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Banish the winter boredom: kids' activities in Belgium
Belgium’s beautiful Ardennes/Eifel region offers downhill and cross-country skiing, sledging and walking trails. And nearby Eupen, German-speaking Belgium’s capital, is home to one of the world’s largest indoor karting tracks.
Skate parks – indoor and out – are another good winter choice. Brussels has two – the Skatepark des Ursulines near Bruxelles-Chapelle station and more modern runs at Boitsfort’s Place Wiener. Or try Charleroi’s superb West Station Skatepark, where all-day skating is just €6. Then extend the experience at Charleroi’s cool BPS22 contemporary art museum. Its latest exhibition, Riding Modern Art, encourages you to skate over the urban artworks in the main hall.
For a total ski/skate/ice experience, Ice Mountain Adventure Park in Comines-Warneton, almost in France, is the answer. A child’s day pass costs €49. Parents can watch for free as their kids indoor ski or snowboard, play paintball or laser games, try out accrobranche (tree climbing trails) and sky dive).
If your kids prefer the water, let them take the plunge in a former coal mine. Todi dive centre at the Be-Mine site in Beringen, Limburg, is Europe’s largest subtropical diving and snorkelling centre. You can swim with some 2,500 freshwater fish, including paroon sharks, and enjoy the underwater obstacle course complete with mine tunnel and old Ford cars. Each dive experience costs about €30, with lessons and birthday packages also available.
Uccle’s Nemo 33 centre, the world’s deepest diving pool until 2014, is Belgium’s second largest underwater paradise. You can watch the divers while you eat in its Thai restaurant through seven giant windows. Or indulge the kids with a trip to Brussels’ Océade water park. Other popular swimming experiences include Aqualibi, next to Walibi, and the much cheaper Le Point d’Eau in La Louvière.
Many museums are free for under-12s. Most that are not, notably the ever popular natural science museum, do not charge on the first Wednesday afternoon of the month. Even child-centred culture like Brussels’ two chocolate museums and Bruges’ chocolate and chip museums are only €5 per child.
To continue skating until mid-April, don’t forget Brussels’ wonderfully retro Poseidon ice rink (pictured). Open since 1966, it offers a fairytale world at Christmas, complete with a chalet serving jenever and hot chocolate and a kindergarten on ice.
Ultimately, amusing the kids doesn’t need to cost anything – there’s always the local park. But for a treat, Belgium’s biggest playpark Stardust promises indoor play heaven for under-13s, complete with mini cars and trampolines. It costs €12 per three-hour session.
Or, during the Carnival holiday, experience Belgian folklore at the Unesco-recognised Binche and Aalst carnival. Three more carnival must-sees are Malmedy (in March), Stavelot and Fosse-la-Ville.