SYDENY may be a cosmopolitan city known for its eateries, pubs and colorful nightlife, but don’t be totally fooled. By day, this family-friendly city also offers loads to do to keep the little ones amused, too.
Here’s a list of the top 10 things to do with the kids. And even if you don’t have children, many are still worth a visit.
1. Check out dungongs at Sydney Aquarium
Get ready to get up close and personal with Australia’s aquatic beasties at the Sydney Aquarium.
Set in the heart of Sydney on Darling Harbour, the aquarium showcases over 12,000 marine animals from 650 species in habitat displays, including platypuses, seahorses, giant turtles, jellyfish and thousands of tropical fish.
But the main draw card is a series of underwater, see-through, acrylic glass tunnels, where sharks and giant stingrays glide overhead above visitors.
Also on top of the must-see list: a pair of native dungongs, or “sea cows”, called Pig and Wuru, which were taken into captivity after being found washed up on different beaches in Queensland.
2. Go wild at Taronga Zoo
Set on a sloping hillside above the harbour, and boasting panoramic views of the city alongside animal displays, Taronga Zoo is an iconic Sydney landmark.
Officially opened in 1916, the zoo is currently undergoing a massive overhaul, with some areas closed for renovation. Still, some mega-exhibits have already opened, including the jungle-themed “Rainforest Trail” and a new Tasmanian devil display.
Wildlife tours, around-the-clock bird and seal shows, and keeper talks are also on offer.
Fancy something a bit more adventurous? Camp overnight at the zoo in safari tents and wake up to the roars of the lions as part of the zoo’s “Roar and Snore” stay.
3. Ride the rollercoasters at Luna Park
It’s hard to miss the iconic Luna Park, with its 9-meter-wide smiling clown face entrance staring out over the harbour.
Tucked behind Coney Island, the recently restored 1930s amusement park now includes a Big Top auditorium, along with popular rides such as the Tumble Bug and Flying Saucer. Also check out the DINOSAURS ALIVE! exhibition, featuring robotic dinosaurs and dig-a-fossils pits, currently on until February 12.
Entry is free, and tickets are sold for single rides, which suits a family with kids under five. For the older ones, it’s probably worth buying an unlimited rides pass, which lets them on all the rides all day.
4. Take a pony ride in Centennial Park
Finally, “My Little Ponies” program, an ongoing initiative specially designed for 2-5 year olds, teaches kids where the horses live, what they eat and how to care for them. Don’t worry, a hand-led ride is also included. Bookings are essential. Call (02) 9339 6699.
Centennial Park Equestrian Centre, 114-120 Lang Road, Centennial Park.
5. Play at the Powerhouse Museum
Chase fish in a digital pond as part of an interactive “Magic Garden”. Or experience the illusion of weightlessness in the Zero Gravity Space Lab.
All this and more is in store at the Powerhouse Museum. The former power station opened a buzzing museum in 1988 and now offers 250 interactive exhibits — many of which are geared specially for children under aged eight.
Don’t miss out on the current high-tech Wiggles exhibition to mark the band’s 20th anniversary, which includes photographs and memorabilia – along with a Big Red Car for kids to ride.
Harry Potter fans also won’t be disappointed with a new exhibition showcasing hundreds of props, sets and costumes from the movie until March 18.
And if that’s not enough to keep your kiddies amused, check out the museum’s new outdoor playground.
6. Walk on air at Sydney Tower Eye
As the city’s tallest freestanding structure, Sydney Tower Eye offers some of the best views around – from the Pacific Ocean to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west.
Just make sure the kids are okay with the dizzying heights.
First opened in 1981, the tower boasts an observation deck and a new 4D cinema, which transports viewers through the city’s landmarks and includes such special effects as a vibrating floor and spray mists.
But the real star attraction is the recently launched SKYWALK. Venture across the glass-floor viewing platform – harnessed to safety rails, of course – and walk on air 268 meters above the city, more than double the height of the Harbour Bridge. Mind you, this is not for the faint hearted, and children must be aged 10 and over and accompanied by an adult.
7. Spot a flying fox in the Royal Botanic Gardens
From watching flying foxes dangle from the trees, to taking a scenic tour in the Trackless Train, the Royal Botanic Gardens themselves have much to offer for young children.
There’s also the recently launched Dandy Lions program for children aged 0-5. Held every Tuesday and Thursday, children get to explore a new garden-related theme through activities such as gardening, craft, storytelling and play. Cost runs $70 for term bookings, and $10 for casual bookings. Bookings: (02) 9231 8134.
During school holidays, kids over aged five can also get their hands dirty in the garden with a rotating education-based program. On the lined-up for this April: the Party Plants School Holiday Program, where kids will learn how different cultures on the Pacific Rim used tropical plants for music, food and fun. Cost is $15 per child. Bookings: (02) 9231 8134.
Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, Mrs Macquaries Road. (02) 9231 8111.
8. Meet Rex the crocodile at WILD LIFE Sydney
Meet Rex, the huge crocodile in Kakadu Gorge. Or step into the Butterfly Tropics where you will see butterflies flitting through lush ferns and palms.
It’s all part of the Australian animal adventure served up at the newly re-launched WILD LIFE Sydney located at Aquarium Wharf on Darling Harbour.
From interactive displays and walk-through habitats to daily keeper talks, this enclosed wildlife world will surely inspire kids to release their outdoor adventurer.
Keep your eye out for the new Bugs Garden exhibit, which offers visitors a chance to uncover all sorts of unique creepy crawlies.
9. Catch the theatre bug with Kids at the House
For our little culture lovers out there, the Sydney Opera House offers a yearlong program of theatre, music, multi-media, dance and creative play for children aged 2-15.
Among this year’s highlights: White, a production designed as an introduction to theatre for 2-4 year olds, and an exciting “choose-your-own-adventure” theatre show called Escape from Peligro Island, where the audience are given their very own handheld controller and a responsible for steering the narrative of the play – guaranteeing that no two shows are the same.
There’s also the popular Baby Proms, a series of shows created for children aged 2-5. Look out for Lah-Lah’s Adventures, Music for Tutus, Charlie and Lola, Little Big Shots, The Four Seasons and Music Book.
10. Bike ride through Sydney Olympic Park
Once an industrial wasteland, this precinct was transformed to become the site of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Now, more than a decade on, the multi-purpose Sydney Olympic Park is still brimming with life, offering activities for the entire family to enjoy.
Take a bike ride through the parkland’s 35 kilometers of cycle ways and discover wildlife refuges, mangrove boardwalks and outdoor art. Or go swimming and soak the kids at Splasher’s Water Playground in the Aquatic Centre. Or take your skateboard or scooter for wicked tricks at Monster Skate Park.
For something more sedate, picnic on the grass and take advantage of the free barbecue and picnic shelters. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the Olympic Cauldron, now converted into a water fountain.
You’re spoilt for choice, really.
This article was originally published on CNNG0 here.