Help… Its the holidays! You, or Gran, or Aunt or Selfless Friend have been dumped with all the kids, and you’re looking for somewhere to drag the energetic little minions.
These are our favourite haunts, whether its holidays or rainy days or sunny days. As a stay-at-home mom of two boys, one has to keep the days interesting or one starts drinking wine at 3.30pm while watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I do not personally do this but I hear this is what one does. Occasionally.
So. Its very important to keep the young ‘uns (and yourself) on the go.
- You probably know about all these already. Sorry to disappoint. You can send this to your new-baby-mom-friends and out-of-towners. And feel smug cos you are already so on it.
- My boys are ages 3 and 1, so most of these places are suitable for under 5’s.
- We live in Durban North, so I haven’t included the far reaches of the earth like the North Coast or the vast hinterland of Westville/Hillcrest/The Midlands (aren’t they all, like, the same place – past the Umgeni river?) These spots are 15 minutes or so from the ‘burbs.
- The first 5 options are good-weather spots. Our awesome climate in Durban means there are NOT a lot of places to go when its freezing or raining, but I’ve managed to find a few. As in, only two. Soz.
1. The Umgeni River Bird Park
This is SUCH a gem. First of all, its massive. There is so much to see and a lot of space for running around. Our three year old knows this place like the back of his hand. There are the talking parrots, the jungle gyms, the endless aviaries and ponds, and bird displays, and even a bird show that’s really interesting every day at 11am. You can easy spend 2-3 hours here, and there’s a very very average food place, too. Secondly, its all pretty much shaded and when its baking in Durban, the Bird Park really is cool (pun!).
Plus, these guys are doing awesome work in rehabilitating birds caught up in the illegal pet trade, as well as breeding rare species and releasing them back into the wild. Its clean, well-run, and the staff are awesome. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Cost: ±R40 or something for adults. Kids maybe R20. Can’t remember.
Click here for website
2. Mitchell’s Park
This timeless Durban gem doesn’t have the same slickness as the Bird Park, but there is a lot to do, and honestly its just really, really pretty there. The restaurant, Blue Zoo, is excellent – the menu is diverse, delicious and has great service. Plus, in the outdoor seating area is a really nice jungle gym, and when we were there last week there were tables with play dough, sand art, colouring in and a staff member to help. So nice. The “zoo” itself is kind of outdated, but there are amazing birds and rare monkeys to see. A short walk around is enough but its cheap to get in, so its worth going just to keep the kids busy. The jungle gym area outside the zoo, however, is awesome. Bit big for tinies (but they have the restaurant one), and loads of cool features. I haven’t even mentioned the actual park. Loads of space for kicking balls, running around, riding bikes. You can float from one area to another, and before you know you’ll have killed a few hours.
3. @Tap Coffee Corner
If you live in Durban North and you don’t know about @Tap – WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? It’s a little coffee shop behind the Durban North Baptist Church in Beachway, and its a real favourite amongst Durban North families. The pros of this popular spot are: lots of shade, astro turf grass, a bike track, a couple of jungle gyms, a little house to play in, swings and space, and a kid friendly restaurant. The down sides are: toys are bit scaffy, the food is nice but service SO SLOW, and in the holidays, on weekends, and in the afternoons it gets very busy and the big kids can make a bit hectic for toddlers and babies. The best time to go is in the week mornings – then its like you have your own personal playground. We are there pretty much once a week.
Opens 9am-4pm weekdays, 8.30am-1pm Saturdays.
CLOSED ON MONDAYS!
Their Facebook page is quite up to date.
4. People’s Park
On the south side of Moses Mabhida stadium is the People’s Park, and one of the nicest jungle gyms areas in Durban. We were there EARLY one morning and the staff were sanitising the equipment, and every time I’ve been there its clean and well-monitored.
What makes this great is the huge areas for bike-riding, skateboarding, roller-skating. If you didn’t bring your own wheels, you can rent. The restaurant has nice food – HUGE portions! The service is generally good but we usually wait forever for our food. The jungle gyms have four areas that increase in size, so there’s something for every age, including astroturf grass in the baby area. The only downside is that there is NO shade, and its very exposed when its windy. Best for these warm, still, mild winter days. Horrendous in the middle of summer.
Worth noting…their website is brilliant. You could just visit here, and it would be like you were in the actual park.
