Questacon, bike riding & glow in the dark fairy floss
Canberra has a long list of kid-friendly places to visit, however sometimes we need to jog our memory to remind ourselves of all the fun (and often free!) activities we have right on our doorstep. I recently wrote an article titled Top 10 Things For Kids To Do - Canberra's City Centre, however there are many more areas around the city which are jam packed full of things to do for all ages. In particular, the Parliamentary Triangle is a one-stop-shop of fun for kids - just park the car and start exploring. A popular way for local families to enjoy the Parliamentary Triangle is to park their car behind the International Flag display (opposite the National Library of Australia) and unload their kids' bikes and scooters so they can ride along the Lake Burley Griffin foreshore. If you are looking for more fun things to do on your visit, don't jump back in the car afterwards - go exploring and discover at least 10 more fun things to do while you're there. Your kids won't want to leave.
Family fun at the Above and Beyond area at Questacon. Source: Questacon Facebook
Map of the Parliamentary Triangle with Parliament House at the top and Lake Burley Griffin at the bottom
1/ Questacon is the most popular kids venue in Canberra and has the honour of winning the Canberra Tourism Awards every year as Best Tourist Attraction. Yes, it's that good. Unlike many of Canberra's museums, this one has an entry fee, however you then walk into an interactive, hands-on museum that easily takes a few hours to explore. Inside the museum there are different floors to walk between with a wide variety of science experiments to test out, with Questacon staff positioned around the museum to help kids create, make and try. For smaller children under 6, there is also the hugely popular Mini Q. See here for details.
2/ The Enlighten Festival is held in the Parliamentary Triangle every March, to the delight of kids and families across the city. Canberra's most iconic buildings within the Triangle are lit up in artistic projections after dark, so many families drive around to view their colourful displays. As well as this, there are events, roving performers, circus acts and magical art installations held every night throughout the area. Another popular event within the Enlighten Festival is the Night Noodle Markets with tasty noodles, kebabs, kid-friendly options and a wide range of dessert food trucks. See here for details.
Colourful projections onto buildings, artistic performers and glow-in-the-dark fairy floss! Source: Original photos from Enlighten Facebook
3/ Ben & Jerry's Outdoor Cinema is located on Patrick White Lawns, outside the National Library of Australia, every summer. It is a popular family destination with the latest release movies showing under the night sky. Get cosy on a bean bag with a few hundred Canberra locals and enjoy the experience of watching a movie outdoors. If you visit on Sunday for a Sundae Session, it is free ice creams! See here for details.
4/ The Museum of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament House) Play Up area is a haven for small children all year around. There are blocks to stack, books to read, pretend play areas to explore, colouring in and plenty of safe, soft areas to relax in. For families with pre-schoolers, it is a popular area to visit while the kids are at school. During school holidays, the Museum of Australian Democracy is also renowned for its fun school holiday programs (see events listings here), as well as the Great Easter Egg Trail each Easter long weekend. See here for details.
5/ National Gallery of Australia's NGA Play is a free kids area located near the front entrance of the gallery. This space first opened in 2016 as a kids play space for the Versailles exhibition and in 2017 has a new theme - NGA Play: Reko Rennie. This area will change a few times a year to match their exhibitions and is a popular - and free! - area for the kids to explore. The National Gallery of Australia also hold art-inspired toddler programs and school holiday workshops all year around. See the NGA calendar here or more details.
6/ The National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden is located behind the gallery and has a 26 outdoor sculptures to walk around and admire. Kids in particular will enjoy the grassy hills to run on, with the scenic Lake Burley Griffin as a backdrop. If you are there between 12:30pm and 2pm, ensure you track down Fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya, which is a water mist that is emitted out of hundreds of tiny sprays and settles over an area of the gardens. The kids love running through it - especially in summer. See here for details. If they enjoyed that interactive experience, take a walk to the front of the NGA and see what they think of the Sky Space called Within Without 2010, by James Turrell. See here for details.
7/ The National Portrait Gallery have artistic workshops and school holiday programs for kids all throughout the year. The most popular program is Play Up which is held each holidays, where children walk around the gallery for inspiration and create their own artworks. These programs cost $5, however they also have a free Family Space for kids every holidays. See the National Portrait Gallery calendar here for more details.
8/ Queen's Terrace Cafe at Parliament House is a surprising family friendly cafe with colouring in for the kids and a decent kids menu ($9 meals including a drink). There is also plenty of space inside the cafe for prams, however if it is a nice day why not sit outside on the terrace and enjoy the views up to the Australian War Memorial. The kids will love the milkshakes and cake options! See here for details.
9/ The National Library of Australia and the National Archives are often the least visited national buildings, however they each run school holiday programs throughout the year. The National Library has a Storytime to promote the love of reading, as well as a school holiday activity room over the summer holidays. The National Archives has creative school holiday activities which relate to art, history or events through Australian history.
10/ Queen Elizabeth Terrace is located along the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, at the widest end of the triangle. This area is popular for bike riding, scooters and for hiring Segways (for kids over 12). There is also a long, flat ramp that runs through the centre of Commonwealth Place which is popular with kids on their scooters or to simply run down. Why not stay for awhile and grab an ice block from either Elixer cafe or Seg Glide Ride and enjoy the lake views. For a full article on Queen Elizabeth Terrace, see here.
With so many things to do in the Parliamentary Triangle for kids, you may need to load back up the bikes and scooters, and come back again tomorrow.
Queen Elizabeth Terrace on Lake Burley Griffin - fun for all ages