We have a friend who comes to visit us every six months or so for a long weekend. Trying to be good hosts, we like to show him around a bit; the local sights, a bit of Finnish culture.
As he's been here so often we've done most of the obvious Helsinki activities: Suomenlinna, Seurasaari, the city centre, most of the museums and kid-friendly places. We've even gone beyond Helsinki into Nuuksio Forest and to Hämeenlinna. I'm always on the look-out for new ideas, out-of-the-box things to do. For the past couple of weeks I have been trying to organise activities for the last weekend in October, his next visit.
We're a bit picky, I admit, because we are 7 people between 4 years and middle-age. We have varying interests, physical needs and dietary preferences, so finding things that suit us all is a hard enough challenge. It doesn't help that we're not particularly sporty with some health issues to consider.
Everything I've researched or that people have suggested outside of Helsinki have been closed or stopped by the end of September: restaurants, museums, activities, tourist attractions.
It's too early for the snowy winter activities and I'm sure even those are limited if you're not into skiing and sledging. It's wet and cold, slushy and sleety in late autumn/early winter (I'm not sure when winter starts), not ideal for walking around outside.
You can't find a restaurant open in Fiskars that serves more than soup and pullaa, Hvitträsk Museum is closed, Raasepori Castle is closed, the steam boat to Porvoo is closed (though that one I understand as the weather gets colder, but an autumn trip up the coast must be beautiful this time of year). Museums are closed everywhere. And if you want to do anything on a Sunday it's even more difficult.
As someone said on a Facebook board I was asking for suggestions on "They wonder on the one hand why there's no tourism and then you see tourists wondering why nothing is ever open."
But this is about more than just tourists, even here in Helsinki the locals are desperate for new things to do. Any event from a pumpkin festival, the October school holiday dinosaur event at the Natural History Museum right up to the Easter weekend event at a local farm is absolutely mobbed. Parents especially are always looking for places to take their kids, restaurants that are open at weekends that cater to families. Cafes are ok, but their menus are limited for picky eaters (we have a few) and we really love a nice warm meal on an autumn afternoon rather than a rye bread sandwich. People outside of the capital must find it even more frustrating that they can't pop down to a local restaurant after a morning's walk in the woods or visit a craft centre after September.
Finland is beautiful in the summer and there are many ways to enjoy her, but there is a huge gap in the market for things to do outside of that tiny, tiny window. After all the lovely suggestions I have received from my queries on Facebook I have a long list of things we can do with and without our friend from June onwards into summer, but my list for this trip is very thin indeed and often includes long drives between activities and places to eat.
Suggestions in the comments section are always welcome. Preferably no more than an hour outside of the capital and child-friendly to boot.
Enjoy these bright autumn days, they're too few and far between.