Jumping in the jungle the Finnish way at the Rhododendron park

The Rhododendron park (Alppiruusupuisto) in Haaga, North-West Helsinki, is a unique place to go for a walk (or a run, if you take your kids with.) It is at its most beautiful in early June, when the pink and purple rhododendron bushes are in bloom, but you will be impressed about the park any other time as well.

The park was created in 1975 by the city of Helsinki to test different kinds of rhorodenron  plants and develop a type that is  the most successful in the Finnish climate. The University of Helsinki still uses the area for its research purposes, but it is also a public park open for anyone to visit.

Wooden walkways zigzag through giant rhodorendron bushes

Wooden walkways zigzag through giant rhodorendron bushes

Kids will love the paths and the small look out towers. The park is not huge, but big enough to loose them…

The flowers are in bloom in early June, when the park might get quite busy during the weekends.

The flowers are in bloom in early June, when the park might get quite busy during the weekends.

Nearby, on the other side of the main street (Eliel Saarisen tie) there is a new colourful playground and soccer fields. There are different types of balancing beams and climbing structures for younger and older kids. You can also play at the daycare’s yard next to the park.

Laajasuon liikuntapuisto is not far from the rhodopark.

Laajasuon liikuntapuisto is not far from the rhodopark.

 

Bring snack! There isn’t any cafes close by.

Rhododendron park, North Haaga, Helsinki (Take a train to Huopalahti station and walk to up to the park, Also buses 40, 43, 550 stop nearby.)

Laajasuon liikuntapuisto playground (Poutuntie 8)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Nature, Playgrounds

Dive into a fairy tail at Päivälehti Museum

The door to the exhibit

The door to the exhibit

Päivälehti Museum presenting the history of journalism and the printing press is the rising star at the Helsinki’s “what to do with children” scene. The museum’s previous exhibit, built around the Tarzan stories, was a success, and the new one is also carefully planned and beautifully realized.

Named “Satumaan sankarit” (The heros of a fairytale land) portraits the work of an iconic Finnish writer Sakari Topelius (1818 – 1898), who is often considered as the founder of children’s literature in Finnish. You enter the exhibit through a hidden door and pop into a small play land. There is an old store with play food, a fishing boat, princesse’s castle, a tea room somewhere in the orient and a (bit scary) lappish tent with wolfs howling in the background. You don’t have to be familiar with the stories to enjoy the museum. In fact, I have never read one fairytail from Sakari Topelius to my kids and they liked the exhibit very much.

Making tea.

Making tea.

At the exhibit, there are many different small areas, where children can dress up and play with anything they see. We visited the exhibit on a rainy Sunday and it was extremely busy – in fact a bit too crazy. My daughter, 3, didn’t leave the golden tea pots and decorative pillows, whereas my son, 4, was walking around trying to decide, where to start. He was a bit afraid of the sound effects and the dark tents and finally decided to wait for his turn to try catching fish with a magnetic hook.

Paivalehti museum does not advertise the exhibit at all in English, so it might be a bit of a hidden treasure among the visitors, who don’t speak Finnish. It is centrally located, just a few minutes walk from the Stockmann department store and the entrance is free.

All the details have been carefully made. The store with playfood and a fishing boat in the background.

All the details have been carefully made. The store with playfood and a fishing boat in the background.

If you have older kids, who are not so interested in playing anymore in the fairytail land,  there is also a very nice small exhibit about the history of printing newspapers. My four-year-old was really facinated about the old printing machines downstairs.

An old printing machine in the permanent exhibit of the museum.

An old printing machine in the permanent exhibit of the museum.

Päivälehti Museum, Ludviginkatu 2-4, Helsinki
Satumaan sankarit exhibition is open until 20th August, 2015. Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday 11 – 17.
website

Leave a comment

Filed under Museums and culture

Hiking with a toddler in the Nuuksio National Park

The closest and most popular campfire spot for families is only 500 metres from the parking lot.

The closest and most popular campfire spot for families is only 500 metres from the parking lot.

