As I’ve said countless times before, Kigali is the kind of city where you need to make your own fun. This can make keeping your kids entertained a challenging proposition. Fortunately my mom friend, Fleur, is here with some ideas…
So you’ve read 31 Fun Things to Do in Kigali, in fact you’ve scanned it thoroughly thrice. But, hard as you try, you just can’t imagine extracting too much fun from a walking tour in Nyamirambo nor souvenir shopping nor even a visit to the Casino. This could mean you are a) too hard to please or b) that you have kids. If b) is the case, read on.
The following list is heavily plagiarised from 31 fun things, but censored and rehashed according to my own kids’ whims. So yes, it’s rather subjective and biased, but that’s better than a poke in the eye from a bored, feral child.
I know there’s a lot more out there for the kiddies so if you have any ideas, please get in touch and we’ll add them!
Intrepid parents, please scan carefully the list of Annual Events & Festivals in Kigali. For those less adventurous, the following are the easy choices:
AIC International Food Fair
Cost: Rwf 10,000 (kids half price)
This is definitely the most happening, family-friendly event of the year with hundreds of hungry people congregating to sample many of Kigali’s international cuisines. You won’t get closer than this to tasting the world in Kigali. There’s a fab kids’ corner to stash the children while you sample some fine Belgian beers.
AIC Christmas Bazaar
Cost: Ref 2,000 (kids under 12 are free)
You may have seen most of the handicrafts before, but I promise you they really look different when the little drummer boy is pa rum pa pum pumming through the speakers and you have a glass of glühwein in your hand. Features another fab kids’ corner.
International School of Kigali’s Spring Fair
Even the least in-the-know parents are usually up to speed with the events going on in their own school. But, venture outside your own playground! There are other schools with other events that you are generally very welcome to crash. Advertisements will appear on 4W drive rear windows or contact the schools directly. The ISK’s Spring Fair is…
Ecole Belge Christmas Market
When: November or December
Belgian School’s Xmas market is one of Kigali’s funnest events both for the kids and adults. Let your children hang out with their friends while you sip on some fine Belgian beers. The event starts with some dance performances by the teachers and kids early on, there are several food stalls to check out, and there are a bunch of crafts on sale. Check the board outside of the entrance near Karibu for info (you can also check throughout the year as they have other events and performances, too). It’s a relaxed atmosphere and a lot of fun, even if you don’t have kids!
Arts & Culture
Though Kigali’s cultural scene still has a long way to go, there are a few individuals and organisation doing their part to fill up the cultural calendar with the occasional class or event. Keep each of these places on your radar and you’re bound to find something suitable for your kids.
City Arts Kigali in Kimihurura has the most substantial kids programme featuring various dance and music classes, workshops plus holiday programmes. They do summer camps for families who stay put in Kigali.
* Hero Shop is just around the corner with a great selection of affordable post-class smoothies.
Azizi Life Kids’ Craft Experience
The 3rd Saturday of every month was the Azizi Life Kids‘ Craft Experience at Heaven Restaurant from 10am. It’s been a success so far, welcoming kids between 5 and 12 to experiment with a different type of craft each month. Everything from making banana leaf cards, to footballs, to painted wooden bird mobiles. A mini smoothie is included in the price and Heaven makes a great spot for the parents to hang out sipping a mimosa and enjoying brunch.
Keep at eye open for other kid-friendly exhibition openings and movies, particularly on the first Fridays of the month. If your kids aren’t into the exhibition then they should, at least, get a kick out of the t-rex.
The Goethe-Istitut is a German initiative that runs in several countries around the world. They hold all sorts of events from live music to weekly movies. Follow them on Facebook for regular updates. Events tend to be focused on adults but sometimes they have kid-friendly acts come through, most recently, a magician. If you’re lucky, the kids might soak up 5 minutes worth of culture whilst you soak up a beverage.
The big, newish public library in Kigali has an inviting kids’ room and I believe still hosts a story hour for the littlies, but do check the schedule as things may have changed. The French Institute sometimes shows kids’ movies there on a Wednesday afternoon, if your children happen to speak French.
Apparently, there is also the Children’s Place, at RDB House, Kaguga, run by the Kigali Women Book Club, which sometimes hosts storytelling & book reading. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. And if you’re running low on your own supply of books and coloured pencils, there’s always the Ikiresi Bookstore located just around the corner from the Dutch Embassy in Kacyiru.
