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Going to my parent’s home in Shimla every summer has been a must for me and my 4-year-old son. Apart from escaping the oppressive Mumbai heat, I get a chance to show my son all the amazing things Shimla has to offer, apart from the beautiful weather.
From picnics to pastries, here is an insider’s guide to the top 10 things to do with your child in Shimla.
1. The Viceregal Lodge
This erstwhile residence of the British Viceroys resembles a Scottish Baronial Castle. Now it houses the Institute of Advanced Studies. With its lush gardens it makes for an enjoyable stroll. My son loves to run around, chase butterflies and collect Lady bugs here. You can round off the visit by glugging down some fresh apple juice that's available at the HPMC juice bar situated on one corner of the property.
2. Horse Rides on the Ridge
A horse ride on the ridge is the highlight of the day for my son. We try and incorporate one every day. Besides the architecturally beautiful buildings such as the Christ Church and the Children's Library the ridge offers an almost carnival like atmosphere.
With the many candy floss, popcorn, candy and juice sellers one is truly spoilt for choice. Soak in the panoramic mountain views or proceed to the local photographers who will click a picture of your child dressed in traditional gear to be kept as a cute souvenir.
3. Trishool for pastries
Trishool, Simla. Picture Courtesy: Deepak Sud
A pit stop at the oldest bakery on the Mall is essential for all confectionary loving kids. Watch them dig into those old style delectable 'Eclairs' and 'Pineapple Pastries' with an absolute look of glee!
4. Pack a picnic and head to Mashobra
Growing up, weekends in the summer meant Picnics! With nearby places such as Mashobra and the golf course at Naldehra, Simla offers an abundance of alluring picnic spots.
Drive through the picturesque forests to Mashobra. Put out your mat and picnic hamper in one of the many glades, and sit back whilst the kids get busy picking wild daisies and strawberries from the mountainside. You can also head to Craignano which is about 3 Kms from Mashobra. A meandering path leads up to this beautiful spot amidst groves of trees and windflowers- ideal for picnics. Stop by at 'Shivalik's' orchard at Mashobra - Mrs. Jain's home run store which sells freshly bottled jams and pickles. Our all-time favourite is the refreshing plum juice!
5. Tee off at Naldehra
Naldehra, Simla. Picture Courtesy: Deepak Sud.
Set amongst a thick mane of Himalayan cedars, Naldehra is one of the oldest and most scenic golf courses in the country. With wide views of the Himalayas and surrounded by thick woods, the course has a quaint ancient temple - built in the traditional style- perched by a green. Let your little ones practice their budding golf skills by hitting out a couple of balls. Alternatively take them for horse rides through the pine tree lined trails. Naldehra also works as an enjoyable camping site.
6. High tea at The Cecil
If you want to experience a taste of the old Colonial elegance that this British Summer Capital was famous for, splurge on a high tea at the Oberoi Cecil Hotel. Sink into the rich upholstered sofas in their impressive atrium lounge. Dig into scrumptious scones and finger sandwiches while listening to gentle notes of a classical piano.
7. Hike through the forests of Glen
There is no doubt that Shimla is a walker's paradise. Take a walk deep into the Glen valley from Cecil to Annandale. The lane has been carved through forests of cedars, oaks, blooming rhododendrons and whispering pines. With plenty of picnic spots and a gurgling brook that flows down a ravine, the walk transports you to a magical place. Play a game of 'who collects the most pine cones' as you make your way down to Annandale.
8. Yak rides & The Himalayan Nature Park at Kufri
See your child's eyes widen with wonder and excitement at the sight of a Yak at Kufri - one of the many ' drive to' places from Simla. Sit the kids atop a Yak and meander through the many walking trails.
Head to the Himalayan Nature Park set amidst ninety hectares of temperate vegetation. The big animal enclosures allow the wild animals to be near their natural habitat. Catch sight of the many animals of the Western Himalayas such as the snow leopard, musk deer, black bear and the monal.
9. Ride aboard the Simla Kalka toy train
For optimal Himalayan views chug back in time on the narrow gauge Kalka Simla Railway, one of the three Indian lines on the Unesco World Heritage list.
Built by the British and an engineering marvel of the time you will come across many impressive bridges and stations reminiscent of a bygone era.
A short one hour picturesque ride between Simla and Shoghi is enough to fulfil your child's desire to be aboard a 'choo chop' train!
10. Take a stroll on the pedestrian haven - The Mall
The Mall stretches from one end of Simla to the other. Thinking of tiring out that sprightly child? Head to the Mall and let him loiter, run and walk about without you having to agonise about traffic- vehicles are not allowed here!
Dotted with interesting shops, cafés and restaurants the Mall makes for a bustling pedestrian market place and cultural hub.
Treat yourself and your child to a 'yummy' vanilla or strawberry softy available at the Embassy restaurant at the one end of the Mall
So plan an escape from the hot concrete jungle and head to the hills of Shimla this year!
This article was written by Nadia Sud
She is a mum of a 4-year-old boy, yoga enthusiast, antique shawl restorer and an avid traveller.