Family Vacation in Oulu, Northern Finland
Flight simulator in the cockpit of a fighter jet, display of a prehistoric human, steam boat tour, water park and beaches on the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia, fragments of a meteorite, a 53-meter diorama of Finland’s nature zones, kids theater festival, hockey matches, attractions, museums, and parks with kids playgrounds - this review covers all of the most exciting places and ideas for a family vacation in Oulu.
Outdoor activities and entertainment for kids in Oulu
Visitors have the opportunity to face off a game of field hockey, set up a miniature golf tournament, or toss around a Frisbee in any weather in the indoor amusement park Super Park. This recreation center features a basketball court and an “Adventures Zone” with go-carting, trampolines, a tubing slide, and a rope park. In the freestyle hall the guests are invited to skateboard, bike, and ride scooters over ramps and jumps surrounded by foam pits.
Ramps, rails, slopes, boxes, and other objects for skating and tricks can also be found in the extreme park called Xtremepuisto. Kids and adults pass time riding on scooters, skateboarding, roller-skating, and BMXing, there are also wall climbing courses installed over foam pits. Trainers offer assistances to novices, and scooter equipment can be purchased at the OzStore.
At the Megazone Arena laser tag visitors get to join in the “shooter games”, which happen daily according to a schedule. The Megazone’s dark labyrinth with ultraviolet lighting and neon drawings on the walls can also be rented for a private party. After a real laser tag battle in the “Playing Bunker”, visitors can move on to playing video games, air hockey, foosball, darts, or pool.
Entertainment for toddlers and kids under 12 years old can be found at the HopLop Complex. A special playzone is open for the smallest of visitors, an inflated bouncy play pen, and a large labyrinth with a dry pool and slides. Older kids jump around and do flips on a sports trampoline, ride electric cars down a special track, and play video games.
The Break Sokos Hotel Eden on the shore of the gulf, features a spa and a water park under a glass dome. Amongst tropical plants, families get to splash about in a wave pool, stand under the flow of a waterfall, and relax in a jacuzzi with hydro massage, or take part in a “water race”. For smaller children, there is a separate shallow pool with a slide and little fountains in the shape of animals. There is a spa section for adults too. And everybody can swim out into the outdoor pool.
There are more public swimming centers in the downtown Oulu. The Oulu City Swimming Center features a 50-meter swimming pool, a 25-meter fitness pool, pools where people are taught how to swim, as well as diving pools. At the Raati Complex, there are four pools open to visitors: a 25-meter pools, a pool for swimming lessons, a cold-water pool, and a paddling pool for small children.
A jolly day of outdoor activities may happen at the Sports & Karting Center. Parents are able to go karting in two-seat karts along with toddlers, while schoolchildren over 120 cm tall are able to rent out kids karts of their own. Racers taller than 120 cm are invited to come attend a karting school, and it is also possible to celebrate kids’ birthdays at the center.
In May, the Vauhtipuisto amusement park in the Hietasaari district begins letting in guests for spring and summer fun. Until the middle of August, people come and ride on steam boats, carousels, quads, and motor karts; jump on inflated and gymnastic trampolines; and small children play around in little houses of the magical village of Kakavaara. The park’s theater is located in a car of an old train, where performances are held daily.
In the summer season, a tourist train called Potnapekka cruises around the Oulu city center. The yellow and red miniature train courses down two routes: to the Nallikari beach, and to the Hupisaaret Island. The sightseeing tour, which included several stops, lasts several hours and you can get on the train in the Rotuaari pedestrian zone.
A kids traffic park opens up during the summer season in the Hollihaka Park. Kids up to 140 cm tall are offered to come and learn the rules of traffic as pedestrians or a pedal car drivers. The park features sports venues for the whole family and in the winter, people go sledding down a big hill here.
The Oulu Energia Areena Ice Complex invites families to come see an Oulu Ermines game, or other Finnish hockey teams playing. The schedule of upcoming matches and the addresses of the websites selling the tickets can be found on the Oulu Ermines website.
Oulu Attractions and Museums for Kids
Space swings, a revolving door, a sound cannon, optical illusions, pendulums, and over a hundred other interactive exhibits can be found at the Tietomaa popular science center. In its halls, visitors get to sit in the cockpit of a fighter jet and feel like a pilot on a flight simulator, play on a virtual electric guitar or drums, “go for a ride on a roller coaster”, and “jump on a trampoline” using 3D glasses. The center’s movie theater, which is the second largest in Finland, shows films about science and nature and its 45-meter tower has an observation deck with a beautiful view of the city.
