Antarctica for kids (and their parents)

This south polar continent is on many people’s bucket list and rightly so. It’s the only continent we haven’t visited yet, and it’s high on our list. It’s also an extremely expensive visit, so it’s going to be a while before we can make it happen. With the expense of travel and its extremely remote location, it isn’t exactly a hot family destination spot, but there is a way to experience Antarctica for kids and their families.

Antarctica for kids

While we were on the south island of New Zealand, we were staying with a friend. She happened to know someone who works at the International Antarctic Centre, and they were nice enough to give our group tickets so we could experience everything.

I had absolutely no idea that this center existed. Likewise, I didn’t know that the USA and other countries had their Antarctic bases here. Almost every research team and supporting crew member that goes to the continent leaves from this New Zealand base!

This center is designed to give visitors an education they aren’t likely to forget, and they are big on experiential learning.

The first experience we had involved entering a room that is chilled to –5 degrees Celsius. Thankfully, the center provides jackets and overshoes. Here you can experience an ice cave, go down a slide made from ice, and see what a minor wind storm with 40 km/h winds feels like as the wind chill brings the temperature down to –35 Celsius (-31F).

There is a penguin encounter, and it’s quite fun to watch the staff feed the penguins. You can really see some of their personalities.

The center offers a 4D movie experience (included in the XTREME pass) that is pretty fun. You will get a little spray of water to the face, but it isn’t that bad.

For the more restless kids, there are plenty of things to climb on.

Antarctica for kids

One of the more interesting offerings is the Hagglund ride (also in the XTREME pass, or an extra fee for the XPRESS pass holders). These are the vehicles that take new arrivals from the airstrip to the research center. They are designed for virtually any terrain and can pass over crevasses and go through water. They have built a varied course on the property so you get a bit of a realistic experience of what riding in these things in Antarctica would be like. If you are prone to motion sickness, either take something, slap on a patch, or skip this ride. I usually do pretty well, and I got a bit nauseated from all the banging around.

The ride lasts for about 10 minutes. The scientists and crew get to endure it for 2-1/2 hours or longer. I can’t even imagine.

Antarctica for kids

Visitor Information

The center is open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM every day of the year, including Christmas. Prices are not cheap. The XTREME pass provides the best experience, and it’s also the most expensive ticket. Adults will pay $59 NZD (about $49 USD) and children 5-15 are $29 NZD. If you have 2 adults and 3 children, you can get the family rate which is $147 NZD total. If you buy your tickets online, it will reduce the fees a bit.

Whenever we receive something for free or at a discount, I always have to ask myself would I have felt like it was worth it had I paid full price. While this is a really cool place, and some of the experiences are very unique, I’m not sure I would have felt like I got my money’s worth. It is a great way to experience Antarctica for kids, but with New Zealand already being so expensive for everything else, I’m just not sure I can honestly say this is a must-do.

Do you have any desire to go to Antarctica?

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  1. Most interesting Talon. And I must say…

    “Whenever we receive something for free or at a discount, I always have to ask myself would I have felt like it was worth it had I paid full price.”

    So very refreshing that (unlike many fellow bloggers) you acknowledge that – like it or not – freebies can’t help but color your experience. I mean, easy to enjoy x activity/excursion/5 star hotel when it’s free. And no doubt some do try to point out at least a small flaw or two. But the point is – for those of us (i.e. your readers) who have to shell out precious full-price travel rubles – it might, or might not be worth it.

    In short – bravo to you, my friend!

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    • Thanks, Dyanne. It definitely can color the experience, so I try very hard to weigh it out before giving a recommendation for or against. I don’t believe that just because I received something for free or at a discount that it entitles them to a positive review. I always choose integrity over everything else. Sometimes that means I turn away business, but so be it.

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    • I had no clue before I went. There is also a cruise you can take from NZ to go to Antarctica, but it’s a lot of days at sea in potentially rough waters.

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  2. Every time I read a story of yours, I am pleased to think of your wonderful little family exploring out there. Love and freedom to learn are constant themes in your writing, and if you’ll accept a little outside judgement, I think you’re a really great parent. Thanks for the adventures!

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  3. I’ve known that the Antarctic Centre was there, but of all the several times I’ve visited CHCH, it’s never made priority for me to visit – similar to Kelly Tarltons in Auckland… seems like a cool idea, but not a must-do. Unfortunate, because it is such a unique place/experience!

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    • I still have to do my writeup of Kelly Tarltons. That won’t be getting a good review at all.

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  4. Great story. I appreciate knowing ahead of time what I’d get for the money and that you’re not sure it’s worth it. It sounds like a fun activity for grownups though, if we can fit it into our budget.

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    • We definitely had fun. I’m just not sure it would’ve been worth around $75 for the 2 of us.

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  5. Nice info – I was kind of expecting you to have a cheaper way than the one I wrote about earlier in the year! But still – this is a nice alternative way to see what Antarctica might be like. I urge you to visit it for real as soon as you can – it’s by far the best continent I’ve been to. Check out my post on doing it on the cheap if you want some tips – not that hard once you’ve got to Ushuaia. Safe travels. Jonny

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