It is easy to take your kids to a forest anywhere in Helsinki, but if you yourself want to change a scenery, it is worth visiting the Nuuksio National Park in the North of Espoo. It is a beautiful place with small lakes, high rocky hills and vast forests. Lots of people go there to hike, run, camp or pick berries and mushrooms.  There are all sorts of trails for beginners to advanced hikers and good facilities to grill your own foor on a campfire.

The two most popular starting points are “Haukkalampi” and “Kattila”. We chose the first one, since it is closer and there are many trails  that suitable for walking with a stroller and kids. Well, you can imagine, other people have figured that out too. Be early. After 11 am on a Saturday or Sunday, it will be very hard to find a decent parking spot. (You will have to leave your car in a ditch.)

Trails starting from Haukkalampi are easy to walk with a stroller.

Trails starting from Haukkalampi are easy to walk with a stroller.

Our kids were really excited about going to a forest trip – mainly for the apple pie that was waiting in the snack box. Of course, the rather long (40 minutes) car ride from Helsinki to Nuuksio tired them out so much, that our younger one did not want to walk at all. (Or maybe she was just hungry…) I ended up carrying her in my Ergo carrier almost the whole way to the campfire place and back. Our older child (4 years) had no other choice than walking – and he did a great job the whole 400 metres and back.

The experience reminded me, that what seems a short walk for an adult, can take forever with children. They run in circles, stop to look at every leaf and rock and sometimes just refuse to walk at all. Bring a lot of snack! You all might get hungry way before your planned lunch spot.

You can only make fire on specific areas that are marked on a map. I forgot the matches, but didn’t worry. On weekends you can be pretty sure someone has started the fire for you. We had to wait our turn by the campfire, which didn’t matter. The scenery was beautiful and the kids preffered their sausages cold anyways…

Nuuksio National Park is around 40 minutes car ride from Helsinki. You can also take a bus from Espoo, but the connection is not very frequent and you may have to walk a long ways before getting to the entrance of the park.

Nuuksio National Park is around 40 minutes car ride from Helsinki. You can also take a bus from Espoo, but the connection is not very frequent and you may have to walk a long ways before getting to the entrance of the park.

You can print a map from the Nuuksio National Park website, but if you plan to take a longer trail, I recommend buying a real map. The trails are marked, but sometimes it might be confusing to know, where you are exactly. And it is a real forest and a large area.

Nuuksio National Park, Espoo

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Nature

Events for children in Helsinki region, Fall 2014

Here is a list of events I find interesting and fun for families with kids under 7 years. I have collected some of my sources at the bottom of the page, where you can find links to different event calendars, concert venues and theatres to continue your search.

Family sports in Helsinki and Espoo

Liikuntahulinat

Liikuntahulinat is an event when the giant indoor sports hall in Myllypuro open its doors only for kids aged 2 – 8 years and their families. The family sports mornings are organised by the city of Helsinki at two locations  almost for free. (3 e/adult, kids free)

Liikuntamylly (Myllypuro)
Sundays 5.10. – 30.11.2014 at 9.00 – 10.45 am.

Maunula sports hall (Maunula)
Saturdays 1. – 29.11.2014 at 9.00 – 10.30

Children’s gymnastics (Lasten peuhapäivät)

Climbing and jumping at a gymnastics center Taitoliikuntakeskus for families on Sundays:
at 10.00 – 11.00 for children 2-7 years
at 11.15 – 12.15 for children 7-12 years
Taitoliikuntakeskus, Hietalahti (8 e/kid, adults free)

Jungle Junction

An open session organised by Jungle Kids Fitness with a gym circuit and a musical instrument corner.  Mondays and Fridays at 10 – 12 at Jungle Kids Fitness Studio in Matinkylä, Espoo. (10 e one child, 15 e for two children)

Festivals and fairs

30.9 – 5.10. Kutitus “Art Tickling” Arts Festival for Children and Youn People, Espoo Cultural Center, Tapiola  

4.10. at 10 – 14. “Muksukemut” children’s party at Malmitalo

5.10. – 11.10. Helsinki Baltic Herring Fair. Children’s programme at the  opening event on Sunday 5.10. at Kauppatori.

