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Published December 18th 2016
When our family first moved to Canberra, we enjoyed exploring all the fun and free activities for kids - and there are plenty. Each museum, gallery and national attraction has a kids area with activities which change regularly, so you can keep going back for more free fun. We also visited a few attractions with an entry fee and although they were value for money, our bank balance wouldn't appreciate it if we went back each weekend. Our mission was then to find a few handy places to go to that were somewhere in the middle - something that we could do on weekends that wouldn't break the bank, but also be fun for everyone in the family.
This list below are fun things to do that cost less than $10 for rainy days, sunny days, for young kids and older kids. Take a scroll down through this list and see if there is anything makes the kids say "Yes! Let's go there today!" - hopefully there will be at least one!
Telstra Tower, Miniature trains at Yarralumla Play Station (top) and Kingston Miniature Railway (bottom)
1/ Telstra Tower (Child entry $3). This tower is a good place to visit to get a bird's eye view of the city, from 195 metres up in the air. Kids will enjoy pointing out all the places they have been so far, as well as looking out from all directions from the 360-degree viewing platform. If it isn't too windy, there is also an outside viewing area. There is a small café up the top for snacks, lunch or cold drinks. See website here. Cost: Adults $7.50, Aged pensioners $3, Children 4-16 years $3, Family Pass (2 adults & 2 children) $17.
2/ Yarralumla Play Station Miniature Train ($5 per ride). This family venue is a fun place to visit for all ages, situated in the large Weston Park on Lake Burley Griffin. Yarralumla Play Station has a miniature blue train (now with a roof) that takes kids and adults around their property, past their miniature animals and also mini golf course. See website here. Cost: Single passenger $5, twin passenger $9, seven or more tickets purchased by the same person $4 each.
3/ Kingston Miniature Train ($3 per ride). This miniature train ride is held only once a month at their Kingston railway and is popular with small children in particular. You will see Thomas the Tank Engine-themed parties in the centre of the track and excited kids waving from the historical, miniature trains. At Easter time in 2017 approximately, this train ride will move to their property in Symonston, so check their website for details. Cost: Passengers 3 years and older $3, All Day Pass $15.
One room in the Play Up children's area, Old Parliament House
4/ Play Up at Old Parliament House ($1 child entry to museum). This kids zone is dedicated to toddlers and preschoolers with crafts, reading, dressing up and more. Kids can happily spend an hour or more playing here and it is free to enjoy once you have paid the entry fee into the museum. For older kids, there is the Zine Lounge to design their own paper booklet, as well "Behind the Lines" family board games. If you visit during school holidays there is often an activity planned in the outside courtyards for less than $10 per child. See website here. Cost for museum: Adults $2, Children and concession $1, Families $5.
5/ Fish and Chips at Snapper on the Lake ($9.90 Kids Meal). This scenic venue is a popular way to end the day by Lake Burley Griffin - for all ages. This fish and chips shop is located under the Southern Cross Yacht Club in Yarralumla and diners can eat at the outside dining area or relax on the reserve by the lake. On weekends there is also live music out on the lawns, with plenty of room for the kids to run around. See website here. Cost: Kids Meals $9.90. See full menu here.
Enjoy fish and chips by Lake Burley Griffin, at Snapper on the Lake
6/ Canberra Walk In Aviary (Child $9). This bird aviary is located at Gold Creek Village in Nicholls, north of the city. If your kids are fascinated by birdlife they will love this aviary - where they are given a plate of seeds and worms and then they wait for the birds to come to them. There are over 500 birds, with over 60 different species to discover. See website here. Cost: Children (4-16) $9, Adults $12, Family $38.
7/ Cheaper School Holiday Movies ($8 - $9.50). Reduced movie prices can be found at various venues around the city on weekends and school holidays. For example, Limelight Cinemas at Tuggeranong (south of the city) has $9.50 latest release kids movies (as well as $6 - $8 offers at other times) and the National Film and Sound Archives has popular kids classics for just $8 each school holidays.
8/ Tidbinbilla Nature Park ($11.50 per car). This popular nature reserve is located 45 minutes south-west of Canberra's CBD. Once you pay the entry fee per car, drive through and stop off at Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground and BBQ area, The Sanctuary Boardwalk to view platypus in the wild and look up to see koalas on the Koala Path. See website here. Cost: $11.50 per car per day.
9/ Civic Merry Go Around ($3 per ride). This historical merry go around is located in City Walk in the CBD and is a particular favourite with toddlers and pre-schoolers around the region. This historic carousel has hand painted horses to ride on and there are also two stationary elephants to choose from. See website here. Cost $3 per ride.
10/ Mini Golf (Child $8 - $10). Having a game of mini golf is a favourite past time for many families, as adults can enjoy the game just as much as the kids. Mini Golf King in the Canberra Outlet Centre (Fyshwick) has a range of tricky holes, which older kids in particular would enjoy. Yarralumla Play Station is an outside course, where you putt around some of Canberra's famous landmarks in miniature. Lastly Jungle Glow In The Dark Mini Golf is an inside course, where you play in the half dark and the course glows. Cost: Adult ranges between $12 - $15, Children between $8 - $10, Family passes $40.
If you are still looking for ideas, then check out 50 Things to do in Canberra for Families for a comprehensive list of both free and paid for things to do around the region. Wherever you visit this weekend or school holidays the kids will have fun - and just as important - so will you!