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29 Reasons to take your kids to Canberra, Now!

Bronte Gossling discovers there’s plenty fun to be found in the capital rain, hail or shine.

Canberra may be the home of Australian politics, diplomatic negotiations and a never-ending supply of embassies. But our cool capital is also home to a treasure trove of family fun. Here is our guide to discovering the capital’s joys in winter and beyond.

1. Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial is the prime place for little ones to learn the history of the Australian military, and how we fit into the global sphere. Walk around the poppy-covered reflection precinct before heading to The Discovery Zone, an exciting and educational safe space where kids can dodge sniper fire in a WWI trench, commandeer an Iroquois helicopter or peer through the periscope of a Cold War submarine.

2. National Dinosaur Museum

Heaven for any dino-obsessed child, the National Dinosaur Museum is the perfect place for the kids to see the world as it was when prehistoric creatures roamed the earth. Kids will love being immersed in the exciting exhibits, including a garden of lifesize dinosaurs and activities every school holidays. Learn all about the prehistoric past from expert guides as they roar and stomp through the museum on a weekend tour.

3. Power Kart Raceway

Budding rev-heads will love darting through obstacles and zipping around corners on Power Kart’s track. For those more cautious, don’t worry too much; with the safety helmets, briefing and soft barriers provided, you’ll be flooring it in no time. After 14 rip-roaring laps, refuel with the tantalising food and beverages at the café. You’ve earned it.

4. Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)

The AIS is not only renowned for its supreme sport training programmes, but also for its award-winning 90-minute guided tours. The best part? The tour includes a visit to Sportex, an interactive sports exhibit for all ages and abilities that is guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s faces. Strap yourselves in for a rigorous wheelchair basketball game, or ski like a champion in the virtual downhill course.

5. Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

A joint effort between the CSIRO and NASA, this complex is one of only three in the world, just 45 minutes from Canberra CBD. Take your tykes on an interactive tour around the solar system to learn how Australia aids in space exploration while gazing at pieces of the moon – including one that’s over 3.8 billion years old.

💡Fun Fact: Tidbinbilla was chosen as the location for the Australian facility Deep Space Communication Complex because it is close to the capital, Canberra, and hills shield the site from radio-frequency interference.

6. Canberra Theatre Centre

Despite its transparent façade, you're venturing into the exciting unknown when entering the capital's wonderful theatre centre. Located in the heart of the city, it's a hub for all things that little ones love and school holidays are filled with entertaining shows and activities - keep an eye out for the 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party', David Walliams' 'Mr Stink', 'The 91-Storey Treehouse' or 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show' this winter.

7. Canberra Glasswork

As the largest glass studio facility in Australia, Canberra Glassworks offers a fascinating and fun experience for the kids. Whether they’re watching the artists at work, shopping for authentic and unique pieces or learning how to make their own glass art, kids are sure to be fascinated by the fiery, swirling motions that transform fine pieces of sand into majestic works of art.

8. Questacon

With over 200 interactive exhibits dedicated to inspiring the children of Australia to love science, Questacon perfects the combination of science and fun. Make sure to check out the exciting workshops that the Ian Potter Foundation Technology Learning Centre has to offer during the school holidays. Book early so you don’t miss the opportunity to unleash your child’s inner inventor.

9. Telstra Tower

The Telstra Tower is an iconic sight in the Canberra landscape. It is definitely worth making the drive to the top of Black Mountain to head to the top of the tower. The indoor observation deck offers stunning 360-degree panoramic views of Canberra and its countryside surrounds from the 195.2-metre telecommunications marvel.

10. Corin Forest

Rug up for a unique alpine adventure at Corin Forest, located 45 minutes from the heart of the city in the Tidbinbilla Mountain Range. As Canberra’s only winter snow recreation area, the mountain offers beginner skiing and boarding lessons, as well as mass snowball fights, snowman building, snow play and tobogganing. Afterwards head inside to warm up with a hot chocolate by the roaring fire at the onsite lodge.

11. Yarralumla Play Station at Weston Park

This play station has been home to all things fun since 1973. The park believes that education through play is the key to happy and stimulated kids. With the Weston Park Miniature Railway, Lake Water Mini Golf and Petite Park Petting Zoo to explore, your little ones will never want to leave.

12. Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Set within a picturesque nature reserve, play at Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground can be either active or calming. Families can bring their bikes and cycle around the reserve on the sealed road and fire trails, or simply sit back and relax with the local wildlife.

13. Cockington Green Gardens

Cap off your Canberra experience with a visit to this surreal, miniature village. The gorgeous garden is delightful – the meticulously crafted buildings are so small that not even your littlest little one could fit in them. Finish the day with a picnic around the playground, or a stroll through the Rose Room indoor exhibition, complete with a 34-room dolls’ house.

14. Patissez

Home of the Freakshake, Patissez has taken the world by storm. Don’t just take our word for it – ask its 44,000 Instagram followers! Its colourful and tasty creations are sure to make the little ones laugh, especially when looking at one of the more intriguing creations, inspired by the poop-emoji. Sweet tooths can now get their fix in two locations: Manuka and Civic.

15. The National Arboretum

Canberra’s National Arboretum – a botanical garden dedicated to conservation, scientific research and educational purposes – features 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from around the world. It also features a rocking playground, The Pod, with giant acorn cubbies, nest swings and banksia pods that encourage children to climb and explore.

