Canberra attractions for kids
Climb into giant acorn-shaped cubbies and banksia-like pods at this nature-inspired adventure playground, around six kilometres from the centre of Canberra. Grab a coffee at the nearby café and watch on as the kids run amok over the musical bridge, into the sandpit, and up the ladder that leads to a huge cubby house. The playground is designed for all ages; there are toddler-friendly swings, two large net tunnels and a spiralling slippery slide for older children. Forest Dr, Off Tuggeranong Parkway, Weston Creek 2611. Daily 8am-6pm. Free.
You’ll feel like a giant at this magic miniature village in Canberra’s Gold Creek Village. Inspired by quaint tiny towns in the UK, the founders of Cockington Green Gardens decided to set up a little village of their own in Australia back in 1972. After painstakingly crafting the first little homesteads, Doug and Brenda Sarah have been adding to their model collection ever since – and now you can marvel at a 34-room doll’s house, peek inside a teeny version of Scotland’s Braemer Castle, or pretend to climb a smaller-scale Machu Picchu. Don’t pass up on a ride of the garden’s miniature steam train – a crowd favourite. 11 Gold Creek Rd, Nicholls 2913. 02 6230 2273. Daily 9.30am-5pm. Adult $19.50; child $11.50; family $56.
Beer and kids aren’t supposed to mix, but sometimes the best of both worlds can come together in harmony. The Tap Room at Canberra’s craft beer brewery is made for mums and dads who’d like a little family time over a refreshing Coast Ale or a fruity Summit XPA. While parents are sampling the brews, kids can keep themselves occupied in the huge outdoor play area that has a cubby house, lawn games, and lots of space to run around. When you need to pin them down for a feed, there are high chairs, fruit juice on tap and plenty of shade (so you keep your cool). Bonus: they’re dog friendly and even have non-alcoholic beers for your four-legged companions. 3/1 Dairy Rd, Fyshwick 2609. 02 5104 0915. Daily 11.30am-midnight.
At the National Zoo & Aquarium it’s a two-for-one adventure – you can come face to face with curious creatures of the land and sea with general admission that grants you access to both facilities. You can meet big cats, bears, giraffes, zebras and many more exotic animals at the zoo, while the aquarium has colourful reef fish, sharks and amphibians.
Just a short trek from Canberra’s city centre, Questacon contains more than 200 exhibits in eight galleries. Kids and adults can experience science through hands-on, interactive displays. Learn about the elements in the Science Garden or see life through eight eyes in the Spiders Gallery. Be sure to catch one of the Spectacular Science Shows. All shows are 30 minutes long, and free with admission.
The National Gallery’s dedicated family space, NGA Play, offers children and families the chance to enjoy art-based fun. The nippers can immerse themselves in arty experiences at any time, with activity themes often taking a lead from touring exhibitions and installations. This summer, kids can get hands-on with Sally Smart’s Ballets Russes – an inspired world of colourful cut-out assemblages and activities.
Australia’s beautiful former Parliament House is now the Museum of Australian Democracy. Here, their imaginative family space has all-new, hands-on activities to show kids how to step up and speak their minds; PlayUP – the Right to Have an Opinion and Be Heard is where kids can explore the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child in a playful way. You can roleplay at being a barista in the Kindness Café, be challenged to others’ opinions in the listening pods or add your own thoughts to the fuzzy pin board.
In addition to training Australia’s top athletes, the Australian Institute of Sport entertains visitors with guided tours and events across its 65ha campus. Tours of the facility last approximately 90 minutes, which includes at least half an hour of play in the interactive games room where you can try out wheelchair basketball, bobsleighing and rowing. You can also race mum and dad on the real synthetic track used by athletes for $5.
Size up to brachiosaurus, velociraptors and one mighty 20-metre-tall T-Rex at this popular tourist attraction. Established in 1993, the National Dinosaur Museum features 23 complete skeletons and more than 300 displays of fossils from 700 million-year-old marine fauna through to fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. They run free tours during the school holidays, so you can put all your most pressing questions to the knowledgeable guides, and there’s a fun Dinosaur Garden to explore that’s filled with terrifying – and totally life-like – fibreglass models of prehistoric creatures. 6 Gold Creek Rd, Nicholls 2913. 02 6230 2655. Daily 10am-5pm. Adults $16; child $10.50; family $45.
Ten minutes’ drive from Canberra centre is a cute play zone that’s all about the miniatures – there’s a historic mini train, a mini farm and an 18- and 36-hole mini golf course – and it’s perfect for your little minis. Bluebell, the mini train that could, is a popular attraction. Take a nine-minute ride through the original tunnel for $5 per person, or $12-$15 if you include a visit to the mini farm. And you should! There are the cutest (and smallest) cows, alpacas, ponies, sheep, pigs, goats, turkeys, chickens and ducks to meet. For $10-$20 you can go a round of mini golf in the Canberra-themed course, before treating yourself to a locally-made Gelatomio at the Station Stop Café. 9 Prescott Ln, Yarralumla 2600. 02 6282 2714. Mon-Fri 8.30am-4.30pm; Sat, Sun 8.30am-5.30pm.