If you're looking for things to do with kids in Canberra, you'll find a nearly endless variety of options. This capital city of Australia offers cultural and historic adventures, science and technology museums with hands-on exhibits, delicious sweet treats and desserts, thrill rides and inflatable bouncy parks. You can run and play amongst lifelike dinosaur statues, see natural history exhibits tracing the legacy of this land from prehistoric times to the modern era and learn about the history of democracy. You can race go-karts, play mini-golf and pet animals. You can even put on wizards' robes and cast magical spells. Check out these amazing family activities in Canberra for your holiday.
Explore museums and cultural sites
1. Visit Questacon to explore science and technology
Questacon at the National Science and Technology Centre offers over 200 interactive exhibits that can entertain and educate in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. These programs are designed to inspire children to fall in love with science and scientific pursuits. The museum offers nearly a dozen galleries and exhibits between permanent and rotating featured exhibitions. These include robots, scientific theories, natural disasters, dynamic experiments, interactive tools and technologies, construction zones, space exploration and a kids area specifically built for young ones under the age of 6. You'll find a whole world of engaging and imaginative things to do with kids in Canberra here.
2. Encounter Stan at the National Dinosaur Museum
The National Dinosaur Museum holds one of the largest permanent displays of prehistoric specimens in Australia and follows the evolution of life from the earliest protozoa through the rise of dinosaurs and megafauna. Here you can see complete dinosaur skeletons as well as statues and full-sized, lifelike animatronic dinosaurs in an ever-growing collection. Among the most popular attractions is the 20-metre-long T-Rex named Stan. The museum even has special "dance with dinosaur" days for kids under 5, making it a great option for things to do in Canberra with toddlers. After you're done learning all about the prehistoric era of Australia, you can visit the gift shop with fossils, crystals, minerals, books, toys and souvenirs to commemorate your visit.
3. Get hands-on at the National Museum of Australia
The National Museum of Australia covers over 50,000 years of heritage in this country from ancient indigenous cultures through settlement in the 18th century to the modern day. You can see examples of Aboriginal arts and crafts, tools from early European settlers and even exhibits dedicated to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. You can see stone tools, the heart of a champion racehorse and a prototype automobile from Holden. The museum supplements its permanent collection with rotating temporary exhibits that have covered such topics as the Irish in Australia, children's homes, cartoons and other quirky topics.
4. Connect to history at the Museum of Australian Democracy
The Museum of Australian Democracy is in a heritage-listed building that was once the Old Parliament House and is dedicated to education and engagement with the history of politics. Here you can learn about how democracy in Australia developed and the work of Parliament from 1927 through 1988 and take a tour of the building. The museum also has a ton of kids activities in Canberra such as the Play Up exhibit where kids get to dress up and determine the rights of children all over the world. The museum is full of interactive exhibits like this that teach kids about political history while engaging their imaginations.
5. See government at work at Parliament House
If you want to learn all about the history of politics in Australia and how it works, a visit to the current home of government is in order. Parliament House is an interesting and fun option for things to do with kids in Canberra where you can find photo opportunities in front of the building to light up your Instagram feed, then head inside to explore the Senate and House of Representatives and witness the actual workings of government. You can also head for the rooftop gardens and rest in the grass, then stop at the cafe to relax with a drink and a meal while talking about what you've seen and planning the rest of your adventures.
6. Honour heroes at the Australian War Memorial
Kids all over Australia know about Remembrance Day and Anzac Day, but to take their knowledge even further, add a trip to the Australian War Memorial to your list of things to do with kids in Canberra. The building is majestic, and the exhibitions and statues inside are astonishing to view and are like a window into the past. Even better, kids can enter the Discovery Zone where they can pretend they're in the trenches of World War I, explore the war's Australian homefront, get into a helicopter and a submarine, and learn about the peacekeeping strategies the military uses to maintain order in communities torn apart by war.
7. See famous faces at the National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery is an art museum that contains a comprehensive collection of portraits representing Australians who have made important contributions to the country's progress over the years. Some are of famous faces, while others may be lesser-known but still important. It's a chance to see paintings, photographs and prints of all these people and learn about who they are as well as the contributions they've made. The permanent collection at the gallery includes over 3,000 portraits and ranges from photos to paintings, drawings, sculptures, textiles and multimedia offerings. It continues to grow constantly. It's also known for the presentation of the National Photographic Portrait Prize.
