Durban's Mini Town to get facelift
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It's very much a case of out with the old and in with the new on Durban's beachfront these days, but it's good to see that not everything from yesteryear is getting the chop as the eThekwini municipality races to complete its grand revamping project in time for the World Cup.
For 41 years a beachfront landmark and a popular family attraction, Mini Town on the Snell Parade may recently have had its premises sliced in half to make way for impressive new curio stalls on the pavements outside, but it's still there.
And, after having closed for renovation and a major revamp between September and December last year, it's looking great, with a bold new entrance and new stone-and-wire walls where the old fence used to be.
It now also boasts a new booking office and an upper deck area which overlooks the premises and which, with its benches and tables, has been designed with birthday party groups in mind.
First established in 1969, the new Mini Town may be on a smaller plot, but it still retains all its charm and old attractions.
Although not a replica of Durban, the attraction does give a good impression of some of the city's landmarks on a 1:24 scale.
Many of Durban's most popular buildings are here - from the large sugar terminal and impressive Durban City Hall (the oldest exhibit) to the Holiday Inn Garden Court (the tallest exhibit) and the most recent addition, an ornate and impressive mosque.
It's not only buildings that delight. The attention to detail in attractions such as a fun fair (with moving ferris wheel and swings), a circus (with animal enclosures outside) and a large cricket stadium (with tiny figures on the stands and field) are favourites with all ages.
There's also an area devoted to a miniature game reserve with thatched huts; a mini beach dotted with bathers, surfers, umbrellas, public toilets and a circular lifesavers' building; and, tucked away in a corner near the Mini Town entrance, a sweet little church with a wedding party emerging into a car park.
It's the large rail network with its moving trains that snake and criss-cross throughout the park that most excite young visitors, while the working harbour and moving planes on the airport are also big draws.
Sponsored by about 60 local companies who pay a yearly sum to have buildings they sponsor made and maintained at Mini Town, the attraction is a non-profit organisation, its profits going to the Quadriplegic Association of KwaZulu-Natal.
All Mini Town attractions - created from plastic, perspex and wood - are made and maintained by Brian Deonarain, who has been with Mini Town from the start, and his son, Desmond.
The attraction is open seven days a week, from 9.30am to 4.30pm (until 5pm in season). Admission is R15 for adults and R12 for children aged two to 13. Special school group rates are R10 for teachers and R8 for children, provided there are at least 20 pupils. The venue can also be booked for birthday parties.