Go to a Movie
When: Various Times (check their website for details)
Cost: Rwf 3,500 (2D), Rwf 4,500 (3D)
Phone: 0789 122 222
That Kigali has a true, popcorn-producing cinema at all continues to excite me. But even for those of you arriving fresh from cities with cinemas aplenty, seeing a movie at Century Cinemas in the KCT is a surprisingly pleasant and affordable experience, even with kids. Just be sure to confirm beforehand that your selected session is in fact showing in the right language at the time specified. Prices are Rwf 500 cheaper on weekdays.
* Optimise your parking space in the KTC and walk around the corner to T-2000 (Kigali’s Chinese Supermarket o’ Fun) to stock up on cheap & tacky toys for the next party.
Sports & Activities
Play Football with the Dream Team Academy
Phone: 0785 278 988
Join local and muzungu kids of all ages every Saturday morning (except Umuganda) at Kicukiro College of Technology to play soccer in the red dirt. Parents are welcome to help or hang out and chat.
* Head down the road to J. Lynn’s (previously ABC) for doughnuts and soda afterwards.
Voila! The list of Kigali swimming pools. If feeling unloved and facing the wrath of other pool-loungers is your thing, take the kids to the Serena and tell them to play Marco-Polo loudly. Otherwise choose a pool with higher child volume levels. Umubano or Cercle Sportif top this category. Mamba club also has a small pool well-suited for small people.
Paul Kagame loves his tennis as do the kids of Kigali. Go with the flow and check out this list of tennis courts. There are a number of good coaches around, and if you probe politely you’ll find out faster who is particularly good with kids.
Go Horseback Riding
If you can’t convince the kids to climb Mount Kigali, you might be able to lure them up there with the promise of a horse ride. Contact Fazenda Sengha beforehand to check they can take you or email the owner. They offer lessons and trail rides but make sure to organise things in advance. Take a picnic as there are some tables next to the horse ring that have a beautiful view and would make a nice spot for a bite.
Phone: 0782 208 824
Mamba Club in Kimihurura offers more than just its manually cleared bowling alleys (which can be terrifying as your child’s bowling ball hurtles towards some guy’s arm – don’t worry, they always get out of the way just in time). There’s also a small pool, some dodgy looking swings, and snacks for sale. I’m not sure from what age kids can bowl there, but probably younger than you expect. You can even host a birthday party here.
Go Out for Dinner
There’s actually a pretty good selection of relatively kid-friendly restaurants in Kigali (at least at lunch time) but these are our favourites:
Phone: 0788 678 798
New Cactus is very popular with francophones in Kigali. It has a great indoor/outdoor ambiance, whilst being simultaneously kid-friendly. It’s not unusual to see kids tearing around the lawn area during lunchtime. We recommend the beef brochette with chips (big enough to share) and pizza exotica. They’ll do smaller portions for kids.
Phone: 0789 184 448
With fast service and an impressive array of goodies on display at kiddy eye level, Rz Manna is a great stop for afternoon tea or an early lunch (get in before lunch time peak hour because it’s a popular place). Their juice, iced chocolate, and doughnuts are all great choices.
Phone: 0789 175 868
L’Epicurien is a relatively new arrival to Kigali but has grown into one of the nicer places for a meal. There’s a pleasant terrace for you while the kids head indoors to the kids’ room featuring Wii. Have your kids try the chicken nuggets and dame blanche for dessert.
J. Lynn’s (ABC)
Phone: 0788 408 308
With its kiddy-friendly garden setting, this is definitely the place to be on a Saturday morning, unless you don’t have kids. We recommend you try any of the doughnuts and the homemade lemonade.
We’re coming to the end of the list, and yes, it’s clear: pickin’s are a tad slim for the kids in Kigali. But, take a positive slant on the situation. Be brave and try something you’ve never done before. Or be less brave, like us, and try the following:
Adopt a Dog
If you’ve always been thinking about getting a dog, Kigali makes a great place. There are lots of puppies in need of a good home and WAG are the place to go to find them. WAG have been rescuing street dogs and getting them ready for adoption with vaccinations and some love. Email them to ask about adopting a well-prepped puppy today. Or if you’re not ready to give a dog a forever home, stop by for a visit to give the puppies some cuddles.
You non-campers know what you need to do. If you happen to be reading this before departing for Rwanda, I highly recommend bringing the basics with you. Practice in the backyard, then find some friends with the full camping kit and go exploring.
Host a Kids’ Sleepover Party
Now you have a tent, get the kids to use it. Roast marshmallows (from Sawa City), wave sparklers (from T2000) and toss around balloons (from Nakumatt). Make sure everyone gets picked up before lunch and relax.
Bambino Super City
Phone: 0788 458 989 / 0788 498 741
A fun park, you say? This place is located in Kabuga, about a 15 minute drive from Kigali. Apparently there are rides, a swimming pool, and, most importantly, a bar.