SCHOOL’S out but that doesn’t mean that parents need to be pulling their hair out trying to think of ways to entertain their little ones. There are loads of activities on in Melbourne throughout the holidays to keep families occupied all summer long.
For two weeks in January, Melbourne Park is the home of family fun, when it hosts the Grand Slam of the Pan-Pacific, the Australian Open (18-31 January 2016). Along with world class tennis, there is a range of activities for budding tennis stars to enjoy. The fun continues at Birrarung Marr where the all-new, free and family-friendly Australian Open Festival will host activities and live entertainment. Open daily throughout the Open, the Festival will showcase some of Melbourne’s famous world-class dining and food vendors, just a short walk from Melbourne Park itself. The Festival will feature three key areas, including Kids World with Nickelodeon’s giant inflatable playground, Nickelodeon characters, the famous Nickelodeon Slime Lab, a Woolworths Kids Zone with fresh fruit frozen yoghurt and fun ball-kid challenges and free tennis on the ANZ Tennis Hot Shots mini-courts.
Arts Centre Melbourne
Family friendly productions at Arts Centre Melbourne include: The 3 Little Pigs (2-17 January 2016), direct from London’s West End, which tells the classic fairytale with a musical twist; Noodlenut (19 January 2016), comedy master Frank Woodley’s show for children and; The Illusionists 1903 a magic extravaganza full of tricks that will leave the whole family in awe. Public art and interactive experience, Tangle (20-24 January 2016) invites kids to take a giant ball of elastic and weave around golden poles, creating and contributing to a dense, multi-coloured landscape to play, explore and bounce in. 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 1300 182 183
The Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI) will roll out a Summer in Motion program featuring movies, workshops and free stuff for kids. Highlight films include Asterix: The Mansion of the Gods (23 December 2015 – 29 January 2016) and Monkey Kingdom (21 December 2015 – 31 January 2016). Workshops include Make a Movie, (6-8 and 11-13 January 2016) a three day hands on creative and technical filmaking workshop and Claymation for Kids (15 January 2016), where kids can sculpt their own characters from clay. Federation Square, Flinders Street, Melbourne, +61 3 8663 2200
Melbourne’s much-loved theme park is gearing up for its biggest summer ever with four new rides and something to suit everyone’s thrill threshold. Cars for Kids offers smaller kids the chance to practice their driving skills on mini dodgem cars. Body Rock is a high speed thrill ride, lifting adventure seekers up in the air and from side to side and all around. Jungle Twist is a family friendly spinning coaster and Hurricane sends carriages plummeting upward and downward as the entire ride rotates in a fast fury of excitement. LEGO workshops will also take place throughout the holidays. 18 Lower Esplanade, St Kilda, +61 3 9525 5033
At Melbourne Zoo, kids have the chance to become a Seal Life-Saver (19 December 2015 – 24 March 2016) as the Carousel Park transforms into a pop-up beach. At the Wild Sea, kids can meet seals, pelicans and penguins and find out how to help save these marine wildlife. Littlies can enjoy beach-themed activities in Keeper Kids from 12pm or the seal show at 11.30am every day. At dusk every Friday and Saturday, Zoo Twilights (29 January – 12 March 2016) welcomes a selection of local and international artists to the stage. Acts include Birds of Tokyo, José González, John Butler Trio and Belinda Carlisle. Entry for kids under 16 is free. Elliott Ave, Parkville, +61 39285 9300
SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium
In addition to its face-to-face marine life experiences, the SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium has recently launched a 4-D experience, Ice Age: No Time For Nuts. This fully immersive, high energy, nine minute show features exclusive brand new footage, presented in high definition. 3-D projection combines with in-theatre special effects such as vibrating seats, water spray, strobe lights to create the 4-D experience. A specially-themed pre-show area features an interactive ice wall and photo opportunities. After the show, kids can top the day off with a visit to the King and Gentoo penguins in their own Antarctic world, Penguin Playground. King Street and Flinders St, Melbourne, +61 3 9923 5925
Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens provide the perfect setting for a picnic all year round, and in summer the Gardens offer school holiday fun for the whole family. The Australian Shakespear Company presents Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies (6 – 23 January 2016), an interactive adventure where dressing up as an fairy or elf is positively encouraged. At the sun sets, the Moonlight Cinema (3 December 2015 – 27 March 2016) gets under way and families and older children can roll out the picnic rug while waiting for their favourite film to roll against the city skyline. Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra, +61 3 9252 2300
A fun filled and informative night-time tour of the Wild and Forest galleries, Night Bird Watch (26 December 2015 – 26 January 2016) will enable kids to discover owls and nightjars of of Australasia, North America and Eurasia up close. During the day, the Museum’s activity rooms will become a nocturnal soundscape Night Space (26 December 2015 – 26 January 2016) featuring the the sights and sounds of creatures that are most active at night. Next door IMAX will be showing Under the Sea a child-friendly 45 minute documentary. Older kids will enjoy Star Wars in 3-D, and to accompany the film there will be loads of Star Wars droids and a Star Wars staircase, perfect for instagrammable pics. 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton, +61 3 8341 7777
Science Works will host a 20-minute show, Blown Away (1 – 26 January 2016) every day at midday throughout January. Demonstrations will show kids the difference between high and low air pressure and how it moves around. Ages 8 and up will also enjoy the chance to explore the world with just a smartphone in a cardboard box with Virtually Real! (1 – 26 January 2016). The simple stereoscopic mask combines two images into one for a 3-D effect, while a motion sensor in the device detects and adjusts the image according head movements. 2 Booker Street, Spotswood, +61 3 9392 4800
Shrine of Remembrance
A free Summer Family Program (11 – 22 January 2016) will run at the Shrine of Remembrance and include two activities. Symbol Quest: Lions, Crowns and Colours is a 55-minute program introducing children aged seven to 13 to the symbolism, metaphors and codes embedded into the Shrine of Remembrance architecture, Galleries of Remembrance exhibitions and surrounding parklands. Children aged four to six can enjoy Stories to Remember, telling tales written for children about the challenges faced by people and animals during wartime will be told. Birdwood Ave, Melbourne, +61 3 9661 8100
2016 Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix Disney preview
Disney will keep both kids and parents entertained during the 2016 Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix (17-20 March, 2016), and as a sneak preview, fans can catch a glimpse of their favourite Disney characters and activities this January. Disney will be on show at F1 World at City Square from January 12-22, and at F1 @ Federation Square from February 26-28.
Phillip Island Nature Parks
Out of town, Phillip Island Nature Parks has just launched two new experiences. Antarctic Journey, at the Nobbies Centre, takes visitors on a virtual journey into the world of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, through interactive and immersive experiences over three levels. At the Penguin Parade, an upgraded Penguins Plus viewing area enables visitors to see eye to eye with penguins as they waddle up the shore to their burrows.
PHOTO: Australian Open family fun by Jason Retchford, courtesy of Tourism Victoria.