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Melbourne ideas for small group catch-ups

Victoria’s coronavirus restrictions have changed again, but we can still celebrate birthdays and step outside to get a bit of fresh air. Here are some ideas for small group catch-ups with loved ones in the time of COVID-19. And before making plans, be sure to check in with the DHHS for the most up to date guidelines and restrictions.

Catch a ride on the Melbourne Star

Share a first-class flight on the Melbourne Star observation wheel. If you buy one ticket, you get one free plus a hot or cold drink. Another option is a Sparkling Flight, currently on hold. When they’re back, you can be sitting pretty 120 metres above the city, sipping on a glass of bubbles, wine, beer or cider.

All flights on the Melbourne Star are in private cabins with a maximum of three guests per cabin. Prebooking is the way to go, and you can save up to 25% if you book online. Remember to wash your hands or use the hand-sanitiser dispensers when you arrive.

A city skyline lit up at night

Melbourne Star

Visit the NGV

Meet up with friends at the NGV to soothe the soul and share artistic thoughts. At NGV International, go back to the 1930s in the Japanese Modernism exhibition. Or see what VCE art students are up to in the Top Arts 2020 exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.

Visitor numbers are strictly controlled at both NGV galleries. Visits are free, but you’ll need to book your session. Make a separate booking for each of you, so the NGV can follow tracing guidelines. Floor markers throughout the galleries will help you keep 1.5 metres apart.

Beat boredom at Fortress

Bottomless pizza, loaded fries and an endless supply of games. We genuinely can’t name a more iconic trio. Book in for a 2-hour sesh at Fortress with 3 – 5 of your best mates and your catch up will hit a new high score ASAP. Choose between video games (PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox) or opt for access to the massive library of board games, then let the good foodie times roll. Bookings essential.

Glide into the ice rink

Peer down from atop the Melbourne Star and you might be able to make out the O’Brien Icehouse below you. It’s the perfect time of year to be rugging up in your winter woollies and enjoying a skate with your friends. Don’t forget to bring a pair of extra-warm socks to wear with your skates.

It’s recreational skating only, in two-hour sessions. Numbers are capped at 19 per session. Book your tickets online. Non-skating spectators aren’t allowed in to watch just yet.

A person ice skating

O’Brien Arena

Ask for more ice at Ice Bar

Embrace the season and revel in the winter chill at Ice Bar, in the Atrium at Fed Square. It’s the only ice bar in the country, sculpted from more than 30 tonnes of iceblocks. That means a frisky 10 degrees year-round. Don’t worry if you’re underdressed, snuggle into the snow cape, gloves and a pair of Ugg boots provided. Check out the hand-carved ice sculptures, take some pix and warm up with a cocktail or ice shot.

Standard entry for a one-hour visit to the Ice Bar includes snow gear and a cocktail. Bookings are essential.

Watch a game at Boatbuilders Yard

At the Boatbuilders Yard, you can schmooze with fellow footy fans with the Game Day Deal. Enjoy free-flowing drinks, snacks and a primo view of the big-screen games. It’s $59 per person and available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during select AFL games.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, there’s a limit of six footy lovers per table. Seating is in the beer garden, or undercover on the private deck when Melbourne’s winter weather kicks in.

A pub on the river on a sunny day

Boatbuilders Yard

Order high tea at Om Nom

Be sure to raise your pinky finger as you sip high tea at the Adelphi Hotel’s Om Nom Kitchen. It’s served every Saturday and Sunday from 4 July. This is high tea with a modern twist, so you can forget those staid asparagus rolls. Savoury treats might include confit duck with foie gras or smoked salmon blinis with flying fish roe. For something sweet, a lamington-inspired tart could pair with a lemon meringue profiterole.

You can book a table for up to six guests, and choose from noon and 2.30pm sessions. Splurge with free-flowing French sparkling for $95 per person.

See mind-blowing art at ArtVo

Get down to Docklands to get together and blow your mind at ArtVo. You won’t believe what your eyes reveal in this trick-art gallery full of optical illusions. The Fantasy theme takes you beneath the waves and to the polar ice caps. Into outer space, inside your dreams and into the forest.

Book your ticket for timed entry, and remember to social distance during your visit. And when you see a hand sanitiser station, use it.

A person in an art gallery


Visit the snow leopard cubs at the zoo

They were the live stream stars of lockdown. Now you can see the Melbourne Zoo snow leopard cubs for real. The three cute kits were born on Australia Day, and have been named Asha and Manju (females) and Sikari (male). While you’re visiting the Lion Gorge and Cat Alley you’ll also see lions and tigers. And here’s a strange mix, Tasmanian devils.

You’ll need to book your Melbourne Zoo tickets in advance. That includes tickets for babies and toddlers, as there’s a limit of 2500 visitors a day. Follow the stickers on the ground to help you keep your 1.5-metre distance from others.

Discover hidden secrets

Think you know your city inside out? Even the proudest Melburnians will learn something new on a Hidden Secrets tour. The first tour to be offered post-COVID is the signature tour, Lanes and Arcades. Discover some of the city’s quirkiest architecture, and hear tales of old Melbourne along the way. Numbers are limited to 10 participants. More tours will be added as we head into July.

Discover Melbourne’s hidden spots

Make your own mulled wine

Okay, so who can blame you for wanting to stay indoors right now, keeping warm in front of the fire. To celebrate winter, get on your phone and invite five of your besties over for a Glühwein-making session. You can buy the spices online from Gewürzhaus. You’ll also need a bottle of red wine (try some merlot) and a teabag. Plus some orange slices and cinnamon quills for more spice. The recipe for making mulled wine is easy-peasy and it really is the flavour of winter.

For more spicy inspiration, why not pay a visit to one of the Gewürzhaus stores. Try their Cold & Flu Tea, Turmeric Latte Spice or Immunity Blend to help fight off colds and infections. You’ll find Gewürzhaus branches in Carlton, the Block Arcade and Queen Vic Market.

If you’re thinking of getting together with family or friends, take note. You can have five visitors if you’re socialising at home. Group meet-ups in the great outdoors are limited to 10 people. And of course no handshakes and no hugs. We’ll be saying hello by touching elbows for a bit longer yet. Check venues’ websites or social media for the latest updates before you head out.