Head here when you run out of ideas. It’s nearly impossible for your child to be bored at this hill-station.
Shimla is perfect for trekking juniors. Start slow with a meadow walk at Annadale, a short distance from town. One of Shimla’s most beautiful walks is at the Glen, a dense, wooded ravine with a rambling brook. A short and enjoyable beginners’ trek is at Prospect Hill, while Summer Hill and Potter’s Hill are suited for those with some amount of experience. Your hotel will guide you towards tours, treks and adventure rides nearest to you.
Shimla offers some great escapes for amateur campers. Camp Potter’s Hill has tree- houses and tents in the middle of the forest. Park Woods Shogi, located in the heart of the Shimla hills, offers jungle treks, in addition to pottery and bird-watching. The Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) will help you with guides, camps, equipment and hospitality services for treks around Shimla.
The Kufri Ski Resort and the Narkanda Ski Resort have excellent slopes and pull in skiing enthusiasts from across the world. If skiing is not your thing, opt for tobogganing or sledging—easier to learn and oodles of fun. HPTDC will give you skis, lessons and even organise transport for you. Between November and March, children can also skate on ice at the open-air Shimla Ice Skating Rink.
The Sutlej river offers ample opportunities for river rafting, and you can enjoy an amazing two-hour experience that will take you over a 12-km stretch of rapids. You are likely to encounter grade I to grade III rapids, sufficient for adventure and bragging rights. Do note though that you cannot enter the waters during the monsoon or in winter.
For some urbanised fun, head over to the Hip Hip Hurray Amusement Park. It’s an old- school park that caters strictly to kids (adults may have their patience tested at carousels and go-cart rides). Children can easily spend half-a-day here, hitching pony rides, trying indoor golf, bridge-crossing exercises, commando nets, rock climbing, etc.
You can drive all the way to Shimla, but for the classic hill-station experience, we recommend the toy-train from Kalka. The Shivalik Deluxe Express, as it is called, covers the 96-km route from Kalka to Shimla in a little over four hours. Kids will love the cosy cabins, which come with wide glass windows and reversible chairs. Book the tourist coach, which gets you your own cabin with a folding bed, a refrigerator, and other conveniences.
Shimla district has a number of bird and animal sanctuaries. The Himalayan Nature Park in Kufri is spread across 222 acres and is home to 180 species of rare and endangered birds. It’s open to visitors at an incredibly nominal cost and if you’re lucky, you can even spot musk deer, barking deer, sambar, yak, snow leopards, bears, and Tibetan wolves.
Shimla is a great place to talk your children through the country’s past without boring them. The Viceregal Lodge offers an excellent history lesson, though you cannot blame your children if the building reminds them of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Magic. The State Museum houses an impressive collection of weapons, coins, jewellery and paintings. Christ Church, the second oldest church in North India, is also quietly fascinating.
Writer Rudyard Kipling’s Shimla connect runs deep. His books borrowed heavily from the people and places in the town. Some of the locales mentioned are still around. Mrs Hauksbee, a recurring character from his stories, lived at the Longwood Hotel; Combermere Bridge is mentioned in The Phantom Rickshaw, while Mashobra Road plays a part in The Man Who Would Be King. Annadale, Sanjauli Reservoir, Observatory Hill all evoke the best of Kipling.
The Himalayan Bird Park is a great place to visit in winter. Against a dreamy white landscape, you have a chance to spot some unique birds including pheasants, peacocks and the Himalayan monal (the state bird of Himachal Pradesh). The Shimla Water Catchment Sanctuary is another place for birders. The forest is home to deer, flying squirrels, porcupines and even leopards, and it is best if you hire a naturalist to guide you through.