There is spring in the air, that means the summer will be here soon too (only another 3 months to go…). To add to my summer feeling, we have been planning our summer holidays (yay!!!). But I think even our hometown Helsinki has tons of fun and affordable things ohn the offer for families during the summer time, both for those living here and those visiting. The public transportation is free for one adult with a child in a stroller, and the city of Helsinki offers a free lunch for children in most of the big playgrounds (bring your own bowl and spoon) at noon during the schools summer break. The meal is to support families when children don’t get a free lunch at school, but all children are welcome.
Behind the links you’ll find my reviews on our favourite destinations for little family outings:
The islands, definitively. Maybe the best one for families is Mustasaari, where you get by taking a bus boat, already an exciting thing. It is a short boat journey to the island with a playground, child-friendly beach, animals (sheep, rabbits and chicken last year), various events, restaurant and overall good facilities. Another obvious choice is the Suomenlinna fort, also reached by ferry. A picnic there is a tradition we definitively will pick up again this year, a shame really, that we never made it there last summer. There are two smaller islands reached by a bridge, Seurasaari and Tervasaari, that I like if there isn’t that much time. On Seurasaari you can easily spend a whole day too, there are squirrels to spot and feed, an open air museum, plenty of nature, bbq places, summer cafes etc. Tervasaari on the other hand is a tiny island by Kruununhaka, so very central, but still a little peaceful oasis for a picnic, watching mats being washed the traditional way or dogs play. Our experience of Harakka island wasn’t the greatest as our timing sucked but I’ve been told they have great Island Adventures for children (programme for 2014 in Finnish here), which we may try with our daughter this year. They also have other nature programme for all ages. We also plan to do some camping on Kaunissaari this summer (as we have been meaning to do already for a couple of years…), which can be reached by a taxi boat from Vuosaari (also a good place for a little excursion with e.g. nice beaches).
The gardens: There are lovely gardens around here, which are great for all ages. The Winter garden‘s have a long tradition in our family and have the advantage of a fish pond, lovely rose gardens outside and good tables to enjoy your own packed lunch by. Kaisaniemi Botanic Gardens are so centrally located that they are easy to pop in to, loads of hide and seek places and great labyrinth of paths (close by, towards the railway station, there is a little playground and a kiosk too, also not far from the Hakaniemi market and the boats over there), and Marketta Garden in Espoo, which “is the biggest permanent garden and landscape exposition in Finland” but also offer a great statue park for kids to play in as well as a playground. Not quite gardens but presenting something natural anyway: the Haltiala farm (and then there is Fallkulla farm but I’ve yet to blog about that one). Also, there are plenty of playgrounds in Helsinki, which you will find following the link.
Child-friendly museums, especially for rainy days: The ones we’ve liked most so far, have been the Tram Museum, Children’s Town in Sederholm House (but it will close for renovations on March 30th), and the Toy Museum in Espoo (free only certain times). Most museums in Helsinki have some day a month free admission. Libraries are good options for rainy days too, most of them have board games and cosy reading areas suitable for the whole family.
Hakaniemi Farmer’s Market, I just love the atmosphere over there. Great cafes and affordable veggies grown closeby, and even porridge and/or soups for a few euro. Why not the Wholesale Markets by the presidential palace too, but they sell a lot more touristy stuff and have higher prices on meals as well. Not too sure about the price on the veggies.
Children’s events and shows: We are looking forward to the kidsfestival Skiditfestarit, which will be held in Kallio again in July. We loved the activities last year, as they were perfect for the whole family to do together. There was also a concert for children, free as well, which would have been great if it had not been so loud. I’d say the festival is aimed for kids 0-12 years old. Another, more known, but in my opinion also more commercial and less for the whole family (as in parents watch what kids do) festival Lastenfestivaalit is usually held in August. On top of that most events have something for children, it may be worth checking the programme out for e.g. world Village Festival in May, Helsinki day on June 12th and the programme in Alpine Park (Alppipuisto).