Free and cheap things to do in the school holidays

Are your kids climbing the walls after a winter indoors? There are plenty of free things to do these school holidays. Here’s how to keep them occupied (and tire them out) during the spring break.

Free and open every day during school holidays

Melbourne Museum

Kids can get up and close with a whale skeleton, Phar Lap and explore a living rainforest all under the one roof at the Melbourne Museum, which is free for kids up to 16 years. The September School holidays program includes meetings with museum experts and ‘Celebrate going wild’, a daily drop in activity where kids can create their own animals and learn more about the creatures in the museum’s collections.

For babies to 5-year-olds, the fun continues in the Children’s Gallery. This hand-on exhibition, encourages kids to excavate fossils in the dinosaur dig and discover plants in the greenhouse garden.

A man with a kookaburra perched on his arm

Entry is free for kids at Melbourne Museum every day

Melbourne Zoo

Melbourne Zoo is the perfect place to keep the whole family entertained. Have your very own safari adventure with the big cats, elephants and monkeys in the lush African rainforest. See the penguins and seals show off their slippery moves in the underwater coves. Open every day of the year, children under 16 get free entry on weekends, school holidays and public holidays. Make sure you also head to one of the many daily keeper talks – they’re also free.

New York! New York! at NGV International

As part of the MoMA at NGV exhibition, New York! New York! is a free children’s program with four activity zones and a digital quiz for children to test their knowledge about New York City landmarks. Build miniature versions of the Manhattan districts using custom-designed wooden toy blocks, play with a marble run and get a selfie in the photobooth.

a child building a mini skyscraper in a gallery

New York! New York!

Shrine Kids 

Be a tourist in your own town and take the kids for a trip to the Shrine of Remembrance.  There’s Shrine Kids activity cards and a Shrine Explorer Kit with a satchel bag. Inside is a  periscope, magnifying glass, compass and story book outlining important moments and themes in service history. Fun for the whole family. Suitable for early primary school age children. 

ACMI Screen Worlds

Explore over 100 years of moving image history at ACMI‘s Screen Worlds exhibition. Discover computer games with amazing graphics and puzzles, Cate Blanchett’s Oscar trophy and imitate Neo from the The Matrix in the ‘time slice’ room. There’s a range of retro computer games from various decades to play and priceless film and television memorabilia.

Free events 

Spring into Nature at Royal Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens are in full bloom, so head to the Children’s Garden for a series of easy activities designed to engage little ones and delight in the sunny new season. Explore, play, create and get involved in nature play activities on Wednesday 3 October from 10am to 1pm.

ACMI Family Sundays

On the first Sunday of October (and every month) ACMI Family Sundays invite you to go on a journey through the moving image. Get hands-on with filmmaking and animation, live video game competitions, crafty projects and more. Or take a break in the cinemas showing family-friendly films. Sunday 7 October, 10am to 4pm.

Three kids making shadows in front of a white screen

ACMI Family Sundays


Over the AFL Grand Final long weekend, discover M-ball – a free-play, interactive, musical instrument for both children and adults. How does it work? The instrument is a large inflatable ball. You’ll be accompanied by live performers and invited to interact and play m-ball together to create evolving soundscapes. A free event, no bookings required. Friday 28 and Saturday 29 September. Suitable for ages 2 to 12. 

I am Hear 

Created for small groups of young people aged 7 to 12, I am Hear blindfolds participants to promote deep listening. Hear the fragile sounds of everyday objects alongside elusive tones of unusual instruments. Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 September.

Voice Lab 

Voice Lab is an immersive, interactive experience that prompts each child to share their unmediated opinions. Wearing a soft crown with a tiny speaker, the participant hears questions asked by a concealed performer. Each child is allowed a space for reflective thought and to articulate opinions and feelings. Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 September. Suitable for ages 4 to 12.


Prehistoric VR at ACMI

Dive beneath 200 million years of history and swim with some of the prehistoric ocean’s strange and wonderful creatures in this ground-breaking VR experience. A stunning deep sea adventure for kids and their parents, Prehistoric VR introduces creatures from Australia’s prehistoric past, including bioluminescent jellyfish, Anglerfish, Paracyclotosaurus and Plesiosaurus. Runs Saturday 22 to Sunday 30 September. Suitable for ages 7 and up. Tickets are $10.

Round and round the garden at Cooks Cottage

Can you match the ailment to its 18th-century remedy? Round and Round the Garden is a chance to learn about some old-fashioned herbal remedies for common ailments at the Cooks Cottage Garden. Saturday 22 September to Sunday 7 October. Suitable for children aged 5 to 11, younger children also welcome.  Tickets are $7 per child, $21 for family of four.

Want more?

Here’s the scoop on more free school holiday activities.

AFL Grand Final Week: Get into finals fever at the family-friendly AFL Footy Festival (Wednesday 26 to Saturday 29 September) and the AFL Grand Final Parade. On Tuesday 25 September, get photographed with the AFL Premiership Cup at Queen Victoria Market, meet AFL players and go into the draw to win two tickets to the 2018 AFL Grand Final.

Gross science: The gooiest, ickiest science experiments that kids will love! Tuesday 25 September at Southbank Library. Suitable for ages 6 to 13.

Junior Rangers – What’s the Time, Bunya Pine? (free): Venture back in time with Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Bill and the City of Melbourne Park Rangers. Discover prehistoric plants, bugs, eels and more as you explore the ancient past, present and future of Kings Domain. Monday 24 September to Wednesday 3 October (Monday to Wednesday only). Suitable for ages 5 to 10.