Canberra

An­drew wood­ward dis­cov­ers that a trip to Aus­tralia’s na­tional cap­i­tal is not only an ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for kids, but one with a big fun fac­tor for the whole fam­ily.

Holiday with Kids - - Contents -

An­drew Wood­ward dis­cov­ers that a trip to Aus­tralia’s cap­i­tal can be ed­u­ca­tional and fun.

It’s not dif­fi­cult to see why a visit to Canberra is an im­por­tant ex­pe­ri­ence for both over­seas and Aus­tralian vis­i­tors. How­ever, the cap­i­tal has long out­grown its rep­u­ta­tion as a place to visit for par­lia­men­tary ex­cur­sions, de­vel­op­ing over the years into the ul­ti­mate fam­ily-friendly des­ti­na­tion with amaz­ing at­trac­tions and a jam-packed, year-round events cal­en­dar that will keep you com­ing back time and again.

The must-dos

Ask al­most any­one to think of a place that they as­so­ciate with Canberra, and Ques­ta­con – The Na­tional Science and Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre is sure to be the first place they’ll men­tion … well, per­haps after Par­lia­ment House. A hit with gen­er­a­tions of kids since open­ing in 1988, Ques­ta­con is a hands-on sci­en­tific ad­ven­ture and a must-visit for fam­i­lies. The more than 200 ex­hibits – up­dated reg­u­larly along­side de­vel­op­ments in the world of science – will thrill bud­ding sci­en­tists by show­ing them first-hand the many ap­pli­ca­tions of science and tech­nol­ogy in their ev­ery­day lives. It’s all there, from ro­botic arms to earth­quake sim­u­la­tors, but a def­i­nite high­light is the six-me­tre free-fall slide, which de­liv­ers a mem­o­rable les­son on grav­ity.

Next on your must-do list is the main event: a trip to Cap­i­tal Hill to check out both the new and old Par­lia­ment Houses. First up is Old Par­lia­ment House, now home to the Mu­seum of Aus­tralian Democ­racy, which houses a range of cre­ative ex­hibits aimed at in­form­ing chil­dren about im­por­tant real-world is­sues, such as im­mi­gra­tion and chil­dren’s rights, in an ac­ces­si­ble, en­gag­ing and fun way. Kids are en­cour­aged to dress up and learn through play, and fam­i­lies have the ad­di­tional op­tion of bor­row­ing a free Fam­ily Ac­tion Pack with a num­ber of ex­cit­ing mis­sions to be com­pleted through­out the gal­leries. Just a short walk away is Par­lia­ment House, an ar­chi­tec­tural mar­vel in its own right (don’t for­get to snap a fam­ily photo out the front) and the place

where Aus­tralia’s laws are passed. If you’re lucky, you might get to visit while Par­lia­ment is in ses­sion to see our politi­cians at work.

Hav­ing de­vel­oped an un­der­stand­ing of Aus­tralia’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, it’s time for a stop at the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial, which pays trib­ute to Aus­tralian men and women who gave their lives in ser­vice of their coun­try in times of war. A deeply mov­ing and per­haps con­fronting place to visit for young chil­dren, the memo­rial’s Dis­cov­ery Zone soft­ens the mes­sage and brings Aus­tralia’s mil­i­tary his­tory to life in an age-ap­pro­pri­ate way by pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion with col­lec­tion items, and even lets kids sit in the cock­pit of a he­li­copter or peep through the periscope of a sub­ma­rine.

No trip to Canberra is com­plete with­out a splash of cul­ture, and where bet­ter to get your cre­ative fill than the Na­tional Gallery of Aus­tralia with its col­lec­tion of over 153,000 works of art and reg­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tions from the big­gest names in the art world. De­vel­op­ing con­nois­seurs will love tak­ing in the whirl of styles and colours be­fore head­ing to the ded­i­cated kids’ NGA Play Space to try their hand at cre­at­ing their own mas­ter­piece. Or, if your kids have their sights set on a fu­ture as an ath­lete rather than an artist, a stop at the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport could be a win­ner. A guided tour gives as­pir­ing Olympians a be­hind-the-scenes look at what it takes to com­pete with the best, cul­mi­nat­ing with a visit to Spor­tex, an in­ter­ac­tive sports ex­hibit where kids can test their ath­letic prow­ess in var­i­ous fields.

Park-ing

Some­times the best way to spend an af­ter­noon in Canberra is to grab a pic­nic blan­ket and a packed lunch and head for one of the cap­i­tal’s many beau­ti­ful parks. The sweep­ing green lawns sur­round­ing Lake Bur­ley Grif­fin in the cen­tre of the city are per­fect for just such oc­ca­sions. The flat paths en­cir­cling the lake are ideal for cy­cling and scoot­ing; a pop­u­lar ride starts from the Na­tional Li­brary where you can park the car and con­tin­ues along Queen El­iz­a­beth Ter­race. Or if you’re eager to get out on the wa­ter, jump aboard one of the pop­u­lar MV South­ern Cross Cruises or Lake Bur­ley Grif­fin Cruises, or take the helm of your own elec­tric ves­sel with Goboat. These fan­tas­tic boats can carry up to eight peo­ple and no pre­vi­ous boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is re­quired to hire one; just

re­mem­ber not to get too close to the Cap­tain James Cook Memo­rial wa­ter jet, which op­er­ates daily from 11am to 2pm.

