Skip to Content

Top museum and gallery exhibitions opening this summer

Need to escape the summer heat? Want to shake up your activities of choice? The museum and gallery offerings in our major cities boast awesome kids programs, holiday activities and a rotating door of diverse and intriguing exhibition content. Here’s our list of exciting new exhibitions opening around Australia this spring and summer.

Aussie museums and galleries are good at putting on a kid-friendly show, like KAWS: Playtime at NGV Credit: NGV

Dreamworks Animation: the Exhibition – National Museum of Australia, Canberra

Channel your inner ogre, kung-fu master or dragon-wrangler and fuel your imagination at the National Museum. Get up close to the replica of Shrek’s swamp house, immerse in the How to Train your Dragon Flight simulator and create your own short animation at the Interactive digital kiosk. You’ll discover more than 400 artefacts from the Dreamworks studios, such as storyboards, maps and posters. The exhibition is already under way and will close in early February 2020.

Encounter Shrek, Po, Toothless and your favourite Dreamworks characters. Credit: National Museum of Australia

Dogs: a Story of our Best Friend – South Australian Museum, Adelaide

You’ll find yourselves wagging your tails in this feel-good exploration of what the world is like for a dog. Learn about the history of human relationships with our furry friends. The exhibition opens on 29th November and runs until late April 2020.

KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness – National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Enter a surreal cartoon world in this exhibition surveying 25 years of work by artist Brian Donnelly. Donnelly (aka KAWS) explores human emotion and friendship with his cartoon characters, pop-culture references, colourful paintings and sculptures. Meet the 7-metre bronze figure of Gone, a newly-commissioned sculptural piece. At the accompanying free kids’ exhibition, KAWS: Playtime, you can enjoy multimedia encounters with your BFF character, draw a friend for BFF and create a video portrait. Receive a playtime kit with pop-ups and stickers. On at NGV International until April 2020.

Immerse in interactive multimedia at KAWS: Playtime. Credit: NGV

Sea Monsters – Maritime Museum, Sydney

Did you know that sea monsters ruled the ocean for more than 180 million years? Or that the biggest marine reptile to ever exist was the 24-metre-long shonisaurus? Delve into the dark deep if you dare at the Maritime Museum’s newest exhibition. Learn about the giant reptiles that prowled ocean floors during the time of the dinosaurs. See real fossils, life-sized casts as well as interactive multimedia displays. The exhibition runs until April 2020.

Learning is interactive at Maritime Museum. Credit: Australian Maritime Museum

Water and ‘Snowman’ – QAGOMA, Brisbane

Let it snow, let it snow! From early December, Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art will be welcoming an unusual guest in its Water exhibition. Preserved in an industrial freezer, Snowman’s facial expression changes every few days as it is re-traced by hand. Be sure to explore the rest of Water, which includes Olafur Eliasson’s rocky Riverbed landscapes, William Forsythe’s interactive gymnastics work The Fact of the Matter, Cai Guo Qiang’s Heritage featuring more than 40 animals at a blue watering hole and Wanami paintings by Judy Watson. 

Art goes hands on at QAGOMA’s Water exhibition with William Forsythe’s participatory work The Fact of the Matter 2009 Credit: Lisa Voll/William Forsythe

Spiders: The Exhibition – Queensland Museum, Brisbane

Are your spidey senses tingling? Get caught in a web of fascinating facts, 200 specimens, interactive touchscreens, augmented reality app and 3D scanning technology at the Spiders exhibition. Learn about hunters, burrowers and weavers, and check out 12 live spider species including a fearsome funnel web. Maybe even dance along with a peacock spider! The exhibition runs from 6 December to 4 May 2020. Purchase adult tickets for $15.50, children for $12.50 or a family of four for $46. You should also keep eight eyes peeled for the dates of spider-themed Night at the Museum, an after-dark family fun night.

Questacon SPIDERS launch – Monday, 23 November 2015

Between the Moon and the Stars – MAGNT, Darwin

Catch the last glimpse of this space-themed event at Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory before its eclipse. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the exhibition features a lunar meteorite, Aboriginal astronomical knowledge and information about the Australian history of stargazing. The exhibition is running in Darwin until 22 March 2020. MAGNT also has a branch in Alice Springs – if you’re in the Red Centre, pop in and see the Megafauna exhibition.

Read more about museum and gallery experiences:

52 best science museums in the world

5 best Washington museums – kids’ pick

Galleries go outdoors – Best street art for insta-loving teens

* Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you make a purchase through the links provided, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting the work we put into!