8. Learn about science at the CSIRO Discovery Centre
The CSIRO Discovery Centre is a space that's directly geared towards making science accessible to young people. Their goal is to make science fun and entertaining as well as get kids knowledgeable and excited about STEM pursuits. Here you'll see scientists at work in real labs, but you also get to interact with them and see up close what they're doing. Kids will thrill to spending time in the DiscoverLab to do their own experiments, and they can have immersive experiences in the 3D@Discovery and OptiPortal theatre experiences. They'll learn about renewable energy, protecting the climate, genetics, biodiversity and other important issues all in a way they can understand.
9. Explore multimedia at ScreenSound Australia
ScreenSound Australia, part of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, is dedicated to educating and entertaining entire families with movies, CDs, radio, television and other forms of media. It's located in a gorgeous building with an art deco design that is among the oldest of its type in the city. It's also allegedly haunted, so you may have a spooky experience here. ScreenSound Australia is full of interactive exhibits, including the popular Hive exhibit where your mobile phone can interact with 6 archive experts projected life-size on the Storywall. They'll tell you stories about media and their love for the media history of Australia. You can also visit a gift shop and grab a snack at the concession stand.
10. See the artworks at the National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia, formerly called the Australian National Gallery, is among the largest art museums in the country and is the designated national art museum of the nation. It was established in 1967 and entertains and educates to this day. Its collection includes important works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, Eastern and Western art, non-indigenous Australian art and even a sculpture garden. It also hosts rotating exhibitions that highlight some of the most important artists both Australian and otherwise throughout history. It's a wondrous and beautiful collection that is a must-add to any list of things to do with kids in Canberra.
11. See the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex isn't just another astronomy centre or planetarium. It's an actual satellite communication station and part of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The public areas of the complex include a visitor centre and Deep Space Café. At the visitor centre, you can see artefacts of space travel like a handheld film camera used by Apollo lunar astronauts during their training. Guided tours of the centre are available and should be booked in advance. You'll get to see the ways this complex communicates with satellites in orbit to monitor and control all manner of global communications. Stop at the cafe for a bite to eat and hit the gift shop for a souvenir of your trip.
Get active and see worlds of wonder
12. See the animals at the National Zoo and Aquarium
The National Zoo and Aquarium should be a must-visit site on anyone's list of kids activities in Canberra. It's just 5 minutes from the city centre and is among the largest private zoos in Australia, as well as being one of the only ones that has both a zoo and an aquarium. You can visit a wide range of native and exotic animals, from the swamp wallaby to the dingo, the koala and the Tasmanian devil. You can see African lions, tigers, pygmy marmosets, Goodfellow's tree-kangaroos, spotted hyenas and more. At the aquarium, you can see marine and freshwater creatures from the giant moray eel to reef and zebra sharks and little penguins.
13. Have a sleepover safari at Jamala Wildlife Lodge
If just seeing animals in a zoo isn't enough for you, you might want to book a night or 2 to spend at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge. A night here is like a safari sleepover with animals. You can book a room looking down on an enclosure of meerkats. You can get a room where sun bears will look right through your windows, and where your bed is separated by glass from lions and tigers. You might even get a room in a treehouse where a giraffe can stick its head right into your room for a feeding. African-style dinners are included, and children's meals are available, making this a great option for family activities in Canberra.
14. Burn some energy at the Australian Institute of Sport
At some point on your travels, you'll need things to do with kids in Canberra that let them burn off all that excess child energy. The Australian Institute of Sport is the ideal option to make this happen. This sports training facility lets you swim laps in an Olympic-size pool, hit a ball on a tennis court or head to Sportex, an interactive sports exhibit that's surrounded by memorabilia from some of Australia's most famous athletes and sporting events. You and your kids will learn what it's like to be a high-performance athlete in this country. You can also book a public guided tour where your guide will be an elite athlete who can highlight the world-class facility. You might even see famed swimmers or gymnasts practising their art.
15. See the trains and dolls at Cockington Green Gardens
Cockington Green Gardens is an entire world built from miniatures, a village that's been here since 1979 and has been family-owned and -operated for more than 4 generations. It's a quaint and charming experience and a must-do for kids activities in Canberra. The main displays are seen in 2 different sections. The first is the original display, followed by an international exhibit. Each incorporates miniature trains that travel throughout the villages that cover Australia and the realms beyond. For extra fun, head for the Rose Room display that features enchanting custom dollhouses. When you're done, head for the souvenir shop and cafe for a bite to eat and something to remember your trip.
16. Ride a bicycle around Lake Burley Griffin
Sometimes you just want simple and peaceful family activities in Canberra. For those days, pull out your cycles and head around the trails of Lake Burley Griffin. If you don't have a bicycle with you, you can hire a bike from a local company or grab one from one of the stations across the city. You'll find everything from mountain bikes to kids bikes available, so there should be one for everyone. You may even be able to get a bike trailer. You can pedal past a memorial jet to a castle playground with stone towers and tunnels for the kids to crawl over and through. It's a great way to relax and reconnect with the family.
