This would be a short post if I will only discuss what my husband and I do with our 5-year old son, but that’s just for starters. The key is to buy or bring whatever would entertain you at home: books, computer and gadgets, home theater systems, games and sports equipment. It is important to realize that traffic on weekdays is the major deterrent why we don’t go out much. But we have enough to keep ourselves preoccupied:
- Reach out. E-mail, skype, Facebook, chat with family and friends back home or elsewhere around the world, or simply browse and search the Web for news, stories, videos
- Play with friends. We fortunately live in a compound, so our son can hang out with kids his age in the playground while my husband will join our colleagues in whatever game is scheduled that afternoon, i.e. water polo, field hockey, frisbee, basketball, etc. Sometimes we have yoga, pilates, water aerobics, and other fitness activities if an instructor is available and there are enough interested participants. We also used to have regular events like the monthly book club and poker night. Our husbands also got into the Fantasy Football craze. The older kids may play soccer or basketball, or sign up for after-school programs and sports teams. They also have their game consoles, Wii.
- Watch movies at home. DVDs are sold everywhere in Lagos, from N200 and up per disc. Entire seasons of TV series are also available. You can also get cable or download from torrent sites.
When weekend comes the options go up:
- Go shopping. Newcomers are encouraged to check out places like Lekki market for African handicrafts, Balogun market for fabrics, and specialty shops. Between October and December numerous bazaars are also organized by different foreign communities featuring handicrafts and gift items. The American, British, Syrian, Lebanese bazaars are popular, and may even take place on the same Saturday.
- Entertain or attend parties. We enjoy cooking and like to invite friends over for brunch or dinner. Our compound also started organizing monthly theme parties with different hosts and venues for Halloween costume party (the kids went trick or treating earlier), 80’s party, tailgate party, etc. Thanksgiving and Christmas are also celebrated. Occasionally we get to attend grander events like the Marine Ball, Yacht Club’s Sail Around the World, Music in the Air concert and picnic, and the Small World extravaganza organized by the international women’s groups. As you can see, the number of social events is limited only by your energy, time, and money. If you join a club the opportunities will also go up for shows, exhibits, more lunches and dinners, fundraisers and charity events.
- Eat out. Dining out in Lagos is at least twice more expensive than in the US. Our bill at Johnny Rocket was $75 for burgers, fries, and soda. But we can also enjoy South African steaks and beer at Step In for that same price. So once again, we don’t eat out much … and when we do it’s because we are craving for sushi (Bungalow), Thai food (Pattaya), and Italian pizza (Manuela’s until Dominos came along). My husband likes Lagoon Restaurant for the Indian food, shisha, and view of the water. Our friends like Banzai for Japanese, Bangkok and Chao Phraya for Thai, and Jade Palace or Saipan for Chinese. I once celebrated my birthday by inviting friends to dim sum at Pearl Garden. There’s also Bistro 7, Piccolo Mondo, and Chocolat Royale for the continental cuisine and ambience. Other popular places are Cold Stone and Ice Cream Factory. Don’t forget that the premier hotels also have their own coffee shops, bars, and restaurants.
- Go to GQ or Ocean View or Yacht Club. Families with young children appreciate the kiddie and adult pools at GQ. There also a basketball court, tennis court, bar, and restaurant plus wifi. Eko Hotel’s Ocean View restaurant has improved its playground with more equipment and a consumable entrance fee for grown-ups. Their baked goodies, cakes, and pastries are not bad, but my Lebanese friends told me to stay away from the shawarma. Sometimes an agency will rent the grounds and charge more for additional bouncy castles, trampolines, video game truck, etc. – but it felt like a major rip-off when we’ve only been there for 30 minutes and they shut down the bouncy castle an hour before closing time. We could not even get food for the $20 per adult entrance fee. The Yacht Club is another option, but you have to sail to gain membership. They have a playground and nanny so you can enjoy brunch and the breeze watching boats and ships go by.
- Go to the beach. There are two options. Tarkwa bay is closer, just 15-20 minutes on a taxi boat for hire. On weekends it’s busy and packed with locals, expats, and vendors selling food, drinks, handicrafts, sunglasses, etc. If you’re not careful the cost adds up quickly: boat fare, food and drinks, rental of chairs and shade, a “clean-up fee” of N200 per person, and tips for various people who may or may not have helped carry your things. My husband and son like to go body boarding there. Some people go there to surf. Eleko is farther away, at least an hour’s ride with the last 20 minutes over some craters on a dirt road. But many of the beach houses there are fenced in so you can really have some privacy from the aggressive vendors. We bring our own food and drinks, and our husbands help the caretaker with the barbecue grill. On the other hand, the water is not safe for small kids due to the strong current and riptides. We brought our own kiddie pool for our son.
- Fun for older kids. They seem to have more options, starting with sleepovers. My friends often have to drive them to 2-3 birthday parties on weekends. Those who are 12 or older may hook up with friends to go to the movies (Palms or Silverbird), go-kart (Get Arena), or paintball (2-3 different places), horseback riding (Lagos Polo Club, membership required), waterpark (Federal Palace, membership required). The affluent families might have their own jetskis and ATVs for their kids and friends to have fun with at the beach.
- Bar and Nightlife. Lagos has a very rich nightlife, if you’re willing to stay up late. The real party does not start until midnight! But you can still enjoy a bit of it early by hanging out at Four Points Sheraton in Lekki for live music al fresco. Bottles in Victoria Island is reputed to have the best margarita, and have live band entertainment on Wednesdays. Then there’s New Afrika Shrine if you want to catch Femi and Seun Kuti perform.
- Others. For others, weekends are a good time to go for a massage or manicure/pedicure or haircut (check my post about Barzahi – Lekki and Body Temple – Victoria Island spas. Proflex Gym, next to Cactus restaurant in Victoria Island, just underwent a major expansion and upgrade of fitness equipment so check out their new facilities, which includes a squash court. I asked my husband about golf but he shook his head, it’s either too far (two hours away) or too expensive. “You have to dash the starter to get on the course.”
Essentially, it’s all up to you: you have to define how you want to spend your time and money. For most people, fun is about spending time with your friends and going out to make new ones. One American joined a community choir, many families are active with their church and volunteer for bible classes, and those who befriend expats of different nationalities get to experience religious-cultural celebrations like iftar dinners, Diwali celebrations, and Chinese New Year.