Friday, June 15, 2018

Rīga with Kids!

Congratulations! You’ve booked your trip to Latvia this summer, scored the hard-to-get tickets to the historic LV100 Dziesmu un Deju Svētki, and survived the 10 hour flight with your kiddos (extra points for each connection!). Now what? Some days are filled with concerts, cultural events and other LV100 opportunities, however you know that the children will need some downtime – a little time to explore and be kids. After being asked a couple of times for favorite spots to go as a family, I’ve put together a list of things to do with children in and around Rīga.


The easiest way to squeeze in some time outdoors is at one of the nearby parks. Vērmanes dārzs is one of our favorites as it is centrally located, has a playground with plenty of shaded benches around, and offers trampolines/bounce houses/kids car rides (for a small fee). Buy some ice cream or freshly spun cotton candy and explore the gardens, or time your visit to coincide with one of the many festivals and tirdziņi that take place there every summer such as the Dziesmu svētku gadatirgus (July 1-8) or Rīgas svētki 2018 (August 17-19). Catch a concert on one of the stages and relax before heading further to Vecrīga.

Fellow blogger Brigita suggests the Centra sporta kvartāls park on Krišjāņa Barona iela for Rīga-themed and sports-based fun. You can read her post here – Rīga With Kids Tip.

The song festival wall in Viesturdārzs

Kronvalda parks takes you along the canal and past some cool statues and historical sites. If you’re in town for the song festival, you’ll want to visit the oldest park in Rīga, Viesturdārzs; also known as the song festival park, it has a reflecting pool with fountains and portrait wall dedicated to Dziesmu svētki. And adjacent to Brīvības piemineklis is Bastejkalns park, with memorials to those who died in 1991, the foundations of an old castle, a mini bridge with love locks, and scenic views of the canal. 


See Rīga from above! A neat way to get the lay of the land during the first days of your stay is by visiting one of the many places that offers a scenic view of the city. Svētā Petera baznīca provides one of our favorite views, although if you would like to enjoy the scenery while enjoying a drink in a retro bar, try Skyline Bar. The Radio tower is also an option, although a bit harder to get to from downtown Rīga.

The view from St. Peter's Church

Take a wooden boat tour of the Rīga canal! Combined with a short stretch of the Daugava River, the canal makes a big loop around Vecrīga - allowing for the distinctive opportunity to sightsee a city by boat.

Those who prefer to travel by land will want to walk the streets of Vecrīga. There is no better way to explore the cobblestoned streets and hidden courtyards of the old city than by foot! Sit down at an outdoor alus dārzs for ķiploku grauzdiņi for the kids, cross through the historic city gates, shop for everything from amber jewelry to folk music to children's literature, spot the cats adorning the infamous Kaķu nams, and admire the elegant beauty of the many churches while soaking in the history of the city that was born in 1201!

Spotted one of the cats!

Head to one of the many markets! Centrāltirgus is the biggest, and you can spend hours wandering through the giant zeppelin hangars. Buy some berries picked that morning while shopping for dinner, or just pick up a couple of souvenirs and ogle/smell the fish stalls.

Don't forget to eat! The LIDO chain is popular with many children and parents, simply because it lets them see the food they are ordering - which can be a relief for parents of fussy eaters or just those unfamiliar with Latvian cuisine. The LIDO Recreation Centre offers not just a meal, but a dining experience complete with live music and family recreation.

Educational opportunities

You’ll want to visit the magnificent National Library while you’re in Rīga, Gaismas pils. Older children might enjoy going on the free tour, while younger kids will love to spend some time in the children’s library. Make sure to take them to see the dainu skapis on the 5th floor that once stored the folk song collection of Krišjānis Barons.

Exploring the Art Nouveu District on a self-guided tour or with an official tour service might be a good choice for a group of varied ages. The younger children can have fun spotting all the animals & mythical creatures contained within the building facades, while older kids and adults can delve into the distinctive architectural unlike any in the world. 

Laima Chocolate Museum is a must for the chocolate lover.

The Rīga Zoo is just a tram ride away. It’s located adjacent to Mežaparks where you’ll find all sorts of other family-friendly activities such as a paintball center and a mini golf course.

Botāniskā dārzā

The Botanical Gardens of the University of Latvia can be a little harder to reach if you’re utilizing public transportation, but are worth the effort. Boasting an arboretum, palm house and butterfly house, the 40-acre gardens also have a rabbit enclosure that will delight smaller children. 

For a deeper look into the painful history of the Baltics, older children would benefit from a visit to the Okupācijas muzējs. Note, this museum is more appropriate for young adults than young children, and delves into very serious subject matter. However for those of us who grew up outside of Latvia, it offers insight into the tragic years that shaped our tēvuzeme

There are dozens of museums in Rīga, it’s just a matter of finding one to suit your interests. See if this post by Family With Kids helps: Things to Do and See with Kids in Riga, a Family Vacation in Latvia


In addition to all the ticketed events there will be many free, open to the public concerts and other events taking place across the city. One of our favorites is the Dziesmu svētku gājiens, where every song and dance festival participant parades down Brīvības ielas on the final day of the festival. 

Check out the Live Rīga website for events taking place across the city in honor of LV100 and the song festival.

Day Trips

Cross Lielupe to reach Jūrmala, 20 miles of beach on the Baltic Sea. Each municipality has its own distinct vibe, so with a little research you’ll quickly find the area that best suits your needs. Or, if you don’t want to go all the way to Jūrmala, stop at Līvu akvaparks for waterpark fun.

If you’re looking to head to the beach but want something a little quieter than Jūrmala, try heading east, to Saulkrasti. Need a little extra convincing? Take a look at these photos...

Ķemeru nacionālais parks is the closest National Park to the capital, and has miles of trails and boarwalks that explore the unique ecosystems within.

The bogs of Ķemeri National Park

And about an hour east of Rīga (by car) you’ll find Sigulda (and neighboring Krimulda), with Gūtmaņala and the ancient castle of Turaida, all popular tourist destinations.

I hope you enjoy your time in Rīga, and urge you to make the absolute most of your time there! Dziesmu svētki in Latvia are a unique chance to see the country all dressed up for the festivities, and to sample the many cultural, natural, historical and culinary experiences it has to offer. I would love to hear what your favorite places were to visit as a family, and please let me know what I’ve missed. Safe travels!!!

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