There are Christmas carols and markets galore this month in Canberra, so if you can't get into a jolly frame of mind you're really not trying! And you can round out the month wit...
Picture perfect playgrounds, diverse nature reserves and sprawling recreational areas make outdoor fun in Canberra a walk in the park for kids. At Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, the Discovery Playground boasts a flying fox, spider’s web, slides, swings and cubby houses as well as curious native animals including wallabies, kangaroos and emus. Boasting stone forts, towers and tunnels, Commonwealth Park’s “The Castle” is another favourite playground and Boundless at The Centenary of Canberra National Playground, located on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, is Canberra’s first all abilities playground. John Knight Memorial Park has not one but two playgrounds, plus canoeing, sailing and a model boat jetty. But even amongst all these great spots, the prize for Canberra’s coolest playground goes to The POD at the National Arboretum, with its nest swings, banksia pods and giant acorn cubbies connected by net tunnels.
There’s plenty of ways to get the kids out and about in the capital’s great outdoors. They can get lost in the maze, take a ride on a steam train and explore some of the world’s most iconic sites at Cockington Green Gardens, albeit in miniature. On the flipside, they can stomp and roar in the garden of The National Dinosaur Museum with enormous replica prehistoric beasts. Animal loving littlies will adore the National Zoo & Aquarium where the behind-the-scenes Family Tour allows them to hand-feed a giraffe and get up close with some of it exotic residents. Better still stay overnight in one of the Giraffe Treehouses at the zoo’s Jamala Lodge. At Forest Park Riding School, there are lessons catering for pony loving children aged two-years and over. And at Weston Park in Yarralumla, along with its playground, beach and horse trails, there’s a petting zoo.
Canberra’s museums and institutes make learning fun. The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House has a cool exhibition space, Play Up, where kids can add their mark to the walls and media screens as they learn all about Australia’s history of democracy. At the National Library of Australia kids can read, write, illustrate and imagine through a programme of fun family events. Science nuts can head to CSIRO Discovery to watch real scientists at work in their laboratories and at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, part of NASA's Deep Space Network, they can check out real moon rocks as they learn all about space exploration. For more hands-on science, the ever-popular Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre has more than 200 exhibits that will see kids free-falling, experiencing an earthquake, watching lightning strike and even playing Robot Air Hockey.
Teenagers looking for some edge of their seat thrills should sign up to become a virtual jet captain at Canberra’s jet flight simulator where they can learn to land a Boeing 737. Drive something closer to the ground at Power Kart, where you can suit up to race around their purpose built high speed karting track. Hire a Kayak and paddle around Lake Burley Griffin, take the leap abseiling at Namadgi National Park or head to the sky on a dawn hot air balloon ride. At the Australian Institute of Sport, sporty teens will enjoy taking a 90-minute guided tour, which includes a visit to Sportex, an interactive sports exhibit for all ages and abilities where you can ski like a champion down a virtual downhill course, shoot a hoop in wheelchair basketball, go rock climbing or kick your way into a football penalty shootout.
With four distinct seasons, each offering something unique, it’s always a great time to head to the capital. Canberra’s weather is at its most glorious in the Spring, from September to November. Not only are the temperatures pleasant and sunny but the entire city is in bloom with a kaleidoscopic of flowers for the Floriade Festival which runs over September and October. Autumn is also a great time to visit with mild temps and loads of great family friendly festivals. The Summer months tend to be hot and the city is quiet as the locals head out of town for the holidays, but it’s still a great time for outdoor sports and water activities. Winters are extremely cold but you’ll find that there are plenty of indoor activities to enjoy, making it a great place for a visit or a stopover on the way to the snow.
The capital is home to a treasure trove of fun family experiences. Here are 10 not to be missed. 1. Get hands on with science at Questacon. 2. Follow in the footsteps of our greatest athletes on a tour of The Australian Institute of Sport. 3. Head behind the scenes at the National Zoo & Aquarium for close encounters of the furry kind. 4. Head to Corin Forest in the Tidbinbilla Mountain Ranges in winter for snow play and beginner skiing and boarding. 5. See the world in miniature at Cockington Green Gardens. 6. Watch Titan the Robot make coins at the Royal Australian Mint. 7. Hire a bike and cycle around Lake Burley Griffin. 8. Pay your respects to Australia’s fallen at the Australian War Memorial. 9. Visit the National Arboretum, a botanical garden dedicated to growing trees for conservation and scientific research, and let the kids loose in the Pod playground. 10. Learn how to make your own glass art at Canberra Glass Factory.
Foodie families can sample the region’s freshest produce from more than 100 stall holders at the Capital Region Farmers Market at Exhibition Park or taste their way around the Old Bus Depot, Canberra’s best family market. Possibly the best place to feed a fussy family is at The Hamlet. A little like a hawker market, the food here is served from food trucks and pop up shops specialising in cuisines from around the world so you’re bound to find something for even the fussiest eater. For sweet treats head to Stripey Sundae for an ever-changing seasonal menu of homemade ice cream or Frugii Dessert Laboratory for incredible food creations using all natural ingredients. And you can’t visit to Canberra without popping in to Patissez, home of the Freakshake, tasty milkshake creations piled high with decadent and delicious toppings. And foodie families should taste their way along Poachers Way food trail to discover some of the capital’s most exceptional chefs and producers.
A holiday in Canberra doesn’t need to break the bank. There are heaps of free museums. At the National Museum of Australia you can earn about Australia’s history and the characters who shaped it. The Australian War Memorial is an amazing monument and museum commemorating the sacrifices of Australians who have died in war and has a great area where kids can learn through hands on play. At the National Gallery of Australia the kids can enjoy drawing, drama, stories and games in The Family Activity Room and Children’s Gallery. The Canberra Museum and Gallery also boasts plenty of great free activities and workshops for younger children and toddlers. Other popular free attractions include the Royal Australian Mint, the historic gardens of the Old Government House and the Australian National Botanic Gardens. And there’s a surplus of fantastic playgrounds in and around Lake Burley Griffin.
January - Australia Day in the capital There’s everything from an Aussie Day BBQ breakfast and kids’ entertainment to the National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony and fireworks. March - Enlighten The national capital is transformed into a vibrant arts precinct with free entertainment set against a backdrop of stunning architectural projections. March - Canberra Balloon Spectacular More than thirty hot air balloons from across the globe take to the skies for this spectacular event. April - National Folk Festival This celebration of traditional and contemporary folk life boasts high-entertainment designed to inspire, enliven and entertain all ages. September – Floriade More than just flowers, Canberra’s biggest annual event includes the incredible NightFest, performances, demonstrations, workshops and more. October - Canberra Nara Candle Festival This pretty annual festival which offers calligraphy, origami, lantern-making and more is based upon the Nara 'Tokae' festival in Japan.