Across the road from New Zealand’s Christchurch International Airport lies the next best thing to visiting Antarctica itself: the International Antarctic Centre. Here the whole family can experience a simulation of the harsh Antarctic climate, learn all about the icy continent, and meet the center’s cutest residents—little blue penguins. The Basics
At the International Antarctic Centre, inquisitive kids can learn lots about Antarctica before embarking on a simulated cruise in the center’s 4D cinema. For a more hands-on Antarctic experience, get caught in the center’s freezing indoor storm and shelter in a specially built ice cave, or strap in for a ride on the all-terrain Hagglund vehicle. Afterward, let off some steam with some snowballs. Don’t miss the Husky Cuddle Zone or the center’s rescued little blue penguins, which are native to New Zealand’s shores; feedings are twice daily. Things to Know Before You Go
- The International Antarctic Centre is ideal for families and anyone curious about the realities of the Antarctic.
- To avoid waiting at entry, buy tickets in advance online.
- Children under age 5 receive free admission.
- Audio guides are available, as are lockers for luggage storage.
- The center provides jackets and overshoes for the Antarctic storm exhibit, so you don’t freeze in the flurry.
- Take a break at the center’s 60 South Café (open from 8am to 5pm daily), and browse for souvenirs at Shop Antarctica.
- The center is accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
The International Antarctic Centre is across the road from Christchurch Airport on Orchard Road, a short drive from central Christchurch. Alternative to driving, catch the center’s free Penguin Express bus from the Canterbury Museum on Rolleston Avenue; it runs every two hours until closing. When to Get There
The center is open from 9am to 5:30pm every day of the year. To beat the Friday through Sunday crowds, stop in early. You might be able to fit everything in before lunchtime, including a penguin feeding and the chance to brave the Antarctic storm with the huskies. A Close(r) Encounter
The Antarctic Centre runs an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour to areas not accessible to other visitors. Three times a day, a ranger shows folks how the penguin enclosure works and how to feed the penguins. Book in advance, as space on these backstage tours is limited.