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Situated on the southern coast of Norway, Kristiansand is a thriving destination during the warmer seasons. Both domestic and foreign visitors flock to the area to take in its stimulating cultural institutions, unspoiled natural beauty and (relatively) warmer weather.
In town, brightly painted houses and a lively fish market paint a portrait of conventional Scandinavian life, but modern flair can be found at Sorlandssenteret, the largest Norwegian mall. Kristiansand even hosts a free concert each week throughout the summer. With international access via air and cruise ships, nearly 1 million tourists visit the city each year.
What’s more, Kristiansand is especially fantastic for kids. Here are six reasons why your client’s next family trip should be to this city in Norway.
Animals and Other FunThe Dyreparken Zoo (Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park), one of Norway’s most-visited attractions, is roughly 6 miles east of Kristiansand. Here, visitors will find a magnificent menagerie, featuring 140 different animal species housed on 150 acres. There are also numerous open habitats and a natural viewing experience.
Kids will squeal in the jungle enclosure, where monkeys swing in the vines overhead. Lions, giraffes and zebras roam an expansive Africa section, and native species such as wolves and moose are also on display.
At nearby Kardemomme By (Cardamom Town) theme park, families can explore and even stay overnight in a replica of a fairytale hamlet, where live theatrical performances will awe the little ones. Similar entertainment of the swashbuckling variety can be found at Abra Havn (Abra Port) Pirate Village, a hotel that can be reached by walking or sailing with “Captain Sabeltann.”
Beaching It Norwegian-StyleWhen clients think of Norway, it’s doubtful they imagine warm, sandy beaches and sunbathing. But during the summer months, Kristiansand’s Bystranda beach is teeming with bikini- and swimming trunk-clad swimmers taking advantage of hotter temperatures.
Between the potted palm trees and floating docks, it’s easy to forget those winter woes. But, for visitors with internal thermostats not quite set to Nordic temperatures, the adjacent Aquarama is an exciting freshwater alternative. Several kid-friendly activities are available, such as swimming lessons, surfing and even scavenger hunts. Meanwhile, parents can indulge in eucalyptus baths and the steam room at the spa.
Museums GaloreOne of the more surprising aspects of Kristiansand is the abundance of thought-provoking museums. Clients both young and old can enrich their stay by learning about the region’s culture and intriguing past, without drudging through art galleries.
Boredom is the last thing to worry about at the Odderoya Museumshavn (Museum Harbor): Families can borrow a rowboat, learn to whittle their own model or even take knot-tying lessons, all while exploring Kristiansand’s maritime history.
Kristiansand Cannon Museum features a World War II-era fortress and the second-largest land-based cannon in the world. Weighing nearly 743,000 pounds, the last existing 380mm Krupp gun was built by the Germans during conflict but is now a peaceful spot to stroll and take in the surrounding vistas.
Last but not least, Kristiansand Museum is an open-air collection of old houses where Norwegian heritage comes to life. Kids can feed horses and sheep in the courtyard, or see what mysteries they can find on the nature trail.
Playing With PlutoFor families traveling with tiny tots, the Planeten Pluto (Planet Pluto) playland is an ideal spot to spend the day. The labyrinth of tubes, slides, trampolines and suspension bridges is every kid’s dream. Climbing structures and a tricycle race track allow young visitors to test themselves in a safe environment, and free Wi-Fi access is provided for watching parents. After hours of fun, guests can refuel with a smoothie or pizza at the on-site cafe.
Traditional Train RidesDuring the summer, clients can take a daytrip on a vintage piece of Norwegian history with the Setesdalsbanen railway line, located only 13 miles from the city center. Originally constructed in 1896 as a connection between Kristiansand and Byglandsfjord to the north, only the segment between Grovane and Royknes stations survives today.
Nonetheless, a ride aboard one of four traditional, narrow-gauge steam locomotives is as interesting as the scenery is stunning. Stylish, 100-year-old teak carriages and the smell of coal transport riders to a simpler time on this museum on rails. The kids will surely be all aboard for this adventure.
Zipping Through the TreesHoyt & Lavt Kristiansand climbing park reopens for the season on March 24, and visitors will once again soar through the forest canopy outside of the city. On the property, there are multiple hiking trails and 23 ziplines — including the Fjellvaken zipline, which is more than 1,600 feet long, drops over 200 feet and reaches speeds of 50 mph. From its starting point, adrenaline junkies can see all the way to the ocean, before speeding over a gorgeous blue lake.
There is something to do for all ages, but there are height requirements for many of the ropes courses — something to keep in mind with smaller children.