GETTING OUT AND ABOUT: WHERE I GO FOR INFORMATION AND INSPIRATION

Finding family friendly things to do in a new city can initially seem very overwhelming and does requires a bit of research. But since moving to Sydney, there are a number of fantastic websites, blogs and resources that I'm constantly looking to for inspiration and information.

I've compiled a comprehensive list below and while many of these cater to families with kids of all ages, they have been a great starting point to find toddler friendly activities and outings. We're based on Sydney's Upper North Shore so if you're also on the northern side of the harbour, all the information you need is in this handy directory! 

visitnsw.com

If you're visiting from interstate or overseas, a great starting point, to give you an overview of what Sydney and New South Wales has to offer, is the Visit NSW website. It's the official government tourism site and has information for family friendly sights and tourist attractions 

Website | Facebook | Instagram

ellaslist

ellaslist started out in 2010 when one mum decided to create a family friendly local guide for parents, based on things to do with her daughter. It's now grown into a huge online resource of everything that is happening for families in both Sydney and Melbourne. It's so comprehensive and jam pack with information. 

Website  | Facebook | Instagram

Hello Sydney Kids

Hello Sydney Kids is another resource that has been created by an inspiring mum who has meticulously detailed her families adventures across Sydney. It's full of great articles on beaches and playgrounds and things to do in Sydney and surrounding areas. 

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Busy City Kids

Busy City Kids is my go to place to find out about current kid friendly museum and art gallery exhibits. It's also created and curated by mums and has reviews and guides for attractions and activities in Sydney and Melbourne. 

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Kid Size Living

Kid Size Living is another local guide and directory for all things kids friendly in Sydney. It has a handy breakdown by area - ie: inner west, northern beaches, inner city

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Adventure, Baby

Adventure, Baby is a blog by travel writer Christine Knight. While she has travelled extensively around the world and shares lots of stories, guides and international travel tips, she's based in Sydney and always has a great articles on things to do in her home town with her daughter.

Website | Facebook | Instagram

The following are websites and social media accounts that focus on a specific area of Sydney. Created by local parents, they are handy resources for finding out whats on closer to home. These are the ones I refer to regularly - they are a great way to discover new playgrounds and kids friendly cafes! 

Hills District Mums Website | Facebook | Instagram

Northshore Mums Website | Facebook | Instagram

Ryde District Mums Website | Facebook | Instagram

ParraParents Website | Facebook | Instagram

Another great, free resource is Child Magazines - you can pick them up monthly at libraries, shopping centre and cafes; they have some informative articles and a list of what's on for kids that month. Plus the website has even more parenting related content - check out their mini mags! 

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Hashtags  

I'm a big fan of Instagram and recently discovered that you can follow hashtags! It's an ingenious way to see what other people are up to and perhaps even connect with like minded parents. A few of my favourite ones to get you started are #sydneywithkids #sydneykids #sydneywithbubs #sydneymums

Subscribing to Newsletters

All the websites listed above have the option to subscribe to their newsletters which is a great way to received ideas and inspo directly to your inbox! I've also signed up to the newsletters for many of the museums and art galleries around Sydney, to stay up to date with upcoming exhibits and activities. 

Good old fashioned face to face conversation

Asking other local parents what they got up to on the weekend is an obvious way to get new ideas and recommendations. It's a great conversation starter and you'll get an honest review of things. It's my go to question for small talk at playgroup and playgrounds. 

I hope this list inspires other parents to find new adventures for your little ones and create some wonderful family memories.  If you're not a Sydney local, it only takes a bit of web searching to hunt down similar online resources for your own home town. 

Have I missed anything? I'd love to hear your tips and suggestions! Feel free to leave your comments below. 

Learn & Play! teamlab Future Park at The Powerhouse Museum

Learn & Play! teamlab Future Park at the Powerhouse Museum is an amazing, innovative exhibition for the whole family. Described as a digital playground, Future Park combines light, art and technology in an incredibly interactive way. 

The Powerhouse Museum has been a weekend favourite of ours since moving to Sydney; there is always so much there to entertain a toddler (The Wiggle Exhibit being the main drawcard). This was actually the second time we visited Future Park, the first time Farley and I came with my friend and her little 18 month old. This time we had our husbands along for a combined family day out. (And Hallie of course - although technically she was with us the first time). I'm not sure who had more fun, the toddlers or the dads! 

