Canberra

The ultimate guide to things to do in Canberra with kids

It is believed that the name ‘Canberra’ comes from the Ngunnawal word for ‘meeting place.’ The description is indeed a great one. In Canberra, art, history, sport, food and nature combine to welcome uni students, public servants, families and tourists alike. Forget what you remember of your Year 6 excursion, because Canberra is well on its way to becoming a foodie’s and culture vulture’s seventh heaven.

Did you know Canberra has more restaurants and cafes per capita than any other Aussie city? Or that it is home to a museum of trees? Swap parliament for parks, playgrounds and cycle paths aplenty as you discover the weekend markets, museum collections, animal encounters and foodie hubs that make the city special. You might even have to take a vote if you want to fit something in for everyone on a family weekend to Canberra.

Place a poppy next to the name of a service man or woman at the Australian War Memorial. Credit: Visit Canberra

Canberra is 3 hours’ drive from Sydney, and 7 hours from Melbourne, via many a roadside fruit stall. In fact, it makes a great pit stop en route to the snowfields if you are a family of skiers. It is worth driving, as having a car is handy in Canberra as long as you can brave the sometimes-baffling roundabouts. However, without a vehicle of your own, you can make use of the ACTION public bus service as well.

Top 10 things to do in Canberra

  1. Pay your respects and discover interactive history at the Australian War Memorial
  2. Let loose in the kid-friendly spaces indoors and outdoors at the National Museum
  3. See the sharks circle in Australia’s largest inland saltwater tank at the National Zoo and Aquarium
  4. Visit the latest exhibitions from around the world at the National Gallery
  5. Get hands-on and experiment with science at Questacon
  6. Walk around Lake Burley-Griffin
  7. Witness politics unfold at Parliament House and Old Parliament House
  8. Take a kite and a picnic to the playground at the National Arboretum
  9. Enjoy bookshops and cafes in the suburbs such as Manuka
  10. Bring your ski gear and head to the slopes at Corin Forest

Things to do in Canberra with...

Feel like a giant as you watch small sports and mini monuments at Cockington Green. Credit: Visit Canberra

Best time for families to visit Canberra

Canberra is one of those rare destinations that you genuinely could visit at any time of the year, although try to time your visit for one of the city’s frequent festivals or special exhibitions. Expect to rug up in winter as it is known to receive the odd (rare) spot of snow. You’ll need a parka to combat the slicing winds atop Telstra Tower. Things heat up big time in summer, too. In both those seasons, make the most of the many indoor attractions. We love Canberra in autumn. The tree-lined streets and parks look their best as the foliage turns a brilliant red.

Dig in to delicious burgers and milkshakes at Brodburger. Credit: Visit Canberra

Canberra’s family-friendly places to eat

Whether you’re a Canberra local or just a frequent visitor, you’ve likely heard of Brodburger. Its reputation precedes its burgers, which are flame grilled, scrumptious and come in all shapes and sizes (including vegan and vegetarian). Add a side of onion rings, a milkshake and a run-around on their playground and you’re set! Brodburger has a venue in Kingston, near the Glassworks and in Capital Brewing Co. in Fyshwick.

Follow up your burger with something sweet from Frugii. Ever heard of a ‘dessert laboratory’? Sounds pretty cool, right? Open seven days a week in Braddon, this sugar heaven produces a weird and wacky and frequently changing menu of ice cream, gelato and sorbet, as well as cheesecakes and pastries. Try more unusual ice cream flavours such as ‘Vegemite on Sourdough,’ ‘Beetroot and paprika,’ or ‘Butter Chicken.’ Grease Monkey and Milky Lane are two more great Braddon picks.

In this story, we hear straight from kids and teens in Canberra about more top picks of places to eat.

Read more: the best family food and restaurants in Canberra

 

Cycle your way to a picnic or attraction beside Lake Burley Griffin. Credit: Visit Canberra

Free fun in Canberra for families

  • So is the National Arboretum – which is effectively a museum of trees. Bring a picnic to enjoy their wide grassy spaces, then let loose on the acorn-themed playground. The curious can also enter the bonsai room, containing various types of the fairy-sized trees.
  • Bring a bike and a whole range of activities opens up to you. Just 15 minutes from the city centre lies 50-kilometres worth of maintained mountain-biking trails in Stromlo Forest Park. Majura Pines also has great beginners’ tracks.
  • You can also pedal around Lake Burley Griffin, which is flat and easy to navigate. Whether on foot or on wheels, try different sections of the route to pass some of Canberra’s most famous monuments. Wander past international flags, Australian of the Year plaques and prominent buildings.
What’s on?

The best Canberra annual events for families

Enlighten Festival – March

From the light installations and Night Noodle Markets to the Lights!Canberra!Action! film festival and the hot-air balloon Spectacular, everyone in the family will be glowing after these festivities.

Fields of tulips with Ferris wheel in background at Canberra Floriade

Floriade – September/October

You’ll have a bloomin’ good time thanks to live music concerts, food tents, NightFest events after dark and over 1 million flowers on display. Read more about Floriade Festival in a previous year.

Summernats – January

More than 2500 of the craziest modified cars descend on Exhibition Park for this automotive lifestyle festival.

National Folk Festival – Easter long weekend

Thanks to music, dance, poetry and markets, you won’t leave this festival with the blues – unless a tune gets stuck in your head!

Canberra Nara Candle Festival – October

Learn calligraphy, make a lantern and listen to Japanese music before lighting a candle in solidarity with Canberra’s sister city, Nara.

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