Stumped for school-holiday ideas? Nine-year-old Grace Jack counts down her top five faves.
Everybody's thoughts are on Christmas this week, but after that comes a long stretch of summer holidays. Here's what I like to do.
5. Take a hike
Of all the walks I've done, the Karangahake Gorge has to be the best. There are dark tunnels, old railway carts, awesome swing bridges and even glow-worms. My favourite bits are at either end: a 1km-long railway tunnel at the start and, when you're almost finished, a swing bridge.
Information boards along the way tell you about the gold-mining history of the area, and I learned that the tunnel was part of the Paeroa to Waihi railway that brought in supplies and took the gold away.
When you go in the tunnel, all you can see is a pinprick of light at the far end. It's a little bit creepy - especially if your dad thinks it's funny to grab you suddenly and yell "boo", like mine does.
The path then follows a pretty river with massive boulders and rocks and small waterfalls. On the Window Walk holes in the cliff let you look down on to the river.
I just can't imagine a whole train coming through here.
Quite a few tunnels have cart tracks in them, and the darker ones reminded me of Journey to the Centre of the Earth. In one of the tunnels we saw shiny green glow-worms. My favourite bridge was one of the last, near the car park. If you jumped on one side and then another it would sway side to side. It was a long, hot walk, but it's also fun and interesting.
4. Auckland Zoo
No matter how old you are, you will be able to find your favourite animal at the zoo. My favourite is the lambs because they are cute and fuzzy.
I like to save them until last, though, first visiting the elephant, which is also one of my favourites. Sometimes Burma will squirt water over herself and, although I've never seen them do it, the keepers take her for a walk through the zoo.
You can also feed the animals and once a giraffe wrapped his tongue around my hand when I gave him some leaves.
The hippos are also my favourite, although their enclosure is very stinky. Once I saw the zookeeper feeding them cabbages. The hippos spend a lot of time under the water and suddenly appear like a giant island.
Near the cafe are the flamingos, standing on one leg for some reason. I used to think they only had one leg.
The zoo is meant to look like Africa so the animals feel at home. The lions live in an enclosure with lots of grass and rocks for them to lie about on and trees for them to find shade. There are lots of different monkeys and they live on an island surrounded by water so they can't run away. They also have lots of trees and long tails to swing through them with.
Straight after the monkeys are the tarantulas. They can be pretty scary because they're all fuzzy and black and they're very big. They cling on to the side of the wall and they look dead because they don't move a lot but once I saw a tarantula crawling behind some leaves to hide.
By now your feet should be aching from running from the lions to the elephants to the hippos and back again, so it's time to stop for an ice cream and maybe a hot dog.
My birthday treat this year was to go to Waiwera, my favourite pool complex. There are hot pools galore, slides, a movie pool, fountains and lots more. The movie pool has a huge screen and they put on TV shows for children.
Of all the slides - and there's lots - the slide I liked the most was long and halfway down you're in pitch blackness. Suddenly you shoot out the end at high speed into a pool and you can them climb out and do it again. The jumbo pool has fountains shaped like elephants and they spit water out of their trunks. The small kiddie pool is very shallow and there are more fountains and a fun frog slide. You can easily stay all day.
2. At the mall
I can walk on water and soar like a bird. Well, kind of. Every holidays I love to go to our local mall where there are two things I love to do. Behind the little kids' playground downstairs there's a huge paddling pool full of floating balls. I can climb into one of the balls and the guy fills it up with air and I run around like a mouse on a wheel until I fall down. It's such fun, I can hardly stand up because I'm laughing so hard. I go with a friend sometimes and we run around and around and hit each other and that makes us fall over as well. And we laugh some more.
And then upstairs is the bungy. Up, down, up, down and higher every time and it's only $10. You wait in line until it's your turn and then the man leads you to a mini trampoline and straps you into a harness attached to a giant rubber band which you hold on to. And then he pushes a button to tighten the bands and tells you to jump. And you do. And you can almost see over the roof of the shopping mall.
You can flip frontwards and backwards and it's just enormous fun. (The Go Vertical bungy and WaterWalkers are on location at various large shopping malls around Auckland and other centres through the school holidays - govertical.co.nz)
For a really fun day out, we sometimes catch the ferry from Devonport into the city and take the train to Sylvia Park shopping centre.
1. Rainbow's End
This is my favourite place to have fun with my whole family. I love the dips and drops, ups and downs, spins and whirls of all the rides, but the one I always run to first is the Gold Rush. You hop into a big plastic cart on a track and it whooshes out of the station. It goes quite fast around the corners and sometimes you think it's going to crash into the wall. It's fun without being scary. Much more scary is the roller coaster. All around you people are screaming as you go upside down in a big loop and again in a spiral over the path.
You're back in the station before you know it, your heart racing and your hair a mess.
There are so many cool rides at Rainbow's End: the dodgems are great fun and I also enjoy the pirate ship. It may look tame but I have seen people have to stop and get off. I have even done the Fear Fall and even to some grown-ups that's really, really scary. There is also a place for littlies called Castleland, an arcade where you can play games, win stuff and buy gift vouchers and T-shirts and other cool stuff. And if you get hungry you can stop at a cafe or the icecream shop.