Looking for an escape from real life, but don’t have the time or the cash for a weekend away? We have 30 budget-friendly fun days for you and the kids to enjoy during your time off.
Now that’s edutainment
1. Absorb the past
Teach the kids about the earth and its biological and cultural diversity, past and present, at the South African Museum at the Company Gardens in Cape Town. The museum houses more than 1,5 million specimens of scientific importance, including fossils and stone tools, which the kids will get close to. Visit iziko.org.za for more and for info on the small entrance fee.
2. Get smart, have fun
Kids will love the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown, Joburg. The centre is packed full of gadgets, gizmos, dinosaurs, structures and space and science fun. Keep the whole family entertained for hours. There is a small entrance fee; enquire ahead. For info visit sci-bono.co.za.
3. Dinosaurs galore
The National Museum in Bloemfontein at 36 Aliwal street has a variety of world-class cultural, palaeontological, natural science and anthropological artefacts on display, and entrance is extremely reasonable. It’ll teach the family something about everything, leaving you all the wiser! For more info, visit nasmus.co.za.
Never-fail fun for kids
4. Be lost and found again
Enter a real-life maze at Honeydew Mazes in Joburg, where the kids can spend the day figuring their way out of the mazes, and answering fun questions in quizzes and games along the way. Visit honeydewmazes.co.za.
5. The fail-safe day out
For a sunny and exhilarating day out, visit tried and tested family favourite, Gold Reef City. It gets very busy on weekends and holidays, but the theme park and fun historical attractions will keep you busy from opening to closing time. Visit goldreefcity.co.za.
6. Superb sealife
Kids love the chance to get close to the ocean life in aquariums, and there’s none better than the Two Oceans Aquarium. There, they can see the kelp forests, sharks, penguins and weird-and-wonderful ocean life. Kids under four go in for free. Visit aquarium.co.za.
7. Bring out the kid in you too
At Flag Animal Farm, about 50 km north of Durban, the kids can feed the animals, go on pony rides, milk cows and play with rabbits – among other things. Pack a picnic or have coffee at the coffee shop. Visit flaganimalfarm.co.za.
Discover your heritage
8. Learn a little
The Slave Lodge on the corner of Adderley and Wale Streets in Cape Town is a must-see if you want to get a sense of the long history of slavery in South Africa. It also houses a selection of ceramics, silverware and Egyptology collections. Visit iziko.org.za for more and for enquiries about the small entrance fee.
9. Walking history
Experience a side of Joburg you may not yet know. Past Experiences combines walking and history in its tours of Joburg. Experienced guides will take you through the tastiest and most culturally inspiring nooks and crannies of the inner city. From pub crawls, to tours of Soweto, Mandela’s Joburg and the delicious spicy Fordsburg tour, there’s something for all. Visit pastexperiences.co.za.
10. A sight to see
The Bo-Kaap Museum, at 71 Wale Street in Cape Town, traces the history of Islam in the Cape with a collection of decorative artworks. While you’re there, take a walk through the streets to experience the brightly painted mosques and old townhouses in the area. Visit iziko.org.za for more info and for enquiries about the small entrance fee.
11. One for the guys
For something a little different, head to the James Hall Museum of Transport to take a glimpse into Joburg’s transport history, dating back more than a century. Look at the variety of trams, animal-drawn and steam vehicles, cars and more. Entrance is free, with a donation. Visit jhmt.org.za.
12. For the whole family
Step back in time at Newtown’s Museum Africa at 121 Bree Street. Entrance is free, and the museum hosts a tapestry of history, art and culture representing Joburg’s geological, social, political and economic history. It holds artefacts, paintings, photographs, musical instruments and archaeological items. Great for a day out with the kids. Email [email protected] for more.
13. Take it all in
The South African National Gallery at the Company Gardens in Cape Town houses outstanding collections of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art. Collections include paintings, works on paper, photography, sculpture, beadwork, textiles and architecture. Visit iziko.org.za for more info and for enquiries about the small entrance fee.
14. Art for all
Head to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, which houses a collection of African art (with a focus on the Eastern Cape), British art, international printmaking and Oriental art (including Indian miniatures and Chinese textiles). And entrance is free! Phone 041 506 2000 for more.
Pack a picnic
15. Fun in the sun
Pack the canoe and paddles, or simply a paper boat, and head to Emmarentia Dam in Joburg for a gorgeous day around the water. Take the dogs along to walk the vast expanses of open grass, or a blanket to rest under the trees. Visit jhbcityparks.com.
