Animal lovers who are short on time may have to choose between Orana Park and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Both are closer to the airport than to central city, so either could make a good last-minute stop. Personally I'm a big-cat fan, so I'd opt for Orana, where things African are to the fore. But if you want a guaranteed sighting of a kiwi before you leave New Zealand, go to Willowbank. Orana Park Kids There's something quite magical about getting up close and personal with Harold the Rothschild giraffe and his four lanky pen mates. You can feed them and fondle their ears and they won't mind a bit, but don't try that with the park's lions, tigers, and cheetahs. Set in 80 attractively laid-out hectares (198 acres), the park is New Zealand's largest wildlife reserve. You'll see few fences and cages here—the emphasis is on a natural environment, which seems to agree with the cheetahs, the only successfully breeding ones in Australasia (seven new cubs in the past 12 years). At 3:55pm daily, you can see them make a dash for their raw-meat supper, which is attached to a fast-moving lure. The main lion feeding time is 2:30pm daily. This is the only place in Christchurch to see a tuatara, and there's a nocturnal kiwi house as well, but the one at Willowbank is bigger and better. If you're in a hurry, take the park's 40-minute free shuttle circuit. 743 McLeans Island Rd. & 03/359-7109. Fax 03/359-4330.www.oranawildlifepark.co.nz.Admission NZ$14 (US$7.70) adults, NZ$6 (US$3.30) children 5-14, NZ$35 (US$19) per family. Group rates available. MC, V. Daily 10am-5pm. Closed Dec 25. The park is a 25-min. drive from central city and is well signposted from the airport. Free parking.
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve && Kids Willowbank is billed as New Zealand's premier wildlife park, showcasing one of the most complete selections of native and nonindigenous wildlife in their natural environments. It has the country's largest collection of kiwis, and you won't find any glass between you and the feathers. It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dimly lit nocturnal house, but if you're patient and quiet, you will see a kiwi. This is guaranteed if you take a guided tour at 11:30am or 2:30pm. Night tours of the New Zealand Kiwi Experience are at 7:30, 8:30, and 9:30pm. A new feature is the Ko Tane Cultural Performance at 5:30 and 6:30pm.
60 Hussey Rd. & 03/359-6226. Fax 03/359-6212. www.willowbank.co.nz. Admission NZ$16 (US$8.80) adults, NZ$8 (US$4.40) children. Ko Tane NZ$14 (US$7.70) adult, NZ$10 (US$5.50) children. Group discounts available. AE, DC, MC,V. Daily 9:30am-10pm.Take Harewood Rd. and turn right to Gardiners Rd.; turn right again to Hussey Rd. It's a 15-min. drive from the city. The Best Attractions bus also calls here.
Science Alive $ Kids This is a thinking person's outing, and it may be the quietest your children ever get on your entire holiday. Adults seem to have as much fun as the kids as they come to grips with tsunami makers, tightropes, and a host of interactive exhibits. Stop by the excellent gift shop and eat your fill afterward at Galileo's Cafe, or take in a movie on one of the eight screens across the foyer.
392 Moorehouse Ave. & 03/365-5199. Fax 03/365-5189. www.sciencealive.co.nz. Admission NZ$10 (US$5.50) adults, NZ$7 (US$3.85) students; NZ$5 (US$2.75) children 2-5, NZ$25 (US$14) for 4 people. Group discounts available. Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat-Sun and holidays 10am-6pm. Located within the Hoyts 8 complex. The free yellow electric shuttle stops here every 10 min. Free parking at rear of complex.
Air Force World $ If you've got a hankering to indulge your passion for flight, this past winner of Best New Zealand Attraction is your place. Two hours will give you a good overview of flight simulators, the history hall, the restoration
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