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  1. An animation still shot from the Disney film Beauty and the Beast, depicting the Beast dancing with Belle in a ballroom
    Image: Beauty and the Beast (1991) © Disney
  2. An animation still of Maleficent
    Photograph: SuppliedImage: Sleeping Beauty (1959) © Disney

Princesses and villains: How to have the ultimate Disney day out in Melbourne

In celebration of ACMI’s Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibition, we’ve created two Melbourne itineraries to satisfy the princess or villain within you

By Time Out in association with ACMI and Visit Victoria
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If you grew up on a steady diet of Disney films, you should fall into one of two categories: an obsessed princess devotee who still knows all the words to ‘Colours of the Wind’ or a diehard villain fan with a soft spot for Scar (apologies if you’re a handsome prince stan, this is not the place for you). But what’s a princess or villain to do on a day out in the Victorian capital? We’ve pulled together two different timetables – one filled with lovely, whimsical activities and the other more suited to those keen for a bit of mischief – to ensure that whether you’re pure of heart or prone to the odd devilish deed, you can still have a magical adventure in Melbourne.

Disney: The Magic of Animation is now open until January 23 at ACMI in Federation Square. The exhibition features more than 500 rare artworks that have been specially selected by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library in Los Angeles, California.

The Disney Princess itinerary

Where better to turn on the charm and channel your inner Disney Princess than over high tea at the Hotel Windsor. This grand old establishment – which has welcomed many a royal through its doors – boasts luxurious furnishings that are fit for, well, a princess. You’ll dine on cakes, pastries, scones, finger sandwiches and more, in a truly sumptuous banquet setting the likes of which have not been seen since Belle was treated to a parade of French delicacies in Beauty and the Beast.

For an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at how some of your favourite princesses came to life on the big screen, you need to check out ACMI’s incredible, 90-year showcase of Disney animation. Direct from the Walt Disney Animation Studio in California, the Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibition shines a spotlight on more than 500 ​​original paintings, sketches and concept art that have rarely been seen by the public. But the best bit? You can channel your inner Snow White when you step inside a scene from the 1937 classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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Take to the mighty Yarra River to survey your kingdom when you jump aboard a GoBoat. These five-metre-long, eco-friendly vessels seat up to eight loyal subjects, and don’t require a boating license to operate. Departing from Sandridge Wharf at Southbank, you can cruise past famous landmarks like Flinders Street Station, Fed Square and Birrarung Marr, or why not find a quiet spot away from the city crowds and recreate the ‘Kiss the Girl’ scene from The Little Mermaid – go on, you know you want to.

With glowing neon signs, plush velour lounges and a sun-drenched outdoor terrace, Pinchy's is the ideal spot for a princess to spend a balmy evening with her besties. This pink-hued lobster and Champagne restauarant is an inner-city oasis, and offers a fun, playful dining experience that will leave any fair maiden swooning. Kick off happy hour with a cheeky glass of bubbles or a cocktail adorned with flowers, and load up on bite-sized treats like a tuna taco or snapper croquette. And no visit is complete without ordering at least one lobster roll (you'll thank us later).

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Iconic sisters Elsa and Anna take to the stage as part of Frozen the Musical at Her Majesty’s Theatre. This magical tale – which you’re probably already very familiar with – is even more dazzling to see on stage, and features gorgeous costumes and jaw-dropping special effects, plus all the songs you know and love. And while it’s hard to pinpoint just one highlight of the production, there’s no denying the moment ‘Let It Go’ begins (and everyone inevitably starts to sing along) is a pretty special one. This theatrical event definitely calls for your finest princess gown, so be sure to frock up for the occasion.

After such a busy day, it’s safe to assume you’ll fall into an Aurora-like slumber as soon as you enter your room at this newly-opened hotel, located at the Paris end of Bourke Street. With a sparkling, grandiose chandelier at the entrance you’ll think you’re right back at the castle, while the fully stocked mini bar and Hunter Lab amenities are extra nice touches. And there’s no need to worry about feeling groggy in the morning – with soft-but-sturdy beds, heavenly pillows and soundproof rooms, you’ll awaken fresh as daisy, just like a real-life Sleeping Beauty. 

The Disney Villain itinerary

Ask any true evildoer how they like to spend their mornings, and they’ll tell you it’s taking a walk through the shark tunnel at Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium – it’s a good place to think, you know? You can get up close with 13 different species of these majestic creatures here, and discover fascinating things like how Port Jackson reef sharks lay spiral-shaped eggs that look like seaweed (knowledge is power, after all). Plus, there are plenty of dark corners to catch up with your cronies!

Melbourne’s hidden laneways, teeny alleys and grungy backstreets are the ideal backdrop for a Disney Villain to do some wheelin’ and dealin’ – and check out some cool street art! Hosier Lane makes for a great starting point (if you’re lucky you might even catch an artist in action), while AC/DC Lane, Centre Place and Croft Alley are all adorned with a mix of massive pieces and smaller, more intricate works. And if you can get down to Johnston Street in Collingwood, the Keith Haring mural is a must-see.

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Showing in Australia for the very first time, Disney: The Magic of Animation reveals the untold secrets behind one of the world’s most prolific animation studios. The five sections of the exhibition focus on different eras of innovation, and also charts the studio’s process in continuing to tell diverse and inclusive stories for contemporary audiences. Each piece on display has been specially selected by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library (it actually houses around 65 million pieces of Disney-related paraphernalia), which should impress even the most scathing of villains.

Every Disney Villain needs a place to plot revenge with their evil associates, and you can do all this (plus play ping pong, shuffleboard and darts) at Ballers Clubhouse – an enormous licensed venue that’s kinda like a playground for adults. There are six bars, ten private function spaces and plenty of room for competitive games. Oh, and there’s even a virtual reality centre for when you’ve got an urge to battle some aliens. Just try to keep the cheating to a minimum.

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The home of late-night shenanigans, rock’n’roll tunes and free-flowing beers, Heartbreaker is exactly the sort of place an evil villain could slink into undetected to enjoy a quiet bev or two. Look for the red neon sign on Russell Street to find this dive bar, and be sure to leave your cape at home – the vibe is super casual. If you need a break from the booze, order up a slice of New York-style pizza (the pepperoni is a real killer), before popping a coin in the jukebox and lining up the next banger. We think Scar’s epic anthem, ‘Be Prepared’, will go down a treat with the crowd.

All good (or should we say bad?) Disney Villains need a secret lair, and Notel fits the bill perfectly. Tucked away high up on a CBD rooftop are six vintage Airstream caravans that have been completely transformed to reveal retro-inspired interiors, cosy queen-size beds and a bar fridge loaded with complimentary craft beers and local wines – one special caravan even boasts an open-air spa. Surrounded on three sides by towering skyscrapers and far away from prying eyes, if there was ever a place to escape to after a long day of scheming, scamming and sneaking around, this is it.

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