School the kids in the capital Six big attractions, one powerhouse city. Here’s how to get the most out of a family visit to Canberra.
Chart the lake The best way to have the full Lake Burley Griffin experience is to rent a boat from GoBoat and putter around its shores. But for something more low-key that kids can do any time of the day, download the Art in the Park adventure map from the National Capital Authority website and make your way to Commonwealth Park, which borders Nerang Pool at the top of the lake. Grab a pen and clipboard and follow the instructions to discover the sculptures, statues and natural features that dot this picturesque piece of parkland.
Quiz a curator Can’t get the kids off their devices? At Hive, the new interactive educational space at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, the kids can at least use their phones for something a bit more challenging than texting their friends. The centrepiece of the exhibit is Storywall, where kids use their devices to quiz lifesized virtual-reality curators about everything from Hugo Weaving’s platform shoes in the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to the 1993 video game Halloween Harry.
Read them their rights Many parents would argue that giving their young kids more rights than they already have is a path they’d rather not take. But the kinds of rights explored at the Museum of Australian Democracy’s PlayUp! exhibit – centred on concepts of democracy, advocacy and activism – are very different from allowing kids to dictate their own bedtimes or how many vegies they eat. At this interactive space in Old Parliament House, children are free to play and create, expressing themselves through signs, figurines and craft, as well as learning about basic human rights that belong to every child, including shelter, health and gender equality.
Lunch at the top of town Once the kids’ attractions, such as the ever-popular Pod Playground and the regular bonsai-making workshops, have run their course with your little ones, set the family up for lunch at Dairy Farmers Hill at the National Arboretum Canberra. Here, you’ll have panoramic views across the whole city. If you’re coming from near Kingston, pick up baguettes, quiches and pastries from Silo Bakery on the way and enjoy them at one of the handy park benches or picnic tables on the hill.
Honour the fallen The Australian War Memorial is a place of solemn remembrance but it also encourages exploration. Kids will be drawn to the interactive Discovery Zone (where they can find out what it’s like to fly a helicopter) and the bronze panels of the Roll of Honour, on which they can search for family members who have lost their lives in service. And be sure to time your visit with the Last Post Ceremony, held at 4.55pm every day (it’s free but you’ll need to book). Each evening, along with the mournful piper’s lament, the story of one of the names recorded on the Roll of Honour is shared, reminding visitors of the real cost of conflict.
Meet famous faces Portraiture doesn’t have to be pompous and the proof is on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery. Challenge your kids to track down a checklist of Australians who’ve done cool, controversial and clever things – think Ian Thorpe, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Charles Kingsford Smith and Evonne Goolagong Cawley – and then grab a bite to eat at the gallery café to chat about who they are and what they contributed to the country’s fabric.