Rainbow's End - Kidz Kingdom
It’s the Queen’s Birthday weekend! This means a few things: 1) the kids have a long weekend off of school (and in our case, it is an extra long weekend as R is off Friday through Tuesday. Most people just have Monday off.) and 2) the Queen gets two birthdays a year. Her “real” birthday is April 21, but she is the Queen after all, so she gets to celebrate twice. Well, sort of. The Commonwealth countries each pick a day to celebrate the monarch, and in New Zealand it is the first Monday in June. This tradition dates back about 250 years to the reign of King George II. This is the equivalent to something like Memorial Day. It’s a good excuse to take a day off, enjoy a long weekend, and get together with friends and family or go on a weekend trip.
The kids’ friends told them about a much-hyped place called Rainbow’s End, which I mentioned in my Annual Pass post. After much badgering and persistence, the kids wore me down, and I decided this long weekend was the perfect time to try it out. It was a 25 minutes drive south for us in light traffic. It took the same amount of time to find parking when we arrived at 11 am. So first piece of advise: arrive early if you don’t want to circle and circle and circle. On the upside, parking was free.
As my kids are 4 and 5, the only part of the amusement park we were interested in is the part called Kidz Kingdom, which has its own entrance to the right of the main park and is for kids up to 8 years old. The immediate entrance is an enclosed, indoor play area with a small cafe, birthday party rooms, games, and a few other activities. The enclosed space opens up to a large, open-air-but-covered section that houses the bulk of the rides. Passes for the kids were NZ$32 each and my pass - as an adult spectator - was NZ$18 (Total, about US$54.) I should’ve done more research into what this bought us because I felt rather ripped off afterwards. Here’s why:
First, there were only four rides my kids could actually ride. There are very strict height restrictions. Kids under 120cm - about 4 feet (which are both of my kids) can only get on four rides by themselves. There were a few more that I could go on with them, but only if it was a 1 to 1 ratio of kids to adults. Since it was just me and two kids, that meant one kid would be left standing and waiting by themselves. And let’s be realistic. There’s no way that is going to work. But hey! The kids liked the handful of rides they were allowed on:
Secondly, the so-called “Fortress of Fun” was great fun for the kids, but incredibly stressful for me because I couldn’t locate my kids when we needed to go, and, as it turns out, there was a secret third exit that I didn’t know I needed to be watching. My son appeared thirty minutes after my last sighting from the mystery exit. He was in tears.
There were also a handful of games to play, but at $1-$2 per play, it was exorbitantly expensive for what it was. Fortunately, the kids played anyway, blissfully unaware that money was needed to control anything and enjoying “playing” in the demo mode. Please don’t tell them that the games do anything else. I rather like not having to pay.
The food was surprisingly good and reasonably priced. The kids wanted sausage rolls and chips, and I was able to order a totally passable ham sandwich and cappuccino. The food was nicely warmed and sustaining. I managed to dissuade the kids from the tubs of gummy worms and candy floss (aka cotton candy) so they weren’t entirely sugared up for the last part of our stay. Total spent: NZ$26 (US$17.68)
All in, we spent thirty minutes looking for parking, an hour and a half playing/riding rides, and then a subsequent half hour of me trying to locate my kids after I told them they had time for one more turn down the slide in the Fortress of Fun. Needless to say, I will not be rushing back. I think the Royal Easter Show had a much better selection of rides for younger kids, especially ones that are under 120cm.
For the older crowd, there is an extensive roller coaster filled main park. It looks like a very, very light Six Flags and might be entertaining for the teen set. The roller coasters didn’t look big enough or daring enough to be truly exciting for enthusiasts, but I did not personally try them to I would hate to make that comment like I had intimate knowledge on the quality of the rides. Would I take a 14 year old there? Absolutely.
So enjoy Rainbow’s End if you must or if you’re invited there for a birthday party, but don’t rush out and plan on spending a day riding rides and enjoying an amusement park with little kids.