Farley loves colouring so naturally she was captivated by the exhibits were you can colour in an image with crayons, scan it and the image then appears on one of the large screens, animated and interacting with all the other scanned characters. The Sketch People sections allows you to bring a person to life, which is similar to the Sketch Town section where you can create cars, trucks, and rockets. The Graffiti Nature area is an amazing section where you can bring a variety of creatures to life and watch them crawl around a big pit like sapce that you can climb up and slide down. The Light Ball Orchestra, where huge illuminated balls change colour when you touch them, was a huge hit with everyone. There was a smaller ball section, ideal for little ones, as the bigger area does get pretty hectic with enthusiastic older kids. 

The Hopscotch for Geniuses and the Connecting: Block Town sections were also wonderful for our inquisitive toddlers. All the bright moving images that react to your touch had our little ones mesmerised.  It's kind of mindblowing to think that while this sort of technology is amazing to us as parents, it will be pretty primative compared to the kind of technology our kids are going to grow up using. 

Learn and Play! teamlab Future Park is one of the best museum exhibition I've been to! It's not often that together; children and adults can create, interact and immerse themselves in such a sensory way. It is, however, quite difficult to photograph, in order to really do it justice. Hopefully my photos below give you a good idea. 

Braino's verdit: This is way better than that exhibit we went to at the Art Gallery! (He's referring to Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean)

 

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TIPS AND INFORMATION

  • Where: The Powerhouse (The Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences) 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, NSW, 2007
  • When: Learn & Play! teamlab FUTURE PARK is on until the 30th of April 2018
  • Cost: Adults - $28, Concessions - $22, Child(4 - 16 years) $17.50, Child (Under 4 - Free) The Future Park tickets also include asscess to the rest of the Powerhouse Museum. It is recommended to book tickets in advance during weekends and school holidays. 
  • Pram Friendly?: The Powerhouse Museum is very pram friendly however prams are not permitted in the Future Park exhibition. Prams are required to be checked in at the cloak room outside the entrance. Bring a carrier for smaller bubs. 

Check out the website for further information - maas.museum/event/future-park/

 

HISTORY FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY AT HYDE PARK BARRACKS

Built in 1819, Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks is a UNESCO world heritage site, preserving a significant piece of Australian history.  The barracks were originally built to house convicts; but later went on to serve as an immigration depot and asylum for women and was then used for various courts and government buildings. Today, the museum provides a tangible connection to the history of the city; the interactive displays and exhibits will educated and entertain the whole family.

I have a bit of a fascination with historical buildings and am slowing ticking of all the Sydney Living Museum locations. We ventured into the city for bit of shopping and were able to spend an hour or so exploring the Hyde Park Barracks. While it's set up perfectly for school aged children to explore and learn, it's still worth a look with an inquisitive toddler.

Older children would enjoy the audio tour and scavenger hunt style 'Rat Trail' booklet - Farley liked spotting the numbered rats hidden throughout the museum and scribbling on the booklet. The opportunity to lay in one of the hammock or try on a pair of shackles is irresistible to anyone, regardless of age. We were happy to let Farley have a wander around, there wasn't too much for toddler to damage or injury themselves on; it wasn't very crowded and she wasn't too disruptive for other guests. Outside, the Bakehouse cafe is the perfect space to enjoy a quick bite to eat, with enough room for littles ones to explore the outdoor courtyard. 

There was so much to read and see, I feel I only caught a glimpse - our visit coincided with a bit of fussiness from Hallie so I was slightly distracted for part of it. Never the less,  I would highly recommended the Hyde Park Barracks to families visiting from overseas or interstate, or even Sydney based families looking for a hands on way to explore Australian history.

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TIPS AND INFORMATION

  • Address: Queens Square, Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
  • Getting there: The Hyde Park Barracks are located in the heart of Sydney city, with no onsite parking. Public transport or one of the city car parks would be your best bet. More information can be found by clicking through to the Sydney Living Museums website.
  • Hours and Admission: Open daily from 10am - 5pm. Adult  | $12, Concession  | $8, Family  | $30, Members  | Free of charge, Children under 5 years& | Free of charge
  • Pram Friendly? The museum is three levels with the top two level only accessible by stairs. We were able to leave our pram in the foyer behind the desk and Farley was happy to walk around. (Hallie was in the baby sling). 
  • So much for information can be found on the Sydney Living Museums website. 
 

