Parks, parks and more parks: The best time to visit parks and playgrounds are after 6pm or on the weekends. This is when parks are full of families. Otherwise they are virtually empty during the day.
Playgrounds have reasonable play equipment, (safety standards sometimes questionable!), lots of climbing frames, lots of swings (city planners understand the popularity of swings), but little natural shade or shade sails.
Find your local. Our one was Parque Bustamente. Others we enjoyed were:
- Parque Forestal (huge strip of greenery which runs across the top of the city centre with water fountains, memorial statues and several park/playground areas). Also close to the popular ‘Emperio La Rosa’ gelati shop.
- Parque O’Higgins: a huge area of parkland with various other attractions in its zone. It’s not as nice as Parque Forestal, but there is a lot to see in a day’s visit. Includes lake and boating hire, a small aquarium, a pool (due to open mid 2013), a very small dinosaur museum, fantasialandia theme park, food stalls, and countless of other kid friendly stuff for hire/use if you visit on the weekends.
- Parque Quiente Normal: The best and most useful feature are the ground water fountains for the kids to play with, they spurt at different intervals and different heights (you don’t even have to bring spare clothes, they will dry quickly in the hot sun!) It also has paddle boats in the lake, and both the History and Science Museums are based there.
- Get fit as a family at any of the parks – outdoor adult gym equipment sits alongside kids playgrounds, join in the free outdoor aerobic classes or bike, roller blade or walk laps around the park.
Tourist attractions: Museums and other centres
Museums can be free on Sundays otherwise its minimal cost if you go during the week. I preferred weekdays.
- Palacio de la Moneda: a little boring for kids. Has various displays and an artesanal craft shop. They do have one interactive activity for kids: a digital art painting workshop area.
- The GAM (cultural centre): good for a wander through the exhibitions.
- Visit your local library (we loved ours in Parque Bustamente): it had a kids corner, some English speaking books, a cafe overlooking a water feature. Take the opportunity to practice your spanish and read some books to your kids in the local lingo. Free printable colour pages and pencils for kids available
- Visit the Santiago city library (bigger kids area with a play pen for babies), a 15 minute walk from Metro station Quiente Normale.
Parque Metropolitano and Cerro San Cristobal. Big area with two public open air pools, zoo, gardens and a terraza Bellavista, with cafe and awesome views of the city. The funicular is not currently working (a shame). To get to bellavista (literally meaning beautiful view) you can take a shuttle bus (can be a 40 min wait either end), walk, or enter by car/taxi (entry charge for vehicles).
If your up for it, join the hordes of Santiago locals who walk, run or ride it on the weekends – it is popular! To climb to the famous Virgin Mary statue – factor in steps. Sunday Mass is held on site. Its mandatory to enjoy a ‘moto con huesillo’ drink at the top and an empanada or two.
- Cerro Santa Lucia: Another great viewing point of the city and lovely gardens. There is a lift to level one, but walking only to viewing point, there are lots of stairs. Closed on Mondays
- Catch the Metro – chose an area whether it be Barrio Brasil, Bellavista, or Providencia and get off at a station and have a wander… do so with a partner if you decide to take a pram.
- Grab an ice cream in the many gelati shops around town. We tried the famous Emporio La Rosa, but liked a newie: Mo’s, the best. Outdoor bean bags to sit on and great flavours….
- Go market shopping….Barrio L’Asterrria on a Saturday afternoon for art and craft market stalls, artesanal indoor markets at Santa Lucia or Los Dominicos, Market at Estacion central, fresh fish shopping at Central Market or really just discover, as we did, a street of fresh fruit and veggie stalls as we were wandering past…
- Hang out at the various plaza’s – main city centre one is plaza d’Armas, others include plaza nunoa.
We found ourselves in the middle of a protest concert to stop the government damming several major rivers in patagonia during one of our lazy sundays in the park… not only did we discover more about the area we were soon to visit, and the dramatic changes about to take place, but we met and chatted to some locals.
