Free or low-cost family adventures in Canberra this summer
If you’re looking for free or affordable family entertainment these summer holidays, CW’s school holiday adventure guide will have you tripping the parliamentary triangle, bouncing the lake, and embracing jam-packed holiday programs at Canberra’s national institutions.
The 2019 winner of the Canberra Region Tourist Attractions award, the National Arboretum Canberra has a bold and lively holiday program catering for all the family.
- Guided Forest Walks – Every Monday, Saturday, and Sunday
- Daily Welcome Walks – 10am, 11am, 12pm
- Family Orienteering – $5 per family buys you a map and clue sheet from the Village Centre. Then venture out into the forests and gardens on a letter search to discover which rare bird is nesting at the Arboretum. Runs daily until 31 January
- Culture Craft – Create your own native animal artwork using national resources collected on site, while learning the significance of plants and animals to Indigenous Australians. Classes run for 60 minutes; on Wednesdays 13, 20 January at 9am and 10.30am. Ages 6 and older. $10 per child.
- Kite Making Class – Create, decorate and fly your own kite. Classes run for 60 minutes; on 11, 12, 18, 19 January; cost $15. Ages 5 years and older. Bookings essential https://bit.ly/3kVejU3
National Gallery of Australia
- Free daily, family tours during ACT school holidays.
- ArtIRL for Teens – The Gallery’s ArtIRL (Art in real life) program for ages 12–18 years hosts a range of workshops and activities and especially designed by and for teens.
- Open Studio – Drop into the Tim Fairfax Learning Studio and experience a range of free creative art making activities inspired by current exhibitions or art from the collection. Art materials are supplied. Every weekend, public holidays, and ACT school holidays. Free.
National Museum of Australia
- Object stories: Australian of the Year activity – Family activities inspired by the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards exhibition on display in the Gandel Atrium. See what objects the eight extraordinary state and territory Australian of the Year recipients have chosen to tell their stories. Then create an object using modelling clay that represents yourself or someone extraordinary in your life. Weekdays 11–22 January, 30-minute sessions, first session 10am, last session 3.30pm. Cost: $5 per adult, kids free. All ages, children must be always accompanied by an adult. Limited places. Bookings essential
- Family Trails Daily – Follow one of our family trails to discover the stories behind some of the amazing objects on show at the Museum. Two self-guided family trails are available, for ages 2–5 and 5–8 years. Runs until Sunday 28 February. Cost: $2 per adult, kids free.
National Film and Sound Archives
Film lovers rejoice, the school holiday film schedule ranges from free to around $10 per child and is the perfect place to escape the heat (or rain).
- Daily black screen: a selection of films created by renowned Indigenous filmmakers.
- The magical family films of Japanese animator and director Hayao Miyazaki, and his animation studio Studio Ghibli.
- School holiday adventure movies: Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, The Witches and Jurassic Park.
- For slightly older audience members, Australian classics: Wake in Fright and Puberty Blues.
- The doco of the month: The leadership, follow Australian CEO and ‘dreamer’ Fabian Dattner as she leads a group of 76 female scientists on a voyage to Antarctica on a mission designed to transform them into the leaders they want to become.
- For timetable and further details, visit nfsa.gov.au/whats-on
National Archives of Australia
Australia in the space age “Out of the World” is a free exhibition for NAA which opens every day of the school holidays.
Canberra’s Big Splash waterpark is celebrating ADF, Fire and Rescue Services Day with half-price entry on 11 and 12 January.
Dickson Aquatic Centre
Chilled out acoustic sounds of summer by the pool is fun for the whole family. Friday night tunes and food trucks on 17 and 24 January from 5.30pm.
Canberra Aqua Park
$20 will buy a 50-minute session for one person at Canberra Aqua Park’s giant inflatable obstacle course. Purchase tickets at canberraaquapark.com/tickets
$$$ A LITTLE MORE EXPENSIVE $$$
Fifth Term is partnering with Kids Pantry to provide a food science experience for school aged children (Kinder to Year 6) who would like to learn more about the art of cooking healthy food. Kids Pantry is a cooking school designed just for kids.
Runs 19-21 January 9am-3pm. Bookings: kidspantry.com.au
Questacon is now back with its normal offerings as well, but hourly bookings are required: questacon.edu.au/visiting/whats-on
National Zoo and Aquarium
Meet a meerkat or have a close encounter with some of the world’s most amazing animals. There are options for different memberships and the ability to stay overnight.
Revisit the classics
- Lake Burley Griffin: Canberra’s centrepiece can be enjoyed on the water if you have a boat or kayak; there are pleasant trails for walkers, runners or cyclists, and bikes and e-scooters are available for hire
- Stromlo Forest Park for mountain biking
- City Skate Park
- Canberra’s favourite outdoor cinema Sunset Cinema is back. Visit sunsetcinema.com.au/Canberra for program details.
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