Auckland Art Gallery The wonderful Auckland Art Gallery is free for all and includes the Creative Learning Centre for interactive experimentation specially for kids. Each year a New Zealand artist is commissioned to install a site-specific work for the space. Parents can sit back while their kids engage and frolic. There are also the Drop-in Sessions on Saturdays, 1-3pm, where the whole family can create art together. No bookings necessary. Gallery Games are available every day; pick up the activity sheet and discover some interesting artwork around the gallery. Where: Cnr Kitchener and Wellesley Sts When: Open 10am-5pm daily Parking: Your first hour of car parking is free at Victoria St carpark – just validate your ticket before leaving the gallery. Otherwise street in the CBD is up to $4 per hour.
There are 55 libraries in Auckland and most of them hold story sessions for littlies. Wriggle and Rhyme is for 0-2 years; Mondays 11am at the Central City Library. Rhymetime is for 18 months-3 years; Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am (and the Thursday session is also in Mandarin). Storytime is for 3-5 years; Saturdays 11am at Central City. Click on the links to find the times for the suburban libraries. Sessions are half an hour and include stories, rhymes, songs and often bubbles. All libraries have free activities during the school holidays too. And of course you can hang around the library as long as you wish. Where: 44-46 Lorne St When: Open Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm; Sat & Sun, 10am-4pm
Auckland Central Library: 1 minute walk from the Aotea Centre and the Town Hall.
Workshops on the Wharf Every Sunday from 11am-2pm, Workshops on the Wharf hold free sessions at Wynyard Quarter, usually near Silo Park. The array of activities include hooping, fort building, juggling and art making. Grab a coffee and food at Silo Markets or North Wharf and picnic on the grass while your kids muck in. Where: Wynyard Quarter When: Sundays, 11am-2pm
Pick & Mix, Aotea Centre and Bruce Mason Theatre From June to September, Auckland Live brings a series of events to the Aotea Centre or Auckland Town Hall on Saturdays at 10.30am and the Bruce Mason Theatre, Takapuna, on Sundays at 10.30am. Performers include the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, drummers, circus acrobats, clowns, modern dance companies and more. Each performance is followed by a workshop at 11.30am, where kids can learn some skills and interact with the artists. It's a great morning out for families to expose your children to a whole gamut of performing arts. Where: Aotea Centre/Auckland Town Hall, Saturdays 10.30am; Bruce Mason Theatre, Takapuna, Sundays 10.30am
Pick & Mix, Aotea Centre: Gateway to seeing the professional arts up close.
Lightpath, Nelson St Cycleway Since its opening in December 2015, the Lightpath has been a huge hit, now clocking an average of 848 cycle journeys each day. Te Ara I Whiti ('lightpath' in Maori) is the first complete phase of the Nelson St Cycleway to link Upper Queen St to the waterfront at Quay St. Best of all, it's bright pink and features a stunning Maori koru design at the Nelson St entrance. If you're visiting Auckland, you can grab a free bike from Next Bike. There are depots at North Wharf, Queens Wharf and Auckland City Hotel, Hobson St. Where: Entrances at Canada St and Nelson St
Torpedo Bay Navy Museum We're out of the CBD now but the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum in the gracious seaside suburb of Devonport is only a 10-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. You'll see all manner of boating and maritime artefacts and learn about New Zealand Navy history. It's free and there are gallery activities for kids. Take a break at the Torpedo Bay Café and soak in the harbour views. Where: 64 King Edward Parade, Devonport When: Open 10am-5pm daily By ferry: Catch the Devonport ferry from the Auckland Ferry Terminal; the museum is 1.4km from Devonport Wharf
I want to mention that the awesome Auckland Museum and New Zealand Maritime Museum are also free for Aucklanders but if you're from elsewhere the entry fees are $25 for adults ($20 at the Maritime) and $10 for children.
Torpedo Bay Navy Museum: The largest free museum for Auckland residents and non-residents. Photo from navymuseum.co.nz
TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, Hillsborough Twenty minutes' drive from the CBD, in the unlikely suburb of Hillsborough, you'll find the historic Pah Homestead in the charming Monte Cecilia Park, home to the Wallace Arts Centre. Every second Saturday of the month they hold an Art Club for 4-10-year-olds between 11am-1pm. Drop in for some artistic fun such as painting, drawing, dyeing, clay moulding or paper crafts. There are at least five exhibitions on at the centre concurrently, changing every 6 to 9 weeks. The Homestead café serves delightful fare and the verandah is the perfect place to have your high tea and watch the kids run around the outdoor sculptures. The homestead was built between 1877-79, the largest house in Auckland at the time, and is now completely refurbished including the turret tower. The original 162-hectare park still has one of the best collections of rare exotic trees in the region. Where: 72 Hillsborough Rd, Hillsborough When: Open Tue-Fri, 10am-3pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-5pm By bus: Take the 299 from Queen St outside the Civic Theatre to 67 Hillsborough Rd, 350m from the Arts Centre
TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre: Contemporary art in an historic setting. Photo from tsbbankwallaceartscentre.org.nz
Westfield Shopping Centres, Auckland wide
We're venturing into the 'burbs now for free monthly craft sessions at Monty's World. Check the website for days at Westfield St Lukes, Manukau and WestCity in Auckland and Westfields in Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. From 10am-12pm you can enjoy a free coffee and the kids are entertained with arty activities or gardening, stories and different themes. Monty the monkey shows up to delight/freak out the under 5s. Manukau and WestCity also hold monthly family fun weekends. All centres have daily activities during the school holidays too. If you're local, join Monty's Kids Club and get free birthday and Christmas gifts. Where: Westfield Shopping Centres in St Lukes, Manukau, WestCity, Chartwell, Queensgate, Riccarton When: A monthly Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, 10am-12pm. Mon-Fri, 10.30-2.30pm during school holidays
Monty's World at Westfield Shopping Centres: A convenient place to entertain the kids. Photo from montysworld.co.nz