11. – 12.10. Pii Poo Lego building event, Vantaa Energia Areena, Rajatorpantie 23, Myyrmäki, Vantaa

11. – 12.10. Sailing Ship Day, A traditional sailing ships’ race on Saturday and open doors on Sunday, Market Square, Helsinki

11. – 19.10. Linnanmäki Light Carnaval, Linnanmäki Amusement Park, Entrance free

23. – 24.10. Helsinki Book Fair, Helsinki Fair Center, Pasila

24. – 26.10. Väkevä Viapori – Spirit of Suomenlinna Festival, lots of events and open doors for example to the firestation.  Wild Viapori kids event on Saturday 25.10 at 13 – 16 in Pajasali Hall.

29.10. at 5 – 7 pm. Tropical pumpkin party for families in Gardenia (Viikki). Dress up as a witch or a ghost or whatever you like. Regular entrance fee.

1.11. at 10 – 16 Kamukemut – a day of folk and traditional music for the whole family, Kanneltalo, Admission free.

1.11. at 12 – 15 Kauhua kakaroille – Halloween event for children, Vuotalo, Vuosaari. Free entrance.

7. – 9.11. ELMA Food and countryside show, Arts & Craft, OutletExpo, Helsinki Forest Fair, Menopeli 2014, Helsinki Fair Center, Pasila

9.11. at 13 – 16 Etnosoi for Children Music Festival, concerts, workshops and presentations, Malmitalo

23.11. at 14  Opening of the Aleksanterinkatu Christmas Street with Santa and elves, Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki

29.11. – 30.11. Suomenlinna Christmas Event

13.12. at 18.00 Lucia Day celebrations, Senate Square

14.12. at 13 – 17 Seurasaari Christmas Path, Seurasaari Island

26.12. 13 – 16 Seurasaari sleigh ride

Concerts and theather for children in Helsinki region

List of theaters and concert venues in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. Please check their calendars for updated information about children’s events.

City of Helsinki Cultural Office’s events for children (Annantalo, Kanneltalo, Malmitalo, Vuotalo)

City of Espoo Cultural Office’s events for children

Helsinki Music Center’s Family Concerts

Sello Hall Children’s events

Tavastia Children’s Concerts

Puppet Theatre Sampo

Puppet Theatre Sytkyt

Children’s Theatre Hevosenkenkä

Children’s Theatre Kapsäkki

Dance Theatre Hurjaruuth

Helsinki City Theatre (Helsingin kaupungin teatteri)

Links

More events at Lastenlinkit

Museum Guide Uusimaa

Kultus – cultural events portal

4 Comments

Filed under Events and festivals

The quest for the best indoor playground in Helsinki region

Here it is. My big indoor entertainment centre review. I think our family has now conquered almost all of them – the indoor play parks, adventure parks, family leisure centres – what ever you want to call the. Please let me know, if you know a place that is not included in the list below!

1. Hop Lop (Espoo, Vantaa, Helsinki)

The car racing track was the only calm area in HopLop, since you have to pay a bit extra to use the cars.

The car racing track was the only calm area in HopLop, because you pay extra to use the cars.

Hop Lop is the biggest indoor adventure park chain in Finland. In the capital region, they have three spots: a play area on the bottom floor of the huge indoor sports hall Esport Arena, a place close to the aiport in Vantaa and one in Eastern Helsinki at the Kivikko indoor wintersport center.

The Hop Lops we have tested in Espoo and Vantaa have high three-level climbing structures, slides, trampolines, jumping castles of all sizes and a rather big car racing track, that you pay separately. Bigger kids love it, but for parents with children younger than four or five, visiting Hop Lop can be a rather stressful experience.

Yes, they have a small playareas for toddlers, but the small kid area is right next to the much more interesting activities for older children – so wear sports clothes. You are going  to run and climb after your child.

Both Hop Lops are very loud spaces, since the ceiling is high and the accoustics is terrible. It is not confortable to  spend there more than an hour, maximum two. There is a cafeteria that serves the regular sausages and fries, but I would rather go home and eat.

Having said all this, Hop Lops are a great way to get your kid tired on a rainy fall day.

