Canberra is a family friendly city. It doesn't matter which museum that you walk into, which restaurant you have dinner at, or which gallery you walk through, kids will be given a warm welcome and a high five. Most tourist venues and cafes also offer a children's area with colouring-in or craft to keep them entertained while you have a quick look around or bite to eat. As well as the following 12 events and festivals, there are also hundreds of school fairs, fetes and community get togethers held around the city and suburbs each weekend. As a parent, I personally love this city for that very reason. With so many family friendly events and things to do each weekend the kids have no excuse to say "I'm bored!"
Family fun at Australia Day at Commonwealth Park. Source: Events ACT Facebook
1/ Ben & Jerry's Outdoor Cinema (January/February) sets up each summer on the Patrick White Lawns, in front of the National Library of Australia. As the sun sets the movie begins, with many nights dedicated to the latest kids' movies and comedies. On Sundays they have free Ben & Jerry ice creams as well as live music on the stage before the movie begins. All kids love the novelty of watching a movie outdoors, or if you want a night to remember, upgrade your tickets to include the beanbags and extra treats. See here for details.
2/ Australia Day in the Capital (January) is held at Commonwealth Park each year with an Aussie BBQ Breakfast, children's amusement rides, free children's concerts on Stage 88 and good ol' Aussie fun for the whole family. At night, grab a spot by Lake Burley Griffin for the 9pm fireworks and watch the thousands of fireworks light up the night sky. See here for details.
3/ The ActewAGL Canberra Show (February) is an opportunity for city kids to experience rural life at the Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC). There are showbags, amusement rides, sideshow alley, animal judging, horse shows, petting zoos, rides, fireworks and much more. One of the biggest attractions each year is the piglet races - a hit with kids of all ages. See here for details.
Piglet racing at the ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show. Source: Royal Canberra Show Facebook
4/ Enlighten Festival (March) is a highlight of the event calendar where our national landmarks are lit up in colourful and artistic architectural projections each night. After 8pm take a drive past Parliament House, the National Library and other iconic buildings to see them lit up in still and moving artworks. Kids also enjoy the excitement of the Night Noodle Markets which are held each night, with food, live music and roving performers walking thorugh the crowds with impromtu performances and circus acts. See here for details.
5/ Canberra Day (March) is a public holiday for all Canberrans to celebrate the city we live in and spend time with friends and family. Each year there is an event held around Lake Burley Griffin with jumping castles, amusement park rides, children's shows, big name musical acts and family entertainment all afternoon. See here for details.
6/ Canberra Balloon Spectacular (March) is a hot air balloon event that starts on the lawns outside Old Parliament House each morning at 6:30am. If your kids get up early, then rug up and watch dozens of hot air balloons lift off in unison over the city. Stay for a hot breakfast or drive to Lake Burley Griffin or the National Arboretum to watch the balloons in flight. The highlight for most kids is looking out for the different shapes and characters made into hot air balloons. Previous years have included a smurf, Darth Vader, birds, animals, soccer balls, a Sky Whale and more. See here for details.
Fun for kids at the Canberra Balloon Spectacular. Source: Events ACT website
7/ Skyfire (March) is a firework spectacular which takes off from Lake Burley Griffin each year. The event started in 1989 as radio station 104.7's contribution to the Canberra Festival that year and the city loved it so much, it is now an annual event. The fireworks lift off from the central basin of the lake at 8:30pm and last for over 20 minutes. There are glow sticks, show bags, jumping castles and food trucks located around the lake and navy jets flying overhead in aerial displays at great speed. A stage is set up at Commonwealth Park with live music, VIP areas and Home and Away stars. See here for details.
8/ The Great Easter Egg Trail at Old Parliament House (April) is a free event that the kids of Canberra look forward to each year. When they arrive at the museum they are given a set of clues to track down the answers, exploring the museum along the way. When they have found them all, they get a bag of easter eggs at the end. In the outside courtyards they also have family friendly activities and games to do afterwards. See here for details.
All the fun and popularity of the Great Easter Egg Trail, Old Parliament House
9/ Convoy For Cancer Families (April) is a charity event held each year to raise money for The Cancer Support Group, ACT Eden Monaro's Own. If your kids love trucks and semi trailers, then they will enjoy the convoy of trucks that leave Queanbeyan and make their way to Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC). Each year it gets longer and longer, with 400 trucks in the latest convoys. When they arrive at the EPIC there is a celebration with amusement rides, family activities and live music. See here for details.
10/ Winter Festival in the City (June/ July) is a month-long event in the Civic with an outdoor ice skating rink set up to create a winter wonderland. The theme is designed around a European winter, with food stalls selling German sausages and belly-warming winter fare. Kids love skating outside and parents can also hire out cute penguin "skate helpers" to help them balance. To top off the experience, real snow falls over them when they skate. See here for details.
Penguin helpers at the Winter Festival. Source: Winter Festival Australia Facebook
11/ The Play School Show (July) tours Australia each year and every July they come to Albert Hall in Yarralumla. This popular and affordable show is another event which Canberra toddlers and preschoolers look forward to each year. Two presenters from Play School come and do a 40 minute show, which captures the imagination of the young ones, without being too long. See here for details.
12/ Floriade (September/ October) is a month long celebration of Spring at Commonwealth Park. This free event has spectacular floral displays, markets, kids petting zoo, family activities, roving performers, large ferris wheel, jumping castles and more. The best way to see the floral designs is from the ferris wheel, so ensure you take a ride up to experience the magic. See here for details.
As mentioned, this is just a short list of 12 family friendly festivals and events, however there are more held throughout the year for all ages. Christmas in particular has dozens of events in the city with the lighting of the Christmas tree in the Civic, family concerts, Santa arrivals, Christmas markets and more. With these options and more happening all year around, why not try one out this weekend and entertain the kids with some good ol' family fun.
Or why not try them all?
Rides, colour, family fun and much more at Floriade