Taking the kids to town can be expensive, especially when you're letting them loose on Toys R Us and feeding the troops in the food court. A family ticket to the Adelaide Zoo costs $85, and most kids will easily tire of the shopping trip down Rundle Mall.
There is no need to spend a fortune to make sure the kids are having fun. We're lucky in Adelaide to be treated to a whole range of free activities that can entertain, and educate kids. Not everything is free, but even when you're sticking to a budget, you can still find plenty of fun things to do.
We've got a plan for a full day of fun that will help make holidays and weekends more enjoyable for everyone.
Getting There & Getting Around
Bring something entertaining if you're catching public transport
While there is some free car parking in the city, especially on weekends, these do get snapped up pretty quickly. Driving through the city to find a park can also be a nightmare, especially when you have eager kids who want to get out of the car. So it can usually be best to leave the car at home and take public transport instead.
A Day Trip ticket is usually the best way to travel. One ticket will give you unlimited travel during the whole day. On weekends and school holidays two children under the age of 15 will also be able to travel for free when travelling with an adult on a Day Trip. A Day Trip ticket means you can travel on trains, buses and trams.
Once you're in the city, getting around is a different story. You can walk, but most parents will know that it doesn't take long before little legs get tired, and the kids start complaining. The tram runs from West Terrace, down to South Terrace, passing the train station, Rundle Mall, and the Adelaide Central Markets. You can hop on and off within the city for free. The 99C is the free city loop bus, and it goes past all the popular spots, including the Art Gallery, Museum, Botanic Gardens and Central Markets.
Things to Do
Paddle boats on the River Torrens
If you're coming in by public transport, then you're probably best starting by Elder Park, as its only a short walk from the Adelaide Train Station. If you're meeting friends in town, use the park as a place to touch base and work out the plans for your day. At the park there is plenty of open space, the kids can just run around for a bit, play under the rotunda, or do a bit of swan spotting. Then there are Adelaide's paddle boats, an iconic fixture of the River Torrens. They're $15 for one boat, where you'll usually be able to fit one adult and two kids.
Your next stop should be along North Terrace, at the South Australian Museum. There are a range of permanent exhibits, from Egyptian mummies to Australian animals. The museum is free, so don't feel like you need to see it all. Visit just your favourite exhibits or make a point of seeing something new. Try and skip the trip through the gift shop, as its never particularly cheap.
Fun at the Museum
Walk a bit further, or catch the city loop bus, and you'll get to the Botanic Gardens. This can be a great way to wind down, as you take the kids to look at exotic plants from all over the world. You might discover you've got a miniature botanist in your clan, or the kids might just enjoy running around in this interesting space. The Botanic Gardens can be a beautiful spot to picnic, but head to Botanic Park instead. Here your kids will love climbing over the giant tree roots in-between bites of their sandwiches.
On your way back down North Terrace make a quick stop at the Art Gallery of South Australia (or, fit it in after you've finished at the museum). It's amazing how much fun it is seeing your kids' reactions to the different works of art. From early colonial portraits, to modern art, there is usually a varied collection to enjoy. The art gallery often has activities aimed at kids, where they'll get the chance to unleash their inner artist.
What to Do for Food
Picnic in the Park
Obviously being in the centre of town you've got a plethora of options for tasty meals. But when you're thoughts are set on entertaining the kids, you're probably more interested in finding something cheap and easy.
A picnic can be a great idea, but bringing one from home means lugging around food and drinks for most of the day. Instead, pick up a picnic once you're already in town. Bring along a cooler bag, the type that you get from the supermarket to pack up your cold groceries. These are light and easy to pack inside another bag while you're not using them.
Kids can climb trees while you eat lunch
Once you're done visiting the museum, head over to Rundle Mall, there is a Woolworths just a short walk from David Jones. Here you can stock up on fresh rolls, and things like cheese and ham. Pick up whatever you need for a fun picnic, whether you want apples or bottles of juice. Pack it all inside your cooler bag so that it stays fresh while you walk through the Botanic Gardens and enjoy it once you get to botanic park.
Other Things to Do
It's amazing how much fun you can have in the city, using just the old favourites without too many other bells and whistles. While you're sure to have fun with our suggestions, here are a few detours you might want to take.
Down at Elder Park Adelaide Ballzup is currently joining the paddle boats on the River Torrens. It's a more expensive option, $10 per person instead of $15 per boat, but its got a real novelty factor with lots of fun. You can follow them on Facebook to see when they'll be on the river.
At lunch time, why not consider taking the Adelaide tram to the Central Markets instead. You'll be able to create a different sort of picnic, with a huge range of fresh breads, interesting cheeses and exotic fruits. The sights and smells of the market can also be interesting for kids who don't get the chance to experience it often.
All sorts of fun at the zoo
We also mentioned the Adelaide Zoo earlier, and how it doesn't quite fit into a cheap day plan. If you love the animals, but think $85 is a bit too much for a day, consider a membership instead. You'll pay a fee for the entire year, and it'll mean you can visit for free any time you want. If you're a member, you can easily add in a quick zoo trip to your day. Why not just pop in to see a particular keeper presentation, or to visit your favourite animal friend. A membership definitely makes short trips far more cost effective.
All tired out after a fun day
So don't let a trip to town turn disastrous. Plan out a fun day that will entertain both you and the kids, you may be pleasantly surprised at all that Adelaide's famous sites have to offer.