Eating out with a young family isn't easy at times, there are a few hurdles to overcome. When they are young you need to scope out the highchair situation (can your escape artist child wriggle out of it?) and find out if they have a nappy change area. Another thing to consider is the patience of the other diners - will they give you sly looks if your little one spontaneously clangs the forks?
When you do find a family friendly café, where clanging forks and the odd protest grumble just blends into the everyday sounds of the café, you know you are in a safe haven.
So here is our family's list of Top 5 Family Cafes in Canberra. What are your favourites?
1/ Garden Café at Rodney's Plant Nursery, Pialligo (8km from CBD near airport)
We love this café as there is plenty of seating, a huge tree in the outside area to sit under in Summer and the playground is fun for all ages. It is just a pleasant spot to sit and relax with other families near the play area and tuck into their delicious mars bar cheesecake...pure bliss.
Garden Cafe at Rodneys - outdoor playground and colourful cups for the kids.
This café, also located inside a plant nursery in Pialligo, has a popular little playground for the kids. If you visit in winter they also have a beautiful fire inside to keep you warm while you have something to eat, or outdoor heaters in the courtyard. Another shady spot in Summer, this café keeps the kids happy while you have a coffee break. With craft classes held weekly for the young ones, this cafe is a relaxing place to spend some time.
Tulips Cafe, fun for all ages. The kids can also watch out for the resident peacock.
This café may not have the playgrounds of the cafes above, but it definitely has the family friendly atmosphere in abundance. With toys, chalkboard, craft classes throughout the week and great prices, this Café is a hidden gem at Macgregor shops. Their Kids Breakfast and Lunch Menu is so affordable (with nothing over $6.50) you don't mind too much if they only eat half and you end up eating the rest!
Tommy and Me Cafe - kids and toys everywhere = fun!
Not everyone would expect to see this café on this list, however this family friendly Café inside Parliament House is welcoming to kids, there are colouring-in sheets and pencils, room for prams, highchairs, plenty of seating (inside and out on the terrace) and a decent kids menu with all meals $8.60.
Our daughter Miss Four loves the thrill of walking through the security gates and watching Mummy get her clothes tested for explosives! You don't get that with every café experience, making this one of the safest family cafes you could ever visit. Afterwards take the kids for a run on the grass at the top of Parliament House to wear off some energy.
5/Sprout Café at the National Arboretum. (7km from the CBD).
This large cafe has a lot of room to spread out - you can settle in with the highchair and pram and not feel you are in the way of passing diners. After a coffee and muffin, head out to one of the best playgrounds in Canberra for all ages, Pod Playground.
This café has a good selection of foods, however it is the spaciousness of the café and the playground that is the real highlight for our family.
Sprout Cafe at the Arboretum, photo courtesy of their website.
Although these are our Top 5, there are many other cafes in Canberra which are family friendly, including..
* The Pancake Parlour (within the CBD).
This basement level pancake restuarant is a great place to go in Winter as it is warm, it has plenty of booths to spread out in, highchairs, colouring-in and food the kids will love. If your kids are early risers (like ours) it is a handy place to go for breakfast as it opens at 7am, and at that time there is plenty of parking.
* Cafes at Gold Creek Village ( Gungahlin, 12kms from the CBD)
Gold Creek is a family mecca - with Cockington Green, The Dinosaur Museum, Walk through Bird Aviary, Canberra Reptile zoo, playground and quaint little shops . With so many family friendly places to eat you are spoilt for choice at Gold Creek.
A popular place for kids parties and get togethers is "Adore Tea". If you love tea, this Cafe has over 300 types of tea to choose from. Our family has found this Café more suited to morning or afternoon tea, with kids size milkshakes and a selection of kids savoury and sweet snacks on the menu.
With Cafe Injoy, Stripey Sundae and George Harcourt Inn (the English pub you see as you drive in) also within walking distance, you can take your pick of family friendly places to eat.
There are cafes around Canberra in local areas that have child-friendly cafes and parks nearby which haven't made this list, so check out your local shopping area and discover new ones opening all the time (and feel free to post a comment on this article to let me know!)
So pack up the bag, grab the wet wipes, and spend some family time together this weekend. With so many family friendly cafes in Canberra, it is the perfect excuse for a sit down and caffeine hit to get you through the day.
Or if you have the energy....
..why not grab the kids scooters and walk along Lake Burley Griffin with a takeaway coffee from Doms (located near the International Flag display) and enjoy this beautiful city.