Melbourne comes to life at Christmas. Festivities, abounding. Here's 4 I've enjoyed over the years, plus another I stumbled upon. Each is FREE, some with free/low-cost 'add-ons' (any costs, I specifically point out). With these, you'll need your walking shoes (literally - I recommend sneakers), plus whatever helps brave the elements - ie. Mortein, sunblock, umbrella (don't assume anything in Melbourne), and refreshments/snacks. It may help to carry a Melways (paperback/electronic, or whatever else they have these days).
Situated in City Square (Swanston St, between Collins & Flinders St), and drenched in bright, sparkly, glowing decorations, always a pleasure (uh, for the kids I mean). Main attraction (besides Santa, 9m tall Christmas tree, digital nativity scene, nutcracker soldiers, interactive candy canes - OK I'm out of breath), their Christmas maze. Upon receiving a list of checkpoints from Santa's elves, kids weave through to hunt these down. Checkpoints, containing stamps, for kids to certify their progress through. Then, upon completion/exhaustion treat the kids to a free photo with Santa!
c/o City of Melbourne
1B. GINGERBREAD VILLAGE: WHEN: Dec 1st - Dec 10th: 10am-6pm, Dec 11th to Dec 24th: 10am-8:30pm. WHERE: Melbourne Town Hall, cnr Little Collins & Swanston Streets
If you're wanting to continue the yuletide festivity, take a stroll across Collins St to Melbourne Town Hall. Here, Epicure's Executive Pastry Chef Deniz Karaca & team will awaken your senses with a gingerbread exposť - absolute extravaganza of buildings/Melbourne icons, painstakingly constructed out of food!! Though edible, it's generally frowned upon to eat the attraction itself. Preferred, that you purchase gingerbread from the gingerbread-counter.
NOTE: Entry to the Village involves a gold coin donation to Make A Wish, Australia.
ALSO NOTE: City parking is most lenient on Sundays.
2A. MYER WINDOWS:
WHEN: Now - 4th Jan
WHERE: Outside Myer Melbourne, Bourke St, near Elizabeth St
While there was a phase when the Myer Windows were mere advertisements (for films etc), they've fortunately reverted. Honouring traditional themes for their 60th anniversary, the intricate animatronics will mesmerise. Bear in mind, they're extremely popular, so leave yourself ~ 40min to progress through the slow-moving queue.
2B. SANTALAND AT MYER MELBOURNE:
WHEN: Nov 12th - Dec 24th
WHERE: Myer Melbourne, Level 6
My proposed add-on to the Windows requires a booking. That is, if your wishing to arrange an appointment with SANTA!! If so, head here to book a time, then catch a lift up to level 6 of Myer to meet the jolly fella himself. Should you wish to memorialise this occasion, (paid) photography is available. After your kids ear-bash Santa, why not reward them to a (yes, free) "choo choo" aboard the Santaland Express (height requirement: between 800mm -1220mm). But remember, Santa will also be touring Myer Ballarat, Bendigo, Chadstone, Doncaster, Eastland, Fountain Gate, Frankston, Geelong, Highpoint, Knox City, Northland and Southland. However, advantage of combining the Windows with this activity, that advance bookings with Santa are only available for Myer Melbourne.
c/o Myer Melbourne
3. THE BOULEVARD, IVANHOE:
WHEN: ~ 15th Dec - 31st Dec, 7:30pm onwards
WHERE: The Boulevard, Ivanhoe (between Burke Rd & Heidelberg/Lower Heidelberg Rd)
Time-honored tradition in our family, The Boulevard will inspirit even the grumpiest of grinches. The whole family'll be delighted by the lineup of flashing trees and illuminated rooftops. There's also often bands, choirs, and a pop-up refreshment store (a portable toilet block also in place). However, there's a couple of issues to consider: 1) Parking. I recommend sidestreets up behind The Boulevard (towards Ivanhoe East). But that entails a half km walk - over and above traversing the boulevard itself. Some opt to drive through, which may be preferential if mobility's a problem. Which leads to my second point: 2) Fumes. If you choose to walk, fumes from idling cars may get up your nose.
NOTE: If you take the Eastern Freeway (citybound) you cannot exit at Burke Rd. So you'll need to exit at Chandler Hwy, effectively u-turn back onto the Eastern Freeway, then exit at Burke.
This event's definitely one to add to our Christmas schedule. On November 27th, three days before advent, Southgate will sprout a bevy of Christmas goodies. Decoration-making, face-painting, Christmas balloon art, special Christmas show, not to mention visit from the Salvation Army carolers. Given this's on Saturdays, you may need to sacrifice Sunday's better parking conditions if you wish to include this on your itinerary.
c/o City of Melbourne
4B. CROWN ATRIUM:
WHEN: 22nd Nov - 1st Jan
WHERE: Crown Casino, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank
For those wishing to 'xmas' on, feel free to take a gander at Crown Casino's Atrium. There, you'll be dazzled by their 'Christmas Spectacular' of lights, mega-decorations, and lifelike Christmas critters - that come to life every half-hour. With a range of restaurants in the Crown complex (including favourites McDonalds and KFC) it may help to refuel before your return-trip.
NOTE: For both, parking on St Kilda Rd may suit - if you're OK with a 10-20 min hike. Otherwise, you can always park at Crown for reasonable rates.
c/o Crown Melbourne
5. CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT:
Yes, there's always carols in the Domain. But there's also a multitude of carols scattered through the 'burbs. Easiest way to obtain details is from your council's website (or otherwise google your suburb followed by "carols"). If you've been to your local carols, and for some reason didn't approve, don't hesitate attending another suburb's.