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A group of small children playing in the NGV's kid-friendly exhibition.
Photograph: Tim Carrafa

Cheap activities for kids and families in Melbourne

Treating the young ‘uns to a fun day out doesn’t need to break the bank

Written by
Tracey Cheung
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When going out with the kids, the costs can quickly add up to a very expensive day out — especially when you have more than one child. Thankfully, there are heaps of low-cost or free kids' activities to take advantage of across Melbourne, it’s just a matter of knowing where they are.

Whether you're looking for indoor or outdoor activities or are after something arty, educational, nature-filled or active, we've rounded up some of our top affordable picks for you to try. And to sweeten the deal even further, many of these spots allow you to BYO food for a picnic

Have a scroll and prepare to enjoy a fun day out and quality time together without the stress over the hole it’s going to burn in your pocket. Afterwards, check out the best kid-friendly pubs or cafés

While you're at it, check out the best playgrounds in Melbourne, plus 25 things to do for under $25 in Melbourne.

Cheap kids activities in Melbourne

  • Museums
  • Elsternwick

Take the children on an enchanted experience wandering among six beautiful hectares of Victorian garden grounds along Rippon Lea Estate’s mansion, which was built in 1868. The garden includes a large lake, extensive shrubberies, flower gardens and an orchard of historically significant fruit varieties. 

Embark on a 45-minute historic garden tour or step back in time on a mansion tour to hear amazing stories about the people who made it come to life. Enjoy a picnic on the lawn or food from the Tea Room on the main mansion veranda with beautiful views of the garden. There is also a gift shop and nursery on site.

Garden tours and mansion tours require bookings and are included with the entry fee. For a family of two adults and two children, the total cost is $40 — just $10 per person.

  • Museums
  • Parkville

As long as they're accompanied by an adult, children under 16 receive free entry on weekends, Victorian public holidays and school holidays. Get up close to all the animal action as you walk through the Lion Gorge, Gorilla Rainforest and Trail of Elephants, and watch sea lions and penguins play in the Wild Sea aquarium. Check the Keeper Talks schedule to see which animals you can learn about from the keepers who care for them daily. You're also welcome to bring your own food for a picnic on the Zoo grounds to eat among the animals!

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  • Museums
  • Spotswood

Introduce your little ones to the world of science and watch their eyes light up as they learn about how our bodies and the world around us work. Scienceworks is kitted out with loads of sensory exhibitions to enjoy, and apart from the museum itself, there is also an outdoor playground with a train and climbing frame. Be sure to check out the permanent exhibition Ground Up: Building Big Ideas, Together, an imaginative experience full of sights, sounds and touch-based sensations that will introduce your little ones to the world of STEM. Entry is free for children, with adult tickets costing $15.

  • Film
  • Carlton

Immerse your children in a different kind of cinema experience by taking them to a 3D movie at a theatre boasting the world's most advanced and powerful projection system. IMAX Melbourne is the only theatre in Australia with an operational IMAX 1570 Film projector, offering a far higher resolution than any other format.

That means your movie will have superior image quality and earth-shattering sound, and your kids will feel like they're right there in the action. Tickets are $18 for adults or $11 for children.

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For a physically active and interactive traffic experience, pack their bike or scooter and helmet for a ride session at the Kew Traffic School. The sessions, which are $10 and run for 1.5 hours, are designed for children aged between two and ten years old. They'll navigate a simulated road with traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, intersections, street signs, pretend police stations, post offices and a mini tram and train. Watch in adoration as they patiently wait for the lights to go green before they 'cross the road'.

  • Sport and fitness
  • South Melbourne

Enjoy a family game of mini golf at this 18-hole course located right on Albert Park Lake. The course features life-sized animal and dinosaur figurines for the children to muse over., and the holes are suitable for all levels, whether beginner or experienced. Tickets are $20 per adult, $14 per child or $45 for a family ticket, with a maximum of two adults. 

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Southbank

The NGV nearly always has a dedicated exhibition for children, like the recent Picasso Making Art exhibition where children could create their own pieces of artwork. Entry to the gallery and to the children's exhibition is always free, and even before stepping inside, your children will be captivated by running their fingers through the iconic wall of running water at the entrance. Roam around the Great Hall and soak up its gorgeous stained glass ceiling, then relax and explore the NGV Garden, a peaceful sanctuary where you can enjoy a picnic and the kids can play on the climbing frame.

  • Kids
  • Exhibitions
  • Carlton

After a wander through the hustle and bustle of Melbourne’s CBD, retreat to this quiet space nestled within the grand State Library of Victoria. Here you can cosy up with your little ones in one of their reading nooks with some books or engage in some colouring in or drawing. The children’s quarter contains a browsing collection of more than 4000 children's books, including books in languages other than English. Upstairs is an area with books for older children. Entry to the library and the children's quarter is free.

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Albert Park Wave Pool
  • Sport and fitness
  • Albert Park

Located inside the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Albert Park, this wave pool provides a wet and wild adventure for the whole family. Waves run every 20 minutes and the sessions include access to the toddler pool too. The kids will be entertained and surprised by the constant water features popping out from left, right and centre! Just make sure you keep a tight hold on your little ones while you ride the waves with them. Tickets are $8 for adults or $5.80 for children aged three and over.

  • Kids
  • Abbotsford

CCF is a working community farm that utilises regenerative farming practices, and it also offers hands-on and educational experiences for children to learn where their food comes from. Spend time cuddling the goats or guinea pigs and meet the farmers who care for these critters. Activities vary daily and are posted down by the barn. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for children over two years of age.

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  • Kids
  • Melbourne

The award-winning Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden is an urban green oasis tucked within Melbourne Gardens. There is no cost to enter and wander around this magical place where children can immersive themselves in the world of plants. Kids will have so much fun exploring the little worlds created for them such as the Ruin Garden, a lush rainforest, the plant tunnels and the magical Bamboo Forest.

In the summertime, water spouts from the ground to help visitors cool off. During the winter, kids can check out the Wetland Area, a natural pond with insects and plants. 

Or sit them down with a hot chocolate

More thrifty thrills in Melbourne

  • Things to do

They say the best things in life are free. We're not 100 per cent on board with that sentiment (have you had a perfectly prepared cocktail? That ain't cheap), but not everything in Melbourne has to cost a bunch of money. From art shows to wine tastings, there are a bunch of things to do in this fine city that you can do for free. Yep, free. Zilch. Nada. Zero dollars. 

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