Norwegian fun for families
Our own guidebook writer provides tips for traveling in Norway with kids
Norway is on the top of the list for many adults because of the northern lights, magnificent fjords, dramatic landscapes, and historic museums. But do those things translate into a family-friendly destination?
I don’t have children so recommending activities for families in this column might seem strange. But one great benefit of writing a guidebook has been the need to put myself in other people’s shoes and think about the questions and concerns they might have. And that very much includes families!
Last year I welcomed my brother, his wife, and their two children to stay with us in Trondheim. To say it was an eye-opener is an understatement! I learned a lot about what makes a tourist attraction, hotel, or restaurant suitable for families, and since then I have made a point of looking for these things on my research trips.
Children in Norwegian society
First of all, the really good news: Children are very much a priority in Norwegian society, so you’ll encounter few problems when traveling as a family. If you’re with a child and you appear to be lost, a Norwegian will likely go beyond the call of duty to help you!
Most hotels will set up an extra bed for a child in a standard double room (for a small fee) while toddlers up to two years old are usually permitted to sleep in the double bed at no extra charge. Children under 16 travel half-price on most city public transit systems and often get half-price admission to attractions. Children under four usually go free.
The folk museums
Norway’s outdoor folk museums are awesome places for kids. The best part? They’re just as entertaining for grown-ups!
The most well known is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, although many tourist guides call this the Norwegian Folk Museum because of its Norwegian name, Norsk Folkemuseum. In my experience, adults and children of all ages love exploring the historical farmstead, brought to life with actors during the summer season.
Two and a half hours north of Oslo, Lillehammer plays host to Maihaugen, an outdoor museum with horses to feed and once again, actors playing the parts of traditional Norwegian citizens during the summer months. If you’re in the area, don’t miss the Hunderfossen Family Park (open June to August), where the fairytale castles and family rides will keep the kids entertained for hours, even if they don’t know the characters!
Other highlights around the country
Back in Oslo, the Tusenfryd (Thousand Joys) theme park is a fun day out with traditional roller coasters for the adults and plenty of kid-friendly rides too. Down south, Kristiansand Dyreparken (Kristiansand Zoo) is Norway’s biggest theme park. Here you’ll find an exotic zoo, a water park, and plenty of unique accommodations within the park itself. Two days here is two days well spent, but don’t miss Kristiansand itself with a child-friendly beach and promenade at the city’s heart.
Heading west, the Norwegian Petroleum Museum in Stavanger is surprisingly suitable for kids, with plenty to look at and climb on both inside and out. The intriguing Geopark is an experimental children’s playground that tests new ways of recycling materials and unusual objects from the oil industry.
If you are road tripping across the country, consider staying on campsites rather than in expensive rural hotels. Wooden cabins will not only save money but also provide a more interesting prospect for children, and there will typically be play equipment or at least open green space in which to play.
Travel by train
If seeing rural Norway appeals to you but you don’t want to be stuck in a car, Norway’s rail system provides a great alternative. I recommend traveling the country by train to almost everyone. The sights that can be seen out of the windows of the Oslo to Bergen train, the Flåm railway, and even the lines to Trondheim or Åndalsnes can rival most of the world’s greatest railway trips.
Most long-distance trains have a special family carriage with a bit more space and a play area. Seats in these carriages can be booked in advance on nsb.no at no extra charge. Just look out for the “NSB Familie” option when booking.
Indoor play centers
Finally, if you are staying in cities, it’s worth taking a look at the chain of indoor play centers known as Leo’s Lekeland. Locations can be found in most major towns including Oslo, Fredrikstad, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim, and Tromsø. The best time to visit is while Norwegian schools are in session, when you’ll have the place virtually to yourself.
Finally, I conclude this month’s column with the great news that I have finalized the manuscript! Having made my way through 15 pages of questions from the editorial team and given the book another pass to update prices and so on, it’s now time for the photo and map editors to do their thing before the book’s eventual release later this year.
David Nikel is a freelance writer based in Norway. He runs the popular www.lifeinnorway.net blog and is the author of the upcoming MOON Norway guidebook.
This article originally appeared in the April 21, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.