16. Old-fashioned family day out
Pack the picnic basket and your comfy shoes and make your way to one of the botanical gardens across the country. There are nine gardens within six provinces, including Walter Sisulu in Joburg, Kirstenbosch in Cape Town and the Lowveld Gardens in Nelspruit. Most are easy to reach from main city centres, and offer ample space for relaxing in the shade and soaking up the soothing nature around you. All have landscaped and natural areas for exploring. Visit sanbi.org to find the closest gardens to you.
Bring the padkos
17. Breathtaking views
Drive through to Hartebeesport Dam, and ride the Harties Cableway up the mountain for views of the Magaliesberg and dam below. There’s something for everyone there, from the KidZone and Lookout Bar to the Dassie Walkway dotted with info snippets. Visit hartiescableway.co.za.
18. Take a day drive
If you’re based in Mpumalanga, drive out to Sabie for the day. There are plenty of sights to see, and many can be enjoyed for free. Just wandering around town is an experience in it’s own! Visit St Peter’s Church, stop for a bite at a quirky restaurant, and visit the Mac Mac Pools and Falls for a minimal entrance fee. Visit sabie.co.za for more info.
19. Ellies for all
If you need a few budget nights away from the hustle and bustle, and are up for a bit of wildlife too, pack the tent and a few supplies and head to the Addo Elephant National Park, between PE and Grahamstown. Spot the Big Five, wild dog and cheetah, while taking in the fresh air and sounds of the bush. Visit sanparks.org/parks/addo.
20. The artist’s haven
Head out on an early morning drive to Clarens in the Free State, easily accessible from Joburg, Bloemfontein and Durban. This charming village is an artist’s haven, with many galleries scattered around the village square. The cool breeze, breath-taking mountains, delicious lunch options and quaint sandstone buildings are perfect for a day out. Visit clarens.co.za.
21. Drive the midlands
If you’re looking for a road trip via some of South Africa’s most beautiful roads, take a drive around the Midlands Meander. It’s an easy one-hour drive from Durban with routes that offer beautiful surroundings, arts and crafts, and historical sites along the way. Visit midlandsmeander.co.za.
Go outdoors and get active
22. Feel energetic?
Take a hike up Lion’s Head. It’s a shorter route and a little easier than climbing neighbouring Table Mountain, and it offers panoramic views of the city and Table Mountain. There are a couple of paths to try along the way, but beware if you’re afraid of heights!
23. Time out for nature
Only 10km from the centre of Joburg lies the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, where you can have an exciting nature experience. There are many species of antelope on view, together with heritage sites that date back to the 1500s. Keep an eye out for its many botanical and geological attractions. There are many scenic hiking trails in the reserve varying in difficulty, and the easiest and most pleasant can be completed by the less active in about three hours. And, best of all, it’s free! For more, visit klipriviersberg.org.za.
24. Go fly a kite
Fly your kite on Bloubergstrand in Cape Town. It’s a great spot on windy days, when the sky is littered with kites of all shapes, colours and sizes. Also keep an eye out for kite surfers performing spectacular feats on the water.
25. Visit the Malutis
Escape the city for a weekend and go hiking in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, nestled in the breathtaking foothills of the Maluti Mountains. There are many different hiking options suitable for young walkers and experienced hikers alike. Enjoy the fresh air by camping in shady Glen Reenen Rest Camp, with sites available from R180 for two people. Visit sanparks.org/parks/goldengate.
Up close and personal
26. Watch the penguins
Take the kids to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town to get up close and personal with the penguins. There aren’t many places in the world where you can get this close to a breeding colony. What’s more, you can soak up the sun on their beach, and take a dip in their sea too!
27. Monkey fun
Take a day drive to experience nature in Hartebeespoort. At the Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary, you can take a tour through an indigenous forest and get close to the primates in their natural environment. Visit monkeysanctuary.co.za.
28. See African kings
Visit prides of lion, white lion, a clan of cheetah, wild dog and hyena at the Lion Park, just north of Joburg and close to Pretoria. Enjoy the animals at your leisure on your own game drive, or opt for a guided game drive at night. You can even play with the lion cubs — under supervision, of course! Visit lion-park.com.
29. For bird lovers
The impressive Umgeni River Bird Park in Durban North is home to over 4 500 birds. Browse aviaries and ponds filled with waterbirds. Visit umgeniriverbirdpark.co.za
30. Spend time with dainty winged creatures
A walk through the Butterfly House in Pietermaritzburg is a fantastical experience. Come into contact with colourful butterflies from around the world. Create a memory for the kids that will last forever. Visit butterflies.co.za.