Wonderful Wellington: our kid-friendly capital
OHbaby! Managing Director Angela Pedersen booked a ‘kid-friendly’ city break for some precious one-on-one time with her youngest child.
I’d been promising this to Jesse for some time — that we would go on a plane and have a little holiday together. Instead of just booking something and taking him along for the ride, I decided to make the planning part of the excitement as well. We jumped online, pulled up a map of New Zealand and looked at different cities, chatting about what we could do in each. Jesse is a fan of Thunderbirds, so when I mentioned that we could visit Weta Workshops in Wellington and do the Thunderbirds tour, he was completely sold!
Just book it
With Jesse sitting on my knee, we then did a search for accommodation on booking.com. This website has more bookable rooms than any other travel brand in the world. It is very popular overseas, featuring listings for over 860,000 properties in more than 200 countries. Now with 3500 New Zealand listings, I was keen to try out their service. We were able to narrow our search down to 200 properties in the Wellington region, not just hotel rooms but a variety of other accommodation providers too. It was great to scroll through images of all our options, but the motorbike in the lobby was what caught young Jesse’s attention at the Museum Art Hotel (and for me it was the convenient location, right opposite Te Papa!) so we booked ourselves in. Booking.com made it simple, plus we didn’t have to pay up-front – you pay when you stay.
No alarm clock was needed on the morning we left for our trip. I had one very eager little buddy looking forward to the holiday and awake well before 6am. And I had one excited little man sitting next to me on the plane. We loved take off and landing, seeing the sights on the way and guessing the answers to the Air New Zealand in-flight quiz.
Once settled at the hotel, our first stop was Te Papa. Te Papa was a real highlight for us and we spent hours there. Our first port of call at Te Papa was the exhibition Gallipoli: the scale of our war. The wait was long and it took a bit of convincing and a lot of 'I Spy' to keep us in the queue. It was well worth it though. The walk-through exhibition tells the Gallipoli story through the eyes of eight New Zealand servicemen and women reincarnated as giant sculptures — 2.4 times human size. Following the trail between sculptures, there are amazing displays such as 3-D maps and projections; dioramas of Anzac Cove, the camps, trenches and hospital boats; and other interactive experiences bringing our history to life.
After the Gallipoli exhibition we browsed around the museum captivated by giant squid, bugs, birds and all sorts of unusual creatures before we were ready for lunch. We left Te Papa and meandered our way along the gorgeous Wellington waterfront, with its stunning art installations and brilliant playground, until we reached The Crab Shack where we dined on good old fish and chips and a raspberry, lemonade and ice cream spider – such a treat!
Refuelling was necessary for the walk we would take from the waterfront to the famous ‘must do when in Wellington’ cable car, and then through to the Beehive. That’s the beauty of Wellington – so many great places to take the kids are within walking distance, with plenty of places to stop and eat or play on the way. It had been a couple of years since I’d been on the cable car which has had a bit of pizzazz added to it since then. When going through the tunnels, LED lights in a myriad of colours illuminate the tunnel and change, creating a stunning light display. Jesse and I were lucky to be sitting at the front so got a great view of the lights as we were pulled up and down the hill.
We were fortunate to arrive at the Beehive just in time for a free tour so we signed up, got our tour lanyards and off we went. The tour around the Beehive and parliament buildings is fascinating. The tour guide was lovely and really inclusive of the kids — asking them questions and getting them to hold the doors for people, which all helped little ones stay interested for the hour-long tour.
I was captivated by the history, seeing the detail in the old buildings and viewing photos of past Prime Ministers through the ages. Jesse was amazing at recalling it all that evening over dinner at Lone Star too, so clearly he must have also been interested and listening!
Day two was the day Jesse was most excited about as we got to do the Thunderbirds tour at Weta Workshops. We booked the There and Back Again tour that picked us up from the city information centre and drove us out to Weta Workshops. Another friendly and informative guide provided a tour of the workshops and shared stories about Weta, the local movie theatre refurbished by Richard Taylor, and the fact that half the buildings in the street they operate out of are owned by Weta! Who knew?!
At the entranceway to Weta Workshops, you’re greeted by two menacing looking cave trolls, a perfect photo moment. The Weta Cave itself is full of merchandise and a little museum with some artefacts, including a brass sculpture of The Lonely Dog by artist (and my uncle!) Ivan Clarke. There was plenty of memorabilia to buy from the range of movies that the Weta team have worked on — I gave Jesse a small budget and he chose a Thunderbird 2 ship.
Our tour drove us just up the road to the building where Thunderbirds is produced. We saw the different sets of their lair, miniature models of the Thunderbirds ships and Lady Penelope’s house (my highlight!). What impressed me was the adage ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ is truly reflected here. So many of the amazing miniature sets are made up of 'rubbish' or everyday household items — lemon squeezers, Kinder Surprise packaging, old computer circuit boards — very clever ‘upcycling’ to create such convincing sets. This also generated a lot of conversation for Jesse and me that afternoon, as we thought about what we could make out of what we had with us. We had fun using our imaginations and Jesse was inspired with jobs he might like to do when he’s older.
Making the most of it
The next day we had the morning to sight-see before our flight home. After a flick through brochures showcasing the options available – various activities or perhaps a trip to the zoo – Jesse chose Te Papa again as “we didn’t see the whole museum, Mum!”. So back we went. We had a fabulous time watching volcano videos, over and over again, and learning about the earth’s crust. He also loved the earthquake house exhibit, so we went through that several times, in between grabbing selfies and snacks.
We had a wonderful time during our short stay in Wellington. The capital is a fantastic destination with so much within walking distance. We didn’t have to spend hours in traffic and we had our choice of great cafés close by — a win-win! Plus I had delightful company and we made some really special memories together … I couldn’t have asked for better.
Angela and Jesse travelled to Wellington courtesy of booking.com.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 35 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW