The excitement of new snow on the mountains, an impromptu game of football on the Tongariro North Domain, families rugged up in puffer jackets and beanies. It must be the Malcolm Flowers Insurance Taupō Winter Festival!
With a multitude of activities on offer there is surprise and delight for everyone and a good mix of free and paid activities.
Popular with kids all ages, free and available for the rest of the holidays is the Rapids Jet Ice Slide. Not immediately visible from Tongariro St, but attached to the ice skating rink will reveal a very long slide and some very noisy, happy people. It can be hard to please teens, but the squeals and laughter coming from this direction was mainly from those of high school age.
Open all day long and well into the evening is the pop-up Wairakei Estate Ice Skating Rink located on the Tongariro North Domain. Tickets required, this is the activity for friends and families who like to play together, and it's open day and night. A great way to exercise and have fun at the same time, seeing who can come up with the best moves is all part of the fun.
At the other end of the Tongariro domain is the Taupō Pakeke and Lakeland Lion's Club train. The small amount of money it costs to go on this delightful children's activity is well out of proportion to the huge levels of delight from happy customers. Highly recommended activity for grandparents taking the grandkids out on a solo mission.
Open tomorrow and this weekend is the Ebbett Fun Zone with inflatable balls, another free activity on Tongariro Domain. Has to be seen to be believed, but try imagining your child running around dressed in a giant plastic bubble. Have a try yourself, time in the bubble can be quite topsy-turvey and challenging to your spatial awareness.
When it starts to get dark the lights come on and every year science meets art at the Unison Light Hub light trail. Set in the children's playground in the Tongariro Domain, every year the organisers ask different artists from around the country to come up with thrilling and unexpected light displays. This is a free and interactive experience for the whole family.
The best type of passport to have at the Taupō Winter Festival is the Taupō Treasure Trails Passport. This is a free activity for adventurers who like biking or anyone who likes the satisfaction of finding things and marking them off and then entering a competition. Find 11 green geckos hidden along the Maraetai section of the Waikato River Trails, or hunt for 10 red bikes hiding around Taupō town centre, or search out the blue ducks hidden along the Tongariro River Trail. Scenic views, fresh air and a sense of achievement guaranteed. Crack the code, complete the entry form and be in to win.
And there are just as many inside activities, although this year due to Covid-19 many of the inside activities have been postponed till the October holidays.
Everyone loves a drive-in movie and in Taupō the drive-in movie is located at the car racing track at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park. The next movie is scheduled for Monday at 8.15pm.
Armchair thrill seekers will love the death defying, acrobatic, gravity challenging acts at Zirka Circus on the Tongariro North Domain, holding shows all holidays.
Relax and enjoy the free wi-fi or read a free magazine while the kids are entertained at Taupō Library with arts, crafts and Lego.
Adrenalin junkies who love the wilderness can dream up their next trip at the Mountain Film Festival and Big Bike Film Night, showing at the Starlight Cinema tonight and next Wednesday night.
For grown ups and children accompanied by parents the Two Mile Bay Sailing Centre is hosting comedian Jarred Fell tonight, and the Rogue Bore is holding an 80's Ice Party on Saturday night.
Don't get dressed on Saturday morning. Join in the Giggle TV Funsie Onesie Runsie event at 10am, starting at the Tongariro North Domain. Follow it up with a Mid Winter Swim at 12 noon, starting at the lake end of Pataka Rd on the Lakefront Reserve. Both these events are free.
■ For more information on the Malcolm Flowers Insurance Taupō Winter Festival go to www.taupowinterfestival.co.nz