IN A NUTSHELL
- Cool breezes
- Mostly Shady
- Beautiful location
- Lots of bugs, including mosquitos, so wear long pants and/or bug spray
- 4 Picnic Tables
- Parking Lot
- Water fountain
- Basket ball court
- Volley ball court
- Short but beautiful “trails” behind Queen Emma’s Summer Home
Be Sure to Check Out:
There is a rope swing down the trail located behind the basketball court and Queen Emma’s Summer Home. It is as much fun for the parents as it is for the kids, but the mosquitos tend to gather in this area and fruit falls from the trees overhead so proceed with caution.
Nu’uanu Valley Park is a beautiful and breezy park located just off the Pali Highway on Pu’iwa Road right behind Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, and in front of the Daijingu Temple.
Initially what brought to this park was Honolulu Family Magazine, which rated it as the runner-up for best playground on Oahu. Upon my first visit these accolades took me by surprise as the playground itself is not spectacular – in fact, it is actually missing some of its parts. Although the park does have four functioning swings (a rarity in Honolulu) I soon realized one does not necessarily come here for the playground, but rather its atmosphere.
It is easy to see why this was where Queen Emma liked to spend her summers. The breeze through the giant trees and the rustling of the leaves takes one back to an idyllic childhood spent outdoors and instantly relaxes. The mountains rising up on either side of the Pali are a stunning backdrop and quite peaceful.
There are also a multitude of things to do in this park besides the playground. The slightly inclined paved pathways were perfect for my toddler who is learning to ride her tricycle but sometimes needs that extra momentum of a downhill slope to get the pedals started. And for some reason, she loves to play with her ball at the basketball court here more than any other basketball court we have gone to, perhaps because the fact that it is a lower level than the playground makes it something special for her.
If you continue on past the basketball court and the bathrooms, there is a very brief but delightful little path that covers the area behind Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, but be sure to hold little one’s hands as parts of the trail are steep and crisscrossed with roots. At the bottom is a rope swing that might be the number one thing that draws me to this park. I feel like I am swinging on a vine through the jungle – never mind what the keiki think of it. Not to mention the impressive flora surrounding the area, fruits falling from trees, bright flowers like birds of paradise, enormous trees with roots high enough for a child to hide behind.
There is a large clearing that you can imagine being Queen Emma’s “backyard.” If you climb up the hill towards her home, there is a very small stream running through the park, which fascinated my daughter who is used to the beach. A freshwater stream was something entirely new to watch. Since at this point we were so close to the summer home, we decided to go ahead and check it out.
QUEEN EMMA’S SUMMER PALACEQueen Emma’s Summer Palace 2913 Pali Highway Honolulu, HI 96817 (808)595-3167
As soon as we approached the front of the home I instantly noticed the pervasive smell of honeysuckles, which added to the overall serenity of the location. Entry to the home is $4 for kama’aina (locals) and free for keiki. It does not take ten whole minutes to walk through the entire house, although it is quite interesting to imagine how people lived hundreds of years ago, and how the home is still incredibly nice in spite of its age. I could just picture them opening the doors and window to let the breeze in, while living in the lap of luxury with their beautiful four poster beds, hand-made quilts and piano.
The story of Queen Emma’s Summer Palace is actually somewhat tragic. She was the wife of King Kamehameha the 4th and this was their summer retreat. When she had their son, Prince Albert, they frequented the home even more as she loved to bring him up there to play. Prince Alberts presence in the home is quite evident by the beautiful rocking bassinet in one bedroom, and the canopied crib with a teddy bear in the next. My daughter even quickly pointed out his “Juice Cup” which was actually called something like “The Prince Royal Silver Cup” or something of the sort. Additionally they show a little jacket and other pieces of clothing that his mother made as she loved to sew outfits for him.
Sadly though, he got appendicitis as the age of four, something that could be taken care of today but back then was fatal. After he died, Queen Emma fell into a dark period of her life where she spent years alone at the Summer Home in mourning. The site is located near the Royal Mausoleum, where members of the Kamehameha dynasty were buried, and the guide told me this offered Queen Emma some solace to be near to her son’s resting place.
Although Queen Emma’s Summer House was very interesting for me, it is not the very best place to take a toddler. The reason being is that all the furniture is set out the same way it would be in a normal house, only you are not allowed to touch it. This was not an easy concept for my two-year-old, who wanted to rock the baby’s 200 year old bassinet and sit in the rocking chair and see Mama go “night-night” in the “Mama bed.” This one is best left for older children, or infants you can keep in the baby carrier.
In addition to the various opportunities for fun available at the park, there are plenty of picnic tables in the shade for a lunch or a snack. After all that activity it might have been the first time my daughter remained seated through out her entire lunch. We did however catch a bug flying into her pasta, and there were many bugs everywhere, but the bugs at the picnic tables we not nearly as obnoxious as the mosquitos down the trail so all in all it wasn’t a bad picnic at all.
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