Nfld. & Labrador

'I'm booooored': How to keep the youngsters entertained when the weather isn't helping

You only have to spend one summer in St. John's to learn that the weather won't always go your way. But if you're stuck inside with the kids, at least you can have some fun.

Summer is no guarantee of warmth and sunshine in St. John's, but we've got you covered

Anna Norman from Dunville is in her glee at Whee's massive ball pit. (Amy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

It's finally summer! That means days at the park, running around at the splash pad or playing at the pool, or weekend adventures enjoying all the natural attractions in and around St. John's.

Or, you know, it means being stuck in the house with whiny children because it's cold, or rainy, or windy, or some combination of the three. This is St. John's, after all — the summer weather can be glorious, but that is not guaranteed. 

The bad news is that we can't change the weather, or promise what it will be like this summer. But the good news is that there are plenty of things to do in this city when a day outside isn't appealing, and many of those things are low-cost or even free.

This guide has suggestions for kids of all ages, from just walking to teens, for activities in and around St. John's and Mount Pearl that will still offer something fun and new to do while also keeping you warm and dry. Read on to find everything from cat cafés to communications museums, Totoro to Tombolo, and don't let a bit of drizzle get in the way of a great summer.

Educational experiences

This Vickers-Vimy at the Admiralty House museum in Mount Pearl would be similar to the one Alcock and Brown flew on their transatlantic flight of 1919. (Paul Colbourne)

The St. John's area has several museums with exhibits and experiences aimed at children, or ones that are appropriate for them. 

At The Rooms, a variety of permanent and changing exhibits offer a way for kids to learn about the province's art and history in a tangible way. Check the events calendar for visits by Nature NL volunteers and other events aimed at children and families. In Mount Pearl, the Admiralty House Communications Museum has exhibits focused on the province's history in wireless communication as well as on the history of Mount Pearl. This summer's Field to Flight exhibit looks at the province's place in aviation history, and has a kid-focused component.

You won't see any trains operating on the Avalon, but you can learn about the province's railway history at the Railway Coastal Museum, which is housed in a refurbished train station just off downtown St. John's. If your kid is really into trains there's also the Railway Station Museum in Carbonear, about an hour away.

Enjoy some food along with the cultural experiences at Rocket Bakery on Water Street with ongoing events like Fish Cakes and Accordions Experience, Grey Sky Boys concerts, and traditional musical kitchen parties. Check out the Quidi Vidi Plantation to see local artisans in action, then hop over to the Quidi Vidi Brewery for live music kids are allowed in, unless the event is at night or specifies otherwise.

At First Light St. John's Friendship Centre, the weekly Community Cultural Circle is available to all on Wednesday evenings, and other family-friendly events are scheduled regularly.

And don't forget the public libraries. You can drop in to read or take out a book, of course, but the area's public libraries also run a variety of events and programs including family Lego events, drop-in storytime and playtime, science clubs and craft nights.

Nature

The Johnson Geo Centre on Signal Hill in St. John's. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

You can experience some of the Avalon Peninsula's natural attractions, even when the weather isn't cooperating.

Have a budding geologist in the family? Head to the Geo Centre, where the whole family can learn about Newfoundland and Labrador's unique geological history. There's also a small playground inside, if the kids need to burn off some steam.

At the Fluvarium, explore the life of a river and its ecosystem in a dry space, thanks to viewing windows that show brown trout in their natural habitat and natural aquariums with local species.

And don't forget the area's ocean life — you can visit Memorial University's Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay during the summer to experience the touch tank and visit the harp seals, and in Petty Harbour the mini aquarium offers hands-on educational experiences.

Indoor activity

Erinn Locke competes at the Bloc On The Rock competition at Wallnuts in St. John's. (Greg Locke)

Two recently opened indoor playgrounds in St. John's offer a way for kids to be active no matter the weather. At Lee York Kids, parents can have a snack or a coffee while children play on a structure that includes tube slides and space for climbing. And Whee Indoor Playground also has play structures, including a ball pool, slides and a ninja course, as well as a toddler-appropriate area.

For younger kids, Polkadot Place in Paradise has a toddler-friendly play area and runs drop-in music classes on Wednesdays.

Cygnus is a gymnastics training centre that runs classes for kids of a variety of ages, but they also offer drop-in programs for kids of a variety of ages, from toddlers to teens.

