In my earlier post, I discussed my views on why we should look beyond malls, when taking our kids out.
If you look around (or Google), you will find several places to go with your kids which are more enriching and stimulating than malls; and they don’t burn a hole in your pockets.
With my own experience, I have collated a list of 9 best places to go in Pune with Kids.. These are the places which we have enjoyed and can’t recommend enough.
I always assumed that Joshi Railway Museum would be a typical museum dedicated to the history of rail transport in the State, but I discovered that it was actually a big set up of miniature railway system.
It will evoke childhood memories of playing with tiny train sets. You remember how we used to have a toy train with the tracks that would go round and round? Yeah, this is just more elaborate.
It is a set up of a miniature city but the beauty is in its detailing. There are several signals, posts, fences, tiny houses, platforms, announcement systems, restaurant, circus, swimming pool, fire engine (among other things) and of course, different kinds of trains. The whole thing comes alive when the show is conducted inside the hall with the help of a voice over (VO). I believe the VO is available in Marathi, Hindi and English. The show runs for about 30 minutes (if I remember correctly). But do not go there expecting anything extravagant. This place has been around since 1998 and the whole set up is quite simple.
There’s a time when most kids start taking interest in the outer space – the stars, the planets and the solar system. This prompted me to look for a science related experience, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Pune too had a Science Park of its own.
The place (spread over 3.5 acres) has actually a lot to offer. There are indoor sections on different themes like Automobile, Fun Science, Climate Change, etc. There’s a Planetarium, which could be interesting for slightly older kids. My (then) 4-year-old got fidgety in the dark. The auditorium shows 3D films. Our most favourite section was the outdoor one, which had a lot of interactive exhibits including one display of Dinosaurs.
Learn more about this Park here. It is certainly a good place for kids.
We have been to Empress Garden several times. Spread over 39 acres, it is home to many rare species of trees and flowers; and its flower shows are quite popular. But honestly, we haven’t been there during flower shows.
Empress Garden is a good combination of a lot of things which will appeal to you as a parent seeking greenery and a good playing space for your children. It has very low ticket charges and therefore attracts people from different demographics.
There is a good parking space (which is really such a pain area and can be a deal-breaker for a lot of places), several playing options of swings, slides and rides to occupy the kids for a long time, a trackless toy train ride of the garden, a basic eating joint and a toilet (the last two not extremely hygienic but serve the purpose). There is a small water body which makes for a pretty picture and kids can also be seen playing in it. It is certainly a good place for picnics where you can take food and play frisbees or balls.
I am sure very few people know about this place and after visiting this, I can say, that’s a pity! The moment I entered this place, I was zapped by how real and fantastic this place was. The entire village life unfolds in front of your eyes at Gram Sanskruti Udyan (or the Garden of Village Culture).
It can be an interesting place for your kids who have never experienced village life and culture. The complete village life has been showcased in this fairly large walk-through set up. You get to see people from different professions busy at work like a village doctor, a cobbler, a teacher teaching kids under a tree, a sweet-seller, a shopkeeper, sculptors, shepherds, and so on. There are kids playing, animals roaming around, wild animals, market place buzzing with buyers and sellers, tamasha (the stage style village entertainment); and none of those things are real. The detailing is so good, you would forget you are in the middle of a make-believe village.
It came as a surprise to us that Pune too had an Appu Ghar, and we spent no time in planning a trip to the place. Appu Ghar is one of the oldest amusement parks in Pune (Nigdi) with fun rides like Columbus, My Fair Lady, Roller Coaster, Merry Cups, Striking Cars, etc. Check out all the rides here. Every ride has separate but minimal charges. It may not be of the scale of Delhi’s Appu Ghar but it sure is a fun place to go with kids. Since it was developed in early 90s, it is advisable to keep your expectations low because you cannot compare it to the swanky places of current times.
There is a canteen as well as toilets.
Kids and outdoors spell magic; there’s no doubt about it! Sinhagad Fort is another favourite of the families with kids for weekend trips. In fact, it is quite popular with people of all ages for its beauty, location and food.
Though there isn’t much left of the ‘fort’, but going up the flight of stone steps is an exciting adventure for kids. Walking right to the top, watching sunrise or sunset and enjoying the flavours of local Maharashtrian food are the things which attract quite a huge crowd to this popular destination every weekend. There is also a small temple at the top.
The best time to go there is from monsoon to winter because it could get very hot when you reach the top. Or you can go there very early to catch the sunrise.
We went there on the first day of the year to celebrate the New Year with fresh air and a bit of physical activity. Eating bhakhris and curd in earthen pots while sitting under a tree made our day memorable.
I believe there are adventure parks near Sinhagad fort, so you can plan a family outing while also visiting the fort.
Spread over 10 acres, Pu La Deshpande garden (also called Okayama garden, situated on Sinhagad Road) is a surprisingly well-maintained and well laid out garden. It has a parking space as well as toilets.
Considering the total area, the garden has been designed in such a way that you just keep walking and you will cover the entire area, walking through small water streams, fountains, little bridges and slopes; and there is also an elevated point inside the garden that offers the panoramic view of the place.
The only problem here is that stepping on the grass is not allowed (which is actually the reason why it is so neat and maintained). There are guards after every few steps who remind you that you cannot step on the grass.
There is another garden inside the same place called Mughal garden, alongside the Okayama garden. The ‘Surya Namaskar’ statues showcasing its different ‘asanas’ are quite an interesting part of this garden.
Though my idea of garden is where the kids can run around, yet this garden is a good place to take your kids to for its sheer beauty and greenery. Since it is spread out over a huge area, kids do not get bored.
Aga Khan Palace is a historically important landmark in Pune due to its connection with India’s freedom movement. Know all about it here.
It served as a jail for Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi during Quit India Movement. There are statues and pictures of Gandhiji, Kasturba Gandhi’s samadhi and information about the time they spent here.
It is clean and well-maintained, and is a favourite for school trips, but what I love most about this place (with respect to little kids who do not understand so much about the historical aspect of the place) is its huge and well-maintained lawn. Kids just love to run around here. The overall aura of this place is of peace and tranquility which appeal to the grown ups.
I think, it would not be preposterous to say that Peshwe Park is a kid’s paradise. It is full of adventure activities for kids of different ages like net climbing, grappling, wall climbing, rope slider, skyway, tower climbing, etc. In fact, the entry fees is higher for kids than for adults because everything is for the kids.
There is also a short toy train ride. It was a memorable day for my son because he had a fantastic time there. Actually, he was spoilt for choices and the look on his face during those activities, was priceless. There’s so much to do. We kept running from one thing to another. There are videos on YouTube showing different adventure activities in the park. Check out this link for a host of pictures of the garden.
Read all about the park here. Apparently, the idea behind this park was to let kids enjoy the thrills of adventure activities from young age and get over their fear.
There are toilets inside the garden, while the food counters are right outside the gate. It is a must visit place for everyone with kids.
Any other ideas about non-mall places are welcome. I have consciously left out the Zoo because personally, I don’t like it that much. But schools take kids to the zoo often and kids seem to enjoy too. I must also accept the fact that I have taken my son to the zoo when he was very small. And actually, I speak from that experience. I don’t know, I just felt uncomfortable around caged, overweight animals kept in unnatural surroundings for our entertainment.