Hop Lop,
Entrance: Adults and babies under 1 year get in for free, 1-2-year-olds 9 euro, over 3-years 14 e
Extra charges for the car track.

2. Huimala (Espoo)

Huimala is a big hall. The cafeteria is in the middle of all the crazyness.

Huimala is a big hall. The cafeteria is in the middle of all the crazyness.

Huimala has the same idea as Hop Lops, but it has put a little bit more effort in the appearance. The play park has a jungle theme, wich makes it a lot more inviting compared to the rough warehouse feeling  of, for example, the Vantaa Hop Lop. Huimala’s area for bigger kids is a bit smaller than the ones in Hop Lops, but it has a whole floor dedicated to toddlers. Bigger kids are not allowed to run around there, and there is even a toddler gate on the door!

Our smaller child, 2,loved it, but the 3,5-year-old prefered the area for the older children, where he, however, spent most of the time lining up for the car racing track.

We were in Huimala on a rainy Saturday and the place was packed. I actually had to leave the smaller kids’ floor, because it got too warm there and  bad smelling greasy fumes from the kitchen below started filling the rooms. (Dear Huimala, please do something to the ventilation there. Opening the window doesn’t help!)

Huimala has a big separate play area for smaller kids.

Huimala has a big separate play area for smaller kids.

For us, Huimala is a bit far away, and wouldn’t be our first choise, but I understand that some people would prefer it over Hop Lop. It is a bit smaller, it is more beautiful and I think (but am not 100% sure) that their restaurant serves better food.

Huimala
Entrance: babies under 1 years for free, children 1-2 years 12 e, children 3-17 years 18 e, adults 5 e (with a S-card one adult for free with one child). Ticket includes two tokens per child for the electric car track and the laser cave.

3. Snadi Stadi (Ruoholahti, Helsinki)

The bike track is fun for kids but can be scary for parents with very small children.

The bike track is fun for kids but scary for parents with toddlers…

I have reviewed Snadi Stadi in a previous posting. Even though not perfect, it is in my opinion the nicest indoor playgrounds especially for smaller kids. There are many reasons why.

First of all, Snadi Stadi doesn’t get so loud and chaotic as Hop Lop and Huimala, because instead of having a high ceiling and many big climbing structures, Snadi Stadi’s space is long and there is only one big climbing area for older children.

I also like the way Snadi Stadi tries to offer children a variety of activities: there is a big sandbox, a scateboarding ramp, a stage for playing in a band and a lots of pedaling bikes to bike around the whole area. (This makes it a bit crazy to walk around Snadi Stadi with a toddler…)

Smaller kids have a nice smaller climbing area and separated space for playing. However, my kids have never stayed in that part of Snadi Stadi for long, so in that sense, Huimala’s gated small children floor is perfect.

You can reach Snadi Stadi by taking the metro to Ruoholahti, which is really convenient.

Snadi Stadi,
Entrance: children under 1 year for free, under 4 years 12 e, over 4 years 16 e, adults 2 e (includes a coffee or tea)

4. Helsingin Leikkiluola (Hakaniemi, Helsinki)

Leikkiluola is a no-frills place, but enough for a rainy day, when you need a place for your kids to jump and run.

Leikkiluola is a no-frills place, but enough for a rainy day, when you need a place for your kids to jump and run.

Leikkiluola is a place, where one adult can manage to take two active kids alone. It is compact and doesn’t have too many places to hide. There are trampolines, bouncy castles and a small climbing structure, but my kids have always loved the games and the coin operated firetruck (the entrance fee includes some coins).

The playground is located underground the Hakaniemi outdoor marketplace by the entrance to a big indoor sport centre. You take an elevatore down by the market and follow a line on the floor to a cafeteria where you buy the tickets. The cafeteria has a gas station style selection of buns and meat pies, so you are better off eating up at the much nicer Hakaniemi Markethall.

Leikkiluola
Entrance: children under 1 year and adults for free, 1-2 years 8 e, over 2 years 12 e, tickets include two coins for the coin operated games and cars.

5. Murulandia (Sörnäinen, Helsinki)

Murulandia is unique. It is hard to describe the amount of toys and decorations they have been able to fit in one gymnastic hall.

