A stay at home Mum who doesn't stay at home much; too many exciting things to be discovering in this city...
Published June 12th 2019
How to stay sane without breaking the bank
School holidays can be an expensive time of year for families. I've found there's a limited amount of time in which you can leave kids to their own imagination before they start trying to maim one another or disassemble the house. For your sanity and your purse strings, I've put together a list of attractions in central Melbourne which are totally free for kids and will keep everyone happy for at least a few hours.
Melbourne Zoo. Kids under 16 go free at weekends and free in the Victorian school holidays. Their accompanying adult will need to pay $37. This zoo is always a winner with so many exhibits it can hard to get around and see everything in a single day. Now is a great time to visit as Dino Park has arrived at the zoo. There is no extra cost to enter this experience, in which little ones can interact with huge, lifelike dinosaurs and their 'keepers'. See the website for more details.
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. In the heart of the city lies this unspoiled oasis to which entry is completely free for everyone. The gardens cover 36 hectares and include ornamental lakes, garden beds, greenhouses and of course the beautiful Children's Garden which will keep the tots occupied for hours. A great way to reconnect with nature and get out in the fresh air away from screens and devices.
Tots can don gumboots to play in the stream that runs through the Chilcren's Garden
Scienceworks. This attraction has recently undergone a huge renovation so now is a good time to visit. Kids go free at any time although the accompanying adults will be charged $15 for general entry. There are options to upgrade tickets to include temporary and permanent exhibitions such as the planetarium or the current Brickman Cities exhibition and you will need to pay for these upgrades. However even with just general entry, your kids will be kept busy in this science and technology-themed museum, full of hands-on STEM learning and fun.
State Library of Victoria. Established in 1854 this is Australia's oldest public library and one of the first free libraries in the world. Kids love books and this huge library should thoroughly impress them (it's going to be even more impressive in 2020 when an upgrade is planned). Besides books, there are free tours on offer as well as exhibitions, events and family fun. These school holidays older kids (aged 12 15 years) are well catered for with the free Story Camp program. This is their chance to meet some of Australia's most exciting authors and story-tellers, and try their hand at creating their own literary masterpieces.
Melbourne Museum. This is an absolute favourite with my three children. Since the Children's Gallery underwent a huge renovation it has become a highly impressive learning and play space where hours can be whiled away both inside and outside. The rest of the museum is also a source of fascination for kids with a variety of different galleries and some visiting exhibits also (these usually incur an extra cost). Free for kids at all times, their carers will need to pay $15 unless they are members.
The Children's Gallery at the Melbourne Museum will blow their minds
National Gallery of Victoria. Based in the centre of Melbourne and surrounded by fountains which kids can't resist sticking their hands in, this huge art gallery has plenty to offer. General entry is free to all and offers access to a range of exhibits and tours, as well as the outdoor area which features a climbing structure among other things. To visit temporary exhibits you may be charged a fee, but there are often free kids' programs running in the holidays. Check the website to stay informed.
Enjoy your time making the most of these free activities and hopefully by the end of the day your kids will have no energy left to cause trouble. That's my theory anyway