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Good, cheap family fun in Canberra?

By 24 April 2011 21

Just wondering what there is to do in Canberra on any given weekend with a 3yo, $20 and a full tank of petrol -that doesn’t involve Mac’s or video games?

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21 Responses to Good, cheap family fun in Canberra?
#1
Wily_Bear12:53 pm, 24 Apr 11

When mine were that little, they always loved a day at Weston Park. Dress them up in warm clothes and they’ll spend hours playing in the water loch system, or digging trenches with the sandpit diggers at the playground. If you have a few dollars, there’s the little train, always a hit with the toddlers. Pack a lunch and get into the spirit with them.
Don’t forget to take a little something to feed the ducks/swans, which can be either fun or terrifying for them, depending on their penchant for adventure !

#2
facet1:11 pm, 24 Apr 11

Western Park train ride, War Memorial, Royal Australian Mint, Civic merry-go-round, dozens of bush walks, bike paths, Tidbinbilla Space Visitor Centre, Tidbinbilla Nature reserve etc, etc most of which are free entry.

#3
Solidarity1:32 pm, 24 Apr 11

Go to the cotter playground and set up a picnic?

#4
taninaus2:50 pm, 24 Apr 11

No matter where you live Canberra has great parks pretty close to most people – there are the mega ones like Gordon and Kambah, or smaller ones in most suburbs – young ones enjoy those. Also look out for offerings at the libraries, they have story telling and other events on, not sure about weekends though.

Also fetes, fairs etc at local schools and shopping centres – there are usually lower cost activities as well as the higher priced ones.

#5
Deref2:56 pm, 24 Apr 11

Black Mountain Penisula – heaps of great things for a 3 year old to play on including a tree house and a water play area, beautiful surroundings – and it’s free!

#6
eh_steve3:15 pm, 24 Apr 11

Kid City in Mitchell is a bit of fun.

#7
dannybear3:43 pm, 24 Apr 11

you could go out to namadgi national park and have a look in the visitors centre and the old nasa ruins
while out that way tidbinbilla deep space tracking station
also tidbinbilla nature reserve is around $20 for a year pass and theres a great playground there
also if you dont want to do some of the rougher walks theres the sanctuary walk
lots of wildlife to see
tidbinbilla is certainly one of my favorite memorys from being a kid and its come a massive way since the fires
another space themed thing is the ruins of the telescopes up on mount stromlo
thats all that comes to mind at the moment :) good luck!

#8
spiderinsider4:29 pm, 24 Apr 11

+1 for many of these suggestions, especially Tidbinbilla nature reserve.

The zoo has annual memberships for $95 for an adult, children under 4 are a gold coin donation, so if you’d be likely to visit five times in a year that would make the grade.

Also plenty of ‘one off’ events, eg Million Paws Walk, Balloon festival etc etc

#9
doomguy10017:35 pm, 24 Apr 11

I know this might not be a popular comment but the only way you can properly entertain a three year old without walking around the zoo, Tidbinbilla or a shopping centre in Canberra is to let them loose at a McDonalds playground.

Don’t get me wrong, The tracking station is quite interesting to me and I would go as far to say that a trip to the war memorial is ‘spiritual’. But the goal is entertainment not wearing the kid out with endless walking.

#10
urchin8:13 pm, 24 Apr 11

getting the 2 year family pass to questacon is a good deal. esp. in winter. mini q is great for the little ones and not terribly painful for adults.

the zoo is ok but it gets old. +1 for tidbinbilla – getting the pass is worth it. it’s a beautiful place (if you don’t try to go in the full heat of summer) and makes for some nice walks. they even have koalas now. (again)

#11
canberralocal8:18 pm, 24 Apr 11

+1 for the Weston Park idea, that place is probably the most tranquil spot in the ACT yet has kids equipment. Perfect for a family day out

#12
Felix the Cat8:44 pm, 24 Apr 11

Go down to your nearest park/sportsground and kick a ball around

#13
astrojax7:29 am, 25 Apr 11

or start a family business and put them to work..?

as noted, canberra is full of green space and most suburbs have play facilities of varying utility for young’uns, and you often meet others there, so they find friends. the precinct in the triangle is full of interesting and tactile stuff [which may also interest you!], and the gallery’s sculpture garden is fun (off there today meself with astromonkey and meeting his friend).

#14
Captainblack9:26 am, 25 Apr 11

Black Mountain peninsula has bbqs, play equipment and lots of space to run around. Not quite so exciting as Weston Park but usually quieter. More enjoyable if you go with friends and other children.

