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Stockholm and Junibacken, the theme park based on Astrid Lindgren’s books such as Pippi Långstocking, had been in our travel plans for ages. Traveling from Helsinki to Stockholm with kids by ferry or by air is super easy with numerous daily connections between the two capitals. A long weekend in the end of May was the perfect timing for a mini-break – crossing the Baltic sea on an overnight Silja Line cruise and arriving in the morning for a 2 days in Stockholm was a fun and relaxing experience that exceeded our expectations.
Day 1: Gamla Stan Old Town and the Royal Palace
The Stockholm Gamla Stan Old Town has charming atmosphere created by the narrow streets and old buildings. It’s nice to just walk around or visit the shops and cafes in the area.
The girls loved the visit to the Royal Palace and didn’t get bored even though it was quite a lot of walking to go through it. We admired the royal dresses and outfits across centuries on display. The palace rooms are beautifully decorated.
Check tickets costs and opening hours (typically 10 am to 4 pm in the winter and 9 am to 5 pm in the summer) here.
After touring the Royal Palace we were hungry and needed a break. Since the weather was lovely we absolutely wanted to find a table outdoors. We stumbled upon Restaurang Misteln Bar & Café and although a bit pricey, the location in the heart of Stortorget and the lovely old town ambience were unbeatable.
Day 2: Junibacken
We took the metro to Karlaplan and walked through the park with a fountain in the middle of a large water pool. It looked so nice that it would have been fun to just hang out in the park for a while enjoying the sunshine. There was also an outdoor flea market but we realized we hadn’t exchanged any Swedish krone so (luckily) it wasn’t possible to make any unplanned purchases.
Crossing the bridge to Östermalm where Skansen open air museum is located. It would be easy to spend at least two or three days here especially if the weather is nice. There’s Grönalund amusement park, Abba museum and the Wasamuseum, home of the infamous Wasa ship that we had to skip due to the tight schedule but for sure will be on our agenda on our next visit to Stockholm.
Junibacken charmed us completely. At first glance, it seemed very small and we were wondering if it would be worth the entrance fee, yet the kids loved everything about it. The ticket includes a ride on the “train” that goes through different meticulously constructed scenes that are in Lindgren’s books. Then you arrive at Pippi’s house where the kids can climb upstairs and take the slide down. There’s even a wooden version of Pippi’s horse to ride!
The circus-like café looks awesome – I could imagine it would be a wonderful place to have a birthday party! It has a great balcony with great sea views towards Stockholm center. In the backyard there’s a play area for especially the smaller kids. Don’t miss out on the other side of Junibacken that is accessed by going through the gift store – there’s lots of fun exploration including staging your own picture of hanging from the chandelier!
Check tickets costs and opening hours (typically 10 am to 5 pm) here.
Silja Line Helsinki to Stockholm Ferry
The Silja Line ships Serenade and Symphony cruise between Helsinki and Stockholm on alternating days. As we were staying overnight in Stockholm, we took Symphony to Stockholm and returned abroad Serenade. One of the best things about traveling with kids by Helsinki to Stockholm ferry is how convenient it is to move around – there is so much to do and see to keep the little ones happy and yet everything is close by.
Arrival to the Ferry and Checking-in to the Cabin
It’s a good idea to arrive early to the terminal, so that you can board the ship about an hour before the departure. If you’re lucky with the weather like we were, go to the sun deck for the departure and you have the chance to take some amazing photos of Helsinki. It’s often very windy and cold and warm clothes would be a must, but we were very lucky as it was the first warm days of spring.
We liked the Promenade cabin very much – the kids loved sitting on the windowsill with views down to the buzzling Promenade with restaurants and shops. The compact cabin is furnished with foldable bunk beds for four persons, a dressing table and a bathroom. Other similar cabin options include A-class cabin that has windows to the sea and B-class without windows. C-class cabins offer a budget option on the lowest decks. Additionally, there is a small number of specialty cabins such as Moomin family cabin (we would have loved it but only a few of these specialties onboard so book early if you want to secure one for your family!).
Fun Entertainment Onboard
The eight-year-olds enjoyed the Moomin music and dance show and activities for kids. They thought that the Kids playroom would be just for the very little kids and didn’t want to go there. Later my daughter saw photos about all the fun stuff there (legos, drawing, computer games, etc.) and now she wants to go again to Stockholm by ferry!
We also enjoyed the acrobatics show on Promenade and did some shopping. We also got our photos taken by the professional photographer on-board and got the prints in the morning (they also emailed the digital files at a small extra fee). Time goes too quickly to do all the fun things – we didn’t even make it to the spa so there’s plenty of things to do also on our next cruise.
