Kids Are King
- Apr. 21 2015 00:00
Children enjoy a playroom at Swissotel Kamelia
On a gloomy day in Moscow, when the temperature is ten degrees below normal and the kids are tracking mud from the courtyard throughout the apartment… or on a sweltering day in Moscow, when the temperature is soaring, the air reeks of exhaust fumes, and the kids are wilting on the couch, watching all the Harry Potter movies from start to finish… that is, on any day when the weather in the capital is less than ideal and the whole family needs a break — Sochi is calling.
After a tough decade or so, Sochi has reinvented itself as the Russia's premiere family vacation spot, with international-standard hotels and services, plenty of family entertainment, and the unbeatable allure of sea and sunshine. There are endless opportunities for family outings and activities, and many hotels entertain the children safely and happily at kiddie pools or supervised playrooms so that Mom and Dad can have some downtime, too.
It's probably not an exaggeration to say that all of Sochi's hotels are child-friendly. If you have young children, look for hotels where children under the age of 12 can stay free of charge in their parents' room. The Mercure Sochi Centre Hotel, which attracts families and budget-conscious young people, has family-friendly connecting rooms so that the adults can take a break from their offspring, but still keep an ear out for them. The Mercure Sochi Centre also has a service for guests that organizes excursions around the region and sells tickets to local parks and sights at discounted prices.
Many hotels also provide special services for their younger guests. The Radisson Blu Paradise Resort & Spa has a special kid's playroom and "animators" — entertainment teams that keep children of all ages occupied. Swissotel Sochi Kamelia has a children's pool, playground, indoor playroom and entertainment teams, as well as a special kid's menu for small gourmands who prefer French fries to seafood salads.
Although the beaches in Sochi are not privately owned, first-line hotels provide lounge chairs and other amenities on their stretch of the shore. The Black Sea coast is pebble, but the Swissotel Sochi Kamelia has brought in sand for their section of the coastline — just right for building sand castles and forts.
Sochi offers outdoor activities for children of all ages, from kids in strollers to teenagers who are more interested in their peers than quality time with their parents.
The smallest children will enjoy the pleasantly retro Luna Park. The rides might be tame, but the littlest tourists have fun on the merry-go-round and train, and their parents enjoy a trip down memory lane.
But Park Riviera (http://park-riviera.ru) will please kids of all ages. Founded as a small park in 1898, when Sochi was just beginning to draw visitors, the Riviera now offers over 50 rides and attractions from tame to terrifying; an oceanarium with special mermaid shows; a delphinarium show featuring dolphins, walruses, and seals; and plenty of venues for sports — tennis, basketball, chess, and gym halls. And the Riviera has Sochi's most famous beach, part pebble and part sand, where you can start the day with yoga by the sea and end it walking on water — inside a plastic ball, that is.
For more water sports, try the Mayak Water Park (http://akwapark-mayak.ru) which has nearly ten kinds of water slides and attractions in fresh-water pools and a large beach on the Black Sea. This is the place for water sports of every kind, from banana boats to paddleboats and water scooters.
The largest aquarium in Sochi is the Sochi Discovery World Aquarium (http://en.sochiaquarium.ru). This huge space holds 30 enormous tanks that are home to countless sea and fresh-water creatures, from tiny starfish to enormous sharks. There is a freshwater exhibition with a waterfall and simulated tropical rain forest, koi ponds, and tunnels through seawater exhibitions. Most kids seem to gravitate to the shark exhibitions, although younger tots like Neptune and mermaids swimming among the corals, rocks, and fishes.
Add a Dash of Culture
For a cultural break, be sure to take the kids to one or both of Sochi's famous theaters. The Winter Theater hosts the annual Kinotavr Film Festival, and offers opera, concerts or other events in a columned hall. The Summer Theater in the Frunze Park offers easy-listening open air concerts at an affordable price.