Melbourne is the ultimate melting pot of multiculturalism, the arts and an impressive array of kid-friendly activities. As one of the most liveable cities in the world, it offers a little bit of something for the whole family. Here are some tips on how to enjoy this city for FREE!
A Guest Post by Amy Chung from Family Globetrotters
City Circle Tram
As a city known for utilizing trams as a major mode of public transportation, there is no better way to experience it than hopping onto the free tourist City Circle Tram. It goes in both clockwise and anticlockwise directions around the central business district whilst passing through some significant tourist attractions.
You can hop on and off at any time you wish. This route is serviced by heritage W class trams which are no longer commissioned for everyday commuters, adding to a classic Melbourne experience.
Do you wish to expose your children to a world of unlimited imagination, unique art experiences and oodles of creative fun? Located next to Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne city is the unparalleled ArtPlay studio where children of ages up to 12 years are invited to engage in artistic workshops. Programs include an interesting myriad of art forms such as ceramics, drawing, aboriginal painting, singing, sculpture, and movement. There are over 300 workshops in a year of which some of them are completely free.
ArtPlay also boasts an outdoor playground with hammocks, rope climbing features, and a sand pit, by the Yarra River. This is the only playground in Melbourne CBD and the perfect spot to entertain the kids whilst you take a well-earned rest over a cup of Melbourne’s famous coffee.
Just as there is a creative space for children, Melbourne also boasts a program for teenagers from the age of 13. The signal may be enjoyed as a workshop, performance, installation or exhibition and is renowned for embracing diversity, creativity, and multiculturalism. Where else would you be able to find a free program that may include going on a journey of Japanese folk tales through traditional paper-cut and bookbinding methods or experiencing city-scale radio acousmonium that focuses on the concept of ‘akousma’ – sound removed from its source!
Self-Guided Walks and Street Art
Embarking on an arcades and laneways self-guided walk is an excellent way to get to know this small, flat and easy to navigate the city. The walk spans across 2.5km and will take about 1.5 hours to complete.
Get the kids to lead the way with the city’s comprehensive map, numbering interesting landmarks and destinations from 1 to 32. Walk past the Underground Public Toilets, dredge down cobblestone laneways filled with eye-grabbing graffiti and find the infamous nude painting entitled Chloe!
Should you have active children who may enjoy an outdoor activity, head out to the Dandenong Ranges and attempt at conquering the 1000 steps. The trail depicts the lives of Australian soldiers who fought and died on the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea. It is 3km in length and would take approximately 1.5 hours to complete. The walking trail is a picturesque trek through the beautiful trees of the Dandenong Ranges. It does require a certain level of fitness whilst good walking shoes and plenty of water is recommended.
The RAAF Museum
The Royal Australian Air Force (originally the Australian Flying Corps) is the second oldest air force in the world and it is, therefore, befitting it has its own dedicated museum. Located 25 minutes’ drive from Melbourne, the RAAF Museum is positioned close to the entrance of Melbourne’s RAAF base. It has the largest collection of aircraft memorabilia relating to the air force whilst they also host flying demonstrations by the pilots. There is something for everyone in the family and best of all, it’s completely free!
The Mornington Peninsula is only an hour out of Melbourne and it is a haven for kids. The coastal beaches are stunning, an array of water activities one can undertake is in abundance whilst its culinary and wine scene is dynamic.
Boogie Boarding Activity at Mornington Peninsula
Screen World at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is a free, permanent exhibition dedicated to providing educational information about the moving image. The exhibit boasts incredibly fun interactive gaming consoles, a re-creation of the famous Zoetrope, interesting footage and historical objects. The moving images are designed to create sensory experiences whilst also introducing cultural performing art forms such as the Indonesian Wayang puppets. Screen World is the perfect way to entertain all members of the family.
Museum Victoria boasts a free Discovery Centre suitable for children of all ages. This is a great place for the naturally curious child who has an interest in animals, plants, rocks, fossils, and astronomy. The Discovery Centre boasts over 2000 objects and specimens on display, kept in pristine condition in jars, cabinets, and drawers.
In the center, you will also find a comprehensive library filled with journals, catalogs, and books with a children’s corner for the playful. The staffs at the Discovery Centre are more than helpful and are always willing to answer questions.
The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden may be found at the Royal Botanical Gardens. If your children like getting their hands dirty, the children’s garden was made for them! This interactive space includes a water feature, plants, pathways, kitchen garden and a waterway and is designed to educate children about the environment and conservation. The Royal Botanical Gardens itself is spectacular and the perfect spot for a relaxing picnic amidst the beautiful flora and fauna.
Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is a sacred memorial dedicated to the sacrifices of Australian men and women who have served for the good of their country.
The Shrine is open to everyone who may wish to pay his or her respects whilst also learning about the significance of Australia’s participation in war and peacekeeping. It is a beautiful way to show children the meaning of sacrifice, peace and courage whilst admiring the porticos inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, the Second World War forecourt or the external buttress sculptures featuring lions and chariots.
Also Read: The Top Things to do in Athens, Greece
Beach and Luna Park
Melbourne is home to numerous bay beaches, which are calm and suitable for swimming. The closest beach to Melbourne CBD is only 30 minutes by tram and St Kilda is home to a gorgeous esplanade, Luna Park for the adventurous kids and a glorious Sunday market.
You could also grab some traditional Aussie fish ‘n’ chips and enjoy the sunset whilst the kids splash about in the water or enjoy some of the communal picnic and barbeque areas.
Also Read: Best Day Trips from Sydney Australia
Prahran market was opened in 1891 and is an institution on Commercial Road, which is a 25-minute tram ride from Melbourne CBD. The market is renowned for excellent produce, delicious food offerings and a deli section to die for. The market is also well placed for some free children’s activities such as face painting, dance classes, and performances by the famous Mexican music man who is an interactive children’s singer.
Ian Potter Centre
In 2010, the National Gallery of Victoria opened the Ian Potter Centre, a permanent space for kids, located at Federation Square in the CBD. The center is designed to encourage children to appreciate art in its many forms and it contains stacks of self-led activities, real artworks and interactive installations they can have fun with. The exhibits and activities change every 6 months to ensure it captures the imagination of all kids on a regular basis.
Playpod is located in the courtyard of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne city. It is a dedicated children’s space for kids under the age of 8. It runs seasonally throughout the year from March to August and showcases a theme which changes annually. Play Pod includes loads of reading and playing activities designed to get the kids to participate and engage in the library’s program.
As an example, the current theme is the very hungry caterpillar and according to the State Library of Victoria, they invite children to “discover the wonderful adventures of The Very Hungry Caterpillar! Bring Eric Carle’s classic book to life by finding caterpillars in the garden, creating a munch-able feast and preparing to transform into a beautiful butterfly!” We’re sold! See you there!
Melbourne is a melting pot of events and it is a never-ending source of entertainment. From Bollywood dancing in the summer in Fitzroy Gardens to Friday night fireworks in the Docklands in the winter, there is always something interesting to be part of. Be sure to check out what kid-friendly free events may be on during your visit as there is no better way to enjoy this colorful city. Here are 20 Melbourne festivals and events for every month of the year.