Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo first journeyed to Oslo, Norway more than two decades ago and continues to return frequently, now with his kids. We’ve partnered with Eric to get his tips on kid-friendly activities in Norway’s capital.
Arriving the morning of New Year’s Eve, it was a winter wonderland, with two feet of newly fallen snow. That first day is a blur, with visits to Frogner Park, the Holmenkollen ski jump and the Royal Palace. We had dinner at her cousins’ house above the city, where neighbors had lit candles in their front yards, illuminating the snow and giving the effect of a full moon every 50 feet. At midnight everyone came outside and lit fireworks in front of their homes, adding color to the black and white scene. I fell in love that trip – not with the girl I went to visit, but with Oslo.
It was eight years until I would visit a second time, this time in summer. Backpacking around Norway with a friend, we stopped in Oslo. If winters encouraged people to stay in their homes, start fires and get cozy, summers did the opposite, pulling people into the city and into the parks with its warmer temperatures and barely-ending daylight. That’s the image that has stayed with me all these years – group after group of young people on the wide expanse of Frogner Park barbecuing, singing, playing Frisbee and appreciating the long days. The fountains and flowers only added to the scene. Norway in summer was truly perfect.
Fast forward another four years. With my Norwegian heritage, I was feeling a pull to learn a little of the language. I Googled “Norwegian language classes in Colorado.” There aren’t many Google queries that come up empty, but that one did – or at least there were no perfect options. But in my expanded search I came across an international summer program at the University of Oslo (UiO) – six weeks living in the University dorms, learning Norwegian, seeing a lot more of Oslo and southern Norway, and interacting with students from 90 other countries. I enrolled immediately, and then went back the next summer as well. Those 12 weeks in Oslo, now with some knowledge of Norwegian and a lot of local friends, only made me love the city more.
It’s impossible to pass that love onto my kids – they need to find their own destinations in the world where they feel at home and want to return to year after year. But I’m still giving it my best shot! These are the places I’ve taken the kids to make them fall for the city like I have.
Holmenkollen is a perfect place to start a visit. What kid wouldn’t want to go to the top of a ski jump? There’s a great view over the city, giving you a feel for just how green Oslo is, and a ski museum that’s interesting for how much ski technology has changed. Be sure to walk around the site and look for troll statues as well.
Ever since my first snow-covered visit, this has been my favorite spot in Oslo. In addition to the vast fields, numerous fountains and colorful flower gardens, there are over 200 statues by Gustav Vigeland, including his Monolith at the center with 121 interconnected figures, and the circle of life surrounding it — 36 carved groupings representing every stage of life. One of the cool things about Norway is that there aren’t many signs prohibiting you from doing things, so you’ll always see kids playing on the statues. I love that that’s allowed!
The Playground at Frogner Park
When you’re traveling with kids, playgrounds aren’t just playgrounds — they’re an oasis in large cities where tired legs can get quickly recharged for the rest of the day. Our favorite playground in Oslo is near the entrance to Frogner Park. It occupies our kids for at least an hour.
Sognsvann is a lake north of Oslo, easily accessible on the T-bane. The hiking around the lake is excellent, as is the swimming — if you don’t mind slightly chilled water! I’ve spent many afternoons at the lake, and love going back with my kids. Typical visits include Frisbee, barbecuing, rock hopping, and ice cream near the exit.
An opera house, kid-friendly? Yes! I’ve attended performances there, and I love the interior, but for kids it’s all about the outside. Seriously, take your kids to the opera house. Let them head up to the roof. Let them run down the ramps. Get ice cream. This is my kids’ single favorite place in the city.
Karl Johans Gate is the main pedestrian street through downtown, stretching from the Royal Palace to the Central Train Station. Although you can take the T-bane from Majorstuen (near Frogner Park) to the Train Station, it’s far more fun to get off at the National Theater and walk to the station and onward to the Opera House, enjoying cafes, museums, shops and street musicians along the way. Buy a Norwegian sweater or a troll statue. Get a coffee. Enjoy the weather.
Oslo has an abundance of museums that are legitimately interesting for kids. Our favorites are the Fram Museum, housing Norway’s original polar expedition ship with some cool interactive elements like sled pulls, and the Viking Ship Museum, because what’s cooler than real Viking ships? I always like doing a quick walk through the National Museum as well, since Edvard Munch’s The Scream is housed there (one of the versions anyway). Another favorite is the Norwegian Folk Museum, with an 800-year-old stave church, but go on the weekend when there’s freshly baked lefse.
A note: We usually purchase Oslo Passes, which give us access to all public transportation and entrance to most museums. The passes make it extremely easy to run around the city and try out various museums without feeling like we’re wasting money if our kids aren’t interested.
Eric Stoen is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads visit travelocitygnomads.com.
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