Before (or after) chasing the Big Five across the vast savanna and learning the traditional ways of the Maasai, most visitors to Kenya have at least a day in Nairobi to spend as they wish. Though the city has a reputation as a noisy, crowded, frenetic metropolis, it is possible to avoid that side of Nairobi if you pick your activities wisely. With that in mind, here are 10 ideas for fun, low-stress things to do in Nairobi.
When it comes to picnic sites, Nairobi is way too generous. With scenic parks galore you’ll be spoiled for choice. Why not try Ngong Hills, just outside the central business district for your inaugural picnic day? Bring a picnic basket and have an outdoor meal, toss a ball around, read a book, or just kick back and relax.
For those who prefer the life aquatic, Nairobi offers a range of pools open to the public. If you want to enjoy an unparalleled view while you swim, head over to the rooftop pool at Chester House (Koinange Street), located within the city business district. Drink in the city skyline while dog-paddling and indulging in tasty snacks (K500 entry fee).
3. Get in Touch with Nature
The Oloolua Forest Trail lets you get a dose of the natural world, without ever having to leave Nairobi. The facility offers not only the nature trail, but also a waterfall, natural caves, a viewing tower, and the Institute of Primate Research. Located in the suburb of Karen, just southwest of the central business district, it’s a great place for a relaxing for a half-day trip.
4. Take a heli-tour
There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of this great city than from above. You can get a bird’s eye view of Nairobi on a helicopter tour, provided by companies such as On The Go Tours. These flights give you a one-of-a-kind perspective of the city, far from the noise and chaos that can sometimes envelop it.
If you fancy a more philanthropic activity to enhance your vacation, Nairobi is home to numerous of volunteer projects that allow you to donate your time and touch a heart. From wildlife conservation projects, to helping at children’s homes, to teaching at underfunded schools, there are many ways to give back to the community and have a great time getting to know Nairobians a little better. Organizations such as i-to-i can hook you up with a short-term opportunity.
6. Eat Kenyan-style
Engage in Kenya’s unofficial weekend meal of traditionally grilled meat, known as nyama choma, and enjoy the entertainment often provided, such as live bands, football matches and more. Carnivore restaurant is the most famous spot to indulge, but your hotel concierge can guide to many other spots as well.
Nairobi features many open-air shopping centers within the central business district that sell beaded items, arts and crafts, jewelry, carved goods, wall hangings and much more. Most are only open on Saturdays and Tuesdays, but some, like the Maasai Market, are open almost every day (ask your hotel concierge for the ever-changing location). For a shopping experience with less crowds, you could check out the affluent Westlands neighborhood, a few minutes’ drive northwest of downtown, where there are enough different curio shops and boutiques to completely fill up your goodie bag before heading home!
To stay in shape AND enjoy a tour of one of Nairobi’s most scenic spots, go biking at the Karura forest biking trail, which is located a bit outside the central business district. This popular trail was valiantly fought for by the late Kenyan Nobel laureate Prof Wangari Maathai. Rent a bike and enjoy an afternoon in the great outdoors.
9. Make a new animal friend
From the AFEW Giraffe Center to the Nairobi Snake Park, to Nairobi National Park, there are plenty of places within the city for you to learn a little more about animals indigenous to our neck of the woods, and have a great time doing it.
10. Indulge your inner child
If you want to indulge in something fun that will get your blood pumping and make you feel like a kid again, Nairobi’s got it: paintball, bumper cars, amusement parks, mini golf — you name it.
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