paths to an oasis of peace and serenity. There are 18 ponds, a one kilometre long labyrinth set in a quiet corner of the gardens, beautiful statues, an authentic Japanese Garden an impressive variety of flora and birdlife. Picnic blankets and baskets are for hire and the garden offers abundant grasslands, some picnic chairs and tables. Contact 031 764 6616.
Durban Botanic Gardens, Africa’s oldest surviving botanic garden, is home to more than 80 heritage trees, rare plants, as well as a collection of orchids and a palm grove. As well as being a rich teaching and learning garden, it’s also a popular venue for outside concerts, family gatherings and lazy afternoon picnics. Opening hours are 7.30am to 5.30pm. Contact 031 322 4021.
Hiking or picnicking
Considered a national monument, Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve is one of the largest collections of mangroves in Durban that protects 76 hectares of a natural estuarine system. Located at the mouth of the Umgeni River, this forest is a great place to walk along a marked trail while looking out for mudskipper fish and fiddler crabs. Entrance to the reserve is free.
Offering a 2km walk, Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve is beautiful reserve with a short trail through coastal forest, across a lagoon, and along the beach. It’s home to a wetland and more than 200 species of birds. If you’d like to go on a guided tour, chat to the front desk at the Breakers Hotel.
The 38 hectare Virginia Bush Nature Reserve offers another short hiking trail for families who love the outdoors. It’s is a birder’s paradise; so take a pair of binoculars. You might also see some blue duiker, spotted genet and mongoose.
Burman Bush Nature Reserve in Morningside offers a thick collection of coastal bush plum. About 50 hectares size, it boasts a small circular enclave of coastal forest which forms part of the Durban Municipal Open Space System. You can meander through different pathways and soak-up the peaceful surrounds of the reserve, while keeping an eye out for bird and other little wildlife.
Nothing like cooling down on a hot day with a session of ice skating. You can head down to the city’s Durban Ice Arena or take a drive to the Galleria Ice Rink where the kids can skate while you shop till you drop. For skate hire costs and session times visit www.durbanicearena.co.za or www.theicerink.co.za
Weather the sun is out or its overcast, most kids want to swim in the holidays. If you don’t have a pool at home, you can head into the city to take them for a dip in the sea or the beachfront paddling pools. Kings Park Pool offers swimmers the chance to splash about in an Olympic-sized, heated, indoor pool. For those higher up in the hood, Westville Pool on St James Avenue and Lahee Park Pool in Pinetown offer loads of grass to chill on, trees to find shade under and a splash pool for tots. Entry fees are minimal, but take cash along with you.
A day at Giba Gorge Mountain Bike and Adventure Park is bound to tire energetic kids out. There are biking and running trails that will take you all over the gorge, as well as horse riding for those who prefer an amble around the countryside. The park is also popular for its BMX and super cross track. For those who want to hit the track on a bike, the entrance fee is R65. Those who’d prefer to sit on the side-lines pay R10, while runners, children and pensioners pay R35. Open Monday to Sunday, 7am to 5pm. Contact 031 769 1419
Why walk when you can ride? The Bike and Bean in Durban has the best of coffee and cycling for those who want to enjoy a family outing to the beach. Enjoy a unique seaside ride on a hired bike, followed by some good coffee, a healthy snack or a delicious meal. Contact 074 140 1117.
Can you escape in 60 minutes? Take your family and friends, unleash your inner detective and form your own team of adventurers who gather clues, solve puzzles, combine information, decipher secret meanings and trigger hidden mechanisms in order to break out of the room. Choose either the Sherlock Holmes Baker Street room, the Houdini Escape Room or the Forgotten Temple. Visit the website to find the latest prices and book your experience