Melbourne is a great city, any time of the year, and one that has plenty of attractions for families. We have been fortunate to take a few trips to Melbourne, and each time we try to do something different. Here are eight activities to consider for your next family trip to Melbourne.
1. Catch an AFL Game
The Melbourne CBD is home to two Australian Rules Football Stadiums, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and Etihad stadium. The MCG holds some 100,000 people and we were fortunate enough to be there for the ANZAC day match which saw a full house attend the game. There was something special about observing a minute’s silence amongst a crowd of that size.
Both stadiums are easily accessible via the city tram system and offer a truly authentic Melbourne experience for the whole family. You can pre-purchase tickets online to avoid the queues and get there early enough to enjoy the family zone activities on offer.
2. Explore the City on the Free Trams
Melbourne has a fantastic tram network and, within the city centre, an extensive free tram zone. There is a brown city circle tram that does a loop of the city and can get you to all the major attractions, however any tram within this zone is free. Criss cross your way across the city using any of the trams - at no cost.
3. Visit the Melbourne Museum
The Melbourne Museum is located amongst Carlton Gardens and is accessible within the Free Tram Zone. In fact you can catch a tram from Bourke Street Mall that will take you straight to the Museum stop.
Be sure to set aside at least two hours - more if you can - as there is so much to see. We were fascinated by the Forestry that included huge Mountain Ash and walkways to take you underneath the forest, the mind and body exhibition that certainly challenged our thoughts and the Melbourne Fashion exhibition that showcased some great local talent.
The Museum also holds special exhibits, when we visited the feature was the Vikings which encompassed all things Nordic. We really could have spent all day here and will absolutely return.
4. Eat Dumplings in China Town
As with most major cities, Melbourne city centre houses a China Town. Whilst I would normally recommend side stepping the main China Town street, we have actually found a few good dumpling houses on this strip. Get there early, or book a table because locals will queue for a good serve of dumplings. We are early diners so normally don’t have any trouble walking into a restaurant, it is always fun to walk out after your meal and see the big line ups waiting to get in for where you have just eaten! We visited the Empress of China on Little Burke Street and filled up on dumplings, with leftovers to take home, for just $60. The restaurants are not fancy, it is cheap and cheerful, but the dumplings were good!.
5. Try the Patisseries at Brunetti on Lygon Street
If you have a car, or are happy to travel outside the free tram zone, Brunetti’s is a Melbourne icon known for their amazing pastries and coffee. It is a truly Italian experience ordering your coffee at the bar and savouring one of the melt in your mouth cannoli filled with Italian custard. The signature store is on Lygon Street, but there are also now Brunetti stores in the CBD and at the airport.
6. Spend half a day at Sea Life
Here is a great activity for the family that will entertain you for at least three hours - more if you have the time. Located on the banks of the Yarra, there is so much to see and do at the Sea Life Aquarium. The aquarium allows you to get up close and personal to the marine life and be amazed by the sheer size of the stingrays and sharks that swim above your head as you walk through the aquarium tunnel.
The penguin playground provides plenty of entertainment as they seemingly dance and perform for and with the kids, the crocodile lair puts you up close and personal in a way that perhaps you would not really want to be to a creature that size, and the 4D Ice Age movie offers a few fun surprises. Buy your tickets before you go.
7. Take a trip to Spotswood to visit Scienceworks
If you have a car, or don’t mind a $20 Uber ride out of the city, head to Spotswood for a visit to Scienceworks. This Museum will entertain you for a whole day with interactive exhibitions that get the kids learning in a fun environment.
While you are there you can also enjoy a visit to the Melbourne Planetarium which shares the premises with Scienceworks. The presentation in the dome shaped theatre provides a great commentary on what can be seen in the Melbourne night sky and will have you picking out constellations and planets that evening (if the city lights don’t block your views!). Read more about our visit to Scienceworks.
Shop at the DFO South Wharf
Whilst Melbourne is home to many great boutiques and stores, it is good to know that there is a Direct Factory Outlet (DFO) within the free tram zone/ walking distance of the CBD. There is a great range of stores at South Wharf ranging from sporting apparel Nike, Adidas and Puma through to higher end stores including Furla and Coach.
There are so many things to do in Melbourne, every time we visit we discover something new. Read more about our Autumn visit for other ideas. What are some of your favourite Melbourne activities? Book your activities before you arrive.
Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family were guests of ScienceWorks, Melbourne Museum and Sea Life Aquarium during our Melbourne visit.
I have travelled to Melbourne many times but never taken the time to head out of the CBD much. On a recent trip we were lured 15 minutes out of the city to visit the town of Spotswood, home to Scienceworks - and aren’t we glad we did! A whole day of educational fun awaited us, I had to drag the kids out at the end of the day.
Here are five reasons to take the journey out of the CBD and let the kids enjoy a day at Scienceworks Melbourne.
1. Race Against Cathy Freeman
My kids love being active and have been involved in Little Athletics since they were toddlers. Scienceworks includes a fascinating sports exhibition that was like the holy grail for our sports mad kids.
One of the fun displays provided the opportunity to line up at a race start line and run against a video wall featuring Cathy Freeman in action. The track was only about 15 metres long - the race took 2 seconds - but they did it over and over and over again!
Other highlights of the sports exhibition included rock climbing, virtual soccer goal keeper, a virtual wheelchair racing game and a balance beam to try out some gymnastics.
2. Discover the Tallest Buildings in The World
One of the intriguing exhibits I found as an adult was the display depicting the tallest buildings in the world. It is fascinating the engineering that has gone into building architecture that has allowed modern society to achieve such heights.
In 1931 the Empire State Building, New York, was considered an amazing accomplishment at 381m but in 2010 when the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, reached heights of 828m it makes it seem insignificant. When Jeddah Tower, Saudi Arabia, completes construction engineers will reach yet another milestone with the building planned for a height of 1008m.
The exhibit was presented pictorially and really made you appreciate how modern engineering has changed the landscape of modern society.
3. See the Lightning Shows
Apart from the interactive displays, the lighting room provides some cool kids science shows. We were entertained with Bolt from the Blue. A great interactive display explaining how lightning is created and how to avoid getting struck during a storm!
The presenter was theatrical and enthusiastic and aimed the content right at the kids. From producing storm clouds in a plastic bottle, making balloons statically stick to a child’s head and showcasing how the hair on your head can point straight to the sky, there were plenty of educational takeaways from the session.
4. Visit the Planetarium
If you have never been to a planetarium, it is likely you may not even know what it is. A planetarium is a domed shaped theatre designed to view projections of the night sky. Additionally, specially created films are produced to be shown on the unique shaped screen. The Melbourne Planetarium holds a 16 metre dome with reclining chairs for pretty comfortable viewing (or a nap if you are worn out from all the activities!).
We attended a viewing of the film Blackholes, which was interesting if not a little unusual, followed by a live commentary of current Melbourne night sky projections. It is the live commentary that we enjoyed. Being able to see the constellations that are in the Melbourne night sky that evening was fascinating for the kids.
5. It’s Great Value
We arrived at about 10:45am and did not leave until close at 4:30pm. There is so much to see and do here and the kids loved every minute of it. We visited on a weekday, it was quite busy with school groups when we first arrived, but by about 2:30pm the crowds resided and we had free range of all the exhibits. If you only have a few hours, you may want to visit in the afternoon otherwise be prepared to deal with the crowds.
Tickets for Scienceworks are priced at just $15 for adults and free, yes FREE, for kids up to 16 years old. Additional extras are the Planetarium and Lightning Room which are priced at $8 each or $12 if you do both. For a full day of activity and learning Scienceworks offers great value.
If you have a car, this is your best option, however if you are like us and staying in the CBD then Spotswood is about 15 minutes out of the city.
My first option was to catch the Williamstown train from Southern Cross Station to Spotswood, it seemed a simple and affordable idea. However it turned out that Melbourne does not have a very visitor friendly transport system outside of the free CBD tram system.
In order to purchase a day fare for metro train travel at a cost of $8.60 adult and $4.30 a child, we first had to purchase a Myki Card each at a cost of $6 per card. So I had to buy a $6 card to load with $4 of travel! What!!!!!
I decided that by the time we purchased the transport cards and loaded them with a day fare, an Uber would be around the same price and much more comfortable. An Uber from the city cost $18 and that is how we got there!
Let us know if you have visited, what was your favourite exhibit?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family was a guest of Scienceworks on this visit.
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.