Australia’s cultural capital has so much in store for kids. Along with its incredible arts scene, amazing interactive museums and galleries, wide open spaces and glorious gardens, there’s a great beach scene and attractions galore.

The incredible National Gallery ...

There’s no shortage of places to run, slide, swing, climb and play around Melbourne. The Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden is the place for city kids to get a little dirty, playing in the garden or splashing about in the fountains. Royal Park Nature Play, located on the site of the former Children's Hospital, will keep little ones busy as they clamber over its climbing structures, ropes courses, water play, swings, slides and terraces. The colourful and quirky St Kilda Adventure Playground is the stuff kids' dreams with its giant airplane, pirate ship and submarine plus a flying fox, trampolines, swings and loopy slides. William Ricketts Sanctuary has been a favourite spot for Melbourne kids for years. Set in a ferny glade in the Dandenongs, the tranquil garden has mystical sculptures peeping out from hidden nooks and crannies along the pathways.

If your family is after some action of the animal kind, Melbourne has you covered. At Melbourne Zoo, you’ll find more than 300 animal species from around the world from Asian Elephants and Sumatran Tigers to Orang-utans and Gorillas. Children will especially love the Keeper Kids indoor playspace where they can immerse themselves in role-play and exploration to find out what it is like to work in the zoo. Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium is home to over a thousand marine and aquatic animals including giant sharks and stingrays and Gentoo penguins, who you can watch slip and slide across the snow in the Penguin Playground. And for close encounters of the barnyard kind, Collingwood Children's Farm is located just five kilometres from the centre of Melbourne. Here kids can milk a cow, ride a pony, bottle feed a lamb, feed the chooks, look for eggs or just kick back and enjoy the views of the Yarra River.

At Scienceworks you’ll find heaps of interactive displays and fun activities including a planetarium and a lightning room. Not to be missed is immersive art gallery, ArtVo where kids are encouraged to touch and become part of the art. The Arts Centre Melbourne is another great spot for creative kids with cool courses and drama workshops for kids. Head to Docklands to ride the 38-storey high Melbourne Star observation wheel and underneath is Wonderland Junior Docklands, an inner city fun park for the young and the young at heart. For mini golf with a difference head to Glow Golf at Dockland for 18 holes of glow in the dark golfing fun. Or maybe the kids would like to head to circus school? At the National Institute of Circus Arts, budding circus performers can take part in short courses and fun circus-themed activities.

Luna Park is a Melbourne icon where teens can get their thrills on heart pumping rides like the Pharaoh’s Curse and its Ghost Train. If you want to get even more spooked, take a chilling ghost tour or a hangman’s night tour of Old Melbourne Gaol, the site of hundreds of colonial executions, including that of the infamous Ned Kelly. Still want more ghouls? Teen zombie hunters can battle zombie hoards in a post-apocalyptic setting at Zero Latency, where virtual reality technology is used to create a live-action videogame. Kids 14 and over can get face-to-gill with enormous sharks and giant stingrays at Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium’s Shark Dive Xtreme. If you’ve got a thing for heights, head to level 88 of the Eureka Tower and venture out on to The Edge – a three-metre transparent glass cube that suspends you 300 metres over Melbourne. Or head to the Enchanted Garden for tree surfing and zip lining adventures.

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Kids View: What to do for free in Melbourne (Insider Tips from Local Kids)

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Things to do in Melbourne

While Melbourne’s seasons are fairly distinct, this region can experience four of them in one day, so no matter what time of the year you are visiting, it’s worthwhile packing some warm weather gear and an umbrella. A great all-year-round holiday destination, with plenty to see or do no matter weather, it can get cold in winter and hot in summer, but it is rarely too much of each and humidity is less of an issue than in other parts of the country. Melbourne is busy throughout the year, especially in the school holidays and during major sporting events, so it’s best to plan ahead and pre-book accommodation. The shoulder seasons of autumn, from March to May, and spring, from September to November, are an especially good time to visit with more moderate temperatures, smaller crowds and better deals on flights and accommodation.

Melbourne is home to a raft of fun family experiences. Here are 10 not to be missed. 1. Hitch a ride on an iconic Melbourne tram. 1. Enjoy amazing 360-degree views from the Eureka Skydeck. 2. Ride high on the 38-storey Melbourne Star observation wheel. 3. Enjoy everything from gentle rides to eye popping thrill rides at Luna Park. 4. Scrub the decks and fire the cannons on the Polly Woodside Tall Ship. 5. Get creative at ArtPlay, Australia’s only arts centre for children. 6. Visit the Penguin Playground at Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium. 7. Explore the city streets and laneways to view Melbourne’s famous street art. 8. Find out what it’s like to be a zookeeper for a day at Melbourne Zoo. 9. Search for the hidden figures at William Ricketts Sanctuary. 10. Become part of the exhibit at ArtVo, Australia’s first interactive art gallery.

Melbourne’s highly diverse melting pot of cultures means an almost endless variety of world cuisines and food experiences that are tasty and accessible to kids. Some of the most popular eating precincts are Acland Street in St Kilda, Brunswick Street in Fitzroy and Southbank as well as Chinatown, the Greek precinct and Italian-infused Lygon Street in Carlton. You’ll find kid-friendly cafes, buffets, food trucks, produce markets, hotels and pubs that serve up kids’ meals with a side of playgrounds, arts, crafts and games. Birdie Num Nums does great food and coffee, baby facilties and a shaded outdoor area with a sand pit. Zagames has hearty food along with a play area with arcade games. And The Moreland Hotel has games, an indoor playground and regular theme parties with face painting and magicians. For something extra special for the kids book a themed High Tea at the Langham, a must-do experience to have with your children.

Explore Melbourne on the free City Circle Tram that loops around Melbourne’s CBD passing major city attractions and linking up with other train, tram and bus networks. The hop-on, hop-off Melbourne Visitor Shuttle is another free way to explore Melbourne and comes with bonus onboard commentary. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is Australia's national museum of film, video games, digital culture and art, and entry is completely free. And art lovers can view permanent collections of Australian art or stroll through city streets and laneways to view the city’s best public artworks. There are many parks and gardens to explore in Melbourne including the lush Royal Botanic Gardens, but the most popular with kids would have to be the Victorian-era Fitzroy Gardens where you will find a miniature Tudor Village, carved Fairies’ Tree and an awesome playground. The pretty garden also leads to Captain Cook’s cottage, the oldest building in Australia.

MARCH Steamfest – Enjoy a weekend of enchanting old steam trains, tractors and boats. MARCH Moomba Festival – With its fun street parade, Birdman Rally and carnival, the annual Moomba festival has been providing fun for Melbourne families for decades. APRIL Melbourne Easter Show – Packed with rides, showbags, animals and chocolate eggs, this is one event the kids won’t want to miss. SEPTEMBER Footy Festival – Experience the best of Melbourne food, music and footy SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER Royal Melbourne Show – Enjoy the best of the bush in the city during this annual 10-day event for families. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER Melbourne Fringe – A celebration of culture and art with hundreds of events spread across Melbourne for all ages. OCTOBER Carlton Italian Fiesta – Enjoy a celebration of all things Italian. OCTOBER Melbourne Festival – There’s plenty of dance, theatre and music for the family at this international arts festival.