- Find out what’s happening for free especially during the summer months : we spotted a street flyer offering free Tai chi in our local park, a Goethe Institute street festival and other park happenings…. keep your eye out during your wanderings for activities around your local area
Fun things that don’t cost a fortune
- Museo Bella Artes; my son had to use the toilet, so that’s how I found myself in Bella Artes, cheap enough that is worth a wander through.
- Winery tour: It wasn’t until the eleventh hour, that we finally went and did a winery tour… I have to admit that we did chose the popular Concha y Toro, although there are many others… we enjoyed the cafe area, the grounds and found that it was even suitable for kids (they got to grape test while we did a wine test)…. Be mindful of the “diablo” story they tell…. it’s a bit scary for littlies….stay close.
- Join an English speaking mothers group. I found one which held weekly morning sessions at the Santiago community church. Unfortunately, the one I attended had much smaller kids – good for my one year old, not so great for my 3 year old. The facebook page for the English mums group (not church based as far as I’m aware), has other meeting opportunities, especially if you are in Santiago for the long term (need to join as a member first)
- Museo Chileno de Arte Pre-columbino: I would’ve loved to have visited this museum, if it was open. Currently under renovation as of Jan ’12.
- Museo Interactivo Mirador (great fun for adults too!). Awesome museum for the kids. excellent interactive activities for all ages – even had a play area for under 3′s. Both my kids loved it!! Access via metro.
- Make use of the kids equipment that’s available at parks due to entrepreneurial minded locals – jump on trampolines (500/$1US), hire a toy car (cheaper than ever buying one at 2.000/$4US), bikes, jumping castles etc
- Teatro Municipal de Santiago We didn’t get to see a performance, but might be worth going if you get a chance and your into theatre
- Turitek sightseeing hop on/off bus tour: every city has one and Santiago is no exception. It isn’t cheap at $40US per ticket but if you only have a day or so, might be worth it.
How to keep cool in Santiago – that is the question!
- Parque Metropolitano has two big open air pools: We tried one of them but at $12US each per adult (littlies don’t pay), it’s expensive. It’s worth it, even for that one visit. Great well maintained grassy area, huge clean pool with overhead sprinklers (impossible to avoid as you enter/leave pool area!). It is possible to spend a day there with some nice shade. Its not very toddler/baby friendly. Nowhere really to walk/splash about for the little ones- we did try and take our kids to the shallow, fake rocky area but were told off….
- Parque Quiente Normale: both our kids loved the water spurting jets – excellent.. just be warned, they will get very wet.
- Local municipal pools – if they do exist, they are impossible to find… Our second option was accessing a hotel pool. We tried to find a hotel pool that we could pay for day use, apparently it does exist. The couple of local hotels we asked at, were for guests only. We also had booked a couple of nights stay initially at a hotel/apartment in Santiago with a pool (its main selling point). The pool rooftop area was awesome, but it was not heated (too cold for the kids) and enclosed so no opportunity to heat up! The best bet, is to find an apartment (we did) that has an outdoor pool to use (not heated but fine in the summer months). Helps to cool down in the heat of the day
- Head for a shady park, run through a sprinkler or splash in a fountain.. Otherwise head to an indoor centre if you like shopping (window shopping counts!). There are lots of shopping centres in Santiago, including Alto Las Condes, Parque Arauco, Mall del Centro (has a wave pool), or Florida center has an indoor kids amusement area.
- Visit Fantasialandia theme park in parque O’ Higgins. We went there especially as it said it had water pools…(looks like its more for older kids as a general theme park). We never got to have a look though as it was booked out for all of December for corporate family events..
- Get out of Santiago and head for the coast
DONT MISS for kids: (our favourites)
- Parque Quinte Normale and Parque Forestal
- Museo Interactive Mirador
- Mo’s gelateria on Calle Monjitas.