Yeah, yeah I know. You read the title and thought "No way is that possible". But I assure you it is, and here's how you can do it.
1. Catch public transport into the City. I parked in the city for a few hours the other week and almost needed to sell a kidney to get out of the car park. Now I find that by catching public transport, I can keep all my internal organs and enjoy a day in Perth. Now, I must mention that Transperth fares vary depending on where you live, but there are concessions and cheaper fares if you use a smartrider. Oh, and kids under 5 are free. I have to confess that I was a public transport snob thanks to years of catching hot, shabby buses home from school many years ago. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the buses now are air conditioned, clean and comfortable. Not to mention that my daughter thought it was the best thing since seeing The Wiggles in concert (oh how easily pleased 3 year olds can be). Check out Transperth for more info.
2. Take your own food and drink. Why pay $10 for a sandwich you can make at home? As long as you keep in mind all those lessons they taught you in Home Economics (i.e. chicken mayonnaise rolls may not be a good idea on a 40 degree day) and keep it simple, you not only get something delicious, but it's practically free. Oh, and don't pay $3 for a small bottle of water - take your own (reuseable) bottle with you.
3. Watch the world go by. There are some beautiful places to sit in the City to watch the world go by or let children explore. Supreme Court Gardens, Forrest Place, Central Park gardens or the Cultural Precinct are just some of the great places to eat your lunch, use your imagination or just watch the people of Perth go by.
4. Be entertained. One of the best things about the City is you don't necessarily have to pay to be entertained. There are always plenty of buskers throughout the malls or orators in Speaker's Corner in Forrest Place to watch for as long as you wish. My daughter was transfixed by a girl dancing outside Myers today. Although I think I could possibly have done better with my two left feet, total lack of coordination and complete absence of any rhythm, I have to give it to this girl for putting herself out there and having a good time no matter who was watching. She kept us both thoroughly entertained for over 15 minutes (my daughter copying her moves, me laughing and wondering "Uh, is she for real?") and earned herself the loose change out of my purse for her efforts. There are often loads of musicians playing for anyone who will listen and you never know, they may just be the next Justin Bieber (well, lets hope not as the world just isn't big enough for two, but you know what I mean).
5. Grab some culture. One of my new favourite places to take my 3 year old is the Cultural Precinct, just over the bridge from the Perth train station. Where else can she admire amazing works of art, open drawers containing bird skeletons or read her favourite books (without being told to "Shhhhh")? Entry to the Art Gallery, WA Museum and WA State Library is free, although donations are welcomed and some exhibits do attract a charge.
Well, after all that, I still had change left over from my $10 - that was until I bought a coffee for me and some sweet treats for the little one. Well deserved rewards I think for a wonderful cheap day out without a dull moment - try it yourself sometime.