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A capital summer

Canberra always has something new up its sleeve, especially when it comes to family fun in the warmer months. HWK rounds up the events you’ll want to ensure get added to your calendars.

Let's get patriotic
Australia Celebrates Live
Date: 25 January 2015
Location: Parliament House
Time: 3 to 10.30pm


Where better to celebrate Australia Day than in the political heart of the nation? Well, mark your diaries because Australia Celebrates Live is back and better than ever in 2015. Pack your picnic rug, hats and Aussie colours, and head to Parliament House early on Sunday 25 January to ensure your family scores the best spot as the turnout each year does get rather large! Now in its 12th year, the event is a free concert that welcomes all ages, held on Parliament House’s lawns every Australia Day Eve. This year you can expect it to celebrate some of Australia’s favourite musical talent, acknowledge the 2014 Australian of the Year and also announce the recipient of the prestigious award for 2015. Gates open at 3pm, meaning Canberrans and visitors to the nation’s capital can make a day of it. It’s a perfect option for those wanting to round up a group, without giving anyone the hassle of hosting duties. Make sure to check the website closer to the day to find out which music acts will be headlining this year’s show.

A cool New Year's Eve
Date: 31 December 2014
Location: Civic Square & Garema Place
Time: Entertainment kicks off at 7pm


It’ll be one big party as you farewell 2014 and embrace the New Year in Canberra. A number of performers will take to stages at Civic Square and Garema Place, and you’ll enjoy headliners such as Eskimo Joe – the Aussie group renowned for the songs ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ and ‘From the Sea’ – as well as fun dance act, Joel Fletcher. You certainly won’t miss out on fireworks either, with state-of-the-art pyrotechnics brightening up the sky at both 9pm and midnight. Also, never fear about the night’s suitability for kids – both locations are alcohol- and glass-free spaces, ensuring a family-friendly atmosphere for all.

Questacon - The National Science & Technology Centre
Potato Day: 25 January 2015
Rockets: 5 to 8 January 2015
Perception Deception: Until 15 October 2015


This much-loved family favourite is packed with fun extras for the summer holidays. Q Lab will be jam-packed with live demonstrations, hands-on experiments and activities, giving kids the unique chance to explore the science of the humble potato, dissect a toy, launch a rocket or discover what would happen to a marshmallow in space... And that’s before you take in the eight galleries and over 200 exhibits! Also, don’t miss the chance to befuddle your brain in the touring Perception Deception area. Even young visitors will become budding scientists in the Mini Q exhibition, experimenting with water, exploring the sensory garden and playing pretend in four child-sized businesses, all in a space specifically designed for them. No visit is complete without watching – or starring in – a Spectacular Science Show. These change daily and feature explosive demonstrations and audience participation that will have you on the edge of your seat. It really is the smarter way to have fun!

Canberra lit up
Enlighten 2015 
Date: 27 February to 7 March 2015
Location: Around town


Returning for a fifth magical year – in the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies, no less – are the spectacular lightshows and events of Enlighten. The festival provides an unbeatable reason for families to eat, see and explore all the wonders of Canberra, enjoying the capital as it breathes with added light, colour and movement. Marvel at the Parliamentary Triangle as it’s transformed into a vibrant arts precinct with free entertainment such as amusing street artists, enchanting musical performances and light projections adorning some of Australia’s most iconic attractions. Each night families can enjoy free and ticketed events, and foodies will be extra satisfied this year with the addition of the Enlighten Night Noodle Markets, brimming with authentic Asian eats, themed bars and music.

National Library of Australia
Date:  19 to 30 January 2015 (weekdays only)
Location: Ferguson Room on Level 1
Time: 10am to 4pm


Shake up everything littlies think about libraries with a stop at the National Library. These summer holidays it’s running a WordPlay workshop – a pop-up kids’ space specifically for inspiring a love of learning. The hands-on, interactive area allows kids and parents alike to use their imaginations to explore language, reading, writing and illustrations. Activities will span playing on iPads, drawing, stamp making, letter blocks and poetry games... with ample space to just curl up with a good children’s book, too. Similar programmes run every school holiday period, and visitors during term time will still enjoy the ‘Find it!’ trail designed to lead families through all the library’s reading rooms and artworks.

Museum of Australian Democracy
Old Parliament House
Behind the Lines: 5 December 2014 to November 2015 

MoAD’s new children’s exhibition Play Up is a prime place to kick-start your kid’s democratic education, packed with hands-on activities that centre on the UN’s Rights of the Child. Curated with children, the space will be updated regularly to display their work, meaning there’s always reason to visit again. Its current focus is on ‘The Right to Play’, which will switch to ‘The Right to Shelter’ in mid-2015. The current Behind the Lines exhibition showcases the best political cartoons of 2014, and this summer it will take kids on a superhero-themed trail to find cartoons they’ll appreciate. There’s also an activity table to keep fidgety hands happy, both young and old. Teens will be content for hours in the Zine Lounge, reading these handmade publications, making their own and learning about zine culture. Top off your political foray with a stint in the dress-up area, donning clothes reminiscent of Ancient Greece (the birthplace of democracy), or re-enacting the Queen’s visit back in 1954. Action Packs are also available, with a new Press Gang Pack that’ll have families roaming the museum, discovering what it’s like to be a journalist as they look for clues and report on what they find.

Sleep among the animals
National Zoo & Aquarium  


Canberra’s main zoological offering packs in a trove of animal wonders for families. Do you have children under 10? Opt to take a Family Tour which assists young children in going behind the scenes, feeding some of their furry favourites. For parents looking for an exciting and educational way to entertain kids in the school holidays, the zoo’s Zoocation Holiday programme is hard to top. Designed for primary-aged kids, it provides a day of adventure filled with games, craft, making toys for the animals and up-close encounters.

Time to get arty
National Gallery of Australia

After a taste of the arts? Put the NGA on the itinerary. The gallery runs programmes throughout the year especially for kids. On 14 January 2015 kids will be entranced by the ‘Light and shadow: children’s creative workshop’, which correlates with the current James Turrell exhibit. They’ll have a ball creating their own sculptures from natural materials. On 16 and 17 January 2015, the ‘Alive and spirited’ family activity days will teach you about the history of our land through games and activities that celebrate Indigenous art, while littlies that are tough to separate from their screens will enjoy exploring the Sculpture Garden through the mobile adventure game, Eye See ART, on 22 February. NGA’s events are always changing, so be sure to check for the latest on their website before your next capital visit.

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