Sunday, 10 January 2016

Things to do in Sydney in the school holidays - (which are cheap!)

I have just had the pleasure of having my two nieces and my nephew come to stay with us for nine days.  They live in Wagga Wagga, in the south west of NSW (yes that really is the name of the town, when I lived in the UK I always had to say that a few times before people would believe me!), so a trip to Sydney is a little bit different, although they are up here quite often.

Not having kids of my own, I was a bit concerned about what we could do to entertain the three visitors - and at 8, 12 and 15 there is a bit of a difference in their preferred activities.

But in the end we didn't get anywhere near through my list of things to do, partly because it rained so much.  So I have more choices for the next visit.  The things we did get to do though were all pretty good, so here are my suggestions.

1) Watch the New Year's Eve fireworks.  Ok, so that is clearly a suggestion for next year!  But we went to Mort Bay Park, where there were surprisingly few people (we had a good spot all to ourselves), a family friendly atmosphere and a great view to the bridge.  You can also get there and back quite easily on a bus down Darling St in Balmain, although we drove in early and then took the car home after the 9pm fireworks.

Our view from Mort Bay Park - slightly obstructed but good none the less!

Some of the 9pm fireworks
2) - Visit the Rocks.  Yes, it's a bit touristy, but any child who has read Playing Beattie Bow (seriously, if you haven't read it you should.  I loooooooved this book when I was a kid, and so I gave it to my eldest niece for her birthday and she loved it too.  There is a link to Amazon below, if you happen to buy it there I get a few cents towards my next purchase.) will love the idea of walking through the same streets that Abigail did in the book.  There are heaps of little lanes and cobblestoned paths, and it's an easy walk from Circular Quay.

We visited the Susannah Place Museum, which was also really interesting.  Four houses have been kept almost as a time capsule, stretching back to 1844.  You have to take a tour, you can't just look around, but the tours run on the hour, and it wasn't too hard to book in.  I joined Sydney Living Museums, and when you join as an adult you can add up to four kids under 16 for free - which certainly makes for a cheap visit if you want to go to a few places.  They include museums such as The Justice and Police Museum, and the Museum of Sydney, plus Vaucluse House, Elizabeth Bay House and The Mint to name just a few.

Part of the Susannah Place Museum
While we were in The Rocks we also had a look at "The Big Dig" -an archeological dig uncovering our past under the YHA hostel!  This is free to look at, although there is also an education centre which wasn't open when we were there, so I'm not sure if there is a cost involved in that part.

3) Take a ferry - anywhere!  Particularly on a Sunday, when all the travel you can fit in only costs a maximum of $2.50 on your Opal card.  There is something so wonderful about being on Sydney Harbour, looking at that iconic vision of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House - you just can't beat it.

The view from the Balmain East Ferry wharf.
4) Go to the Big Bash League Cricket - although this might soon be over for the season.  Kids general admission tickets to Sydney Thunder matches are the princely sum of $5.07.  There is free face painting and activities, and they hand out flags and those annoying inflatable "thunder sticks" for free.  You can take in food that is "non commercial" - which I asked about and is simply no take away food such as Macdonalds or KFC.  And you can take drinks that aren't in glass or cans.  We had great fun, and if you take photos at the ground and then post them to social media with the hashtag "thundernation" #thundernation - the pictures then appear on the big screen at the ground - which is quite fun in itself.

If you are lucky you can make the big screen at the stadium.
5) Visit the Botanic Gardens - always lovely, the Botanic Gardens are a forgotten treasure in my opinion.  One point of warning though - if you have a scooter or skateboard mad child (like my nephew) I have found from experience that bikes and skate boards are banned (so I assume also scooters).  Ball games also seem to be against the rules, so it is picnics or walking around only.

6) Parks and playgrounds!  There are playgrounds seemingly around every corner in the inner west at least.  We visited Blackwattle Bay Park (next to Jubilee Oval in Glebe) and enjoyed talking to people with dogs, looking at the water, and playing on the equipment.  The park voted "best park of the holiday" was Livvi's Place playground at Timbrell Park in Five Dock.  Built for children of all abilities, the stand out ride (and even I had a go!) was the motorised carousel, which has chairs and space for wheelchairs to be secured.  The electronic system allows the carousel to be started and the kids had great fun counting down until it started.

6) Well this one is not to do with Sydney - but boardgames are fun.  Our favourite is Sequence, which may not be familiar to as many people but it is quite simple for kids to pick up.  Again, I've put a link below if you are looking for a good gift - I gave this to my nephew a few years ago and he still loves playing it.  We also played UNO and Billionaire card games, and when we visited a friend for the day they had Cluedo and Hedbandz (like Celebrity Head but with objects, the kids seemed to enjoy this one)- which were all popular!

Other things on my list that we didn't get to for this visit included -
  • Visiting the Sydney Observatory
  • Visiting the Dawn Fraser baths in Rozelle or the Cabarita pool (both lovely harbourside pools)
  • Visiting an op shop (charity shop) and buying clothes for a dress up "fancy" dinner
  • Visiting Manly by ferry
  • Free activities at Olympic Park 
And finally, one thing we did that wasn't all that cheap, but was fun - visit the Hello Kitty Diner in Chatswood.  It's kind of strange, and not as kid friendly as I thought it might be (the only "themed" parts are the cardboard bows on the burgers, and a few neon Hello Kitty signs, plus the waitresses wear cat ear headbands) , but for the older kids it was something a bit different.

My salted pretzel milkshake

The menu - perhaps not kid friendly either.
 So have fun these school holidays!


  1. Number 3 is our all time favourite!

    1. It's so great isn't it Phil?! Being on the harbour always reminds me just how lucky we are to be able to live here.