5. Umhlanga Promenade
This might seem obvious, but recently there was a lovely new wooden jungle gym added to the park at the south side of the Umhlanga promenade, next to the Malindi parking lot. The addition of the jungle gym means there is the prom for walking, the sand for playing, the rock pools at low tide for exploring, and the park for any energy still left after that. No food in the area and miles from the nearest restaurant so bring a picnic. Its a nice change of scenery.
6. Apache Spur in the Riverside Sports Complex
Ok, so call me a rookie mom but we only recently discovered this beauty. Alongside the usual Spur (which has to be one the weirdest, most politically-incorrect themed chain restaurants IN THE WHOLE WORLD), is large undercover play area. This is one of the few bad-weather appropriate play areas that I know of in Durban. There is a great indoor jungle gym area, complete with a huge airplane that has slides coming out of it. A climbing wall, three age-specific trampolines, and quite a bit of running-amock space. This area is roofed in, and has 2/3rds wall around it – the rest is netting. So temperature-wise, if its cold outside, its cold inside. But its pretty dry and sheltered from wind. There is a very small but very well-equipped toddlers play room thats completely inside – jumping castle, those soft climbing blocks and slides. The play area is supervised – they will label your kids with your phone number and table number, and will most definitely call you if your brood are terrorising the neighbourhood. Look, it is a SPUR – so your typical menu applies. But its awesome for kids.
Opens at 9am weekdays, 8.30am weekends. No website worth mentioning but here is their phone number, 031 564 3368, and map.
7. Jimmy Jungles
Funny story…the first time I took a friend of mine to @Tap (see point 3 above), she exclaimed “Wow, this is awesome. Jimmy Jungle’s gaan kak!” (BAHAHAHAHAHAHA…love this woman. Apologies for any offence). However, I disagree with my colourfully expressive friend. There really isn’t anywhere that compares to the jungle gyms, toys, ball pits, super slides, trampolines and childcare at Jimmy Jungles in Umhlanga. And THAT, my friend, is why you have to pay for it. During the week, its R45 flat rate for each kid. But on weekends, its R45 for the first hour and then you’re charged per minute after. And the weekends are HEINOUS. There will be 3 or 4 birthday parties, and open to the general public, and pumping music, and its frankly so hideous I will never go there on a weekend. It does, however, have a trump card that nothing else can offer. ONLY WARM, INDOOR PLAY AREA (that I know of). That and the fact that the little people love it there. On a miserable day, its brilliant. If your kids don’t mind being supervised by the child minders, its a dream spot where you can enjoy a cappuccino and a magazine and get some work done. Very well run, very slick, averagish food.
Their website is outdated and a bit sad – doesn’t even list this Umhlanga branch. But you can find up to date info here.
8. Umhlanga Fire Station
That’s right. There is an emergency services location mentioned on this list. Really, this is more of a special outing then a go-to play area but its worth mentioning because most people don’t know about it. I simply phoned them, (031 361 0000 – ask for Umhlanga Fire Station reception) and I if they do demonstrations. They told me if I could get a bunch of kids – more than 12 – they do them on Wednesday at 10am. It was AWESOME.
The firemen get dressed up and show the kids all the stuff on the truck. They can climb into the driver’s area. The highlight is when a fire engine comes in sirens blaring and sprays millions of foam bubbles and the kids go bananas running through it. Have your kids in their swimming costumes when you arrive, bring towels, and you’re all set. After the demonstration, head over to Chris Saunders park for a play in the water fountains. Its a great day out.
And then for a special treat…
9. Kids World at uShaka Marine World
Ok…WOW. How did I not know about this place until TODAY????
The Kids World at uShaka has the largest jungle gym in Africa. Seriously. It makes me want to me a kid. There is Lego and Duplo Activity Area. There is a Sprinkler play area. There is a sand pit with a dinosaur hidden in it. There is an indoor toddler play area with soft toys – next to a coffee shop where they offer FOOT MASSAGES!
What the what?
Did I mention it has the largest jungle gym in Africa? This place is awesome. But pricey. It costs R60 for kids over 3, and R15 for adults. So like I said, a special treat. But you can make a day of it. You are allowed to bring in picnics, your own food etc. In fact, unless you want to grab fast food from the uShaka mall you have to, as there are no food vendors in the play area itself. Weird. But its really and truly a great experience. We went on a Saturday, in the school holidays, there were at least 3 birthday parties happening and it still didn’t feel crowded. It was really good and I highly recommend it.
10. We’re all exhausted and it’s time to go home.
So these are our best spots to go, but I am sure there are plenty of other things you could add – drop us all a line in the comments section below and let’s share the love.