• This summer Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s major cultural attractions will feature a huge range of holiday activities for all whānau and visitors
  • Highlights include: Auckland Zoo’s centenary celebrations; a giant female T.Rex skeleton at Auckland Museum; Mrs Claus on a historic sailing scow; Christmas lights and music for all ages; and Auckland Art Gallery becoming a small corner of Mexico.

From mouth-watering tamales and Mexican dancing amid stunning artworks, to Mrs Claus sailing a heritage boat, double-trouble dinosaurs, and giant LEGO Christmas baubles in Aotea Square – yes, it’s going to be another summer packed with holiday fun for the whole whānau at Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s major cultural attractions.

Generations of Aucklanders have been filled with wonder, curiosity and excitement at Auckland Zoo, and tamariki, rangatahi and their families can add new chapters to that legacy with the Zoo marking its centenary this summer.

Special celebrations for the 100th anniversary will include a new centenary exhibition, special commemorative items in the Zoo shop, and of course an opportunity to explore the exciting South East Asia Jungle Track – complete with a new swamp forest and tiger habitat. And holidays are the perfect time for whānau to take advantage of summer ‘Zoo Lates’, with the Zoo staying open till 8pm for eight Thursdays from 12 January.

While Mr Claus is famous for sleigh skills high in the sky, New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui a Tangaroa will feature Mrs Claus and her helper-elf crewing the historic scow Ted Ashby for 17 and 18 December’s Christmas Sailing with Mrs Claus on the Waitematā – voyages that feature goody bags for children, and a museum scavenger hunt.

The museum’s January holiday programme is available to book now, including a chance for rangatahi to earn their ‘Captain’s badge’, make their own pirate pennant, or come face-to-face with some of Aotearoa’s legendary mariners in the Captains, Collectors, Friends & Adventurers exhibition. For families with children aged 12 or older, the museum has fun sailings on the traditional 10-sailed brigantine Breeze every second Saturday until March – a hands-on three-hour sailing experience.

The epic all ages inflatable obstacle course MEGALAND is back at Mt Smart Stadium’s Lilyworld this month. Until 21 December, adventurers aged 4+ can experience the epic 300m-long course with 43 challenging obstacles – including slides, beach balls and a tunnel of spikes.

Huge numbers of people have already experienced the stunning Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki exhibition Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: Art and Life in Mexico, and children under 12 can enjoy the art free through to the exhibition close on 22 January (under 14s must be accompanied by an adult).

The free fun gallery festival La fiesta on 14 January will transport visitors straight to Mexico. While stocks last, families can sample one of Mexico’s favourite morsels – tamales – while they browse art, craft and food markets. Visitors can help create a large-scale mural with Mexican artist Mayan Quintos and watch vibrant dance performances by Ollin Yoliztli.

Families can also enjoy the free Robin White: Te Whanaketanga | Something is Happening Here exhibition, Whānau drop-in art-making workshops designed for families to get creative together, and a special Mexicana school holiday programme (9-27 January).

From playing backyard cricket and building sandcastles, to ice cream and chocolate fish, Aotea Square will be transformed this holiday season as it hosts a series of four giant LEGO Christmas baubles – each capturing the ultimate Kiwi Christmas through the eyes of tamariki.

Auckland Live Christmas in the Square, which runs until Boxing Day, also features an action-packed programme of whānau-friendly performances and experiences including karaoke, films, singing, dancing, DJs, and food trucks.

For many families, music makes Christmas, so the free Auckland Symphony Orchestra: Christmas Family Concert on 10 December at Auckland Town Hall will be a must do – with singalongs to seasonal favourites, traditional carols, and more recent festive tunes.

Whānau with under-6s will love the lively hour of APO 4 Kids Christmas festive entertainment with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Specially curated for younger tamariki, the shows feature lots of familiar tunes, singalong songs and musical activities (two shows at the Bruce Mason Centre, 18 December).

A time when terrifying giants roamed Earth will be brought to life at Auckland Museum just in time for the holidays, when Barbara – the biggest tyrannosaurus rex ever seen in New Zealand – will be unveiled alongside Peter, who has captivated audiences for the past year. Barbara is even bigger than Peter, and her appearance has created a world first – the only place an adult male and female ‘T. Rex’ are on display together. Viewing the duo is free.

Among the great whānau experiences at MOTAT this summer will be the iconic Auckland institution’s famed Christmas lights, which are back this year from Wednesday through Saturday, 7 to 24 December. For 12 nights, MOTAT will be transformed into a festive wonderland with light displays, tram rides and carol singers, Santa’s Grotto and a Wishing Tree. Tickets are only online.

Auckland Council’s events page is full of holiday options for a sizzling summer including a great programme of music in parks, and a chance to observe, discover, and connect with nature this summer at Auckland Botanic Gardens – where rangatahi can take a closer look at the plants and animals that call the gardens home. The free, family friendly activities are every Wednesday throughout January.