I used to live in Durban. That was long before it became a tourist attraction and all the road names changed. Back then, on weekends, you’d go to the beach.
Occasional highlights were Mini Town, or the rides at the Amusement Park on the beachfront (the red chairs on the cablecar are still there, though; I checked). Sometimes you’d head out to Midmar Dam for the day. Durban was a low-key kind of place.
But now Durban is a heady mix of old and new, and a tourist mecca of note (I totally get why CNN listed the city as one of the world’s 10 most underrated cities)…
Take Stamford Hill, for example. The highlight of this area used to be Kings Park stadium and the Country Club, passed sedately on your Sunday drive (remember those?) on the M12 to Umhlanga.
Now the Moses Mabhida Stadium stands like an archetype of progress, dwarfing Kings Park across the road. You can’t even see the latter for the size and magnificence of the new stadium. It doesn’t help that Kings Park stadium, though the home ground of the Sharks, is now called Growthpoint stadium,whilst the Sharks have abdicated and play all of their games at Moses Mabhida.
If you didn’t know that the Moses Mabhida stadium was built for the 2010 World Cup Soccer, it wouldn’t matter. Because now it is the highlight of Durban’s tourism.
The SkyCar and viewing platform from the dome roof of the stadium allow you to see from the top right across Durban and beyond, whilst upcoming events and attractions that have included greats like the Pet Shop Boys, Neil Diamond, Chris Brown, Michael Buble, major jazz and music festivals, foodie events, and rugby and soccer matches put its former role as the host of a major world event in the shade.
On the south side of the stadium is something I knew nothing about, because the guys who do the marketing at Moses Mabhida tend to speak about it as part of the stadium: People’s Park.
Peoples Park is something of a precinct, I come to understand. It includes a track and field area, an ultra-modern kids’ playground, and a café that overlooks all of this – perfect for parents who can watch their kids from the shade of the umbrellas whilst sipping on their skinny latés and flat white cappuccinos.
The park connects the stadium with the Sandile Thusi Road bridge, and at night it often hosts the music festivals and shows of Moses Mabhida. It’s well used, in other words.
The slightly sloping, smooth marble-like strip directly in front of the café that runs the length of the park is described as a ‘promenade’, but really it’s a kilometre long track and what kids love most – a length of polished concrete that makes riding a bicycle, skateboarding or rollerskating so effortless, they’re going to want to come back again and again.
And they behave something like a bear clan, the bigger kids grouping off early and effortlessly – racing one another down the length of the track and back again; pitting against one another, the manual bicycles and scooters trying their best to outdo the electric bikes and mini cars that parents have bought for those kids who look as though they could do with a good workout the most.
Down one side of the track is a grassy strip dotted with shaded pergolas and trees where moms and prams tend to congregate, but which also works well for picnics, whilst on the opposite side is a playground of note. Durban has made a showpiece of the equipment – swings, jungle gyms, slides, merry-go-rounds, climbing frames, sand pits, sprung rides – all set on beach sand for a soft fall.
People’s Park has: fountains in which children can cool off; a bike, scooter and skateboard hire – for those without bikes, an hour at a time (take cash); benches lining the promenade for tired grandparents and parents; some kids even had a skateboard instructor taking them through their paces.
People’s Park is so seamlessly connected to the Moses Mabhida Stadium that if the family is divided about what to do some can hang out at the park whilst others do the SkyWalk, Segway gliding tours or the Big Rush Big Swing.
People’s Park contains children in a way that feels safe for parents, who don’t have to keep their eyes glued on their children every minute of the visit, and liberating for children who have a vast promenade along which to fly in way that they couldn’t in their driveways.
Take-away Illy coffee is reasonably priced. Daily newspapers are there to pick up and read. And the café staff might even charge your cell phone for you, if you’re nice about it.
Take with you:
a hat, sunscreen, water, cash and either a friend or a book to read, as you won’t see your children whilst you’re there.
south of the Moses Mabhida Stadium, within walking distance. There is ample parking at the park.