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Known as the Garden City, Christchurch is a place of colour, atmosphere and world-class attractions. After the devastating earthquakes of 2010/11, it has also acquired a second reputation for resilience in the face of adversity. As many of Christchurch's leading attractions are situated outside the stricken CBD, the effect on visitors is minimal. In fact, the city's drive to rebuild itself has led to an exciting transitional period, with new shops and centres popping up regularly, so there's always something fresh to see and do.
The unique International Antarctic Centre is open for business and has twice been acclaimed New Zealand's best visitor attraction. The Christchurch Art Gallery, currently closed for repairs after the earthquakes, is a testament to the creative and cultural foundations upon which the city rests. All of this is set against the backdrop of Hagley Park, more than 150 hectares (395 acres) of beautiful inner-city parkland.
It is a relaxed lifestyle - the shopping is excellent and restaurants provide a multi-ethnic culinary mix topped off with a uniquely New Zealand flavour. From great-tasting food to festivals, Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury region provide a number of unique events and festivals - the Festival of Flowers, the International Buskers Festival, Showtime Canterbury and the Winter Carnival to name a few.
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and the Ko Tane Maori Village
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and the Ko Tane Maori Village offer the complete package to experience a cultural slice of New Zealand. Set in peaceful surrounds, the reserve combines native and other wildlife with Maori culture. There are more than 100 animal and bird species here - including tuatara, otters, gibbons, wallabies and farmyard animals - that can be viewed while taking a pleasant stroll in a tranquil setting.
You can purchase food for hand feeding many of the animals and taking part in the Lemur Encounter is enthralling, but it's viewing North Island brown kiwi in a realistic habitat that, perhaps, provides the biggest thrill. Willowbank is the only place with the 'Big 5' - the cheeky kea, the very rare takahe, New Zealand's bush parrot, the ancient tuatara and, of course, the kiwi. This is a unique experience with guaranteed kiwi viewing, no glass to hinder your view and kiwi that are often only a few feet away.
The Ko Tane Maori Experience is the South Island's only Maori cultural performance and hangi meal. There is a replica pre-European village set amid native bush where you will experience a powerful challenge by a fearsome warrior, a powhiri of welcome and the chance to learn the haka and poi while being entertained by the Maori cultural group. A four-course dinner with traditional hangi mains completes an evening that you are sure to remember.
Air Force Museum of New Zealand
Forget any ideas about this museum simply being a 'boys and their toys' attraction. This impressive place will fascinate all visitors with its remarkable collection of memorabilia and a captivating history. What's more, entry is free.
Interactive displays and collections dating from before World War I are also on offer, while stories from the past often provide a human-interest angle. Wander around the beautifully presented 1940s Wartime Family Home, or show your skills as a fighter pilot on the Mosquito Flight Simulator - although be warned, this can be addictive.
While you can explore the museum independently, taking one of the guided tours greatly enhances the experience. Aircraft fanatics especially will be in their element during the Restoration and Reserve Collection Tour, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the museum.
Christchurch's horse racing scene includes gallops races held regularly at Riccarton Park racecourse and harness races at Addington Raceway. Addington has a new string to its bow - the Spectators bar and bistro is the first eatery to open seven days a week rather than just on race days.
For the real horse-racing enthusiast, the ideal time to visit Christchurch is in November for the New Zealand Cup and Show Week.
Christchurch: Known as the Garden City, Christchurch is a place of colour, atmosphere and world-class attractions. After the devastating earthquakes of 2010/11, it has also acquired a second reputation for resilience in the face of adversity. As many of Christchurch's leading attractions are situated outside the stricken CBD, the effect on visitors is minimal. In fact,... Read MoreFull Info Photos