Murulandia is unique. It is hard to describe the amount of toys and decorations they have been able to fit in one gymnastic hall.

Murulandia is the newest indoor playarea in Helsinki and it is something different. Picture a school gymnastic hall filled with all the toys you can imagine. That is basically Murulandia’s idea.

In the middle of the toy paradise, there is a Santa’s hut (but no Santa).  Behind two small rooms represent the “traditional” play park entertainment with a home-made-style climbing area and a tiny ball pit. Murulandia’s speciality is a microscope room, where kids are able investigate dried animals and get to know about biology.

I visited Murulandia recently with my 2,5- and 4-years-old children. We were the only customers that moment. My kids loved the little playhouse and the playstore, but mostly they  ran around  touching toy after toy unable to concentrate in anything for longer than five minutes.  The wooden climbing area didn’t look very safe – didn’t let my younger one try it. We also took a look at the biology room, but it is clearly for a little bit older children.

The toys...

The toys…

Murulandia’s cafeteria is separated from the playroom. When we were there, it was already closed. If I would be the owner, I would developed Murulandia to be a meeting place for the mothers and kids. It would serve coffee (preferable good latte and espresso), nice fresh snacks like berry pies and smoothies, that you could enjoy, while you watch your kids play. There is certainly enough room for this. I would also lower the price considerably and make profit by selling expensive coffee for Kallio moms.

Murulandia
The original entrance fee was really high, but I don’t remember it. At the moment Murulandia’s website has only information about their September promotion: children 6 months – under 2 years 10e, 2 – 13 years 14 e, 14 – 17 years 6 e, one adult for free per child, extra adults 6 e. 

6. Children’s town

The city of Helsinki is currently renovating the lovely Children’s town museum by the Senate Square. The renewed Children’s town will only open in 2016.

4 Comments

Filed under Indoor playgrounds

A day at the floating playground between Helsinki and Tallinn

A day trip with a real cruise ship was an exciting experience for our kids.

A day trip with a real cruise ship was an exciting experience for our kids.

Kids have heard about the “Swedish boats” and want to go, but you don’t fancy sleeping two nights in a small cabin and running after your kids amongst partying crowds?

The Viking Line (one of the cruiseliners that sail between Finland, Sweden and Estonia) has a perfect solution to the problem. During the summer they offer a day cruise to Tallinn – tha capital of Estonia – in one of their bigger ships that normally only serve the Helsinki-Stockholm route. You can take the 3-hour ferry ride and get off in Tallinn, or you can do like we did and come directly back to Helsinki, never touching the Estonian grounds.

During the six hours your children will get exactly the same cruise experience as in Helsinki-Stockholm cruise, but in a more compact  (and stressfree) format: the lunch buffet, shopping, play area and games, napping in a cabin and walking around the big ship.

Playroom for smaller kids was less crowded than the rest of the playarea.

Playroom for smaller kids was less crowded than the rest of the playarea.

We did this today on Viking Gabriella leaving Helsinki at 11 am and returning at 5 pm. We booked the cruise only a day in advance. It costed 8 euros (!) when you booked the lunch buffet (24 euros for adults) at the same time. We also reserved a cabin, which was the most expensive investement in our trip (44 euros), but well worth it, since our 2,5-year-old and soon 4-year-old children can not go without resting the whole journey.

"The sea of balls" during a short calm moment. Most of the time bigger kids where jumping down from the top of the slide.

“The sea of balls” during a short calm moment. Most of the time bigger kids where jumping down from the top of the slide.

During the summer season both the Viking Line and Silja Line turn their conference areas into children’s play and game rooms. In Viking Gabriella, there was a disco room, a crafts room, a video game room, a bouncy castle and slides, “the ball sea”, a glow-in-the dark  minigolf and a room with toys suitable for toddlers. All this would have been perfect, unless most of the places where dominated by bigger children that made jumping in a bouncy castle and among the colourfull balls a scary experience for both of our kids. They liked the calmer playhouse and the play kitchen best.

For minigolf you had to pay extra.

For minigolf you had to pay extra.

