Cape Town for Families

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Cape Town for Families
While Cape Town is often a honeymoon destination, it also caters really well to families. Whether you're traveling with toddlers or teens, the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus will help you hit all the major sites with ease.
By Marie Frei, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Justin Lee
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    Enjoy the Sea Life
    On the rare rainy day, the Two Oceans Aquarium is an especially good place to take the kids for several hours of enjoyment. Families with mature kids can arrange to meet a penguin up close or even go scuba diving. The V&A Waterfront Market is a few steps away, where vendors sell sweet treats like ice cream, crepes, and cupcakes, as well as the fun-to-drink bubble tea. Several operators offer sunset cruises from the waterfront complex. The Jolly Roger pirate ship is popular with younger children, while parents can enjoy a glass of sparkling wine on the decks of a catamaran cruise.
    Photo by Justin Lee
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    Fine Feathered Friends
    Birds large and small nest on the shores of the Western Cape. Make sure to hop off the blue tour bus at World of Birds in Hout Bay, one of the largest bird parks in Africa. You'll walk through natural and airy aviaries, where you see not only their birds but also a small selection of other animals, including spider monkeys. Flightless birds like ostriches and penguins can be found on the southern tip of the peninsula at the Cape Point Ostrich Farm and Boulders Beach. The penguin colony at Boulders has an elevated boardwalk and a scenic beach, but be warned you might find yourself sharing the sand with some new feathered friends.
    Photo by Steffanie Moriarty
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    Family-Friendly Markets
    The smaller suburban markets of the Southern Peninsula make for a better family outing than the city farmers' markets. Locals leave their children to play amid market stalls while they enjoy beef pitas, peri-peri chicken, or seared tuna salads, along with a craft beer or local wine. The indoor setting and dedicated children's play area makes Friday night's Blue Bird Garage Food and Goods Market in False Bay one of the most family-friendly markets around. Families also gather under the large tent at the Noordhoek Community Market, held at the luxurious Cape Point Vineyards on Thursdays in summer and Sundays in winter.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Educational Museums
    The Iziko South African Museum is as educational as it is entertaining. Founded in 1825, the museum was the first in South Africa and contains natural artifacts like San cave drawings and whale skeletons. Kids who are crazy for dinosaurs will enjoy the museum's Karoo fossils collection of ancient reptiles who roamed Africa 50 million years before dinosaurs. The museum's planetarium offers several shows daily and lets you take a close look at the sky from the perspective of the Southern Hemisphere. The Cape Town Science Centre has over 250 hands-on exhibits and interactive puzzles, exploring everything from construction to space travel.
    Photo by Ulrich Doering/age fotostock
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    Animal Encounters
    While Cape Town doesn't have a zoo, it hardly needs one since it offers access to a variety of interesting mammals right in the backyard. Children love seeing the baboons at Cape Point, the seals at Kalk Bay harbor, and the squirrel-like dassie rats nibbling on bushes atop Table Mountain. If it's the big-five safari experience you're after, there are several private game reserves located within a few hours' drive of the city. Both Aquila and Inverdoorn offer morning or afternoon game-drive-and-meal packages that include car transfers from Cape Town, as well as luxurious accommodation for overnight stays.
    Photo by Marie Frei
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    Creative Cape Town
    Roll up your sleeves and prepare to get your hands dirty with an artistic family activity. At Artjamming, children are free to flex their creative muscles and express their imagination using the arts and crafts supplies provided. The studio shop also offers a variety of class options, from canvas-painting to doodling cartoon strips to building with mosaic tiles. At Clay Café in Hout Bay, the whole family can get involved. There's a selection of ceramic crockery pieces to customize with colorful paints, and while your artwork is being fired and glazed, the kids can run wild on the playground or relax in the garden with a bite to eat from the café.
    Photo courtesy of Artjamming
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    Thrills for Kids
    Cape Town's theme park, Ratanga Junction, is located 15 minutes outside the city and is generally only open in summer. The park has 23 rides to choose from, including the Bushwacker roller coaster, which twists through the jungle, and the Slingshot, which combines the thrills of bungee jumping and skydiving. For an alternative adventure, glide over ponds, rock piles, and trees with Ceres Adventures' zip lines and slides. Their eight slides stretch for nearly a mile, with tours operating year-round in all weather conditions. Ceres is less than two hours from Cape Town, making it an easy daytime excursion or an activity to do on the way to the Cederberg Mountains.
    Photo courtesy of Ceres Zipline Adventures
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    Family-Friendly Beaches
    Sea Point's pool complex is a popular spot to splash around in summer—and even in winter, for brave swimmers—with an Olympic-sized pool, children's pools, and diving boards, all overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. For a more casual and natural swimming environment, seek out the salty tidal pool at Dalebrook, Kalk Bay. Each weekend in summer, St. James is packed with a diverse mix of families making use of the colorful beach huts and shallow wading pool. In Muizenberg, everyone can rent wetsuits and surf boards because the gentle waves make it a good place to learn. You could even book a group surfing lesson. After a day in the surf, stop for soft-serve ice cream at the Majestic Cafe, or warm up with hot chocolate at Knead Bakery.
    Photo by Marie Frei