With the July school holidays fast approaching, Jessica Wynne Lockhart rounds up some of the best family-friendly winter activities across the country.
Experience a true winter wonderland at Snowplanet
If you're considering taking the kids on a ski holiday down south, but not sure whether it's worth it to shell out for an activity they might not enjoy, a good litmus test is a day spent at Snowplanet in Silverdale.
The snow dome caters to absolute beginners, with lessons offered to all levels of skiers and snowboarders. For an entirely different set of skills and fun, you can visit the separate Winter Wonderland area, where you can fly down the hill on a snow tub or toboggan between the snow-capped trees. snowplanet.co.nz
Glam it up at Auckland's Aotea Square Ice Rink
From June 24 until July 31, Aotea Square will be transformed into a fully covered ice rink. This year's rink will feature an installation by top lighting technician Jonny Cross, to make skaters feel like they're sliding into another dimension. (No wonder it's also going to be the venue for July 14's free Drag Disco on Ice event, part of the Element AKL Festival.)
The always-popular 35m-long ice slide will also be returning this year. Skate and helmet hire are included in the cost of tickets, which can be purchased on-site or online in advance, starting from $19 for children and $23 for adults. aucklandlive.co.nz/show/aotea-square-ice-rink
Learn to ice skate at the Dunedin Ice Stadium
Dunedin's Ice Stadium may be open year-round, but the feeling of gliding across the ice just hits a little different in the middle of winter. Celebrating Otago's rich history of ice sports, the arena is home to ice skating, ice hockey games and curling, alongside ice bumper cars.
During the school holidays, public ice skating sessions will be held from 12 to 3pm daily. Lessons are also available, including through the COOL Kidz Club for children aged 5 to 12, where little ones will get a lesson, lunch, bumper car ride and supervised disco session, for $32. dunedinicestadium.co.nz
Go curling in Naseby
What's the only sport that encourages its players to throw rocks at a house? Curling! The rich sporting tradition is celebrated in the Central Otago area, where the country's first bonspiel was held in 1879 in Naseby. Today, the village is home to the southern hemisphere's first dedicated indoor curling rink, which is open for public bookings seven days a week (except for tournament days). Each booking ($15 for children; $40 for adults) includes tuition, equipment hire, and enough time for one game.
Want to spend a bit of time outdoors as well? Head over to the Naseby Forest and the 400m ice luge, where you can reach speeds of up to 70km/h. curling.co.nz
Sightsee from the Sky Waka Gondola
Don't ski or snowboard? That doesn't mean you can't experience the joy of wintertime on Mt Ruapehu, from the warmth of a sightseeing gondola. With floor-to-ceiling glass, the Sky Waka Gondola provides jaw-dropping views of Mt. Ruapehu, with skiers and snowboarders carving out the snow below.
You'll journey for nearly 2km to the Knoll Ridge Chalet, where you can indulge in a hot cuppa, 2020 metres above sea level. You'll be able to see the neighbouring peaks of Mt Ngāuruhoe and Mt Tongariro, and on a fine day, even Mt Taranaki. mtruapehu.com/sky-waka
Skate the mid-winter blues away in Wellington's Queens Wharf Precinct
Next month, a fully covered ice rink will take over Wellington's Queens Wharf precinct, making it the perfect place to play in any weather. Tickets include skate hire and start from $22, with specials for students every Wednesday night from 7-10pm, when it's just $14. Family passes are also available.
If you can't make it to the rink in July, don't despair. Daytona Adventure Park features a permanent year-round ice skating rink, where disco nights are held every Friday and Saturday night. daytonaadventurepark.co.nz/ice-skating
Dive into the past at the Aoraki/Mount Cook Visitor Centre
Aoraki/Mount Cook Village may be known for its outdoor activities — including a snowy walk through the Hooker Valley — but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to do indoors as well. When the weather outside is frightful, head to the DoC Visitor Centre, which is an attraction in itself. Downstairs, you'll find a kids' area with games, puzzles, replica huts and movies to watch. Upstairs are artwork and interpretative exhibits, including displays of the equipment worn by early mountain climbers such as Sir Edmund Hillary to explore high-altitude terrains covered in snow and ice.
Experience a polar blast at Christchurch's International Antarctic Centre
At Christchurch's International Antarctic Centre, you can experience what it feels like to be caught in a polar storm. Enter the Storm Dome, and you'll be subjected to temperatures as low as -8 degrees, buffeted by a -18 Celsius wind chill machine. Once you warm up again, you'll have plenty of time to explore the rest of the centre, which is home to rescue penguins, Hagglunds (all-terrain vehicles) used on the icy continent, exhibitions, and a 4D theatre. iceberg.co.nz
For more travel inspiration, go to newzealand.com/nz.
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