What to Do with the Kids?


In St. Petersburg

During the white nights of summer, St. Petersburg's children have a hard time getting to sleep — it's not just the constant light, it's the plethora of celebrations, events, and festivals. The kids will enjoy the main celebrations as much as the adults — even opera is interesting when it's outdoors. But in addition to all the delights of the White Nights, this summer, we're planning to expose our children to culture — the fun way. On our to-do list is:

First up is the Yusupov Palace, where we will drag the kids through the part of the tour that we adults are interested in – an aristocratic palace that was preserved almost perfectly intact since the day the Bolsheviks expropriated it in 1917 — so that at 1.45 pm we can take them to the incredibly cool, disgusting, fascinating tour "The Murder of Rasputin." The murder took place in the basement of the palace on the night of December 16, 1916 and involved poisoning, shooting, beating, and drowning.

If your kids like the circus, take them to the original Circus on the Fontanka, which has been entertaining children and adults for 138 years. The building is great, and the acts are spectacular. This summer the show is mostly bears doing things that bears shouldn't be able to do, with jugglers, acrobats, and other clever animals helping out.

Then we're taking a break for some pyshki, which are the Russian equivalent of donuts only without the hole. For our pyshki, we going to the most famous pyshka-seller in all Russia. The shop at 25 Bolshaya Konyushennaya has been selling them for over half a century. Freshly made with powdered sugar, jam, or chocolate, they are guaranteed to please small people with a sweet tooth. Coffee available for accompanying adults.

One night we'll let the kids stay up really late and take one of the boat rides around the canals. You can hop on a boat on the Moika, Fontanka, or Griboedov canal right off Nevsky prospekt. The tours take an hour or more, and are particularly fun in the early hours of the morning when the bridges begin to rise.

And at least once we'll take the hydrofoil (from a boarding station by the Winter Palace on the Neva) out to the Gulf of Finland to spend the day at Peterhof, Peter the Great's summer palace. Even the kids find the palace buildings interesting — especially the bathhouse, where they'll turn on a special water feature for them — but they adore the golden cascading fountains, and the park where footsteps set off spurts of water and beautiful metal flowers water themselves.

And then because this is just too much fun, we'll try to introduce the kids to some high culture through the summer museum programs. The Hermitage and Peter and Paul Fortress have great children's programs — everything from art and cultural appreciation to hands-on creativity.

In Moscow

School is out, and your kids are bored. We're sending our kids to the parks, swimming holes, sports facilities, summer camps and a dacha or two. But when they're back in the city for a few days, we want to take them to a few of the special events planned for the summer. Here's our summer to-do list:

If your kids like robots, head over to Pavilion #2 at VDNKh (the National Museum of Economic Achievements). Until August 23 the pavilion is hosting an exhibition called Robots and People: Time to Get Closer. There are almost 30 robots that do everything from mixing drinks to determining how in love you are. Be sure to bring your swimsuit so that after the exhibition you can hit the beach — a section of the park with four pools, set to open mid-June.

For a trip into the past, don't miss the Ancient Times and Epochs celebration at the Kolomonskoye Museum June 5-7. Military reconstruction buffs will reenact battles and events from the Roman Empire and neighboring civilizations. The park will be overrun with ancient Celts, Germans, Palestinians, Turks and representatives of other great ancient nations, who will make war, celebrate religious ceremonies, cook and make crafts, and generally march about looking ferocious. Best of all — entrance is free.

What's better than a Night at the Museum? A night at the zoo! On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, you can take a guided tour of the zoo after closing hours. This means getting to watch all those nocturnal animals wake up and start to have some fun. The tours begin at 21.00 and last about 90 minutes.

Since we are all concerned about our children's development, this summer we're also looking ahead to the school year. For preschoolers, we're looking at the English Playschool, a friendly, professional, cheerful place that runs a variety of programs for kids as soon as they are potty-trained right up to school age. Here kids learn English as they develop all their skills — from coordination to problem solving, social skills, and communication. The school is a Russian-licensed educational institution that is a member of the British Association for Early Childhood Education.

For older kids, we recommend the British International School. This is one of the oldest schools in Moscow that provides the highest quality education in English. The school has nine facilities around the city, offering education from the nursery-school level right up through the International General Certificate in Education and the International Baccalaureate Diploma. Summer is a good time to speak with the administrators and prepare your child for the school year.

And since we have some birthday celebrations for small people during the summer, we are planning to take a break from school planning for some parties at one of the Anderson Cafes. We can take over one of the banquet rooms, let the staff help plan the event (soap bubbles will figure prominently), and order a meal that is kid-friendlyand culminates in a fabulous thematic cake — this year it might be a princess. The best part? While the kids are safely occupied with games, toys, andfunfood, we adults can kick back with a nice Italian dinner with good wine.

Moscow Guide Summer 2015
Moscow Guide Summer 2015
Ten years ago you seemed to wait forever for a seat in the sun. To help you make the best of summer in Russia, weve gathered together recommendations for summer dining, frolicking in parks, entertaining your kids, enjoying staycations, and taking some me time in the countrys spas and wellness centers. So dig in! Take a break from your everyday lives and enjoy the summer riches of Moscow and St. Petersburg. They wont last long!
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