Calling tiny tots, groovy grandparents and proud parents – these free and cheap Melbourne activities can be enjoyed with the whole family.
Kids can get up close with Phar Lap, a giant whale skeleton, and explore a living rainforest all under the one roof. The Children’s Gallery is a hands-on exhibition, suitable for babies and kids up to 5 years, where they can excavate fossils and discover plants in the greenhouse garden. Melbourne Museum is open year-round (excluding Christmas Day and Good Friday) and entry is free for kids under 16 years old.
Melbourne Zoo is the perfect place to keep the whole family entertained. Experience your own safari adventure with the big cats, elephants and monkeys in the lush African rainforest or see the penguins and seals show off their slippery moves in the underwater coves. The zoo is open every day of the year, and children under 16 years of age receive free entry on weekends, school holidays and public holidays. Make sure you also head to one of the many daily zoo keeper talks – they’re also free.
Free guided garden walks
Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about Melbourne’s vibrant Royal Botanic Gardens during a free guided walk through the gardens. Led by an experienced, knowledgeable guide, discover the natural flora and fauna as you peruse rolling landscapes, towering trees and glittering lakes.
National Gallery of Victoria
Except for some select exhibitions, NGV International and NGV Australia’s wondrous world of art and design are free for everyone. Look for family-friendly descriptive labels in the exhibitions and relax or play in the sculpture garden, where there are big, colourful cushions little people love lying back on. Don’t miss the free Kaws: Playtime exhibition (20 September-13 April), created just for kids by New York pop culture artist KAWS.
The heart of Christmas in the city, Christmas Square offers an amazing array of free sights, sounds and experiences. Kick-off the festivities with the Festival Launch Party on Friday 29 November, where you’ll see the spectacular 16-metre high LED Christmas Tree light-up for the first time. Then, watch little faces shine as the sleigh bells ring, heralding the arrival of a very special guest. Over four festive weeks, the magic will continue with nightly light and sound shows, Santa’s House offering daily activities, and the photogenic Giant Christmas Bauble.
Lego Squad at East Melbourne Library
The library has the Lego – you bring the skills. Kids can join the Lego Squad at East Melbourne Library on Thursday afternoons (during school terms) and create book trailers, stop motion films, puzzles or whatever they want – lego has no limit! For children aged 7-10, Thursdays at 4pm until 12 December.
Get around playgrounds
The city is loaded with perfect playground spots. Pack a picnic (or just bring your energy) and check out the wondrous playground at ArtPlay, admire the foliage in Fawkner Park or shoot hoops in Carlton Gardens. Kids who love kickflips can skate up a storm at JJ Holland Park and Riverslide skate park, or discover new grounds in Victoria Harbour at the delightfully interactive Docklands Park.
When the weather heats up, the local pool is the place to be. Kids can swim in the gorgeous Melbourne City Baths for just $4.10. Entry is $7 for adults, or $17.70 for a family of four. If you work up an appetite, head to Poolhouse Coffee for doughnuts and hot drinks. Carlton Baths offer both indoor and outdoor swimming spots, and a very affordable $5 entry fee for kids and $6.10 for adults. If you’re on the north side of the CBD, Check out the North Melbourne or Kensington rec centres, where entry is also $5 for kids and $6.10 for adults.
Young imaginations can go wild at ArtPlay, and at no cost to their grown-ups. Activities clock in at around $16 per child, with sessions focusing on craft, music, creative DIY and all-round artistic fun.
Games of skill and chance at Lovely Monster
A far cry from the odd and dodgy movie theatre claw machines, the ‘UFO Catchers’ at Lovely Monster’s Elizabeth Street and Chinatown locations are cute as can be. Test precision and coordination skills as your young one plays to win everything from Pikachu plushies to quirky key chains and more. Games cost $1 – $3 each, so spare change is all you need to join the fun.
Summer family guide
Want to find more kid-friendly fun in the city over summer? The What’s On Melbourne ultimate families guide has arrived with everything you need to plan the ultimate kid-friendly adventure. Take a look at the Summer family guide, or pick up a copy at the Melbourne Visitor Hub to find delicious dessert spots, perfect park picnics, free art, superhero splurges and more.