There is no shortage of exciting school holiday activities to keep busy little people active in Victoria's cultural hub. On the other hand, Melbourne is not blessed with good winter weather, which means most of the indoor entertainment provided in our glorious city comes at a price.
You may question how is it possible to make the most of the winter school holidays, without leaving too much damage on your bank account when playgrounds and beaches are out of the question. Fear not, as we have a list of FREE or low cost school holiday activities for your family to try out over the winter break.
12 Budget Friendly Kid Activities in Melbourne Winter School Holidays:
ArtPlay, situated at Birrarung Marr (behind Federation Square) offers free or affordable activities to keep the youngsters busy. Funded by the City of Melbourne and local partners, this centre runs hundreds of workshops, events and performances specifically designed for children's enjoyment. Book ahead for special programs or alternatively check out the 'free stuff to explore' such as the ArtPlay Backyard. The Centre caters for babies through to children aged up to 12 years of age; Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm.
2. Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI)
Not only is the ACMI in a tip top location, right in the heart of the iconic Federation Square opposite Melbourne's Flinders Street Station, but the centre also offers a vast selection of free activities and events for young and old. There are kid's drop-in creative workshops to participate in with, as well as ACMI's ongoing Screen Worlds to explore. The ACMI also introduces a rather special free Family Day: Vikings and Dragons celebrating DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition and the forthcoming release of fantasy film How to Train Your Dragon 2. The first 100 people dressed in character will receive free entry into DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition. (You can also enter Melbourne Kidtown's giveaway to win a family pass to DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition here).
Image credit Mark Gambino
3. Library at the Dock
A brand new library opened in Docklands on 31 May 2014, offering a community hub enabling people to come together to create, explore, connect, belong, learn and participate. One of the services offered at Library at the Dock supports gaming culture, providing the latest games and consoles free for the public to experience. From 13 June to 8 July on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11am to 1pm, the venue also hosts the 2014 Soccer World Cup Competition on PS4. Open to all ages, kids can get a team together, select their country and take part in this gaming challenge (and potentially win some prizes). Register online.
4. State Library of Victoria
In the city, the State Library of Victoria is holding a free exhibition 'Once upon a time: a world of children's picture book art' until 31 August 2014. See classic characters like Blinky Bill and the Magic Pudding, as well as fun favourites such as Miffy. Take your kids along to view original drawings, dummy books and videos about the artworks to discover the magic behind creating illustrated stories and have them create their own story with a free activity booklet.
5. Puppets at Fed Square
A free series of interactive theatre for children of all ages will run at Federation Square during the July school holidays. Performed by Melbourne's Polyglot Theatre following their cultural exchange, Drawbridge Indonesia, there will be drawing, puppetry and sound to create a giant walk-through comic book that children can interact with. This is a free activity for the whole family to enjoy. Find out more here.
6. Friday Night Fireworks at Docklands
Enjoy free music, entertainment and an incredible fireworks display at the Piazza at Docklands on 4 and 11 July. Festivities kick off at 6pm and the fireworks are at the family-friendly time of 7pm.
7. Child-friendly Cafés
For the price of a coffee, enjoy some priceless relaxation at one of the many child-friendly cafés around Melbourne. Some favourites include: Miss Marmalade, Brunswick – as well as amazing food and beverages, Miss Marmalade has a kids' menu, small play area and baby change facilities; Little Tommy Tucker, Bentleigh – with a shelf full of toys and a kids' menu, this is a popular spot for locals; Birdy Num Nums, Carlton North – the large, covered courtyard at the rear features a sandpit and a variety of toys; Lulabelle's, Camberwell – this gorgeous pastry shop and café features giftwares, babywares, toys to entertain the kids, and change facilities. Artea Cafe Studio and Cafe, Albert Park - an innovative establishment that combines kids craft activities with a tea house.
8. Shop and Craft at Queen Victoria Market
Out in the fresh air but still undercover, get your kids out and about and enjoy the vibrancy of the Queen Vic Market. Get yours involved in a fun fruit and veg shop, and have them help out at home with some family favourite recipes. Open 5 days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Also check out The Craft Gallery at the Queen Vic Market, offering low cost craft workshops ($5) for kids aged 4yrs plus, each school holiday.
9. Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Family Jams
Anyone six years and over can jam with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) for FREE on 28 June at Federation Square. Bring your own instrument (or borrow one of MSO's) and work together during the fun hour to develop an original piece of music. Each workshop culminates in a performance open to the general public. Reservations are necessary, book a spot here.
10. City Circle Tram
Jump on Melbourne's free City Circle Tram and tour the city for free. Show your kids the sights of central Melbourne and Docklands in the comfort of a charming, heritage tram. Audio commentary provides details of city landmarks and major attractions and you can hop on and off as you like. Trams operate between 10am and 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and between 10am and 9pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. No bookings are required.
11. Port of Melbourne Boat Tours
Free boat tours runs from the Port of Melbourne that will exhilarate the kids as they see massive ships and cranes up close, and the port's most historic facilities. Tours usually run on the last Sunday of each month so spaces are limited and bookings are required. Round-trip tours leave from Gem Pier in Williamstown and Victoria Harbour in Docklands and last from 60 to 90 minutes. Book your spot here.
Open every day, Collingwood Children's Farm in Abbotsford is your child's perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with a range of feathery and furry farm friends. Kids can also see cows being milked and cuddle a guinea pig. At just $16 for the entire family (two adults and up to four children), this is one budget-friendly school holiday activity to satisfy your little animal lovers.