Monday, August 8, 2011

Traveling with kids in Sweden: 12 things to do in & around Skellefteå

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On my recent trip to Sweden with the kids, we stayed with my parents outside Skellefteå in northern Sweden. This is the town where I grew up, and where I still have lots of family and good friends.

Skellefteå is located on the Swedish east coast, approximately 800 km north of Stockholm. From Stockholm, you can get there by plane (a one hour flight), train (an overnight trip), or by car (the drive is quite scenic in parts, and takes about 8-10 hours or more depending on how fast you want to travel).

I've written previously about things to do if you're visiting northern Sweden with kids, but after our visit I feel like pushing specifically for my old hometown, so here's a list of things to do and places to visit in and around Skellefteå:

1. Make a splash at Vitbergsbadet
This is a an outdoor wave-pool located just outside central Skellefteå. There's also a baby pool and water slides. The facilities are good: change rooms, washrooms, ice cream vendor, and a fast food restaurant. You can also borrow or rent flotation devices for your kids too.

My kids had a blast here, and loved playing in the big waves in the pool. The waves might be challenging for kids under 4, and you do want to keep an eye on your kids when you're here: it can get pretty frantic in the water with lots of waves and lots of kids.

Goofing around on stage at Nordanå.

2. Hang out at Nordanå
This area surrounding an old school building is a beautiful place for a stroll, feeding the ducks in the pond, visiting the museum or restaurant, or hanging out at the old-school store in one of the small wooden buildings. In the summer there's also an outdoor theatre here that puts on kids' shows, like The Wind in the Willows. There's also a brand new, fantastic playground here with all sorts of nifty climbing equipment, slides, swings and more. 

3. Pet the animals at 4H
This small farm house has a lot of animals for kids to get up close and personal with: goats, rabbits, pigs, sheep, horses... It's located in Moröbacke, an area just outside the center of town.

4. Go for a swim at Falkträsket
This lake is a popular bathing spot for locals in summer. It's close to town and there's a large, grassy area to relax while the kids splash or play on the dock. There are not a lot of facilities, though there are washrooms, change rooms, and a small kiosk where you can buy drinks, snacks and ice cream.

5. Head to Byske Havsbad
Another great place for family-friendly swimming and bathing is Byske Havsbad, located in a small community 30 km north of Skellefteå. Apart from a good beach, there's camping, and a lot of family-fun activities.

6. Have some fun at Lilleputtlandet
This activity & adventure park for kids is located close to the wave pool and Skellefteå's campsite. There's all sorts of stuff going on here: BMX bike track, a Lego barn, a western town, a wonderland forest with fairy-tale creatures, a small petting zoo and more.

7. Go crazy at Leos lekland, aka Leo's Playland
My kids love, love, love this place. How could they not? It has gigantic slides, trampolines, bouncy castles, ball rooms, massive jungle themed play and climbing areas, bikes to zoom around on and more. It's perfect for rainy days in summer or really cold days in winter (when it gets down to minus 30 celsius for example!).

Tons of fun for kids, somewhat frantic for adults... There's a restaurant, a separate play area for babies and toddlers, and it's a great place to wear your kids out. 

8. Go for a walk "around the bridges"
Broarna runt ("around the bridges") is a popular 5 km walk in central Skellefteå that goes along the rive and across the old wooden bridge Lejonströmsbron, then along the other side of the river and across another bridge in town called Parkbron. It's a great, easy-to-walk, scenic route that's easy to do with kids or a stroller. For a treat, stop in at the coffee shop called Stigs konditori for a pastry, ice cream or sandwich.

9. Get cheesy at Ostens hus, aka The House of Cheese
This part of Sweden is home to the very sharp and tasty Västerbottens cheese which was originally "invented" in Burträsk just outside Skellefteå. In Burträsk you can visit Ostens hus where you can see how the cheese is made, learn a lot about cheese-making and northern Swedish history, and also let your kids play in the play area. There's a gift shop and a small restaurant as well.

Whether your kids will like this cheese or not is hard to say. My Canadian husband and I both absolutely love it, and my son does too, while my daughter shuns it. Diff'rent strokes and all that.

10. Have a nice meal at Burträsk Värdshus
If you're in Burträsk for Ostens Hus, I also highly recommend a visit to the restaurant/hotel Burträsk Värdshus. It's located in a beautiful old building, and they serve a lot of wonderful food made from local ingredients. I tried the moose burgers (!) when we visited this summer and they were fantastic. They also make great pizzas and have a nice kids' menu.

11. Eat very Swedish burgers at Max
Max is a chain of fast food chain that originated in Sweden and that has competed very successfully against all American challengers: for example, in Skellefteå

The food isn't haute cuisine, but it's good, fast and kind of a fun place to eat with the kids when you want a quick, simple meal. 

12. Take a break at cafe Lilla Mari
Lilla Mari is a small coffee shop located in an old wooden house in central Skellefteå. They serve simple meals for lunch, and also have delicious cookies, pies, pastries and cakes. Very yummy, very Swedish, and kid friendly. In the summer there's lots of outdoor seating in the courtyard too. It's a nice, relaxing place for a cup of coffee and a treat.

If you're traveling to Skellefteå and are looking for more information about accommodation and places to go, Destination Skellefteå is a good website.

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