Written by 10:54 pm Family Fun

Family City: Sydney: Play

You know you’re a mother when you go on a holiday and the only shopping you get to do happens in an attraction’s gift shop. Then again, families don’t come to Sydney just to shop. They come here, as they go anywhere else in the world, to experience, to learn, to savour, and most of all, to have fun. Here are a few places where kids will enjoy all that, and still want to return to again, and again, and again.

Animal encounters

Aussie animals are one of a kind, and we’re not just talking about the two-legged ones here. This is one city in which kids can meet creatures – wallabies, platypus, koalas, kangaroos, kookaburra, Tasmanian devils – that are seldom seen in wildlife attractions elsewhere. And where else in the world can you experience an entire habitat – the Great Barrier Reef – without actually going there?

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Just 45 minutes out of Sydney’s CBD, this is the perfect place to meet some of Australia’s wildlife in a natural bush setting. Hand feed a kangaroo, take a photo with a koala, see a Tasmanian devil or a dingo. Bring your own picnic or eat at the Aussie-Style café. The park is fully accessible on wheelchairs or strollers, and has baby changing facilities.

Horse Riding in Centennial Park

Saddle up for a horse ride through historic Centennial Park. Kids as young as four can enjoy pony rides, learn how to approach a horse and then be accompanied by a qualified trainer on a ride in the park.

Sydney Wildlife World

Meet some of Australia’s most unique land-based animals here, including Rex the five-metre-long Kakadu Crocodile. Ladies take note: there are myriad exhibits of creepy crawlies – including huge, huge, huge, ants and other six and eight-legged creatures to go through before you reach the cuddly koalas. Kids and their dads don’t seem to mind though, and will eagerly stroke the stick insect at the entrance before entering.

Sydney Aquarium

There’s a lovely tunnel walk-though that takes you to a passageway that is glassed on all four sides, so you truly feel as if you are in the water, with the ocean creatures swimming past you. After they get over the initial fear factor, kids love this space that lets them ‘walk’ on water. You can also visit the world’s largest Great Barrier Reef exhibit (all two million litres of it), take a ride in the glass-bottomed boat, touch shark eggs, and meet Dugongs Pig and Wuru at Mermaid Lagoon. The Reef Theatre, with its floor-to-ceiling window into the oceanarium, is a great picture op. Kids will also love the life-sized Lego structures (from pirate to shark to mermaid) that decorate the area.

Taronga Zoo

Getting there is an adventure in itself. Take a ferry from Circular Quay, then the Sky Safari cable car to the main entrance, enjoying bird’s eye views of the Zoo along the way. Once inside, find the prettiest giraffes, reptiles, seals and gorillas or have your photo taken with a koala. Tired? Grab a snack or picnic at one of the Lawns, with great views of Sydney Harbour. Don’t forget to stop by KidZoo, where young ones can touch farm animals, walk with turkeys (the fowl kind, not the human kind) and other feathered friends, and make new (human) friends in the adventure playground and its water play area. Strollers are available for hire, and the Zoo has spacious baby change facilities.

Museums

One of the coolest things about the museums in Sydney is the way that they view kids as real people who actually want to find out about things. You’ll know what I mean when you get there: child-sized exhibits designed to draw even the least inquisitive child into action and exploration, lots of space for them to move about in, temptingly arrayed interactive panels with buttons galore. Don’t be surprised when the kids end up asking to visit the museum again!

Art Gallery of NSW

Get creative with a guided tour designed especially for kids. Situated in Sydney’s picturesque Domain, the Gallery offers an interactive Gallery Kids program that includes storytelling and games. Colourful characters Gert by Sea and The Queen of Sheba come to life from the gallery’s paintings to help young ones explore the artworks in an exciting and entertaining way.

Justice and Police Museum

Put ‘em up at this interactive museum and walk inside a magistrate’s court or remand cell before uncovering objects from some of Australia’s most notorious bushrangers. The museum also boasts the nitty gritty details of infamous Australian crimes, the Shark Arm Murder and Pyjama Girl Case.

National Maritime Museum

Board the full-scale replica of James Cook’s HMB Endeavour, explore the inside of a submarine and a wartime destroyer, and gawk at vessels made of empty drink cans (do they really make the most noise?) Kids will also be entertained at the Navy exhibition, where they can test their skills on a submarine periscope and discover what it’s really like living at sea.


Powerhouse Museum

Uncover the secrets of life as an astronaut in the Zero-Gravity Space Lab, play an eco-conservation game on a iPad, watch the 10-minute sound and light show in the Transport Gallery, climb onto steam engine trains… while mum and dad relive their heydays at the travelling exhibitions. The museum is fully accessible on wheels, has are baby-changing facilities, a restaurant, and a casual café in the courtyard that overlooks the outdoor playground. Plan to spend an entire day here; it’s hard to pull kids away from this brilliantly conceived space. Note to Wiggles fans: A Wiggles exhibition opens in late September 2011.

Click on for kid-friendly places to eat and stay in Sydney!

Sydney images courtesy of What’s on in Sydney

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