ROUSE HILL HOUSE & FARM IN LEGO® BRICKS

After a few days of being at home resting, I was keen to get out and about with both Farley and Hallie. Braino had gone back to work but Mum was still staying with us so I had an extra set of hands to help navigate taking both toddler and newborn out for the day.   

I was thinking of going to the Brickman  Awesome Exhibit at the Sydney Convention Center but the thought of traveling in to the city felt a little ambitious. I remembered that Rouse Hill House and Farm also has an interactive LEGO® display and decided it would be a good alternative. It oddly combined two things I'm interested in - LEGO® and historic homes! 

Rouse Hill House and Farm is a 200 year old property that is part of the Sydney Living Museums network. The LEGO exhibit is located in the visitor centre and features a detailed LEGO® model of Rouse Hill House and the surrounding buildings, built by the Southern Hemisphere’s only LEGO®-certified professional, Australia’s Ryan McNaught, as well as the opportunity for kids to explore and build their own LEGO® creations. There is also DUPLO® and MEGA BLOCKS for younger kids. 

I would highly recommend it as a toddler friendly activity. Farley enjoyed looking at the LEGO® model of Rouse Hill House and loved playing with all the different styles of LEGO®. It kept her entertained for longer than I expected. Hallie had a feed and then slept the whole time while I wore her in the baby wrap. It’s in a comfortable air conditioned room which makes it a great option for a rainy or really hot day. The staff member who was co-ordinating the LEGO® exhibit was lovely and overall the display was well co-ordinated. You can pre book one of 3 hour long session throughout the day and number for each session are kept to a minimum, which gave each kid enough space to do their own thing. 

Also at Rouse Hill House and Farm you can take a tour of the farmyard, the house or the school house. We actually arrived a little too late for the farmyard tour but we did do the house tour, many for my enjoyment ( I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to abandoned buildings and historic homes ) however I wouldn’t recommend it with a toddler. The house is literally filled with antiques and is in a state of arrested decay. On the guided tour we were instructed to not touch anything, which is a challenge for a two year old, so Mum carried Farley the whole time but she naturally got very bored and squirmy. The house tour is not pram friendly but a baby or toddler in a carrier would be ok. We decided to give the following tour of the school house a miss but I imagine the farmyard tour would be more appropriate for toddlers.  

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TIPS AND INFORMATION

  • Getting there: Rouse Hill is a bit of hike from the city but it’s not too far if your in Sydney’s north or west. Driving is the best option and there was plenty of free parking on site. More info on getting to Rouse Hill House and Farm can be found here. 
  • Cost: Entry for the Rouse Hill House and Farm in LEGO® BRICK exhibit is $12 for adults, $8 for concessions and kids under 5 are free. This admission prices includes the tours of the property as well. 
  • Pram Friendly?: The LEGO® exhibit is in the visitor centre and access is pram friendly. We were able to take our pram right into the room however, during busier times, prams are required to be left on the deck. The tours are not particular pram friendly. The grounds of the property are quite large and the tour groups leave from the visitor centre in an extra large golf buggy. Prams can be left at the visitor centre but I'd recommended backing a carrier for babies. 
  • Food & Dinning: There is a large shaded deck attached to the visitor centre with lots of tables and chairs and complimentary water, tea and coffee bit there is no cafe or any where to purchase food, so definitely bring a packed lunch or snacks
  • Baby change facilities: There was a large disabled toilet with a baby change table located in the visitor centre. 
  • Sun protection: The LEGO exhibit is indoors but if you do take one of the guided tours, I'd recommend backing a sun protective gear as the grounds are large and sunny. 
  • Address: 356 Annangrove Road, Rouse Hill, NSW, 2155

The Rouse Hill House and Farm in LEGO® Bricks display is on until Sunday, 22nd of July 2018. Visit the website here

 

WANNABEES FAMILY PLAY TOWN

Wannabees Family Play Town at Hornsby Westfield would have to be one of our favourite indoor activities. We have been there twice now ( well Farley has been three times, once with Gran while I got a hair cut) , it’s a wonderful, toddler friendly, interactive experience. 

If you’re not familiar with Wannabees, it’s a unique play centre that provides custom made spaces for kids to dress up and engage in imaginative role play. There is everything from a police stations to a beauty salon, fire station, post office, hospital and vet, even a TV studio and radio stations. Kids are free to explore on their own or they can join one of the staff directed activities that are hosted throughout the day. 