17. Race your family at Power Kart Raceway
Power Kart Raceway offers a wild and pulse-pounding array of things to do with kids in Canberra. Zip around corners and dodge articles on any of the 14 electric go-kart tracks, with some for kids as young as 6 and separate tracks for adult riders. When you're done racing, head over to the indoor glow-in-the-dark mini-golf course in Canberra at Jungle Golf, where you'll tackle 18 holes of jungle-themed trick shots lit up by UV lights, right on the same site. You can also head for the Game Zone where you can play a wide selection of arcade favourites from video games to air hockey and skee ball.
18. Ride and play at Yarralumla Play Station
Located at Weston Park, the Yarralumla Play Station is a wildly fun and expansive adventure park that's custom built for kids. It's the location of one of the biggest crazy-golf courses in all of Australia, with 36 holes decorated with distinctive and iconic landmarks including a 25-metre Lake Burley Griffin replica and a miniature version of Parliamentary Triangle. You can take a ride on a miniature railway here and head for a petting zoo filled with friendly farm animals. You can visit with sheep, chickens, goats, pigs, alpacas, ponies and many others. The park also has its own on-site cafe where you can grab lunch and a drink.
19. See native animals at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
At Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, you can visit kangaroos and emus, koalas, platypuses and many other native species of animals. You'll start at the visitor centre to learn all about the reserve, its history and the conservation efforts it represents, then take the Congawarra Trail down to the Tidbinbilla River. You will find tons of places to stop and rest along the way, and you can even stop for a meal at any of the picnic areas on the walk. It's a serene and enjoyable option for things to do with kids in Canberra.
20. See a world of witches and wizards at Quizzic Alley
What kid doesn't want to live in a world of magic and fairy tale adventure? At Quizzic Alley, that's just what you'll get. If you want a Harry Potter adventure, that's precisely what you'll get here; in fact, it's a licensed Harry Potter experience that takes you through the wizarding world in Australia. You can dress up in wizard's or witch's robes and learn to cast spells, visit a store with memorabilia from the books and movies, and even attend a Great Wizard's Ball in a magical ballroom complete with tons of magical family fun. Various events are held throughout the year, so be sure to check to see what's on when you go to visit.
Enjoy sweet treats
21. Try a super sweet FreakShake at Patissez
Patissez is famed for being the home of the FreakShake, but this cafe is loaded with other delicious delectables that are sure to induce a sugar high. Among locals, this place is a legendary site, and it should be on your must-visit locales just a few minutes away from your family accommodation in Canberra. You can have cheesecake, pastries or sweet dessert tacos, as well as a number of savoury options. If dessert isn't your thing, try a dish like pulled pork Benedict, a loaded breakfast burger, an ultimate chicken burger, a hangry burger or a turkey BLT.
22. Sample homemade pastries at Old Bus Depot Markets
The Old Bus Depot Markets are more than just a culinary experience; they're a vast public market that's full of clothing, arts, crafts, souvenirs and a wide range of other goods, many handmade by local artisans. Part of the experience is the food, and here you can try all manner of Australian delicacies made by local chefs. These include unusual and delicious sweet treats that you and the kids are sure to love. Stop by on a Sunday to check out themed markets like Designer Sunday, Multicultural Sunday and Collectable Sunday; each week brings a different theme.
23. Try unique ice creams and sundaes at Stripey Sundae
Stripey Sundae is an old-fashioned ice cream shop with freshly made desserts that offer surprising, unique and different flavours that change all the time. One day you might have mandarin ice cream. The next it might be liquorice. Of course, all the standard flavours are here, like chocolate and vanilla, but fun and quirky flavours are available as well like salted caramel and honeycomb. They offer vegan options as well that include a wide range of flavours like soy peanut butter and coconut Oreo-flavoured ice creams. It's a truly delicious option to add to your things to do with kids in Canberra.
24. See the science of desserts at Frugii
Frugii is a unique dessert destination because it's not just a restaurant or cafe; it's truly a dessert laboratory where they use science to create superb and interesting desserts. They use all-natural ingredients and make their own extracts, pastes and bases. It's gotten a massive following across the city, and if you want sweet tasty things to do with kids in Canberra, this natural approach to creating food is a must-visit spot. From gelato to durian in lychee gel, New York-style cheesecake and apple tarts, there's a wild variety of treats here.