Things to do in Finland with kids
Meet huskies and reindeer
While a night staying silent in a hide looking out for bears isn’t going to appeal to fidgety kids, there are other ways to meet Finland’s animals. For winter visitors, the highlight is a husky safari, with four or five dogs pulling you along through the snowy landscape. Safaris can be kept short but sweet for young families (kids need to be 12 or older to join an overnight safari, learning mushing skills and helping feed and care for the dogs), and there’s usually time for cuddling these friendly dogs before and after. In summer, huskies pull specially adapted carts along tracks – also fun.
At Christmas, nothing beats a selfie with Donner and Blitzen, but meeting reindeers at one of the many farms in Lapland is a child friendly treat that’s available all year. These semi domesticated animals are happy to be fed and stroked and older children can try using a traditional lasso, too. Through the reindeer, children can gain an understanding of indigenous Sámi life in Lapland, too. The two are intertwined. In the Northern Sámi language, ‘eallu’ means ‘herd’, while ‘eallin’ means ‘life’.
Our Finland family Vacations
The most memorable feature of the vacation – for an average city-dwelling Brit – was the landscape. Forests and frozen lakes, big skies and 18 hours of daylight. Our girls were convinced they were in Narnia (the thaw suggesting Aslan would arrive soon).
Whatever the season, Finns enjoy life outside, and a family vacation is about fresh air and exploration outdoors. All weather gear is typically provided on winter vacations, so wrap the kids up and try cross country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. In summer, quiet lakes are perfect for paddling and canoeing, while older kids can hike through Finland’s national parks, looking out for birds, bear tracks and beavers.
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The sauna – rhymes with downer – is integral to Finnish culture. It’s a place of physical and mental cleansing, where you sweat, bathe, relax and socialise. Finns say that more important decisions get made in saunas than in meetings. In the past, women gave birth here because the bacteria resistant soot on the walls meant this was the cleanest place in the house. Today, Finns might do some yoga here or cook sausages on the stove.
No two saunas are the same. A lot depends on the löyly (literally “steam,” but meaning the whole atmosphere). Traditional smoke saunas, which produce the best löyly, take about five hours to heat up, filling the sauna with smoke that’s let out before anyone goes in. Nowadays, wood burning saunas with chimneys and fast, safe electric saunas are more common. Sauna etiquette dictates it’s important to shower first, then throw water on the stones to hike the temperature – up to 80°C or 100°C. Whack yourself with birch twigs to boost circulation and cool down with a dip in the lake or roll in the snow before heading back in.
Clear air undimmed by light pollution makes Finnish Lapland one of the best places on earth to see this otherworldly light display.
You can’t guarantee them and you can get really cold and tired waiting for them to flicker across the sky, so spotting the Northern Lights won’t work for every family. But a dose of luck and getting the practicalities right – viewing them from the warmth of an insulated Aurora Dome or on a thrilling nighttime husky safari – can make Aurora spotting unforgettably magical for adults and kids.
More about Finland family
School vacations and Finland go together well, with deep winter and August two of the best times to travel for a memorable family escape.
Finland is growing in popularity as a family vacation destination and we’re not surprised, with its unique regions offering different treats and activities for families of all ages, throughout the year.
Our Finland family map and highlights page takes a close look at the national parks, super chilled cities and remote winter destinations that are worth including in a family vacation – just click on the blue dots to find out more.
Finland’s high standard of living, relaxed and safe cities and quiet roads make it a welcoming and approachable destination for a family vacation, but any parent planning a trip here will still have questions.
Like hidden veg in a child friendly spaghetti Bolognese, the unique lessons and learning that come with a family vacation to Finland are tucked in stealthily amongst all the fun and exploration.
Our Finland family travel advice includes recommendations and insights from our specialist Finland vacation companies, plus tips from travelers who have already taken their kids there.