15 things to do with kids in Finland- Helsinki to Rovaniemi, Santa Claus to the Aurora Borealis, camping, amusement parks and more.
I just came home from the most incredible experience visiting Finland. I spent a week with some of my favorite fellow travel bloggers getting to know all about Finland and it’s benefits for family travelers.
My fellow travel bloggers and I spent a week in Finland, with our efforts concentrated in two parts of the country. We were in the capital and largest city, Helsinki, in southern Finland just off the Gulf of Finland near the Baltic Sea. Then we went to northern Finland- Lapland, Rovaniemi. I would highly recommend both places to visitors.
(Want to follow all our adventures on social? Just follow #TortugaTravelTribe)
I could seriously write an entire post about how awesome Finland is for families with kids, but for now I’ll just give you a bit of an overview on why I think Finland is a great place for parents to take their kids, and suggest to you some of the best activities I think you can do with kids.
Why Is Finland Great For Families?
In general, Finland is very family-friendly because Finns love kids, and believe that kids should be a part of everyday life and travel. This means, for example, that on public transport in Helsinki, if a parent arrives with a child in a stroller, they both ride for free.
Also- almost every public bathroom has a teeny potty for kids who are potty training. I saw countless play areas and spaces for all ages of kids to play outside.
And- high chairs, kids meals, strollers, cribs and more were abundant. Parents of young children- you won’t need to pack your gear for a Finland trip! Even Finnair has bassinet seats in Business class!
Finland is safe for kids to be independent. I saw countless kids from the age of 7 on walking, riding bikes, or using public transport on their own.
Finally, there are absolutely TONS of activities for kids to enjoy in Finland- and here are a few of my favorites.
Visiting Helsinki? Here’s our Helsinki with kids city guide!
#1- Visit a zoo!
Finns love nature, and they love zoos. There are over 60 zoos in Finland, and each one is made for families. I visited two zoos on my visit- the Helsinki Zoo and the Ranua Zoo in Rovaniemi. Both have restaurants, places to picnic, family ticket prices, and are open year-round.
#2- Visit an amusement park
Helsinki is home to Linnanmaki, one of Finland’s largest amusement parks. Two fun things about the amusement park- it’s super easy to arrive via public transport and admission is free.
About that free admission- you can go to the amusement park and then just buy tickets for the rides or experiences that you want to try. There were some super sweet roller coasters here, and a Ferris wheel with a sauna car (how quintessentially Finnish!).
Of course, if you know anything about Finland you probably know something about Moomins, the adorable Finnish version of Smurfs that adorn books, clothing, dishware and even toothpaste in Finland.
Finland is home to a huge Moominworld (think Finnish Disneyland) on a remote island in southwest Finland.
#3- Mush with the Huskies
Even though Husky dog sledding and running is not a traditional Finnish sport (its origins are in Alaska), the climate of northern Finland, also called Lapland, is the perfect place to experience the husky dog sled tradition.
You can mush in the summer and fall months on a big cart with wheels- which is great because it isn’t so terribly cold. And of course, for the full winter dog sledding experience, you can do that too. There are lots of places to do so in Finland, you can read about our experience here.
#4- Watch the Northern Lights
From September to March, the possibility of seeing the Aurora Borealis in northern Finland is pretty high- and it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced!
You’ll want to dress warm, have your camera gear, your northern lights tracking app, and a viewing location all scoped out. The darker the better! More information on viewing the Northern Lights here.
#5- Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site
If you love history and historic places, I love UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Finland is home to 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Everything from the Suomennlina Fortress near Helsinki to the wooden town of Old Rauma.
#6- Sleep in an igloo
Whether you visit for the Northern Lights or the eternal sun in the summer, sleeping in an igloo is a quintessentially Finnish experience.
The igloos are super warm, include lots of sleeping options and a sauna. The best part? You won’t have to get out of bed to enjoy the Northern Lights. (Sleep masks provided for those eternal sun months!)
#7- Visit a Museum
There are so many fun museums to visit in Finland, and the entrance fee is generally nominal or free. I love that there are often package rates for entrances to the museums. That means that two adults and two children will often pay a significantly lower rate. (Not so for larger families, unfortunately).
There is a museum for everything- toy museum, forestry museum, city museum, museums about the Arctic Circle and the Helsinki City Museum. I especially love the signage in Finland- everything is bilingual, trilingual or more. You will definitely have English signs in almost every Finnish museum you visit.
#8- Visit a Library
Finland has a great public library system, and libraries function as community centers as well as educational centers.
Expect to find amazing Finnish architecture filled will books, videos, and even board games for check out. Cafes and play spaces are also hallmarks of Finnish libraries, so if you love books and want a great cultural experience, definitely consider visiting a public library. It’s free, too!
#9- Eat Delicious Food
Finnish food is unique, healthy and delicious. Lots of root vegetables, fish, mushrooms, and berries.
You can munch on delicious homemade bread, delicious European butter, and drink Finnish coffee or try berry juices for breakfast.
An economical lunch is offered buffet-style in almost every restaurant, museum and tourist attraction. Salmon soup, roasted potatoes, berries, and even reindeer!
Dinnertime? Salmon filet with roasted potatoes, grass-fed beef filets and more. And don’t forget to try Finnish gin, Napue, or sone delicious Finnish beer and wine.
For your sweet tooth- of course, you’ll want to try Salamakki- salted Finnish black licorice. If that isn’t your thing, Fazer chocolate is a hit with everyone. Or some fun Moomin cookies!
Want to make your own Finnish food at home? Try our favorite Finnish sandwich cookie recipe here.
#10- Visit Santa Claus
Santa Claus’s official hometown is in Rovaniemi, Finland, and it is worth a trip for “kids” of all ages. You can meet the real Santa Claus, feed his reindeer, send a postcard to loved ones back home, and hang out with the elves.
Don’t forget to jump across the Arctic Circle line- preferably with your best friends. You can read more about our visit to Santa Claus’s Village here.
You aren’t a Finn until you’ve sauned. Many Finns have private saunas in their homes, and almost every hotel has a sauna for guest use.
Double-check with your hotel to see if they have rooms that offer private saunas. I had one in Rovaniemi and it was amazing.
For family sauna, know that it is normal for Finns to be naked in the sauna with their children, with both genders. If you aren’t comfortable with that, advocate for your needs with the specific sauna you want to visit, or skip this tradition.
#12- Visit a cathedral
Over 70% of Finland is Lutheran, and there are so many beautiful churches and cathedrals. From the iconic Helsinki Cathedral or the Upenski Cathedral in the capital city, to the Petäjävesi Church in central Finland (also a UNESCO site), you’ll love the Finnish architecture.
#13- Forage Your Own Food
Finland has an everyman’s right law, which means that anyone can forage for food on any land, public or private, in Finland.
You’ll definitely want to enjoy the Finnish tradition of foraging for your food (mushrooms, berries, and more!) before preparing your food on the grill!
Finns love to camp, and I think they invented glamping. Visitors to Finland can camp with relative ease- most camping sites have a place to cook.
Also, many Finnish camping areas will rent cottages, tents, sleeping bags and more. So definitely don’t let lack of gear stop you from exploring Finnish nature as the Finns do!
#15 Visit a National Park
Finland is home to some of the most pristine nature in the world, and you must experience it. Just 30 minutes outside of Helsinki is the Nuuksio National Park, where you can forage, camp, swim, hike, canoe and more.
Don’t forget to pin this for later!