Holidaying with teenagers can be a tricky affair – excursions might be deemed the coolest thing ever, or shunned as akin to death by boredom. Fortunately Gauteng is a great destination for a family holiday with plenty of activities to satisfy teenage demands. Johannesburg’s street culture and hip urban buzz, and Soweto’s high-adrenaline activities such as bungee-jumping and go-karting, are definite attractions, while a visit to the Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind is interesting for all ages.
Start your day bright and early in the Rosebank shopping precinct. For a quick breakfast head to the Motherland Coffee Company, where the teens can choose from a selection of hot chocolates and get in that all-important online time using the free Wi-Fi.
After breakfast visit the Rosebank Art & Craft Market for souvenir shopping. As well as South African-themed key rings, magnets, tote bags and the like, there is a huge selection of quality handcrafted items such as wooden figurines, jewellery, beaded items and fabrics.
Catch the Gautrain to Park Station and board the open-top hop-on, hop-off City Sightseeing bus. For a panoramic view of the city and surrounds, get off at the Carlton Centre stop and ride the lift to the Roof of Africa viewing deck on the 50th floor of Africa’s tallest building.
11am to 1.30pm
Reconnect with the bus and follow the route around the city until you reach stop 8 in historic Marshalltown. A few blocks away in front of Chancellor House (once home to the Mandela and Tambo legal practice) is an impressive statue of a young Nelson Mandela shadowboxing – the perfect place for a selfie. Stop for lunch at the quirky Monchhichi (a live music venue by night) next door for some filling cafe food.
Book a tour in advance of your trip with Past Experiences, a company specialising in graffiti walking tours, and spend the afternoon exploring the city’s street art. The guides’ in-depth knowledge of the local graffiti scene and downtown Johannesburg’s turbulent history make for a fascinating afternoon for both teenagers and adults.
Hop back on the bus and follow the remainder of the circular route to the Park Station Gautrain and return to Rosebank for a short rest before dinner.
After dinner go for a competitive family evening in the bowling alley at The Fun Company. Booking a bowling lane in advance is recommended as it can get very busy.
Sit and enjoy a leisurely alfresco breakfast at Salvation Cafe in 44 Stanley, a collection of 1930s industrial buildings that have been transformed into a pretty series of courtyards filled with olive trees and fountains.
After breakfast make your way to Vilakazi Street in Soweto, South Africa’s most famous township. Famous as the former home of the late Nelson Mandela, this area was also the starting point for the Soweto riots of 1976 that were led by the township’s schoolchildren, who bravely protested against the poor standard of education in black "Bantu" schools. The modern and highly informative Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum tells the tragic story of the youth of 1976 and their struggle against apartheid.
For lunch visit Soweto’s iconic Orlando cooling towers, a hub for thrill-seekers and adventure sports enthusiasts. In the shadow of the two brightly painted towers is the Chaf Pozi beer garden serving shisa nyama-style food (typical South African barbecued meat). Daredevil teenagers might insist on taking a bungee jump or swing from the top of the towers, and nearby at Soweto Outdoor Adventures you can also go rock climbing, go-karting and even paintballing.
Back in Johannesburg make a stop at Melville’s 27Boxes, a boutique shopping centre cleverly constructed from shipping containers. The hip local fashion stores selling cool accessories and T-shirts should make any teenager’s eyes light up. Plus there’s a huge range of food to choose from, including Belgian waffles, home-made ice cream, macaroons and other sweet and savoury treats.
For a lively family dinner make a booking at the Greek taverna Parea in Illovo. With its warm atmosphere and traditional Greek fare it is a particularly popular spot for family celebrations.
After dinner treat the family to a night at the theatre. The Joburg Theatre is your best bet as it regularly hosts ballets, musicals and dance shows that appeal to a broad range of ages.
Begin your last day in Gauteng with breakfast at Fournos, a busy deli and bakery in the Dunkeld West Centre near Rosebank. Pick up some made-to-order sandwiches, pies and other deli goodies for a picnic later in the day.
After breakfast, head north of Johannesburg to the Cradle of Humankind (about an hour's drive), a UNESCO protected area where some of the world’s oldest human fossils have been found. Take a tour of the Sterkfontein Caves (where most of the discoveries were made) and learn about the life of our earliest ancestors as you trace a path through this huge cave system.
After an educational visit underground, enjoy a lazy picnic and a walk through the magnificent Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. There are various hiking trails you can follow and wonderful flora and fauna to look out for, including rare black eagles.
Back in Johannesburg treat the teens to a visit at Acrobranch in Melrose. Swing from the treetops and zoom along the 200m zipline at this aerial adventure obstacle course that is designed to be fun and challenging for all ages.
After an action-packed day stop at the rock-themed burger bar RocoMamas in nearby Melrose Arch for an early dinner of "smashburgers", spicy wings and sticky ribs in family-sized portions.
On your last night in Gauteng drop the kids off at the Ster-Kinekor Prestige cinema in The Zone@Rosebank where they can kick back in comfort, and take a few hours for yourself. While the teenagers settle into their armchairs to watch the latest blockbuster, relax with a fine whisky and some smooth jazz at Katzy’s jazz bar just around the corner.