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The Ten Best Places to Visit on Wellington Open Day

All for a gold coin or two.

By Kylie Klein-Nixon
May 13, 2014
By Kylie Klein-Nixon
May 13, 2014

Once a year the Capital's hot spots of culture, entertainment and the arts throw open their doors for charity. Open Day is also about encouraging visitors and locals alike to get to know the Capital better - many of the museums and venues that are open for just a gold coin donation.

So for those wanting to see the sights of the Capital for just an easy dollar or two, here are our top picks for things to do this Wellington Open Day.

1. Tour Old St Paul's

Nothing about the exterior of this dowdy little church on Mulgrave St street can prepare you for the magical spun toffee ribs and treacle coloured walls of Old St Paul's interior. Made entirely from native timbers, Old St Paul's is a national treasure, community hub and thing of pure beauty.  Take a tour of the only wedding venue in Wellington that can out-do the bride's dress.

2. Classic Cocktail mixing at The Library

The Champagne Cocktail is the little black dress of boozing.  Everyone should have the talent to mix one on hand (in case of entertainment emergencies). Library's mixologists offer you the opportunity to learn the craft of mixing bubbles with a little va-va-voom in the sumptuous, intellectually stimulating surrounds of one of the city's most popular bars. They might even let you polish off your mistakes.

3. Visit Wellington Zoo

Two words: Red Pandas. Those cute little denizens of the forest are the current number one star attraction at Wellington Zoo. They're curious, cuddliable (yes, it's a word) and they will even eat right out of your hand.  Getting up close and personal with little red is possible for an additional cost. But on Open Day the pandas, lions, tigers, bears and meerkats will all be mooching about in their environments for the price of a gold coin. And speaking of gold, make sure not to miss my personal favourites, the Golden Lion Tamarins, or "Bright Orange Thumb Monkeys" as they are also called (by me).

4. Bank of New Zealand Museum

I'm as surprised as anyone to discover the BNZ has its own museum. Delightedly so, for between the exhibits on the history of banking in our country is an extensive collection of Kiwi art. Works in the BNZ collection include pieces by New Zealand legends Colin McCahon, Robin White, Bill Hammond, Hariata Ropata Tangahoe, and Billy Apple to name just a few. A Wellington museum not to be missed.

5. Backstage Tour at Circa Theatre

Go backstage at Wellington's leading venue for the theatrical arts.  Circa is a Wellington institution, as well as crimson landmark on the waterfront. Getting to see the inner workings of this wonderful resource is a real privilege for theatre lovers, history fans and the just plain curious.

6. The Holocaust Centre Museum

Based at the Webb Street Jewish Community Centre, the Holocaust Centre keeps a record of a terrible period in history with a particularly New Zealand focus. The centre is perhaps the most challenging place to visit on Open Day, but is nonetheless a necessary reminder how many in this small-but-vital community came to Wellington, and the contributions they've made to our city's culture since.

7. Te Papa

If there's one thing Wellington is missing it's thrill rides.  There's not a single roller coaster in the country south of the Bombay Hills (tilt-a-whirl carnival rides don't count) and that's just not good enough. Thankfully Te Papa has come to the rescue (or ruin?) of the Capital's thrill seekers with virtual thrill rides care of the Our Space motion simulator. Te Papa's little box of excitement will take you to the highest high and the depths of the ocean, all for $1 or $2 on Open Day. Awesome.

8. New Zealand Portrait Gallery

Good faces always have an allure, we just love to look at each other. At this gallery you can get your stare on without causing anyone to wipe their noses repeatedly or punch you on yours.  Catch the final day of the number one portraiture prize competition in the country, hosted by the New Zealand Portrait Gallery. More than 61 new images of Kiwi personalities are on the galleries walls until May 25.  They're contributions to the Adam Portraiture Award, highlighting work by some of the country's best established and emerging portraitists. You get to vote for one to receive the people's choice award.

9. Staglands

The thing about nature is that there's an awful lot of it, and most of it wants to kill you. Don't get me wrong, I love green things as much as the next guy (as long as the next guy isn't my 10-year-old nephew, who despises green things with a passion). But it's awfully dirty and overwhelming if you're a city dweller like me. Thank goodness for Staglands then, where you can get a dose of dirt without having to actually get dirty.  Fabulous farm yard critters and marvelous wild beasties get up close and personal in the rural, rustic setting of Staglands.

10. Walk Wellington

Wellington is a walking town.  Most Wellingtonians wouldn't think twice about a stroll from Central to Newtown or a quick dawdle up to the Botanical Gardens or around Oriental Bay.  But how often, as we toddle about on our shank's ponies, do we wonder about the history of the city we're blithely trotting past?  Walk Wellington offers insights on the capital as you stroll it's footpaths that you'd probably never know if their experienced guides hadn't told you.  The history, culture, people and events of the city by the sea at the tips of your toes.

Published on May 13, 2014 by Kylie Klein-Nixon
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