While it’s aimed at kids of all ages, it's a great learning experience for toddlers, who will love touching and exploring all the areas and activities. However I would recommend avoiding weekends and school holidays when it’s likely to be busy with older school aged kids. The first time, I went with a group of mums from playgroup on a weekday and it was perfect! We basically had the place to ourselves and our littles ones had free range. This time, we went on a Saturday, during school holidays and while it wasn’t too chaotic, there were a lot more older kids to navigate around. 

Farley loved the hospital / nursery area which had lots of baby dolls to care for. She also loved the grocery shop, the pizzeria and the vet. The TV studio was a lot of fun with the green screen set up so kids can actually see themselves on TV. Farley loved dancing along to the on screen dance class. She also enjoyed the construction site which had foam bricks, tools, paint brushes and rollers (not paint, ofcourse!) 

There are also dance discos and fashion parades through out the day on the concert stage. If you do have a baby along for the fun, there is a designated small soft play area that is suitable for babies who aren’t walking yet. I think I’ll definitely be back a few more times once our new baby arrives. 

There is a cafe on site and you can book rooms for parties. There is also a drop and shop option where older kids can play while you do the shopping. Head to the website for more information. 

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Tips and information:

  • Where: There are two Wannabees Family Playtowns in Syndney. I’ve been to the Hornsby location, which is the newer of the two. The other is in Frenchs Forest. 
    • Hornsby - Shop 2024, 236 Pacific Hwy, Hornsby, NSW 2077
    • Frenchs Forest - Capital Business Park, C1/1-3 Rodborough Rd, Frenchs Forest, NSW, 2086
  • When: Wannabees is open 7 days a week  - check the website for specific times. 
  • Cost: All children are $15 for 1 hour, $20 for 2 hours or $25 for all day. Parents are $5.00
 

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM FOR TODDLERS

I’m always on the look out for family friendly museum exhibits; they are such an amazing way to expose your little one to new sensory experiences and learning opportunities. I had recently read about the new Arctic Voices exhibit at the Australian National Maritime Museum and thought it would be a perfect day out. Farley is currently very interested in anything aquatic - sea creatures, boats, particularly octopuses and I thought learning about the Arctic could perhaps expand on this fascination. And while she did enjoy the polar bear and whales of the Arctic Voices exhibit, it was the Mini Mariners Under 5's Play Area that was the true highlight of the day. 

Arctic Voices is an interactive exhibit designed to explore the fragile and rapidly changing environment of the Arctic. It’s filled with lots of hands on, digital displays that will captive kids (and adults) of all ages. While I would say it’s targeted towards school aged kids, there was certainly enough there to keep Farley engaged. She particularly liked the digital interactive game where you help a killer whale through a maze of ice and she also enjoyed seeing the life size Polar Bears.  

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Afterwards, we headed down to the Mini Mariner’s Under 5s Play Area which was perfect for a little two year old! Much to Farley’s delight, the area was filled with octopuses, sea horses, starfish, shells and boats. She loved the big soft puzzle pieces and played in the mini boat whilst wearing a life jacket. So adorable! There was also books, hand puppets, soft sandcastle blocks and we had the space all to ourselves! 

Overall all, I was really quite surprised at how much there is to see and do at the Australian National Maritime Museum. While it was a great day out for a 2 year old, it really would be a jam packed experience for families with older kids. There is an incredible fleet of ships you can explore however, due to safety reasons, you can't go on whilst carrying a baby or child under a certain height. Check out their website for more information on what’s on for kids. I’m keen to head back and check out the Under 5’s Summer Sessions and the Cabinet of Curiosities Touch Trolley.

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Tips and Information

  • Getting there: I caught the train into Town Hall Station and walked to Darling Harbour which was an easy 20 minute walk through the city. However, Pyrmont ferry stop is right next to the museum (which would actually be a great way to continue the nautical theme of your day) More info on parking and buses can be found on the website here
  • Pram friendly: Yes, I took Farley in the pram and found it very easy to get around. There were plenty of ramps, didn't need to use any lifts, and it was rather spacious. We visited on a weekday at the start of the school holidays but  perhaps weekends could be a bit busy.
  • Cost: If you’re just heading in to see the Arctic Voices exhibit and the other permanent displays - adults are $20, kids are $12.00 and kids under 4 are free. Or you can purchase a Big Ticket which will allow you entry onto all the fleets of ships then it’s $32 for adults and $20 for kids. More information on admission here.