Gathered on the first floor of the Oulu Automobile Museum is a collection of 50 American and European retro cars. There is a model with gas headlights, omnibuses from the 1910’s, convertibles from the 1950’s, and even gas-generated buses that require firewood. Visitors can check out old time bicycles and motorcycles on the second floor of the museum. All of the exhibits are up and running, so it is possible to see them in action at festive events, concerts, and retro shows (there is an events guide for the entire year on the museum’s web site).
The Kierikki Historic Center is built at the display site of a primeval human. The museum conducts tours, shows short films, and gives lectures on the Stone Age. Recreated outdoors at the site of previous archeological excavations is a prehistoric settlement with mud huts and cabins with straw roofs and visitors can also go for a ride on a log canoe, shoot arrows using a bow, and make a necklace out of stones. The Kierikki Center is open from May to October.
The Northern Ostrobothnia Museum exhibition is dedicated to the history and culture of the region. Visitors get to go “on a journey back in time” through the interiors of various eras and see the silver and tin decoration objects of the past, a model of the city of Oulu in the year of 1938, and various objects from the daily lives of the Saamis. At the Koiramäki kids exhibition, guests can see little houses and animals, which are characters from the stories of Mauri Kunnas. All models and characters are made with attention to the tiniest details and by just looking at them, visitors will learn about how the Finnish peasants used to live and celebrate holidays in the 19th century. Not far from this culture museum, there is the Oulu Art Museum, featuring works by modern-day Finnish authors where interactive temporary exhibitions are frequently held.
Open to visitors on the Linnasaari Island is the dungeon of the Oulu Fortress. The fortress itself burned down after it was struck by lightning and its gun powder warehouses blew up. And at the end of the 19th century, an observatory of the Naval School was constructed in its place. Now an exposition, dedicated to the history of the fortress is open in the restored “dungeon”, and in the summer time - a café operates in the observatory.
Open on the territory of the University of Oulu are several natural science museums. In the Zoological Museum visitors get to check out the effigies of animals, birds, and insects, which inhabit the northern part of Finland. And stretching along the wall is a 53-meter-long diorama of the natural regions of the Gulf of Finland up to the Arctic Ocean. Gathered at the Geological Museum is a collection of minerals, precious stones, earth materials, and fragments of meteorites. Dried plants and fungi from all continents of the world are presented in the Botanical Museum. Also open at the same location is the Oulu Botanical Garden where everybody can go for a walk through a park with a pond and rockwork, or take a look around the Romeo and Juliette greenhouse with water lilies, orchids, cacti, and other exotic plants.
In Turkansaari visitors can check out how the Fins of North Ostrobothnia used to live in the 17-19 centuries. The outdoor museum features about 40 buildings: peasant houses, mills, and churches (the oldest building there is a church built in the 1694). During the summer season, the museum opens up with an interactive program – “peasants” and “craftsmen” work on their crafts and perform their daily labor as the visitors watch. In June, the Midsummer Day is celebrated with traditional rituals and games like running across floating logs and jumping over fire pits.
Constructed on an artificial island in the center of the city is the Oulu City Theater. In the four halls, shows for children and adults are held, and for those who don’t understand Finnish, there are musicals and operas to enjoy. Also, every year in the Oulu Theater the International Kids and Youth Theater Festival is held, including puppet and musical performances, mimes, and circus acts.
Where to take kidsfor a walk in Oulu: parks, kids playgrounds, and beaches
It might be a good idea to go for a walk down the embankment; get pictures taken next to the symbol of the city - bronze statue of a policeman; hang out at a café; and buy souvenirs in the very center of Oulu in the Rotuaari pedestrian zone, next to Market Square. Year round, there are cultural city events held here, the most famous of which is the summer music festival Rotuaari Picnic, and in the winter an ice rink is made there.
A large park ensemble is scattered across the Hupisaaret Islands; the Ainola Park on Kikkusaari Island has a large kids playground. There are more kids playgrounds in the Mannergeim, Kiikelinpuisto, and Heinatorihpuisto Parks, and on the Hietasaari Island.
The largest beach in Oulu on the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia is located in the Nallikari recreation zone and it has a sandy beach, a low-slope toward the water, sports playing venues, a pony farm, and a camp site. In total, there are 30 beaches in Oulu, the most popular of which are on the Oulu River (for example, the Tuira and Varto beaches in the city center), and also at Puukosarvi, Kuivaisarvi, Valkiaisarvi, and Lamsanarvi lakes.
For events for the whole family to enjoy, please check out our Finland kids events guide.
Photos: vsu.fi, facebook.com/kierikki/, facebook.com/superparkoulu, kidsreview.ru, wikipedia.org