10 top things (with kids) to do in Cape Town this (winter) holiday
Just the other day I heard one of the local DJs on a radio station, whilst in my car in the middle of Claremont, talking about the ‘secret season’ in Cape Town. The Mother City’s winters might have a scheduled wet season, but they are, arguably, an even more beautiful time to visit the city.
Incredibly, whilst the worst can happen – it does sometimes rain for days on end, which is why accommodation in Cape Town with a fireplace is nigh on essential – it invariably doesn’t. And those days when the sun shines, the leaves are orange and red on the trees (or not at all) and the city green and glistening, are when Capetonians really come out to play. For without the summer wind or scorching sun, Cape Town turns into a welcoming playground, with plenty to do.
1. Use the Red Bus to see CT
The hop-on-hop-off City Sightseeing bus (the red city tour and the blue mini peninsular tour) has a winter special offer: 2 kids under the age of 18 can travel free with every 1 full paying adult. The special runs from 1 May – 31 October 2011. It is also valid on weekends, public holidays and schools holidays. If you buy your adult day ticket online at www.citysightseeing.co.za you can save a further R30. What’s more, the group have also fitted roofs to the front half of their busses and switched the heaters on, so no having to worry about not being able to sit on the top deck without freezing.
2. See the Table Top by Cable Car (and the kids go free)
Winter time can be fantastic for getting up to the Table Top, minus the wind. And this season is Kidz Season, which not only means that if you have children they can go free (for every full-paying adult, 2 children under 18 ride for free) but they also get given a treasure hunt map and a Kidz Season armband on arrival, which, depending on the age of you children, is or isn’t an incentive to go up Table mountain. The special offer also runs from 1 May – 30 October 2011. On clear days, visibility in winter is good and the crisp air only adds to the experience. Remember to bundle up, as the top gets cold (we’re talking beanies, scarves and gloves as a matter of course).
3. Watch the whales
July to November is the time of the whales. And you don’t have to leave Cape Town to see them, there are plenty of places along the False Bay coastline to spot them, without the crowds that you will find in Hermanus and Gansbaai. Grab a pair of binoculars and head to the following hot spots: Boyes Drive, which winds up above Muizenberg and Kalk Bay; Fish Hoek – a great place to spot the whales along Jager’s Walk; Chapman’s Peak Drive is worth driving without the promise of whales, but there is a good chance that you will spot them above Hout Bay; drive the coastal road from Fish Hoek to Simon’s Town and beyond, in particular look out between Boulders and Smitswinkelbaai. Even between Scarborough and Kommetjie you’re likely to spot them.
4. Tour the wine estates
The great thing about Cape Town is that wine estates lie right on your doorstep. Whether it’s the Constantia Wine Route, Cape Point Wine Route, or the Durbanville wine estates you’re after, there is a lot to sample really close at hand. Even the wine farms of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Darling are but an hour’s drive away. Many of the estates have restaurants, and play areas or grassy nooks for children. The Constantia Wine Route alone has eight producers, all within the valley just outside the city bowl. You can join this route on the M41 to Hout Bay or from Steenberg Road, at the bottom of Ou Kaapse Weg. Durbanville Wine Route, only 20 kilometres north of Cape Town, has 22 estates from which to choose. One doesn’t have to leave Cape Town to sample wine. More on the respective wine routes here Western Cape Wine Routes. Phone ahead for child-friendly venues.
5. Eat out at a child-friendly restaurant (some with a fireplace)
Winter evenings, and even lunches, can be chilly in Cape Town. Most important is that there is somewhere for the kids to play. The following is a list of mostly child-friendly venues, some with fireplaces, and one or two just with fireplaces, not necessarily child-friendly:
- The restaurant at Rhodes Memorial has a fireplace
- Primi Piatti at Constantia Village (no fireplace, but child-friendly with large gas heaters)
- Millstone Farm Stall and Café (great for children on a warm day) in Pinelands
- Noordhoek Farm Village (great play area, not sure about a fireplace)
- Two Oceans Aquarium (busy, but great for the kids)
- Polana in Kalk Bay (fireplace, not necessarily child-friendly)
- Jonkershuis at Groot Constantia (fireplaces and child-friendly)
- Pescado in Simon’s Town (not sure about a fireplace, but child-friendly)
- Blue Water Café in Kommetjie (great for kids)
- Deer Park Café in Vredehoek, also great for kids (park complete with jungle gyms etc.)
- Café Roux (fireplace)
- La Mouette in Sea Point (fireplace)
6. Visit the Two oceans Aquarium
A great rainy day venue. And there is much to do, from feeding the African penguins to the Kelp Forest Exhibit feeding, to shark feeding, all of which you will have to time properly as they each happen at various times during the week or day. For instance the ragged-tooth sharks are fed only on Sundays at 15h00. You will need at least a couple of hours if you want to see everything at Two Oceans Aquarium and the kids will love the giant spider crabs, the cuttlefish, the seahorses (the male of which gives birth), the predator exhibit, octopuses, penguins and more.
7. Visit the theatre
(just a few for the kids and the young at heart)
- The Nutcracker Suite is on at Artscape Theatre only between July 14-16
- Danscape 2011 is on July 7-10
- Swan Lake is on Aug 19-26
- Shakespeare’s R&J on at the Fugard Theatre July 25 – Aug 20
- Noddy in the foyer of Artscape – 25 June – 9 July at 10.30
8. Fish ‘n Chips at Hout Bay harbour
Mariner’s Wharf is the ubiquitous place to eat fish n’ chips. It’s cheap, cheerful and extremely tasty, you get to share your food with the gulls, there are usually seals in the harbour to visit afterwards, and you get to watch people from below deck under the more expensive sit-and-eat part of the restaurant upstairs. Or head further down Harbour road to Fish on the Rocks or Snoekies, both of which are inexpensive, tasty fishy alternatives.
9. Visit Boulders Beach
A wonderful space to sit and watch penguins (and sometimes whales) at a time of year when it is less overcrowded than it gets in summer. Boulders Beach is really worth a visit, but try and make it on a clear day when children can still splash a bit in the calm bay or build sand castles whilst you read a book. It’s a good ‘down time’ outing for all of you. There is a restaurant at Boulders Beach but a good idea to pack your own picnic.
10. Visit the Planetarium
Another great rainy day alternative, the Iziko Planetarium is just off Long Street in the centre of Cape Town in a beautiful old building that holds a children’s show (featuring Davy Dragon). Essentially the planetarium recreates the night sky, irrespective of the weather outside. It is set in a domed auditorium and takes one through a journey across the sky – real armchair entertainment and one that the kids (and their parents) thoroughly enjoy.