The buffet is a classic and has a wide selection of starters, mains and desserts. Drinks (water, juice, soda, beer, or wine from the tap are included) in the price. There’s also a children’s buffet table with the kids favorites like meatballs, sausages, French fries…. And ice cream for dessert! It’s best to reserve the buffet in advance especially if you’d like to get a table in the first seating.
Breakfast buffet was worth the investment and especially ideal for early risers – we not being early birds struggled to get up early enough to fully enjoy a long, relaxed brekkie but it was a great way to wake up and get going.
On the way back, we opted for a la carte dinner at Tavolata, the Italian restaurant – we took the menu and it was delicious. They offered a children’s buffet that the kids savored.
Where to Stay in Stockholm
We booked the Silja Line family package that included one night in Scandic Ariadne in the harbor as it was the only available option that had family rooms for four people. It was super easy to get there from the ferry, to check-in and leave the luggage there before heading to explore the city. Scandic Ariadne’s penthouse bar was a great place to end the day and the breakfast outdoors on the deck was the best part of our stay.
However, it is a bit further away from city center and the main attractions, requiring taking the metro or other form of transport and if we visit Stockholm again we’ll probably go for a hotel in the center. Though the metro was very convenient to use and, in the weekends (from noon on Friday onwards) and public holidays children go free!
Have you been to Stockholm? Anything you would recommend? We’d love to hear about your experiences!
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Guest post by Neha Singh, Dubaiwikia. Sports in Dubai? Not only is it possible but you can find lots of fun sporty activities to do when you travel in Dubai! Excited to launch this new Active Travel series zooming into different destinations around the world […]
Are you looking for Lapland holidays with a wide variety or activities and unique experiences for the whole family? Prefer a place accessible by public transportation? Ylläs, located about 200 km/125 mi north from the Arctic Circle, is a fantastic base for Lapland family holidays […]
Boston was one of the first cities in the United States that I visited, and the skyscrapers, fascinating history and atmosphere made a huge impression. How was it to return 30 years later? Well, the city that was founded in 1630 has changed a lot for sure in the last few decades. The Uber driver shared that a major change was building the Boston Tunnel that opened about a decade ago and moved key highways underground. Thanks to this huge investment the city seems to have less noise from traffic, cleaner air and welcoming feeling for pedestrians and bicyclers. The city center felt perfect size for getting around on foot and sidewalks were everywhere making it safe to stroll around. I enjoyed the atmosphere in the city that hosts some of the world’s top universities, research institutions and a wide range of companies from startups to multinationals.
I was in the city for a business trip but on the last day had 12 hours before hopping on the plane to my next destination. Here’s an itinerary for one day in Boston with a self-guided walking tour map of the key sites. The walking tour is in total 13 kilometers / 8 miles – the first part is about 5 km / 3 mi, followed with a ferry connection from Charlestown to Long Wharf and then around 8 km / 5mi for the second part. Without any breaks this tour could be completed in a much shorter time, but my itinerary takes a calm pace and includes breaks for breakfast, lunch, coffee and dinner as well as plenty of time to admire the views. Feel free to go at a slower or faster pace based on what fits your interests!
Morning jog at the Public garden
The Public garden is a charming park with lots of beautifully maintained colorful flowers. In the middle of the park there’s a pond and Swan boats for rent. What a wonderful place for a quick morning run or a starting point of a longer jog around Boston – it’s easy to move around even across the bridges to Harvard side of the river and do a circular route back.
Common Garden, the Freedom trail and the Harbor walk
The Freedom trail starts from the Common Garden and there’s lots of historical buildings like Faneuil Hall on the way. From the Freedom Trail you can continue to the Boston Harbor Walk for a longer outing along the Historic North End and across the Charlestown Bridge.
Charlestown Navy Yard and USS Constitution Museum
The Charlestown Navy Yard is a historic site where you can learn fascinating history of how the yard built, repaired, and maintained ships for almost two centuries. It’s open year-round and there are two historic warships for visitors: sailing frigate USS Constitution and destroyer USS Cassin Young.
After the heavy dive into U.S. marine history, I was feeling ready for some brunch. Style Café was recommended by a local as best coffee and reasonably priced sandwiches. I ordered an omelet for breakfast with almond latte for around 12 dollars it was a great deal with the free WiFi. There’s only a few tables inside and outside so it can get crowded.
Boston Harbor Cruise
Boston Harbor Cruise ferry from Charlestown to Long Wharf and the best deal with just 3,50 dollars for a one-way ticket. The views to the city from the sea are amazing!
Rose F. Kennedy Greenway
Rose F. Kennedy Greenway park has public lounge chairs and free wifi that make it a perfect spot for a relaxing break outdoors. There’s pieces of art to admire and an impressive mural painting.
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum Shop
The Boston Tea Party was a special event in the American history – taking place in 1773, the protest escalated in the American Revolution. The Boston Tea Party Museum hosts two replica ships and actors playing out scenes. A wonderful interactive learning opportunity for both kids and adults!
