School holidays: 10 of the best things to do over the spring break

Travel News from Stuff - 03-10-2022 stuff.co.nz

The school holidays are here – and just in time for the longer days and warmer weather.

After being cooped up during the winter months, the kids will be keen to get out and about, with some epic spring events taking place around the country. But for those less than perfect days, there’s still plenty of fun to be had indoors, with activities that let their imaginations run wild.

Here are 10 of the best things to do these school holidays.

Can’t afford to take the kids to Japan? Head to Upper Hutt’s answer to Japanese hanami (cherry blossom appreciation) celebrations at Aston Norwood Gardens.

The 14-acre garden is home to the highest density of mature cherry blossom trees in one place, making it a perfect place to let the kids run wild amid the “pink snow”, and enjoy a picnic from the onsite cafe.

Visit after dark to wander illuminated pathways through a scene that looks like something straight out of a picture book. The ticketed festival runs until October 9.

Alternatively, check out the New Zealand Cherry Blossom Festival in Hamilton, which runs until October 3. The “Bridgerton Spring Ball” theme will see festival goers dress up in regency era attire (costumes are available at the festival for a fee), try their hands at croquet and take high tea. Kids’ activities include pony rides, face painting and an arts table.

Channel your inner superhero and embark on an epic adventure around Auckland’s Sky Tower.

Timed to coincide with the release of animated blockbuster DC League of Super-Pets starring Superman and his superdog Krypto, the daily school holiday programme will see kids complete an activity booklet that will guide them on a mission around the supercity’s tallest building. Expect mystery boxes, an arcade game, and inside info on what it’s like to be a super-smart pet.

Pop by at the weekend to meet Krypto and Ace in person, and make an effort to dress up – you’ll be in for an extra treat if you do.

Learn how to illustrate picture books, watch a pirate perform magic tricks, or join a street band at Te Papa.

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As usual, the museum’s putting on an array of special activities for kids over the school holidays, one of the highlights of which is sure to be award-winning illustrator Paul Beavis’ drawing workshop on October 8. The Stink-o-saurus and Nee Naw author will teach kids to draw characters from his beloved books.

On October 12, New Zealand’s grown-up Harry Potter, Zappo the Magician, will host a pirate-themed magic show incorporating songs, stories, puppetry and plenty of amazing tricks.

And on October 15, you’ll get the chance to join one of the capital’s finest family-focused bands. The Wellington Carnival Street Band is inviting kids to bring along a percussion instrument to play their special new jam for kids. Don’t have an instrument? No worries. A pot and wooden spoon, homemade shaker or container full of coins make you a musician.

Take the kids to adventure mecca Rotorua and you won’t have to pay for their beds for the night.

Up to two children aged 12 and under stay free at Sudima Rotorua when sharing a room with an adult, and they get half-price breakfasts too. Jet Park Hotels Rotorua also allows kids of the same age to stay for free, and offers discounts on local attractions.

Top free attractions in and around town include Kerosene Creek, a geothermally heated stream with a two-metre waterfall; Kuirau Park, where walking tracks lead to bubbling, hissing, steaming marvels straight out of a Dr Seuss book; and Whakarewarewa Forest with its real-life giants (of the redwood variety, that is).

Indulge your inner daredevil on theme park-style rides and meet cute baby animals at Hastings’ animal-focused answer to Disneyland.

Held at Hastings’ Tomoana Showgrounds, the Hawke’s Bay A&P show attracts some 30,000 visitors each year with its rides, farmyard, shearing competitions and equestrian and other events.

There’ll be family friendly entertainment on offer on each of the show’s three days (October 19-21), plus carnival-style treats such as candyfloss and hot dogs.

Pic’s Peanut Butter World in Nelson will be running its free tours throughout the school holidays, which include the unique opportunity to grind your own peanut butter by riding their special bike, and tastings of the Pic’s peanut butter range.

Little ones will also stay entertained with a treasure hunt, pictures to colour in, and a guess how many peanuts in the jar contest.

There will be three to four tours a day throughout the holidays, but bookings are essential.

Marlborough’s stunning Clos Henri vineyard is hosting its annual South Island Cheese Festival on Saturday, October 8, a family-friendly event celebrating New Zealand’s finest fromage.

Adults pay $10 for a ticket, but can bring along kids aged under 13 for free. As well as a huge variety of cheese, there will be fancy crackers, breads and other accompaniments to purchase, so you can put together a picnic and relax on the lawn, enjoying live music from local artist Emile. You can also bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Christchurch is celebrating all things Antarctica with its Days of Ice festival, running until October 9.

On October 8, head to Cathedral Square to help Professor Adrian McDonald from the University of Canterbury launch a weather balloon, which will send back information that can be used to make more accurate climate models, and help us understand the effects of global warming. This free event will take place at 10.30am, weather permitting.

Also on October 8, join Imagination Station at Tūranga Library for a “robots in cold places” workshop, where you’ll learn about the brave robots that help scientists in Antarctica, before building and programming a simple Lego robot. There will be two workshops, for juniors ($17 for a single student or $25.50 for two students sharing a robot) and seniors ($22 for a single student or $33 for two) – book via .

Throughout the festival you can also take part in an Antarctic Treasure Hunt, using the Christchurch Tram. Collect your free map from the booking office in Cathedral Junction, and hop on and hop off the trams across the central city to complete the hunt.

If you plan on defending planet Earth from space monsters, you’re going to need some armour. Fortunately, Otago Museum in Dunedin is hosting two cosplay workshops where kids can create their own arm bracers and pauldrons (shoulder armour), using foam, paint and jewels for added style points.

The arm bracers workshop takes place on October 8, and costs $20, and the pauldrons workshop takes place on October 9, and costs $25.

While you’re there, check out the new Out of This World science show in the Beautiful Science gallery, a space spectacle with explosive demonstrations and discoveries for the whole family. It’s on at 2pm daily throughout the holidays.

The first Te Anau Ukulele Festival is being held on the weekend of October 7 to 9, with workshops and concerts for all ages to enjoy.

Kids can discover their sense of rhythm with a percussion workshop, with djembe drums provided, or work on their vocal skills, at a singing workshop run by artist Anna Van Riel.

There will also be fun events like a breakfast luau and Hawaiian strum, a cruise and strum around Lake Te Anau, and an open mic event for sharing your skills, with concerts on both the Friday and Saturday nights.

Kids can also get a kea painted on their face, and enter a colouring-in competition to be in to win a decorated ukulele.

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