Things to see and do with kids in Riga: a family vacation in Latvia
Entertainment in Riga for kids: museums and attractions, zoos and water parks, indoor fun centers, and outdoor playgrounds – we’ve found out where the best places are to go in Riga during good weather in the spring and the summer as well as during the winter and the fall.
Kids museums in Riga
Presented in the oldest museum in Latvia, the Riga History and Seafaring Museum, are thousands of old interesting old objects. The history of Riga from 1201 to 1949 is presented in the form of archeological findings, labor equipment, silverware, weapons, and decorations. Over 300 jewels are collected in the Silver Room and in the Cross Gallery are objects from the Middle Ages, slabs, and pieces of knowledge.
You can find yourself in an apartment from the beginning of the 20th century in Jugendstil Museum. In the small museum apartment with an old-time interior, they let you try on hats and other headwear and take a picture with them on as well.
Restored at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia are over 120 constructions from the 17th to the 20th century. You can stop by a school there, a church, the home of a peasant or a fisherman, and see a real home oven, spinning wheel, or cradle. In the tradesmen workshops, they make souvenirs and do workshops. Also there every year they celebrate traditional holidays and organize fairs.
You can travel though the history of Latvia in the Military Museum. Each historical period from the 9th to the 20th century in installations with “warrior” models dressed and armed as they used to in their particular times. Hanging on the walls are maps of military campaigns and photographs of the World War II days. Situated next to them are also cannons and weapons, battle dioramas, and a model of a middle age Riga fortress.
A collection of Soviet and foreign retro cars and motorcycles is assembled at Riga Motor Museum on the outskirts in the Mezhtsiems District. The museum is closed for reconstruction until August 2014 and until it is complete a temporary exhibition is in operation at the address of: Ķekavas pagasts, Krustkalni, "Piepilsētas".
Located right inside the airport is the Aviation Technology Museum. Outside it, you can check out and even climb on some of the 40 different planes, helicopters, and buses there (there’s even an airplane ladder there).
There are passenger train cars, street trains, trolleys, and locomotives situated outside at the Railroad Museum. Restored inside the former workshops are parts from the old boss’ office of the station as well as a waiting room. The most interesting exhibit, however, is the operating model of the railroad.
You can try on a fireman’s helmet, use a water pump, and ring a bell at the Riga Firefighter Museum. Featured inside it is a collection of fire truck models, real fire trucks, and the uniforms of different time periods.
Presented inside the Medical History Museum are whole dioramas of hey they first people were treated by community healers and doctors in the middle ages and during the 19th century. At the interactive exhibits, you can find out the composition of the body (and models at the same time) and on the fourth floor is an exhibit called Space Medicine where they tell you about the daily lives of cosmonauts in orbit.
The place you’ll find out more about plants and animals than any other in Latvia is the Nature Museum. Presented in the halls there are skeletons and effigies of animals and birds, fossils, and interactive exhibits. Also held at the Nature Museum are temporary exhibitions as well as annual events, for example flower exhibitions of lilies, orchids, and dahlia on different occasions.
Collected at the small Sun Museum are over 400 images of the sun as well as figures made out of wood, metal, glass, and ceramics. During the tours, they also tell you about the mythology of various peoples as well as about the Solar System. After that, they offer you to paint your own little sun charm.
Riga also has creative workshops at the Porcelain Museum where you can create souvenirs out of porcelain or paint already made ones. At The House of Menzendorf, you can also take a workshop where you get to make stain glass windows and other glassware.
Riga Cathedral has been under reconstruction since 2001, but it nevertheless still hosts organ concerts just like before. The Blackheads house became the president’s office as of 2012 and thus it has since been closed to visitors.
For those who are driving from Riga to Tallinn, you’ll run right by the Munchhausen Museum on your way. Paved in the woods around the Duntes Estate are walking trails in and they let you try on hats and outfits “of the old days” and look at yourself in a warped mirror. Collected at the museum as well are various hunting trophies of Munchhausen and on the wax figures exhibition you can see various famous Latvians. During the warm season, you can go down slides and play pirates as well on the mast of the 30-meter Attraction Ship.