Image credit © John Mohr Photography

16. Frugii Dessert Laboratory

Frugii takes pride in creating superb-tasting desserts "the proper way"ť. Through using all natural ingredients and making its own bases, extracts and pastes, this dessert mecca has developed a huge following. If somebody in your family has a food intolerance, Frugii is the place. Its natural approach to food creation means everyone can enjoy a sweet treat - with no guilt or discomfort!

17. National Zoo & Aquarium

Kids are guaranteed a touching experience at Canberra’s zoo, with many opportunities for close encounters of the furry kind. The hands-on Family Tour – where animal-lovers over four can meet bears, monkeys and snakes – is a must. Families with older kids can check into the luxurious Jamala Wildlife Lodge for a night in this wildlife wonderland.

18. Old Bus Depot Markets

Truly a sensory experience, Canberra’s fantastic Old Bus Depot Markets are open every Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Wander through the bustling crowd as you taste, smell, look, touch and listen to all the colourful creations that the clever local craftspeople have to offer.

19. Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin, the man-made masterpiece at the heart of Canberra, is the ultimate water playground. Athletic families can cycle along the water’s edge, or take a self-guided tour to learn about the city’s history.

20. Boundless Canberra at Kings Park

Boundless is an exciting initiative allowing children of all abilities to play together. The innovative playground incorporates ideas from around the world to promote inclusive play, with equipment that can be easily accessed by all without being readily identifiable as ‘disabled access’ equipment, and zoned spaces for different ages and abilites.

21. Museum of Australian Democracy

Located at Heritage-listed Old Parliament House, this intriguing museum is a living archive of Australia's most engaging social and political history. A must for families is 'Play Up', where little ones can dress up and think up about their rights, and the rights of children around the globe. Keep an eye out for the kids' Superhero Masterclass during the winter school holidays.

22. Royal Australian Mint

Find out where our money comes from at the Royal Australian Mint, the sole producer of Australia’s circulating coins. Although access to the seemingly unlimited supply of money is prohibited, visitors can watch Titan the Robot as he make coins, and even mint a novelty coin for themselves.

23. Red Hill

Soak up the scintillating views at Red Hill, a lookout located to the south of the city centre. In autumn and winter, the brilliant red and orange hues of the treetops are especially breathtaking. Explore the enticing eucalypt hollows before stopping to enjoy the delicious treats on offer at the resident eateries.

24. Stripey Sundae

Head to Stripey Sundae for a unique treat; these homemade ice-creams are not only delicious, but surprising. The flavours change regularly, so one day you may have a salted caramel sundae, and the next, wattle seed.

25. The Hamlet

The Hamlet is a must for foodies of all ages, combining some of Canberra’s best street food in one place. From pho to hot dogs, this market village in the suburb of Braddon has it all.

26. Jet Flight Simulator

Based on the Boeing 737-800NG flown by professional pilots, and perfect for ages six and up, this unforgettable jet flight simulator is one of a kind. Let the kids become a virtual jet captain as an experienced instructor guides them from take-off to landing, on a flight that doesn’t feel virtual at all.

27. National Portrait Gallery

Featuring over 400 portraits of great Australians, the National Portrait Gallery instils in its guests a love for the people that have shaped the nation. Not to be missed these school holidays is ‘Little Faces’. Kids are invited to participate in a joyful exploration of art – including finger painting, body movement, and sound and rhythm play.

28. Parliament House

Experience Australia’s robust democracy in action in the very place our political wheels turn. Although we can no longer roll down the iconic green hill, you can still watch Question Time, listen in on current bills being debated, and experience a wealth of Australian history through the historical treasures on display in both the temporary and permanent exhibitions.

29. afterDARK Firefly Tours

The Australian National Botanic Gardens becomes even more magical after dark, with a winter school holiday programme illuminating the night with firefly lantern-led discovery tours. Warm up with a hot chocolate and then discover the sounds and smells of the garden after dark. Get in quick; the last event for the year takes place on Saturday 5 August, and tickets tend to sell out fast.

Hot Hotels

NOVOTEL CANBERRA

This super-friendly Canberra hotel is cool for kids. Not only will they receive a warm welcome, but the hotel’s indoor pool and spa are sure to delight. The kids will have a ball jumping in between both of them while parents relax in the sauna. It might take some convincing, but eventually your little ones will leave the pool and agree to a spot of sightseeing, especially when they take into account the convenient location – right at the end of Northbourne Avenue, in the centre of the city.


EAST HOTEL

Step into some of Canberra’s most stylish and contemporary accommodation. Aside from the stellar ‘casually attentive’ service, East Hotel’s unique Kids’ Studio accommodation will have your children on a natural high. Ideal for families, they are designed to give kids space and come packed with toys, bunk beds and an Xbox cubby in a specialised room adjoining a main family apartment, giving parents a well-deserved break while the kids are having the time of their lives.


MANTRA ON NORTHBOURNE

Ideal for families on a budget, Mantra’s self-contained apartments provide the convenience of inner-city living with modern resort features. The gym, heated pool and sauna are a blessing to come home to after a long day of city exploring, and the added security of the underground car park all factor into its 4.5-star rating.

Getting there

The drive from Sydney to Canberra takes around 3.5 hours and around 8 hours from Melbourne. Qantas also offers regular flights to Canberra from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide.



This article appeared in volume 52 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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