9 Things To Do With Kids In Melbourne
One of the world’s great hubs of culture and creativity, Melbourne is also a place where kids can let their imaginations run wild, and soak up experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
From world-class zoos, museums and galleries to activities and attractions that are just plain FUN, Melbourne has something to keep kids of all ages and abilities engaged and entertained. They might even learn a thing or two!
Play on at MoPA
Sure, Hobart has MONA – but Melbourne has MoPA, the Museum of Play and Art. Founded on the belief that play and creativity are the building blocks for the brightest minds, this groundbreaking museum for kids is home to an impressive range of immersive exhibits and experiences.
Your little explorer can turn themselves into a timeless piece by one of the masters at the interactive wall of art; fine-tune their fine-motor skills in the colourful soft play area; race down giant ramps in the Zoom Room; and chill out in the ‘quiet room’, a serene, low-sensory space.
Suitable for kids aged between one and seven years old, MoPA Melbourne is located at 247 Bay Road, Sandringham. Bookings are essential, so make sure you plan your play ahead of time.
Zoos out the wazoo
Melbourne is a great base from which to explore not one, not two, but three iconic zoos run by Zoos Victoria, a world-leading conservation organisation that’s dedicated to fighting wildlife extinction.
There’s the traditional Melbourne Zoo in Royal Park, just a few minutes north of the city centre. It’s the place where kids can enjoy a classic zoo experience and connect with hundreds of species from around the world, while beginning to develop a deeper understanding of the environment that surrounds them and the role their favourite animals play in it.
Then there’s Healesville Sanctuary, a haven for native wildlife in the heart of the Yarra Valley. A true all-Aussie experience, this is the place to have close encounters with iconic local animals, including koalas, kangaroos, platypus, dingoes, wombats, emus and more, in their natural habitat. The kids can also visit the Australian Wildlife Health Centre to see how vets and nurses care for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife – it might even inspire them on their own career path!
Finally, there’s the Werribee Open Range Zoo, located on the Werribee River. You won’t believe you’re just 30 minutes from Melbourne as you embark on an African safari adventure, spotting rhinos, giraffes and zebras across the open range savannah, and coming face-to-face with lions, gorillas, monkeys and hippos on the walking trails.
Children under 16 years of age can claim free entry to all three zoos on weekends, Victorian public holidays and Victorian Government school holidays, but you have to pre-book your ticket – there are no tickets available at the gates.
Get back to nature at Royal Park
The largest of Melbourne’s inner city parks, located just four kilometres north of the CBD, Royal Park is now home to one of Australia’s most acclaimed playgrounds.
Nature Play at Royal Park, adjacent to the Royal Children’s Hospital, is a unique space designed to foster a sense of adventure in city kids, with high rope traverses, large climbing structures, water play areas, and your classic slides and swings.
With open grassy lawns and no artificial boundaries, kids are encouraged to explore, while the park’s plants have been chosen to represent the seven Wurundjeri seasons, to help make kids aware of Melbourne’s Indigenous culture and heritage.
From here, why not jump on a quintessentially Melbourne tram – the kids will love zooming through Melbourne and seeing the city from a different perspective – and head to the Royal Botanic Gardens?
Fun in the sun at the Royal Botanic Gardens
A green oasis in the heart of the city, Melbourne Gardens is home to over 31 collections of plants, making it one of the world’s most diverse and beautiful botanic gardens.
It’s also home to The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, one of the most popular spot for kids to play and explore in Melbourne. Make sure they bring their swimmers, and watch them light up as water sprays up out of the ground at the Meeting Place.
Other spots they’ll love discovering include the Ruin Garden, full of lush rainforest vegetation; a wetland area with an 80cm deep pond; a kitchen garden where they can get their hands dirty unearthing fruits, vegetables and herbs; an enchanting bamboo forest; and a tree tower with a view of the Garden from above.
Kids can follow the tracks through different habitats, and since it’s fully fenced, you can rest assured they won’t get too far, no matter where their curiosity takes them.
From here, it’s just a short walk across St Kilda Road to your next stop…
Make a masterpiece at the National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is the oldest and most visited gallery in Australia, home to a wide range of international exhibitions, covering everything from fashion and design to architecture and dance.
What you might not know is that it’s also a great place for kids to visit, because NGV offers a year-round program of dedicated children’s exhibitions, events and activities.
The kid’s exhibitions usually run alongside the major exhibits, and give children a chance to learn about important artists and movements in a fun and interactive way, while also providing them with the tools to make their own triumphant works of art that will surely take pride of place on your fridge.
The pieces on display at NGV also come with children’s labels that you can read together, and free exhibition activity sheets are available from the Information Desks at both NGV galleries (NGV International and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia).
Brick it at Legoland Discovery Centre
Every parent knows the feeling of stepping on a Lego that your child has left behind. Well, here’s your chance to let them build until they can’t build anymore, without any worries that the bricks will show back up on your kitchen floor when you least expect it.
Located in Chadstone Shopping Centre, just 17km from the CBD, Legoland Discovery Centre is filled with more than a million Lego bricks, laid out in a dizzying array of configurations. You’ll find global and local landmarks recreated with Lego bricks, as well as Lego-themed rides, a Duplo Farm, a Lego 4D Cinema, and of course, play zones for the kids to build their own creations.
Sessions can be booked in two-hour blocks, but spots are limited, so pre-bookings are essential.
Take a step back in time at Luna Park
Is any Australian childhood truly complete without a trip to the iconic Luna Park? The oldest theme park in Australia, it’s home to over 100 years of history, as well as a range of rides that still thrill kids and big kids alike, including The Great Scenic Railway – the world’s oldest continually operating roller coaster.
The kids will love the other classic carnival attractions, including the Ghost Train (one of the last original dark rides still standing), the scenic Sky Rider, the stomach-churning Coney Drop, the dragon ship, dodgems, a carousel, a merry-go-round and plenty more.
Luna Park is located in the picturesque beachside suburb of St Kilda. Why not take a tram to the suburb that will drop you off at the park’s doorstep, before taking the kids for a stroll along the promenade?
Lights, camera, action at ACMI
Do your kids love the movies (or are they at least keen to watch cartoons on your phone)? Then they’ll probably love ACMI, formerly known as the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
Australia’s foremost museum of screen culture, ACMI is home to a range of fun and interactive exhibits that will teach kids how the shows they watch are made, and uncover surprising and unusual connections between them.
They can add their own strange and wonderful sound effects to real movies and TV shows; animate their own flip book; master the art of shadow play and puppetry; and take home all of their creations and experiences on their Lens, an inventive new tool that allows museum attendees to take their own personally curated ACMI experience home with them.
ACMI is located at Fed Square in the CBD, and entry is free.
Cycle along the Yarra
The famous Yarra River runs through the heart of the city, and has a number of scenic bike paths running alongside it, winding through lush parklands and the CBD. If you’ve had your fill of galleries, museums, street art and coffee, then take the kids out for a bike ride and feel the fresh breeze in your hair. It’s a lovely way to pass the time, and it’s sure to tire out even the most energetic kids – a win-win!
The Main Yarra Trail is a particularly popular path. It starts and finishes at Southbank, the linchpin of Melbourne’s bicycle trail system, following the Yarra River for 33 kilometres past ancient gums and billabongs.
Of course, in a city as big and vibrant as Melbourne, that’s just the start of the fun that’s on offer for kids and adults alike – but it should be enough to get you going!