Kids entertainment in Riga
They give kids the chance do scientific experiments at the Zinoo center on the 5th floor. There you can check out some interesting things (bags, flowers, groats) in a microscope and weather vanes on the roofs on the old city in a telescope. A skeleton and builder model of the human body will help you learn the structure of the human body, which you will be able to take apart. Another thing in Wonder Center is a Tesla spool, Ame’s room, a mirror maze, a slanted room, and optical illusions.
In Go Planet Entertainment Center are Formula 1 video game machines and racer car games, kids merry-go-rounds, and an 11-meter “free fall”. You can take your whole family racing on a covered go-cart course and they play laser tag there as well with a fantasy-themed environment and neon lighting.
You’ll find entertainment for the whole family in Lido Restaurant in Krasta. In the summer, you can ride bikemobiles there, water zorbs, and “free falling”. They let you jump on trampolines, fire away at the shooting range, and in the winter Lido paves a skating rink. A game room is open year round with a multi-level maze and a creativity zone – children there are looked after between 3 and 9 years old while adults sit in a restaurant.
Another big fun zone, Lido Rotalzeme, has opened in September 2013 at Lido Restaurant in Spice Mall. For kids between the age of 1 and 10, they have a play castle there with a dry pool and a soft building zone, a “kitchen” and a “gym”, a blow-up trampoline, and rock climbing. Kids from 5 to 10 years old ride cars on a raceway resembling a traffic area and for smaller children they have a choo-choo train and merry-go-rounds with horses. They also have air hockey and a 5D movie theater for schoolchildren.
Working at the Riga Puppet Theater are two companies, so the repertoire of the Russian company is a little bit different from the Latvian one. In Russian, they perform about 30 different shows from “rugrat” shows like Who Said Miao and Snegurochka’s School to stories fitting for schoolchildren like Pippi Longstocking and Twin Hanky-Panky.
In the fall of 2013, the Chocolate Museum opened up in Laima factory. On the tours they tell you how chocolate was invented and the journey of cacao beans over the world, most importantly to Latvia. After the tour, it’s worth stopping by the confectionary store with all kinds of candy – from chocolate candy to caramel, cracker marshmallow, waffle, and marmalade candy from Laima factory.
If you’d like to go for a swim at Livu Water Park, you’ll have to drive to Jurmala (about 20 minutes by car from Riga). In the roofed part of the park you can ride down 7 different colored slides, swim in a grotto or a wave pool, and your kids can play Captain Kidd Land. There are 4 more slides open during the summer too including Water Loop, Kamikadze, Family, and Magic Mountain and you can also splash around on Fountain Island too with 50 different water currents.
Where to take your kids for a walk in Riga: Riga parks
Open during the summer at Mezhapark are attractions and bike and rollerblade rental booths. They also organize fairs on the weekend and host concerts on the big stage. In the winter Mezhapark paves skiing courses and it also is the home of the Riga Zoo where you can check out hippos, lions, flamingos, giraffes, and other animals and birds year round.
You can also go for a walk in several different parks nearby Old Riga. For example, in the warm season on Bastion Hill you can feed ducks swimming around little waterfalls or go depart the wharf for a ride on a ship or a catamaran. Also located next to Bastion Hill is Kronvalda Park and Esplanade. After stopping by Riga Park you should also walk around Vermanes Park with a kids playground and a summer stage.
On top of that, you can walk around under the palm trees in the greenhouses of the Botanical Garden year round. In the spring time there are magnolias blossoming there, lilacs, rosebays, and roses. From March until the end of November, a tropical Butterfly House is open and in the middle of the summer the Botanical Garden organizes the Riga Flower Ball.
Riga observation decks
One of the symbols of Riga is Peter’s Church with an observation deck 72 meters tall. You also get a view of Daugava and the Old City from there; to get there, you must take an elevator. Each month, the church opens up a new arts exhibition and they do services and concerts as well on the weekends.
Open on the eighth floor of Riga Gallery Mall is Terrace Riga Restaurant with a panoramic view of the Old City and the roofs of newly constructed buildings. You can see Daugava, the Central Market, and the train station from a height of 65 meters on the observation deck of the Science Academy building.
The city’s highest observation deck is located in the Riga TV Tower. The tower stands on the Daugava Bay opposite Old Riga on Zakusala (Hare Island). The deck is built at a height of 99 meters and there are two elevators that lift people up to it right allow its “ear props”.
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