Make sure young minds and tummies are equally replete with Anna King Shahab's round-up of where to be entertained, and eat, this April school break.
BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM
I remember, as a child, finding the idea of what happened behind the scenes at Auckland Museum thrillingly mysterious. Today's lucky kids have the chance to have a nosey, with the museum's new drop-in holiday sessions, open to kids aged 7-13 and running from 8.30am-12.30pm. "There are tours of our photography studio, our natural science collections and even the roof! Kids will be able to get hands on and create their own museum journal or photo album as well as check out the Brickman: Wonders of the World exhibition before it opens to the public in the morning," says Luana Walker, audience development and engagement manager. You could meet them afterwards with a picnic sushi lunch from Newmarket's &Sushi (the prettiest sushi in town), and head to the Wintergardens for some down time, or wander to Parnell Village and treat your little explorers to a wickedly good caramelised milk hot chocolate at Vaniye.
GO WILD BEFORE WINTER
Enjoy a sunshiny jaunt around one of the world's best zoos before winter weather kicks in, and check out the seriously cool Bug Lab. Take the tunnel into the bug dome, where Te Papa and Weta Workshop's beautiful 3D bugs stage a role reversal: they're the big guys, you're just a wee thing. Learn all about their genius superpowers. Out in the zoo, there are live bugs to check out, and daily bug encounters with zookeepers. When it comes to lunch, though, there's no bugs on the menu (just yet - it might not be far off). Check out the pop-up stalls offering gourmet hot dogs and Asian pork belly with slaw, and Uncle Ray's fish 'n' chip truck. Oh, and as my kids discovered recently, the kiosk by the elephant enclosure serves what could well be the biggest icecream scoops in the country.
Normal admission price to the Sky Tower also gives families access to The Tower Champs holiday programme, daily 10am-3pm. Here's a sure-fire way for the kids to burn up some energy as they compete in sporting challenges to collect wristbands, and pose for photos on the podium. Every child who joins in The Tower Champs also gets free entry to a special event on April 27, Run Jump Throw, run by Athletics New Zealand. There'll even be some of our Commonwealth Games athletes there to cheer the kids on. After all that work, you've earned a slap-up meal downstairs at Federal Delicatessen. Try poutine (go dirty and add pastrami - trust me), spit-roast chicken and gravy, street dogs, or perhaps a restorative matzo ball soup. Washed down with a cherry float.
Auckland Seafood School is running three cooking classes for kids, each with a different menu. Book them in for all three and - hey presto - they'll not only be entertained for several hours and cook their own lunch, they'll also have a repertoire of six dishes to whip out any time you need a night off.
The fun, interactive classes are aimed at kids aged 6-11, they run from 10am-1pm, April 18, 19 and 23, and are taught by Paulie Hooton, the new head chef at the school (formerly of The Oyster Inn on Waiheke). There are prizes up for grabs, but I reckon the real prize is having your child cook you such delights as popcorn shrimp cones with fresh citrus mayonnaise or salmon and potato breakfast hash cake (hello, Mother's Day breakfast in bed).
I have fond memories of my folks taking me along on island clean-up and tree-planting missions in the Hauraki Gulf, and one of the best things about them was the picnic lunch, which meant Mum's bacon and egg pie (no peas, but yes to potato and tomato, thanks). Roll out the pastry, crack the eggs and sign up for one of the Public Volunteer Days on Motutapu, which fall on the first and last Sunday of the school hols (April 15 and 29). You'll be helping with tasks such as tree planting, weeding and nursery work - with a side of spectacular sea views and a big helping of fresh autumn air. Treat your virtuous self back on shore with a cone from Island Gelato in the Ferry Building.
My kids roll their eyes when I tell them we're heading to my beloved markets in Avondale, Otara or Takapuna, so I love the idea that they'll be in charge of things at the Pt Chev Kids Only Market, an annual affair happening on April 21 in the Western Springs Community Hall, 10am-1pm. Kids can sell and swap toys, books, clothes, crafts and creations, with the focus being on re-using, recycling and upcycling - as well as gaining confidence. Just over the road is the perfect place to pick up lunch. Daily Bread, the bakery by the Orphans Kitchen wunderkind, does an exemplary reuben sambo, chewy salted pretzels, ham and cheese croissants, and sourdough doughnuts. Whisk your spoils to Western Springs for a lakeside picnic.
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BOARDWALK, BIKES AND BEERS
The waterfront promenade that winds around Westhaven is not only an excellent surface for safe cycling and scootering, it offers prime views of the Waitemata and Harbour Bridge. If you start near Swashbucklers, you can head out to where you can almost touch the mighty bridge before winding your way back to finish with a classic treat for all on the deck over the water at Swashbucklers: baskets of hot chips and fish bites and a cold, age-appropriate beverage. The day might even throw in a bit of wildlife for you, Swashie's resident stingray is often visible swimming gracefully round in the water below.