12 Free things you can do with kids in Cape Town

As the holidays approach you’re probably wondering how you will be able to afford Christmas (the gifts and entertaining that goes along with it), while keeping things interesting and fun for the kids while you take some time off to bond with them.

To make it easy for you, I’ve drawn up a list of 12 free things to do with your children in Cape Town, our beautiful Mother City. If you’ve got any other suggestions I’d be happy to hear from you and add them to this list:

  1. Going to the beach

There some beaches, like Boulders, where you have to pay to get in. While Boulders is super child friendly I’m going to minimize my visits to this beach to avoid paying a R70 fee for my husband and I and R35 for the eldest (the fee is charged for those aged 2 -11), which would total R175 for our family,* and stick to ones where you can get in for free. There are so many other lovely beaches to explore along Cape Town anyway. My favorite is Llandadno but during the summer months this small beach can get rather cramped, so I’ll be sure to considerer alternatives, such as Noordhoek, Kommetjie and Melkbosstrand.

I’m also thinking of reducing the number of visits to beaches along the False Bay side because of the never ending road works. Last week hubby and I went off to Kalk Bay – it’s not even peak season and it took us an hour to get there on the Main Road. Perhaps if we do go it may be worthwhile to go by train. It would certainly help in cutting down on the petrol bill.

Tip: Cut down on petrol by using public transport, such as the train. Remember sun cream!

2. Visit our beautiful parks

Don’t get me wrong, there are some lovely indoor play facilities in and around Cape Town but visiting these can get expensive as you often pay by the hour, per child. If you want to let your child play with others while fine-tuning their motor skills why not rather visit one of your local parks. Cut down the cost by car-pooling or walking there if it’s a good day. I love Green Point’s Urban Park and Keurboom Park in Claremont. Urban Park can get busy but on our last visit we got there early enough and got a good, shady spot. Both parks have an enclosed toddler and baby area, with play equipment designed especially for them.

Tip: Pack your own snacks to avoid having to pay for them at the nearby restaurants and shops.

3. Story time at The Book Lounge

At 11am on a Saturday you can visit The Book Lounge if you have kids older than three years of age and let them take part in a free story session. I’m told a different theme is covered every week so you can attend regularly without the kids listening to the same story again.

Tip: Browse through the books, just don’t buy if you want to cut down on spending money.

4. Visit the Company’s Gardens

It’s in the City Centre so you can take a MyCiti bus or train into town to cut down on costs. It’s free to walk around at the Company’s Gardens. Why not take a picnic basket and some snacks with you if you want to cut down on costs.

Tip: Remember to take along some nuts to feed the squirrels – they are super friendly.

5. Take a stroll at a harbour

Take your pick – there’s Hout Bay, the V&A Waterfront and Kalk Bay to choose from. At all three you’re likely to spot some seals. The V&A also has a few play areas. Let the kids go wild while you take a rest on a nearby bench. With Hout Bay there’s of course the beach to stroll along too, while Kalk Bay has a lot of curio and antique shops where you can window shop.

Tip: Don’t enter the stores if you don’t want to spend money and pack your own food and snacks.

6. Take the family out to Sea Point Promenade

The Promenade (see picture below) stretches on and on and there’s ample of free space and play ground equipment for the kids. Take their scooters, bikes, roller blades cause there’s plenty of flat pavement to whiz around on.

Tip: Take the family dog with. Ask the locals where the ‘leash free’ areas are but if you’re uncertain, keep your dog on the leash.

7. Visit Cape Town’s forests

Go to Newlands or Tokai Forest, especially when it’s hot and the beaches are full. Under the shade of the trees you are bound to find some cool walks, with breathtaking views in these amazing forests. If Tokai Forest takes your fancy, visit the Aboretum where you can see a variety of tree species. For the more energetic why not hike up to Elephants Eye or get up to Silvermine Nature Reserve, where you can have a dip in the dam.

Tip: Again, take the family dog with. Make sure you stay safe by staying together. Don’t wander off into the forest alone. And watch out for the baboons!

8. Go on top of Table Mountain

Kids under four go up for free on Table Mountain. Best of all, if it’s your birthday, it’s free for you too. Otherwise, check out the tariffs and go at a time when the fares suit your budget.

Tip: Take advantage of the Kids Season special (usually between May – September), which means your children get to ride for free. Bring your ID along to prove that it’s your birthday. Students and pensioners get concessions on a Friday. Oh and if you are a foreigner, the birthday deal doesn’t apply to you. Sorry. My nanny, who’s from Zimbabwe, found this our the hard way. Personally, I think this deal should be extended to our African neighbours!

9. Stroll around Groot Constantia wine farm

You’re not obligated to eat at the restaurants or go wine tasting. You can wander around the vineyard as well as the grounds of this historical venue for free. Unfortunately they’ve taken down the jungle gym, but they promised to put a new one up.

Tip: Bring some food for the ducks.

10. See the firing of the Noon Gun 

These days we’re all blessed with watches or we can keep track of the time on our cell phones. But during the 19th century many relied on the firing of the Noon Gun for accurate time-keeping.

Tip: Rock up thirty minutes before the cannons are set to go off so you can take in the views and look at the armoury on display.

11. Go on an Adventure Clubs excursion or create your own

Download this nifty app (the brainchild of Janelle Schroy) on your phone and scroll through it to find an adventure that suits your budget. Adventures are organized by individuals and companies and are often discounted. Some are free but the premium ones (which are highlighted as such) you do have to pay for.

Tip: The app allows you to organize your own adventure for free. You can invite your friends along as the app allows you to share your adventure on social media. Or simply upload your idea and see which families join you. It’s a great way to make new friends.

12. Visit a nursery
I’m talking about the plant variety here. Ferndale nursery in Constantia, for example, has a large play area with plenty of frames for the little ones to clamber on. They can also view and feed the birds. You’re not obligated to buy any plants when you visit but you do have to pay R2 for the seed if you want to feed the ducks.

Tip: For a list of child friendly nurseries, click here.

*Figures correct as at 30 October, 2016

Further reading:

12 Child friendly places to visit in Cape Town

 Scoot along Sea Point Promenade
Play in Tokai Forest
Stunning Llandadno Beach
Llandadno can be cold but the kids will still dip their toes in the water!

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