At the time of sitting down to write this post, we are about 2 weeks away from the due date of our first baby.
Although lots of our friends have kids, and I’ve worked with children and young people for a long time – this season is getting me thinking about the practical logistics of traveling with our own.
A totally different mind-set, right?!?
This year we will still be doing some trips – we have some weddings to attend, and some events and travel that we’re going to do as a family. But, it’s going to take some planning! I’ve heard stories from my mama-friends for a while now, but we’re going to start living this out.
Honestly, sometimes the advice for families wanting to travel is not super helpful or hard to find!
If you are coming to Hokkaido, then the driving and travel-distances can be off-putting if you have young children with you. It can be difficult to know if there will be enough to entertain them (the beautiful flower fields don’t always engage children as well as adults!)
So, this is a blog post offering some Hokkaido-travel suggestions for families, and those coming with kids.
A lot of my friends with children coming to Japan from overseas, end up at Tokyo Disney and explore no further. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the magic of Disney, but I DEFINITELY recommend being brave and adventuring up north.
Hokkaido is an awesome place for all ages to enjoy together and its own kind of magic! The culture is deep and the landscape beautiful. It’s the perfect spot for mixing activities, fun and cultural education whilst your family share some amazing experiences. Travel and activities take a bit of preparation, but with the right support, you can have the holiday of a lifetime.
At Social Bus, we’re getting more inquiries from families wanting a bit of travel support.
We would LOVE to help you with transportation if you are coming! We have full safety seating for kids, and our buses can cope with larger groups plus luggage, so it’s the perfect door-to-door service for when you are trying to maneuver kids, teenagers or a mix! We can also offer multi-day hire if you are exploring further afield, so our driving team will look after you, stay locally, and take you around each day.
If you contact me or our office team, we also love to help you plan the perfect itinerary!
But to get you started, here are some child-teenager-family friendly options to consider on your Hokkaido-travels.
Sapporo, as the main city, is the perfect base for families. And there is so much to do here! I couldn’t list everything, but here are 8 of my local recommendations.
1. Sapporo Art Park
Sapporo Art Park is a great way to combine nature, education and activities on your travels. They have an outdoor sculpture garden, an art museum and a display hall with different features in each season. For families, they have exhibitions, music, theatre and teach traditional arts and crafts throughout the year.
There’s also a great café for parents wanting a break!
When? 10am – 5pm
Cost? Varies by exhibition, but children under middle-school age are normally free!
2. Hokkaido Shrine
Located in the middle of Maruyama Park, Hokkaido Shrine is great to combine with a visit to the local area and zoo (see next!)
It’s a great cultural experience for kids to see the washing sites and prayer boards here, and the walk up to the shrine is stunning. If you come in Spring, you’ll see the cherry blossoms and plum blossoms blooming together.
When? 9am – 5pm
3. Maruyama Zoo
And if you’re in Maruyama, then it’s just a short walk to the zoo! Maruyama Zoo is the oldest zoo in Hokkaido and is recently most famous for it’s polar bears and newly opened bear house. You only need either a morning or afternoon to see everything, so it’s a great addition to your day in this area!
When? 9:30am – 4:30pm
Cost? Adults 600JPY / Children (under middle-school age) FREE
4. Shiroi Koibito Park
Sapporo’s very own chocolate factory is well-worth checking out when you’re in the city. You can take a tour of the factory itself, learn about the history of chocolate, and then try your hand at making your own cookies (or just relax and eat in the café!).
You can see the chocolate production lines, and candy-making live on site, and there are some great photo spots outdoors too.
When? 9am – 6pm
Cost? Adults 600JPY / Children (under middle school age) 200JPY
A cookie making workshop is extra – book online to reserve!
5. Moerenuma Park
Moereuma Park is open from 7am – 10pm each day and offers beautiful scenery, along with bicycle rental and a chance to explore the beautifully designed space (by Isamu Noguchi). There are fountain displays each day, illuminated in the evenings, and a bunch of other sculptures to explore.
When? 7am – 10pm
6. Koguzama Children’s Puppet Theatre, Nakajima Park
If you’re looking for some short, light entertainment in the city centre, why not check out the puppet theatre in Nakajima Park? Every weekend, or every day during the long school holidays, puppet shows are put on for a low price, and can be enjoyed by families and children.
You can check out the schedule on their website!