There are also a few options for older kids, or those who love a specific activity. Get Air has trampolines and ball pits, including a special area for children shorter than 46 inches. Axtion has amusement rides, large bouncy castles, indoor snow tubes, go carts and rope courses, as well as a toddler area. At the Wallnuts climbing facility, kids can climb on their own or with parents. And at Frontline Action's indoor facility, kids can play laser tag, airsoft and paintball.

The big attractions at the Paul Reynolds Community Centre are its two swimming pools and dual water slides. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Don't forget the city's indoor pools. There are open swim times available throughout the week at Paul Reynolds Community Centre and H.G.R. Mews Community Centre, both run by the city. The Aquarena offers recreational swimming including slides, inflatables and a baby/toddler pool, and the Ches Penney YMCA has swimming and open gym times. And in Mount Pearl at the Summit Centre, kids can swim and teens and parents can attend a drop-in fitness class.

Fun and games

There are dozens of board games available for play at Mochanopoly. (CBC)

Summer programs are a great way to continue a favourite activity when regular classes are out, or to try something new. There will be drop-in dance classes on Tuesdays and Saturdays at Moving Pictures Dance Co. in Mount Pearl. Dominion supermarkets offer a variety of cooking classes for children as young as two. Michaels holds both free in-store craft demonstrations and children's craft classes, and at Clay Café in Mount Pearl kids can paint a ceramic item of their choosing, make jewellery or attend a class.

A family outing to the movies can get expensive but every Saturday morning at the Scotiabank Theatre in St. John's, a family-friendly movie plays for $2.99 admission. Some of the films scheduled for this summer are classic favourites and others are recent releases that aren't long out of theatres. And at the Cineplex Cinemas Mount Pearl the classic animé movies Whisper of the Heart, My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service are playing this summer.

If your family loves board games, Mochanopoly has a large selection for all ages you can order a snack or drink and sit down to try a new game or play a family favourite. For a twist on that, try an escape room like Escape Quest, Trapped or Breakout NL. And for another classic entertainment option head to Plaza Bowl, Paradise Bowl, Holiday Lanes or St. Pat's for bowling. 

If you have a kid who loves miniatures gaming, Magic cards and other similar activities, Sword 'n' Steele holds casual miniatures gaming along with Magic and Dungeons and Dragons events, and Nether World Collectibles holds regular MTG Commander events.

And if nobody can come to a consensus on what they want to do, you can please several people at once by heading to Rec Room, which has arcade games, virtual reality gaming, bowling, axe-throwing and large TVs playing sporting events.

Mad Catter Café customers enjoy coffee — and the cats, of course. (Jo-Ann Dooley/CBC)

There are also several drop-in centres in the area with programs for kids of different ages, including indoor drop-in times. Look for upcoming events at the Kilbride to Ferryland family resource centres, some of which are outside St. John's but within driving distance; the Active Start program at the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Centre; or the Brighter Futures centres in Mount Pearl, Paradise, Torbay and St. John's.

Or maybe you would just like to play with some kittens? You can do that at Mad Catter Café, which has a cat lounge featuring furry (and adoptable) friends from St. John's Humane Services. 

Food and festivals

The St. John's Farmers' Market opens every Saturday as well as on the second Sunday and first Friday of each month, with the International Bazaar on Wednesdays. (John Pike/CBC)

The St. John's Farmers' Market runs every Saturday as well as on the second Sunday and first Friday of each month, with indoor stalls and food vendors. And on Wednesdays, visit for the International Bazaar, which includes local and international food and crafts. 

In Mount Pearl, Market Family will host some indoor events and pop-up events throughout the summer in addition to their regular Sunday outdoor markets.

And many of the province's summer festivals are based outside, but there are often indoor activities associated with them. 

Later this month, Avalon Expo 5 will feature activities like board games and a Lego build table at the ReMax Centre; Sound Symposium will host a variety of musical events; and there will be food, music and crafts at the Tombolo Multicultural Festival

And in August, the St. John's Vegfest will be held at the ReMax Centre, and the Out of Earshot festival includes a variety of music and art events.

Did we forget something? Probably! As you can see, there are a lot of things happening in and around St. John's during the summer months. Let us know in the comments if you have something else to suggest.

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