Finland is incredibly child friendly, and is a terrific place to holiday with kids. Domestic tourism is largely dictated by children’s needs, and child-friendly attractions abound in the height of summer, while winter brings its own snowy delights, including Santa.
Many attractions, with trams, boats, zoo, Suomenlinna fortress, Linnanmäki amusement park and Serena water park at Espoo. Most museums and galleries have child-friendly exhibits.
Flat archipelago perfect for family cycling and gentle beaches; also has forts and castles both stone and bouncy.
The castle at Savonlinna and scope for watery activities make this region one of the best for children.
Water slides at Vaasa, sandy beaches at Yyteri and Kalajoki, and tranquil shores.
Moominworld at Naantali is a magnet for the young, who drag their parents here from all over the northern lands. Turku itself offers rope courses and skiing, while the Sirius Sport Resort in the southeast has flying, surfing and more.
A winter wonderland with Kemi’s snow castle, sled trips and children’s ski runs. In summer there’s gold-panning, meeting reindeer or huskies, and national parks. The region’s most famous resident, Santa, is at Napapiiri year-round.
As it’s such an outdoors-focused destination, planning a trip for kids could include splashing about on lakes and rivers, hikes in national parks, and cycling. In winter the reliable snow opens up a world of outdoor possibilities, and there’s also the Santa Claus angle in Lapland. There are several standout theme parks across the country, and even potentially stuffy museums make the effort to engage kids, with simplified child-height information, hands-on activities and interactive displays or activity sheets in English.
Activities such as boat trips, canoeing and fishing are available almost everywhere, and large towns all have a swimming complex that includes water slides and Jacuzzis; excellent for all ages year-round.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Finnish children are on holidays from mid-June to early August, and many child-oriented activities are closed outside this period. This is when campgrounds are buzzing with Finnish families – an instant social life for your kids – and temperatures are usually reliably warm.
Winter is also a great time to take the family to Finland, especially to the north. December sees all sorts of Christmasy things spring up in Lapland, with Santas, elves and reindeer galore. But if your kids are older and you want to get active in the snow, March or April are the months to go: there’s plenty of daylight, better snow and not such extreme cold.
Self-catering is huge in Finland, and the wide network of rental cabins, apartments and cottages – ranging from simple huts with bunks to luxurious bungalows with fully equipped kitchen and electric sauna – make excellent family bases. Campgrounds are also particularly good, with cabins, rowboats and bikes available for hire, and often a lake beach. There are always things to do and other children in these places, and larger ones offer activity programs.
Most Finnish hotels and hostels will put an extra bed in a room for little extra cost – and kids under 12 often sleep free. Many hotel rooms have sofas that can fold out into beds or family suites, and hostels often have connecting rooms. The Holiday Club (www.holidayclub.fi) chain of spa hotels is especially child-friendly. These and other resort hotels always have family-friendly restaurants with a menu for the kids, or deals where children eat free if accompanied by adults.
Ice Skating Strap the skates on at outdoor rinks including Helsinkii's Jääpuisto.
Snow rides Take a ride pulled by huskies or reindeer in Lapland, or rev up a snowmobile and go for a spin.
Ice hockey Soak in the atmosphere of a game in Helsinki.
Hietaranta Helsinki’s best city beach.
Hanko Numerous beaches, ranging from paddleable to windsurfable.
Åland Has a wealth of beaches and hidden coves.
Hiekkalinna, Lappeenranta Check out this amazing sandcastle.
Yyteri Has a great variety of beaches.
Kalajoki This resort near Oulu, along with Hailuoto island, is excellent for families.
Linnanmäki, Helsinki Stomach-churning roller coasters, free-fall drops and more.
Serena Water Park, Espoo Water slides galore near Helsinki.
Särkänniemi, Tampere Dozens of rides, an observation tower, aquarium, farm zoo, planetarium and more.
Muumimaailma (Moominworld), Naantali Enchanting Moomin-themed park.
Tropiclandia, Vaasa Water slides and wave machines on Finland's west coast.
Heureka, Vantaa Hands-on science centre near Helsinki's airport.
Tietomaa, Oulu Excellent science museum with a giant IMAX cinema screen.
Hiihtomuseo, Lahti Ski museum with interactive exhibits.
Mekaanisen Musiikin Museo, Varkaus Mechanical musical instruments.
Kierikkikeskus, near Oulu Paddling in a Stone Age canoe is among the kid-friendly options here.
Vakoilumuseo, Tampere Offbeat spy museum with lots of Bond-style gadgets.