When? Various – check the schedule
Cost? Various – around 600JPY for children
7. Northern Horse Park
This is a fantastic day out, not too far from the city. There is so much to do, and you can enjoy horse shows and horse-riding, alongside other activities like archery, cycling and park golf.
When? 9am – 5pm
Cost? Adult 800JPY / Child 400JPY / Child (below primary school age) FREE
8. Takino Suzuran Park
Another great day outdoors! Takino Suzuran Park is open all year, with winter activities such as sledging and tubing for the snow, and other seasonal activities the rest of the time. There are so many areas to see in this park, so it’s worth a day to take it all in.
When? 9am – 5pm
Cost? Adult 410JPY / Child 80JPY
Now, after using Sapporo as a base, it’s also worth planning some day or overnight trips out and about in wider Hokkaido. Again, the list is endless, but here are some great places to think about.
1. Ecorin Village
Not too far from Sapporo, Ecorin Village is a beautiful spot if you want to get out in nature. There are gardens galore, and plenty of animals to meet and experiences for kids. They have an environmentally friendly hands-on program which you can take part in, so it’s a good one for the list.
When? 10am – 5pm
Cost? Adults 1200JPY / Child (under 15) 600JPY / Children (under 5) FREE
2. North Safari Park
One of our team is an avid fan of this safari park, and he recommends it at any chance he has! It’s an interactive zoo where you can meet the animals, so great for families! You can try holding snakes, touching animals up close, and riding a Segway in the zoo.
When? 10am – 5pm
3. Lake Hill Farm Ice Cream Making
I’ve mentioned the awesome ice cream at Lake Hill Farm before, but it’s also a great spot to try MAKING ice cream or butter too. In the non-winter season, you can also pet animals and enjoy the spot a little longer – it’s beautiful!
When? 9am – 5pm (check for workshops!)
Price? Workshops are around 1200JPY
4. Hakodate Morning Market
The south of Hokkaido is great to spend some time in, and Hakodate is a wonderful small city for families to enjoy. There’s lots to do, but a highlight is the morning fish market, and here you can even try squid fishing for yourself!
When? 6am – lunchtime
Cost? 600-1000JPY for fishing and eating!
There’s so much to do in Otaru for a family that I recommend making a day of it. You can ride a rickshaw around the town centre, enjoy ice cream, sweets and seafood on the high street, have your portrait drawn by the canal, and visit the aquarium!
Otaru Aquarium is a little outside the town centre, but it’s worth making the trip too – you can see daily shows, take part in feedings, and see the penguins up close.
When? Aquarium and most shops 9am – 5pm
Cost? Aquarium / Adult 1400JPY / Children: 200JPY or 400JPY depending on age.
6. Asahikawa Zoo
Japan’s largest zoo is always a popular outing for families! There are a real variety of displays, and the famous penguin walk that takes places daily. They are SO cute!! The whole zoo also has a lot of interactive areas and activities, so it’s great for kids and families!
When? 9:30am – 5pm
Cost? Adults 820JPY / Children (under primary age) FREE
7. Noboribetsu Hell Valley Trail and Date Jidaimura
Noboribetsu Onsen is one of Hokkaido’s most famous hot springs. People travel specially to take in the views at Jigokudani, or ‘Hell Valley’ which is named after it’s volcanic appearance.
But you should also make sure to visit Date Jidaimura when you are in the area. They have a variety of shows introducing aspects of Japanese culture, such as a ninja and samurai show, and lots to do!
When? 9am – 5pm
Cost? Adults 2900JPY / Children 6-12 yrs 1500JPY / Children 4-6 yrs 600JPY / Children under 4 FREE
8. Niseko Adventure Centre
For active families, and those with slightly older children, I recommend Niseko. The winter is famous for the snow activities, but the other seasons are just as fun.
Niseko Adventure Centre offers everything from rafting, to indoor climbing, forest activities, paddle boarding, and has an adventure park. They have special packages for families, including a kid’s summer camp, so are well-equipped to look after you. Niseko is also one of the places in Hokkaido where most people speak English, so you don’t need to worry about communication!
When? Book your activity
And that’s just to get you started!
Hokkaido is just the best for all kinds of groups, but I think it’s super family-friendly!
And we’ll be beginning our own family adventures really, really soon!! If you have any tips about traveling with a newborn, feel free to message me! 😉
In a few months I’ll do a follow up post with some handy Hokkaido-baby-friendly hints!