Melbourne for families: kid-friendly fun on a budget
An amazing children’s garden, a riverside skate park, a classic tram and arty fun in Fed Square: welcome to free family-friendly Melbourne!
- October 2018
- Updated September 2022
A family break in Melbourne doesn’t have to cost the earth. Enjoy some free kid-friendly fun and get the most from your holiday dollars.
Rattle round the city on the City Circle Tram
Get your bearings and give the kids the chance to experience some living, rolling Melbourne history. Old-style W-class trams dating from the 1950s (and now classified by the National Trust) rattle around an inner city circuit, taking in some of Melbourne’s top sights. You’ll pass historical icons like Parliament House, Flinders Street Station and the State Library (the original Melbourne Museum), as well as visiting the newest bits of the city at Docklands.
The tram travels in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions and you can get on and off as you wish, so as well as easy sightseeing it’s also a great (free) way to get between kid-friendly attractions like Melbourne Aquarium and Melbourne Museum.
Have an art attack at Federation Square
Fed Square is Melbourne’s one-stop arts shop, with a clutch of modern, exciting arts spaces with a kid-friendly twist. The Ian Potter Centre holds the Australian collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, with a rich collection of Aboriginal art and famous artists like Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Fred Williams. Kids’ activity sheets are provided to help them explore the collection, and special kids’ exhibitions and workshops are often held. Next door is ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, where the permanent collection celebrates film, TV, video games and digital culture – a concept that’s bound to excite screen-happy teens and tweens. Check the cinema’s program for family fare.
Check out some open-air art just across the road from Fed Square at the city’s most celebrated street art canvas: Hosier Lane, one of Melbourne’s prime selfie spots. And just behind the square towards the river is the city centre’s only activity playground at Birrarung Marr. As well as climbing ropes, balance beams and sandpits, you’ll find intriguing modern artworks and stunning skyline views.
Learn about conservation in the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens are a Melbourne icon. These 36 hectares of gorgeously cultivated greenery, sloping gently down to the Yarra River, are home to more than 8500 species of plants from around the world. A heaven of peaceful wandering, highlights include an Ornamental Lake (the kids will love feeding the eels), a cool forested Fern Gully and an extraordinary Arid Garden filled with wild cacti and succulents, among many other impressive collections.
Especially for kids is the Ian Potter Children’s Garden, created to encourage kids to play, explore and learn about conservation. With a Kitchen Garden, a Wetland Area and a Bamboo Forest amongst other intriguing sections, there’s plenty of interaction and discovery to keep them amused and teach them something at the same time – just a short walk (or shorter tram ride) from the city centre.
Hang five at Riverslide Skate Park
Melbourne skaters say this is the city’s best skate park, and it’s easy to see why. Just across the Yarra River opposite Birrarung Marr, Riverslide fills 1800 square metres with different skating terrains, all brimming with kids skateboarding, scootering and BMXing their hearts out. It's a welcoming all-ages vibe, though things can get fast and frantic when it’s crowded as the daredevil quotient rises. There are toddler-friendly areas and the location in lush Alexandra Gardens, with fantastic city views, is a bonus.
The skate park is always staffed and if you have a youngster who needs some encouragement, lessons are available.