Lunch at Abigail’s Tea Room
The Boston Tea Party Museum’s café is called Abigail’s Tea Room & Terrace. Make sure to get here early enough to not miss lunch that’s served until 4pm. The tea room is famous for scones and I took the blueberry scone and wasn’t disappointed. Hot tea tasting is available with five flavors as well as iced tea (I recommend the apple and strawberry flavored. I got a table on the deck where I could see the ships and hear pieces of the tour. The staff is dressed in traditional costumes and I met Ruby who was surprised to hear that I had come all the way from Finland – after all, it must have taken 2 or 3 months by ship to cross the Atlantic!
Fan Pier Park
A short walk from the Boston Tea Party museum is Fan Pier Park that’s a nice modern boardwalk close to the marina with grassy seating areas. Grab a coffee and relax for a moment watching the views or read a book with the Boston skyline in the background.
The Boston China town is a unique, colorful and lively area to walk through. Although maybe not the cleanest and most organized part of the town, it’s a fun area to walk through and maybe grab a bite to eat.
Collonnade hotel rooftop pool
The rooftop pool bar is open to public only on weekdays evenings after 5pm with a 10-dollar entrance fee. If you want to catch the sun it’s best to arrive right at 5pm as later the sun goes behind neighboring buildings and it can get chilly unless it’s a very warm day. Enjoy the small pool, the loungers and the rooftop bar for a relaxing break with views.
Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory
The next stop is the Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory where you can enjoy an audio tour and see the full 360-degree views over Boston. The Prudential Center is also a shopping center so if the day is too cool for the rooftop pool visit you could also easily spend an hour going around the stores before or after taking the elevator to the Skywalk Observatory.
Dinner at Top of the Hub
Located on the just upstairs from the Skywalk, on the 52nd floor at the Prudential Center Boston, Top of the Hub restaurant has amazing views across Boston. The best time to arrive is at dusk to see the sun set and the city lights. There was pleasant live music and I got lucky to even see fireworks – what a fantastic way to end the day in Boston!
The public transportation system including metro is a great way to move around in the city. I found Uber most practical form of transportation from the airport to the city and the outdoor pick-up point was easy to access from the terminal.
Good to know
Tap water is good for drinking, so there’s no need to buy lots of bottled water. The weather can be windy, so a windproof jacket could be a good idea to bring along. The city isn’t the cheapest for hotels and restaurants so it makes sense to plan ahead if you’re on a budget. Like in many big cities, there were some homeless people on the streets that I always find sad but it does remind to be thankful to have a home and opportunities to travel.
Overall, Boston is one of my favorite cities due to it’s seaside location, pedestrian-friendly streets and fascinating insights to U.S. history! If you have more time to travel in the region, there are some amazing Day Trips from Boston worth exploring!
Have you been to Boston and what are your favorite experiences in the city?
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Are you dreaming of diving or snorkeling in the Caribbean but would also like to have other things to do? Curacao could be the perfect destination for an active outdoorsy vacation with white beaches and turquoise waters but also a lot of other things to see and do. Scuba diving in the Caribbean had been in my dreams already for quite some time and I decided I would live this dream on my birthday. Since it was hurricane season it was important to find a location out of the typical trajectory. Finally, it was a choice between Bonaire and Curacao – Curacao got selected because of slightly better flight connections, colorful buildings in the photos of the capital Willemstad, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it seemed like it would be easy to find also other things to do in addition to diving.
What I really liked about Curacao was how safe, clean and organized it appeared. A huge additional bonus was the drinkable tap water. Also, it was easy to communicate as everyone I encountered spoke good English which is Curacao’s official language in addition to Papiamento and Dutch. LionsDive Beach resort was an excellent location to stay as it was right at the beach and offered different restaurants to choose from. The breakfast at Restaurant Hemingway’s on the beach was just amazing – both for the food and the views!
Scuba diving was absolutely the main reason for traveling to Curacao and diving with Ocean Encounters was fantastic. Our guides Lexi, Pieter & co were very professional and made the day trips to the sea safe and fun. It was easy to pre-book the boat dives in advance and I’d recommend it to be on the safe side – even though at least they did have available seats even for the next day.
As the dive shop is right next to the resort it was super easy to go there and take only minimal belongings along. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat! And bring along your dive log book as it’s a good idea to get the instructor’s signature and stamp right after returning to the shore. 4 days double tank boat trips took us to some amazing diving spots on the west coast of Curacao:
Smokey, Boobey Trap, Bullenbaal, Blue Bay Garden, Beacon Point (wall, drift dive), Shipwreck point (wall, drift dive), Newport, Barracuda point – Small Wall – Director’s Bay (drift dive through 3 diving sites)
Photo: Turtle & Ray Productions Curacao
We saw for example turtles, barracudas, stingrays, tarpons, lion fish, angel fish, green moray eel, trunk fish, lobster, parrot fish… Some of the dives were drift dives with lighter or stronger currents where it was very practical that the boat came to pick us up where ever we surfaced in the end of the dive. The diving spots were mostly not too far and the boat rides were maybe half an hour at the most.
