Did you know that Australia’s capital city Canberra was named the third best city to visit in the world in 2018 by Lonely Planet, who described Canberra as “criminally overlooked” and “pack[ing] a big punch for such a small city”? Canberra is a fun, exciting city, designed as a cluster of different districts each boasting their own unique character. It’s a ton of fun just wandering around soaking in the atmosphere. And of course, as the national capital, there’s a lot of world-class arts & culture facilities just waiting to inspire.
So, you’re sold, but what about the kids? If you’re thinking Canberra is just about politics and museums (although that’s pretty exciting too), you’re in for a surprise: Canberra is incredibly family-friendly. With so many interesting things to do in such close proximity, it’s the perfect spot to add to your travel planner.
Keen to start your virtual journey with us? Here’s why Canberra with kids is a “capital” choice; and if you’re looking for plenty more great info on Canberra, just mosey on down to visitcanberra.com.au for plenty more travel inspo or talk to your local ATAS accredited travel expert.
Canberra is the place to play! You’ll find Australia’s biggest video game arcade Game Masters at the National Film & Sound Archive until March 2021, with the world's greatest game designers, characters and 80 playable retro games, as well as plenty of behind-the-scenes insights into the creative processes behind gaming. Canberra’s beloved science museums Questacon and CSIRO Discovery both boast amazing hands-on interactive STEM experiences. Quizzic Alley describes itself as “Australia’s most magical store”, with Australia’s largest range of Harry Potter merchandise. And with the Let's Roam Scavenger Hunt, Canberra itself is your playground!
Fun fact: Canberra has more restaurants per capita than anywhere else on mainland Australia! It’s a great place to introduce your family to foodie culture, and flavours from around the world. Some particularly kid-popular choices are the legendary American-Japanese burger joint Mookie Burger and the flame-grilled burgers at Brodburger; Malaysian Chapter in Belconnen has a great play area to keep the kids occupied (and the food’s amazing, too!). In Chinatown, you’ll find lots of Asian cuisine for the kids to expand their horizon, with Dickson Dumpling House being a popular choice for an easy nibble even for fussy eaters.
Canberra also has a great food market culture: the Old Bus Depot Markets, Capital Region Farmers Market and Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets are all great spots to pick up a casual feed (and eating at markets is such a fun experience for the kids to remember!) You might even pick up some new favourite toys and trinkets while you’re at it.
If you’re looking for a delicious breakfast and a great morning cuppa, Canberra can hold its own with the world’s great coffee cities! Visit Canberra has a great guide to the local café scene, and one café particularly stands out: The Cupping Room, headed by world champion barista Sasa Sestic, with all-day breakfasts and brunches with an international flair. Don’t miss the dukkah-roasted cauliflower for a chance to re-introduce the kids to what can be a seriously tasty and kid-friendly vegetable.
It’s no surprise that as the capital city of Australia, Canberra showcases truly world-class arts & culture facilities. The National Gallery’s collection includes almost 160,000 works of art spanning many countries and cultures, and also hosts a wide variety of fascinating exhibitions. The National Museum is another must-see, with such engaging insights into Australia and the world – the kids will love it. Next, you can’t get much more kid-friendly than the Dinosaur Museum, inspiring the budding palaeontologist(s) in your family! And why not take your small things to the Gallery of Small Things, celebrating all things small in a tiny gallery.
The Canberra Glassworks is a bright, colourful place that’s perfect for kids; you can see professional glass artists at work, make your own glass paperweight and admire the beauty and versatility of this extraordinary medium. Bungendore Wood Works Gallery is a delight as well, exhibiting works by Australia’s foremost designer/makers in wood.
Canberra is Ngunnawal country, and it’s a fascinating place to learn both about the Indigenous people of this region and about Canberra as an important location of indigenous affairs: the 2008 Apology took place in Canberra, and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy is still going strong. Take the Yeribee Indigenous Experiences of Parliament House tour; the great Indigenous exhibits of the National Museum and National Gallery are very insightful, and the Aboriginal Dreaming Gallery and Burrunju Art Gallery are excellent as well.
And of course, if you want to educate and inspire your future voters, you’ve come to the right place! Learning about politics in the classroom can often feel stodgy and boring, but actually experiencing where the decision-making magic happens can really spark an interest to last a lifetime. The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House is a great place to set some context; next, head to the National Electoral Education Centre for an interactive educational experience before visiting Parliament House with its stunning international flag display and its fascinating experiential insight into Aussie democracy in action.
Ready to get back to nature? Canberra is home to Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve with their remote wilderness experiences, diverse natural environments and fascinating native wildlife, as well as sites of Aboriginal and European cultural significance. Go on incredible guided walks with knowledgeable local rangers; go camping and fishing; ride an alpine bobsled or toboggan on snow; and take one of the many extraordinary walking trails. Want to know more?
Canberra also boasts gardens galore: walk from the Black Mountain Nature Park to the National Botanic Gardens, explore the National Arboretum (including a fab bonsai collection and the amazing POD playground) and the National Rose Gardens; the Lennox Gardens with its Beijing Garden and Nara Peace Park, and the stunning Commonwealth Park on the edge of iconic Lake Burley Griffin. Of course, the iconic lake is a must-do while you’re in Canberra, and a particularly memorable way to do it is on a GoBoat electric picnic boat.
Last but not least, the beautifully landscaped Cockington Green Gardens has an amazing display of meticulously handcrafted miniature buildings from around the world, as well as a mini steam train you can ride on, and a 34-room dolls house. What fun!
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