The ultimate guide to things to do in Melbourne with kids

Famous for its rivalry with Sydney, you’d think it would be all about show in the Victorian capital. But Melbourne’s magic is best uncovered by seeking out its secrets. Splashes of colour await in its laneways. Dedicated children’s play spaces are tucked away in major galleries. A Michelin star restaurant takes the guise of a relaxed dumpling bar.

Melbourne is famous for its coffee. Credit: Visit Victoria

We don’t mean to say that this city of murals, markets and museums is shy and retiring. Far from it. Melburnians are cocky and confident in their coffee. The MCG is the largest sporting arena of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Melbourne Comedy Festival is famous for getting the biggest laughs.

Read more: Top weekend road trips to take from Melbourne

Check out those views – all the way to Melbourne’s Port Philip! Credit: Arthurs Seat/ Visit Victoria

But we definitely recommend exploring Melbourne inside and out with kids, going beyond the obvious sights. World-class attractions collide with humble, hipster venues in hidden corners. Toddlers and teens alike are catered for, and there’s always something happening on the calendar. No matter what you come for, you’ll be surprised and delighted by the unexpected family adventures you upend in Melbourne.

Top 10 Must-See Sights

  1. National Gallery of Victoria – divided into two venues, the National International and the National Australia
  2. Federation Square – home to the Ian Potter Centre, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI, set to re-open soon) and plenty more cultural venues
  3. Queen Victoria Markets – you’ll be blown away by the sheer size of these famous markets, and their Winter, Summer and Night iterations
  4. Eureka Tower – challenge your head for heights at Skydeck on the 88th floor, the highest public viewpoint in the Southern Hemisphere. The Edge is a glass box extending out from the building – not for the fainthearted!
  5. Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
  6. St Kilda Foreshore
  7. Melbourne Zoo
  8. Melbourne Museum, its parklands and the neighbouring Royal Exhibition Building
  9. City Circle Tram route – a free ride that’s a destination in itself!
  10. Royal Botanic Gardens

Things to do in Melbourne with...

Get up close to these furry friends at the Koala Conservation Centre. Credit: Visit Victoria

Best time to visit Melbourne as a family

Melbourne truly is a year-round destination. It is famous for covering four seasons in one day, so whenever you visit, pack a brolly and warm layers. Summer promises warm nights, bucketloads of festivals and the Australian Open Tennis Championships. Winter days are cold and crisp.

Relaxed atmosphere and riverside views at Pilgrim. Credit: GOA Group

Family-friendly places to eat

Melbourne’s worst-kept secret is that it boasts the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world. Tim Ho Wan dumpling bar kicked off in Hong Kong, but has brought its steamed pork dumplings, shrimp rolls, pork buns and spring rolls to Melbourne. You can be in and out quick smart if you go mid-week. Otherwise, you’ll contend with a queue of fans! An alternative is the dumpling menu of Taiwain’s Din Tai Fung.

Trunk Diner is a family favourite, with an American style menu brimming with burgers, hot wings and sundaes. 8bit also offers retro American vibes. Fill up on pizza and pasta from +39 Pizzeria or Bluetrain, or souvlaki and calamari at Stalactites.

Watch the boats pass as you tuck in to the all-day menu at Pilgrim Bar, settled on the Yarra at Federation Wharf. Grab a great coffee next door at Riverland. For more waterviews, soak up the beachy bliss of Pantry in Brighton, which has a specialised kiddie menu.

We also love Leroys Café in Newport for a lazy Sunday brunch. It has a great ‘Lil Superheroes menu, and a Secret Garden with chalkboards, playground and toys.

The cavernous La Trobe Reading Room in the State Library – every reader’s fantasy! Credit: Visit Victoria

Things to do for free in Melbourne

  • Pick a picnic spot to lay down your rug in Melbourne’s many parks. Try Royal Botanic Gardens, or Fitzroy Gardens, home to a model Tudor village, Fairy Tree and playground. Flip and ollie at JJ Holland Park or Riverslide Skate Park. Docklands Park has a great playground, as does Fitzroy Adventure Playground.
  • The National Gallery of Victoria’s Ian Potter Centre has free general entry. Its collection celebrates modern Australian art, with a spotlight on Indigenous art. The Koorie Heritage Trust is a wonderful cultural centre exploring Aboriginal cultures from the south-east of the mainland.
  • Bookworms will lap up the fancy 1854 building of the State Library of Victoria, which has self-guided tours through its Reading Room and exhibition spaces. Make the trip out of town to the RAAF Museum which has interactive aerial displays on certain days. Book ahead for a free guided tour. Donations gratefully welcomed.
What’s on?

The best annual events for families in Melbourne

Feb/March – Adelaide Fringe

You’ll find family and kid friendly shows at Adelaide’s wild and wonderful Fringe festival.

March - Adelaide Festival

Australia’s premier Arts festival showcases theatre, world-class musicians, dance, writers and visual art.

March – Adelaide 500

This motorsport spectacular is packed with action and entertainment for families. The 2021 Superloop Adelaide 500 will occur on revised dates in 2021.

March – South Australia History Festival

Enjoy hundreds of events such as talks to workshops exploring the local history.

March – WOMADelaide

Enjoy family friendly performances and workshops by the world’s best traditional and contemporary musicians, dancers and DJs.

May – DreamBig Children’s Festival

This arts festival for schools and families is the largest of its kind in the world.

September – Royal Adelaide Show

Experience animals, rides, food and entertainment as the country comes to the city.

October – OzAsia Festival

Australia’s biggest Asian arts festival.

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