Gauteng is a perfect destination for a family holiday with plenty of exciting museums, wildlife attractions, outdoor activities and child-friendly restaurants that are specifically designed with kids in mind.
If you only have one day in the province then buy a family ticket for the open-top City Sightseeing bus and take a tour of some of Johannesburg’s most famous landmarks. With two days at your disposal you can also take the kids to see the animals at the Joburg Zoo and with three days to spend in Gauteng you’ll have enough time to get out into the countryside and experience the UNESCO World Heritage site the Cradle of Humankind.
The easiest way to explore Johannesburg with a young family is by taking a trip on the open-top City Sightseeing bus which leaves from the Gautrain station at Park Station. If your kids like trains, then travel there by the speedy Gautrain from Rosebank or Sandton. City Sightseeing family tickets (two adults and two kids) also make this a great value day out and kid’s will receive a special kids pack with crayon, puzzles and pictures to colour in. The first stop that you’ll want to get out at is the James Hall Museum of Transport, which is said to be the biggest transport museum in Africa! There you will find an amazing collection of old trains, tractors, fire engines, motorbikes, buses and other vintage vehicles.
Reconnect with the City Sightseeing bus and make your way to the Gold Reef City stop on the southern edges of the city. Many tourists get off here to visit the Apartheid Museum, but the neighbouring Gold Reef City theme park is a more appropriate attraction for young children with lots of fun fairground rides, rollercoasters, plus a selection of places where you can grab lunch.
Back on board the bus make the journey towards the city centre and get off at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown. This hands-on science museum is a big hit with kids of all ages and there’s usually a special programme of kid’s science shows during school holidays.
After completing the bus tour route back at Park Station, drive or take a taxi to Mike’s Kitchen in Parktown (about a 10-minute drive away), a family restaurant in an historic building that has a fantastic play area that will keep kids amused for hours. The restaurant also has a special kids menu and high chairs for the smallest children.
Start the morning with a visit to Joburg Zoo, always a favourite with children of all ages. The zoo is spread over a wide area so if you are bringing along little ones you might want to bring a pushchair with you. As well as African animals such as giraffes, lions, elephants and zebras, the zoo is also home to wildlife from other continents including gibbons and orangutans and a collection of exotic reptiles from the Amazon. The farm animal area is particularly popular as there’s opportunity to pet and feed the animals.
For lunch take the family to the Moyo restaurant in the Zoo Lake park opposite the Joburg Zoo. This colourful African-themed restaurant has long been a favourite with families. Entertainment for kids includes colouring books and face painting. The restaurant is located on the banks of the Zoo Lake, so after lunch why not rent a rowing boat and take a trip across the water. The park also has an excellent playground with lots of swings and climbing frames that are an ideal distraction for younger children.
For some friendly competition and a fun challenge for both kids and adults jump in the car and drive out to the Brightwater Commons mall about 20 minutes drive from Zoo Lake. Here you’ll find Adventure Golf, a series of three 9-hole putt putt courses that are spread across lush tropical gardens, each with its own collection of wacky obstacles to contend with including waterfalls, ravines, caves and log bridges.
For dinner the Italian restaurant Pappachino’s in Fourways is good family option as there are child-minders on hand to give grownups the chance to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine and the kids get to make their own pizzas.
One of Gauteng’s most famous attractions is the Cradle of Humankind, the area north-west of Johannesburg where some of the world’s oldest hominid fossils have been discovered. The visitor’s centre Maropeng is a modern, interactive museum that a offers an entertaining and educational experience that will enthrall young minds. Combine a visit to Maropeng with a tour of the nearby Sterkfontein Caves, which is a memorable underground experience for all ages.
From Maropeng drive 20 minutes south-east in the direction of Johannesburg to the Ngwenya Glass Village in Muldersdrift for lunch and craft shopping in a delightful countryside setting. There are twelve craft and decor shops, a choice of cafes and restaurants and a glass blowing factory within the pretty village-like space, as well as a large children’s playground.
After a long lazy lunch and some craft shopping in Muldersdrift, drive back to Johannesburg and make a stop at the large Montecasino Casino and Entertainment Centre. A must visit for young families is the Montecasino Bird Gardens where you can see exotic, colourful birds from all over the world, including all kinds of fearsome birds of prey. Try to time to your visit to coincide with the Flight of Fantasy bird show, which takes place every afternoon at 13:00 and 15:00. Alternatively if it’s raining you can opt to treat the kids to a few hours in the amusement arcade inside the casino complex or go and watch a 3-D film at the cinema.
For your last family dinner in Gauteng try AJ’s in the Park, a relaxed family restaurant at the Craighall Sports Club in Craighall Park. On the menu you’ll find wood-fired pizzas, gourmet burgers, steaks and other simple favourites like fish and chips. Facilities include a huge jungle gym and child minders.
City Sightseeing bus (tel. +27 (0)861 733 287, www.citysightseeing.co.za/joha...)
James Hall Museum of Transport Pioneers' Park, Rosettenville Road (M11), La Rochelle, Johannesburg (tel. +27 (0)11 435 9718, www.jhmt.org.za)
Gold Reef City Theme Park Corner Northern Parkway and Data Crescent, Ormonde (tel. +27 (0)11 248 6800, www.goldreefcity.co.za)
Sci-Bono Discovery Centre Corner Miriam Makeba Street and Helen Joseph Street, Newtown, Johannesburg (tel. +27 (0)11 639 8400, www.sci-bono.co.za)
Mike's Kitchen Parktown 15 St Andrews Rd, Parktown, Johannesburg (tel. +27 (0)11 484 2688, www.mikeskitchenparktown.co.za)
Joburg Zoo Jan Smuts Avenue, Saxonwold, Johannesburg (tel. +27 (0)11 646 2000, www.jhbzoo.org.za)
Moyo Zoo Lake Zoo Lake, 1 Prince of Wales Drive, Parkview, Johannesburg (tel. +27 (0)11 646 0058, www.moyo.com)
Adventure Golf at Brightwater Commons Brightwater Commons, Republic Rd, Randburg, Johannesburg (tel. +27 (0)11 886 4816, www.adventuregolf.co.za/advent...)
Pappachino's Corner Cullinan Close and Rivonia Road, Morningside, Johannesburg (tel. +27 (0)11 783 1090, www.papachinos.co.za)
Maropeng Visitor’s Centre and Sterkfontein Caves R400 (off R563), Cradle of Humankind (tel. +27 (0)14 577 9000, www.maropeng.co.za)
Ngwenya Glass Village Off the R114, Muldersdrift (tel. + 27 (0)11 796 3000, www.shadesofngwenya.co.za)
Montecasino Bird Gardens Montecasino Casino and Entertainment Centre, Montecasino Boulevard, corner William Nicol Drive and Witkoppen Road, Fourways, Johannesburg (tel. +27 (0)11 511 1864, www.tsogosun.com/montecasino/e...)
AJs in the Park 33 Abercorn Avenue, Craighall Park, Johannesburg (tel. +27 (0)81 234 5797, www.ajsrestaurant.co.za)