The flags by the lake is a good place to explore – close to the sculpture garden at NGA and the fog sculpture(!) (runs between 12-2pm, I think?) You can catch a boat around/across the lake for $10, children gold coin.

Our children loved MiniQ at Questacon – they would stay in there with us for ours at a time – and it’s a great option if the weather’s not fine. Current prices are $20 for adults and $15 for children 4-16yrs so your 3 year old might be free.

+1 for Tidbinbilla and Namadgi. Cotter playground closed at present for dam construction?

Botanical Gardens – rainforest walks, water dragons down the bottom, lots to see and touch – just a dollar or two for parking.

Black Mountain tower – a few dollars admission and great views.

#15
s-s-a10:07 am, 25 Apr 11

the only way you can properly entertain a three year old without walking around the zoo, Tidbinbilla or a shopping centre in Canberra is to let them loose at a McDonalds playground

Err… yeah sure.

Tidbinbilla playground is good, but IMO no better than some others closer to town and the drive out there is enough to deter me (mostly). If I lived closer to Point Hutt I might feel differently.

#5 there has not been a tree house at Black Mtn peninsula for many years and I don’t think there has ever been a water play area there. The water play area at Weston Park has been renovated recently but I think is still there. There was a tree house/fort play area there too but it’s also long gone.

Cotter playground is closed but there has been a massive improvement in facilities at Casuarina Sands. Not sure I would want to go there with a 3yo unless I felt energetic enough to tail them constantly, as the river there is so much bigger than at the Cotter.

- Botanic Gardens has a kiddy trail
- Another vote for Black Mtn peninsula, Weston Park and the Sculpture Garden. Black Mtn tower not so sure for this age group.
- National Museum play spaces are gone but the courtyard is good and if they have an ok attention span you could help them with K-space. It’s all free here, plus plenty of parkland and lake frontage to play and run around and the paddle steamer to visit.

But overall my vote would be for wandering around your local area and discovering the little parks. They might not seem much to you, but they are a whole world of adventure to a 3yo, and also allow you to meet other local families with kids of similar age. IMO this is an important thing, particularly as preschool and school age gets closer. Take a thermos and a snack and find a comfy spot in the sun.

#16
beejay761:27 pm, 25 Apr 11

Heaps! The museum is free for their general admission – check out the computer 3D animation thingo downstairs. My little ones are mad for it.

National Gallery is good, too. Free entry again for their general stuff and there’s usually a kids room with various cool bits for kids to do.

Tidbinbilla, as others have mentioned is awesome. My kids’ all time favourite. Not free, though $20 for annual pass is excellent value.

Check out the TAMS website for info on parks. They have an awesome guide called “Get out there”. We love it! It covers the urban parks, like Commonwealth Park, and Weston Park, as well as local ones. It also covers the National Parks etc such as Namadgi and the Brindabellas. Definitely a must-have.

Also got on the subscriber list for those venues as they often have events. I remember the museum screening a series of free movies for kids in their cinema. That was very cool.

Mostly, my kids’ favourite activity is anything that involves large numbers of children outdoors where they can run around like mad bastards without too much adult interference. Chuck in a treasure hunt or something and you’re on a winner!

#17
wildturkeycanoe4:57 pm, 25 Apr 11

Went to the NMA today. The 2 hours we [ mum, dad and 3 kids under 10 ] spent were okay, but for our 3 y.o. it got boring after the first 15 minutes. I couldn’t really appreciate the content after that point, as he slowly built up to a tantrum. We finally got to the kids section and that was the best 10 minutes of the trip. Free, yes, but not ideal for young uns.

#18
KCL10:52 am, 30 Apr 11

Felix the Cat said :

Go down to your nearest park/sportsground and kick a ball around

we do that in the backyard nearly everyday

#19
KCL11:03 am, 30 Apr 11

Thanks everyone for ALL the fantastic suggestions!

#20
franzipami7:27 pm, 11 May 11

My kids and I loved Questacon. Join up as a single adult (roughly $70 for the year) and children accompanying you under the age of get in for free. There is a kids area which has security doors so the kids can just run around in a confined area and enjoy the activities, and of course there is the rest of Questacon plus various planned activities for the kids where they learn about certain concepts ie. spiders, hot and cold, volcanoes, senses. Oh, you can also go to affiliated science centres in Australia.

A bit of payment first up but good for the rest of the year.

#21
tranvo1:18 pm, 14 May 13

You can try a new venue that has just opened up in suburb of Mitchell called “Smash Table Tennis”

They only charge $5 per person per visit to play as much table tennis during that day’s opening time.
Another cool thing is, they offer free chess, foosball plus you can pay $2 for pool table games

http://www.smashtabletennis.com.au

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