The Pod Play­ground at the Na­tional Ar­bore­tum is ar­guably the best play­ground in Canberra. Kids can run, swing, hide and slide their way through this amaz­ing play set­ting – com­pris­ing gi­ant acorn-shaped cub­bies on stilts con­nected by net tun­nels, slides and swings – while par­ents en­joy a cuppa at the scenic cafe in the Vil­lage Cen­tre. Yar­ralumla Play Sta­tion is an­other pop­u­lar spot for fam­i­lies of­fer­ing mini-golf, a pet­ting zoo and a minia­ture rail­way, or if you sim­ply want to get your na­ture fix, the Aus­tralian Na­tional Botanic Gar­dens has plenty of space for kids to run around ex­plor­ing rain­forests and spot­ting na­tive flora and fauna.

Hands-on learn­ing

There’s cer­tainly no short­age of kid-friendly mu­se­ums in Canberra, and the Na­tional Mu­seum of Aus­tralia is bound to im­press kids and par­ents alike. Ks­pace is the mu­seum’s in­ter­ac­tive ad­ven­ture game for kids, al­low­ing them to build their own time-trav­el­ling ro­bots be­fore blast­ing off to ex­plore a mys­tery lo­ca­tion in Aus­tralia’s past. Or, launch your jour­ney of sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery into the strato­sphere at NASA’S Canberra Deep Space Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­plex. This unique fa­cil­ity is hard to miss with its mas­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tions dishes, and vis­i­tors of all ages will be cap­ti­vated by the story of Aus­tralia’s role in the past, present and fu­ture of space ex­plo­ration; there’s even a piece of the moon on dis­play! Ex­plor­ing the other end of the evo­lu­tion­ary time­line, a visit to the Na­tional Di­nosaur Mu­seum, with its huge dis­play of skele­tons, fos­sils and al­most-too­real an­i­ma­tronic di­nosaurs, will cer­tainly sa­ti­ate di­nosaur-ob­sessed kids.

For some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent, the largest glass stu­dio fa­cil­ity in Aus­tralia, Canberra Glass­works, of­fers a fas­ci­nat­ing and fun ex­pe­ri­ence for kids. Whether they’re watch­ing artists at work or learn­ing how to make their own unique glass art, they are sure to be fas­ci­nated by learn­ing how sand is trans­formed into whim­si­cal works of art.

Feath­ers, fur and fins

If your crew is crav­ing some an­i­mal an­tics in the cap­i­tal, lit­tle an­i­mal-lovers will re­joice at the op­por­tu­nity to pat a chee­tah, feed a bear or meet a meerkat with the Na­tional Zoo & Aquar­ium’s amaz­ing hands-on an­i­mal ex­pe­ri­ences. The zoo fea­tures a huge va­ri­ety of na­tive and ex­otic an­i­mals, and kids are sure to leave with some new knowl­edge about their favourite crea­tures thanks to the ex­pe­ri­enced and en­thu­si­as­tic guides. Lucky

fam­i­lies stay­ing at Ja­mala Wildlife Lodge won’t even have to leave at clos­ing time, re­treat­ing in­stead to a once-in-a-life­time lux­ury sa­fari ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­pe­ri­ence. This is one time when you won’t mind your neigh­bours be­hav­ing like an­i­mals.

Or if it’s feath­ered friends you seek, head to the Canberra Walk-in Aviary. With over 500 birds soar­ing over­head in the large aviary, the ex­pe­ri­ence can be a bit of a flut­ter, but con­fi­dent kids are guar­an­teed to have them eat­ing out of their hands by the end of the visit. And for those that need to brush up on their scales, the Canberra Rep­tile Zoo has over 50 types of rep­tiles on dis­play with some op­por­tu­ni­ties to get up close and per­sonal. De­pend­ing on the day, you and your fam­ily could get hands-on with a blue-tongued lizard, a boa con­stric­tor, or even a baby croc.

Every day I’m truf­fling

From June through Au­gust, it’s truf­fle sea­son and this year marks the 10-year an­niver­sary of The Truf­fle Fes­ti­val – Canberra Re­gion. Through­out the fes­ti­val, 250 events are held across the re­gion, show­cas­ing the flavours and aro­mas of fresh black truf­fle. Fam­i­lies can taste the magic of this prized del­i­cacy at restau­rants, cafes, bars and winer­ies, learn from chefs and truf­fle ex­perts at a cook­ing class or de­mon­stra­tion, or even rug up and join a truf­fle hunt with The Truf­fle Farm. Kids will de­light in fol­low­ing the truf­fle-hunt­ing dogs through the trees in search of truf­fle trea­sure, and par­ents will learn how to har­vest and han­dle the truf­fles. The best part? Whether or not you find truf­fles on the hunt, you will be re­warded for your ef­forts after­wards with a truf­fle tast­ing.

Canberra Re­port Card

Eat truf­fle­fes­ti­val.com.au thetruf­fle­farm.com.au Do ques­ta­con.edu.au gob­oat­can­berra.com.au moad­oph.gov.au na­tion­alar­bore­tum.act.gov.au aph.gov.au yarraps.com.au awm.gov.au anbg.gov.au nga.gov.au nma.gov.au aus­port.gov.au/ais cd­scc.nasa.gov na­tion­al­zoo.com.au ja­malaw­ildlifelodge.com.au na­tionaldinosaur­mu­seum.com.au can­ber­rawalki­naviary.com.au mv­south­ern­cross.com.au rep­tilesinc.com.au lake­cruises.com.au can­ber­ra­glass­works.com

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0504 Pre­his­toric ca­pers at the Na­tional Di­nosaur Mu­seum © Vist­can­berra 05 Pay­ing trib­ute at the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial © Visit­can­berra

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