Photo: Turtle & Ray Productions Curacao
The sea was quite calm which made me very happy as I didn’t experience motion sickness (unlike my previous scuba diving in Australia). The boat was good too and offered enough shade as well as some seats in the sun. Drinking water was available all the time and some orange slices were offered after the first dive which tasted refreshing.
On the downside, to be honest, I got an understanding from frequent divers that there has been maybe too much fishing and less marine life than there used to be. I hope this is something that’s taken seriously now and that the amazing underwater world will be protected to stay amazing for our children as well! I was happy to notice that Ocean Encounters and other dive centers in Curacao actively participating in coral conservation efforts and underwater cleanups. Reducing the environmental impact not only from fishing but also from pollution and other stressors on the environment will require lots of collaboration and commitment from us all.
The weather in Curacao was really HOT in September, even above +35 degrees celcius and the sun was scorching – so hot that it was difficult to move in the middle of the day. Scuba diving was the by far best activity for these hot days. After lunch in the afternoons it was best to continue the day by snorkeling from the beach. Just remember that the sun can burn even if you’re in the water and protect yourself with sunscreen and UV-clothing!
LionsDive Beach resort’s pool was Olympic size 50 meter long – perfect size for swimming some laps. Swimming lessons were organized at the pool couple of times a week.
Willemstad’s colorful buildings and Queen Emma Bridge
Curacao capital Willemstad’s brightly colored buildings are just as picturesque as they look in photos. LionsDive resort offered complimentary mini-bus transportation to the city a couple of times a day so it was within easy reach although far beyond walking distance. The city center is quite compact and it felt safe and easy to walk around. The views around the floating Queen Emma Bridge are gorgeous and it’s fun to see it swing open for boats to pass through.
On the Pietermaai side of the bridge on Waterfortstraat there’s some restaurants with amazing views to the sea – for example Perla Del Mar is a great place to stop for a drink or a meal if you’re staying in the city for longer.
After crossing the Queen Emma Bridge to the Otrobanda side you can find the Renaissance Mall in the Rif Fort. I needed to do a bit more shopping than usual as the airline had lost my luggage and it took a few days for it to arrive. After some serious shopping, I was very happy to find a Starbucks and cool down with a caramel frappucino 🙂 Some stores had appealing discounts but be aware that the mall is located close to the Cruise ship port and it looked like some shops were taking advantage of this in their pricing. It seemed that there were less expensive shops on the other side of the bridge. Zuikertuin Mall is a bit further away from the center but it’s a nice small shopping center with air conditioning which makes it a pleasant place to cool down if you’ve already had too much of sun for the day.
Early mornings were the best time for going jogging because of the hot weather. There were some nice paths along the seaside but sometimes private areas were blocking the way and the only way to continue was at the side of the road. I was still happy that I had brought my sneakers along.
Yoga and gym with sauna
Body Beach Wellness Club is located adjacent to Lions Dive Resort and guests have unlimited free access to the Wellness Club. Sunset yoga class was organized on the deck close to the sauna. Even in the sunset it was still a hot yoga class in practice and great exercise.
Strolling on Mambo Beach boulevard
The strip along Mambo Beach boulevard has numerous small shops, a small convenience store and lots of clothes shops selling mainly beach wear. There’s plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can dine under the stars at night.
Renting a car and seeing more white beaches and turquoise sea: Playa Kalki and Grote Knip
At the Seaquarium beach you might realize that you’re swimming with doplhins as the aquarium is next door and they take the dolphins to the open sea. The sand on the beach is white and creates a dreamy contrast with the turquoise sea. The sunsets were stunning too!
Playa Kalki and Playa Kenepa /Grote Knip and Kleine Kip located in the north west of the island are rated the best beaches in Curacao and were absolutely worth the drive up there. Up north Playa Kalki is a stone beach that seamed to be a popular spot for divers while Playa Kenepa is a gorgeous white sand beach.
The fantastic benefit of staying at a hotel on the west coast is the opportunity to enjoy amazing sunsets. Add a cool cocktail and some Caribbean beats in the background and you’re all set for a relaxing end of the day.
Have you been to Curacao or the Caribbean? Or dreamed about going somewhere special for a long time? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
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We visited Hong Kong Disneyland on a Friday afternoon in November. The weather was surprisingly warm and it was crowded with long lines to almost all rides. We ended up mostly just walking around and admiring the parades and enjoying the Disney atmosphere. I’ve visited […]