My son also really enjoyed the limbo contest, where everyone got a Viking Line scarf. My daughter discovered the disco dancing room and the older kids in our group where mostly playing the video games.

We had the buffet lunch, which worked out great, since they have a separate kids buffet, very nice salads and a good dessert table. (Never before have I  seen a kids buffet with a bowl of candy next to the bowl of cucumber and tomatoes!) It is a bit expensive, because wine and beer is included, but you have to pay a lot for everything in the boat.

Kids could make their own name pins at the crafts room.

Kids could make their own name pins at the crafts room.

After eating and playing, the kids where excited to go to the cabin to “rest”. Eventually they did nap for an hour, but it took them time to settle down. In the end, it was a good decision to take the cabin as well.

After spending six hours at the sea, we were all happy to land in Helsinki at 5 pm local time.

More information about cruises:
http://www.vikingline.fi
http://www.tallinksilja.com

 

6 Comments

Filed under Theme parks

Travelling in Finland with kids: The Doghill farm at Särkänniemi

koiramaki2

The Doghill farm in Särkänniemi is based on the childrenäs picture books of Mauri Kunnas.

The Särkänniemi amusement park in Tampere opened last year a Doghill farm theme park based on the stories of a Finnish writer Mauri Kunnas, whose picture books tell about the Finnish history and culture. The Särkänniemi themepark is build around the Doghill farm books, where Kunnas explains, how people lived in Finnish countryside during the late 19th century.

We have been reading the books at home with my kids, so on our way to my parent’s summer cottage, we decided to take a few hours’ break to meet the the Doghill people in person. We arrived in to the Särkänniemi just when it opened at 10 am to find out that we were one of the last cars to get a spot at the parking next to the amusement park. If you arrive in the afternoon, be prepared to park in the city and take the shuttle bus.

The entrance to Särkänniemi is free, but you have to pay 15 euros to enter the Doghill farm area (under 3-year-old kids get in for free). We had decided to only visit that part of Särkänniemi, although there are many other fun things to do, if you have the whole day.

There is a riding field for kids and many wooden horses to play with.

koiramaki6

Many animals, but hard to see for a small person.

My son was excited to greet “the dogs”, and was quite dissapointed, when he found out that the Doghill farm caracters were only statues sitting here and there on a bench in the theme park. I later heard, that sometimes there are people walking in dog costumes around the area, but we didn’t see any. Instead there were actors with their nose painted black and a tail in their back, but that wasn’t enough for our demanding 3-year-old.

First time riding a pony.

First time riding a pony.

However, once he got over the first dissappointment, I think we all had a good time. The area is compact enough to visit without a stroller. The Doghill farm town is cute and there are lots of animals to look at and many opportunities to play. Kids can, for example, milk a play cow, ride a playhorse or a real pony, pull a raft accross a pond and watch a children’s play. Older children can climb inside a “Drakkula’s castle”, but we didn’t try that out yet.

For some reason, my kids were not so interested in the animals, even though there were beautiful white cows, horses, sheep, chicken and pigs.  Maybe since we have visited other farms with similar animals before or maybe because the fences in Doghill farm were too wide and tall and it was difficult for them to see the animals. (There favorite was a turkey, since it was one of the  only animal you could see withouth peaking in between the fences.)

Inside, there are lots of places to play. Here my daughter is "milking" the cow. They also liked brushing and feeding the play horse.

Inside, there are lots of places to play. Here my daughter is “milking” the cow. They also liked brushing and feeding the play horse.

I think, the kids would enjoy more, if there was an opportunity to feed some of the animals.  In a “real” farm, there is always some grass to give to a sheep or a cow, but in the Doghill theme park all the roads and animal shelters are covered by sand and the park does not provide any grass or hay for the kids to give to the animals.

For lunch, you can have a snack at one of the  cafeterias, but if you want to eat food food, you have to bring your own lunch or buy a hot dog from the stand outside the farm. (You can go and come back in, if you ask for a stamp at the entrance of the farm.)

We spend a good two hours in Doghill and could have stayed longer. It was well worth the 15 euros entrance fee.

 

The Särkänniemi Doghill Farm, Laiturikatu 1, Tampere

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Farms and zoos, Theme parks