Melbourne for Families

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Melbourne for Families
Melbourne and its surrounds have a plethora of family-friendly activities, including numerous amusement parks, animal encounters, the chance to conduct a steam train, and opportunities to explore the city via bike, tram, or tower.
Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    See the City by Tram
    Melbourne is one of those rare cities in which getting from point A to point B is a fun activity in its own right. The tram system is the largest in the world and has been operating since 1884. Buy a Myki card—a reusable ticket that you top up with money—from the station or from certain stores, such as a 7-11. For your inaugural ride, pile the family onto the city circle tram, which runs loops through the Central Business District. If you see something interesting, simply pull the cord and hop off to explore. There's no better way to see the city.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    Luna Park
    You can't help but feel giddy as you walk through Mr. Moon's gaping mouth, marking the entry to Luna Park. This St. Kilda amusement park has been in operation since 1912, mixing adrenaline-pumping roller coasters with mellower rides and a full range of carnival games. Families will love the vintage feel and the variety of activities for all ages. For a taste of the past, ride the 100-year-old carousel or cruise along the scenic railway. If the buzz of the crowd overwhelms you, you're just a short hop from long, sandy St. Kilda Beach. Furthermore, St. Kilda Adventure Playground is just a 10-minute walk away, and is worth visiting while you're in the neighborhood. It has zip lines, slides, and plenty to do for toddlers through teens.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    Museums and Zoos
    Melbourne is such a fun city that attractions like museums and zoos often get pushed aside, but visitors with time to spare will find great opportunities to encounter wildlife and learn about Melbourne's history. The Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium gives families a chance to encounter some of the incredible marine life found across Australia, including crocs and sharks. The Melbourne Museum—focused on Victoria's natural environment and history—has an entire wing for kids. The chance to cradle meerkats and pet kangaroos is sure to thrill younger kids at the Melbourne Zoo. For more hands-on time, Collingwood Children's Farm allows families the chance to milk cows, tend chickens, and bottle-feed baby lambs.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    To the Edge
    For sweeping views of the entire city, by day or at night, visit the Eureka Tower. The elevator will shoot you up 88 floors in under a minute, fast enough to feel the effect of the g-force on your stomach. When you step out of the elevator onto the Eureka Skydeck 88, you're greeted with a 360-degree panorama from the CBD to the suburbs, extending as far as Port Phillip Bay. The viewing platform is the tallest in the southern hemisphere and viewfinders, LED displays, and interactive maps help you understand what you are looking at. If you're feeling brave, you and your family can try The Edge Experience—in which you step inside a glass viewing cube protruding from the side of the tower.
    Photo by Peter Schickert/age fotostock
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    Hop on a Bike
    With wide streets, expansive parks, and an easily navigable center, Melbourne is a popular city for family rides, and will give you and your kids a better feel for the city than anything else could. Plan a route through town, out into the suburbs, or right along the Yarra. There are numerous bicycle outfitters across the city. One good option is Rentabike, in Federation Square. They have a range of bikes specifically geared for kids, and will kit you out with a Melbourne biking map that includes the best rides in the city. They also run a daily—and very informative—bike tour, and can arrange custom trips tailored to your family's needs and interests if so desired.
    Photo courtesy of Mark Chew/Tourism Victoria
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    Aboriginal Culture
    Five Aboriginal peoples make up the Kulin nation, whose territory includes modern-day Melbourne. To learn about the original indigenous inhabitants of the area, start at Birrarung Marr park, beside Federation Square, where public art pieces honor the traditional owners of the land. Later, take a guided Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens to discover how Aboriginals use the native plants. The Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum also takes you on a journey into the lives of the local people. If you're looking for Aboriginal art, try Art Yarramunua in St. Kilda. The gallery is 100% Aboriginal-owned and operated.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    Express Yourself through Art
    With public artwork such a prominent feature in Melbourne, don't be surprised if your kids get an itch to express themselves. ArtPlay, adjacent to Fed Square, is set up for just such a purpose, allowing families the chance to learn from well-known local artists. (Most workshops require a reservation.) After you finish, walk toward the Yarra and let loose at the Birrarung Marr playground before wandering to Federation Bells, an installation of 39 upturned bells that will capture your child's imagination. You can even compose your own song for the bells on the installation's website. And when you get hungry, you're just a few steps from restaurants and gelato shops at Fed Square.
    Photo courtesy of Peter Dunphy/Tourism Victoria
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    The Great Ocean Road Trip
    Just a short drive from Melbourne is the Great Ocean Road—undoubtedly one of the most scenic drives in the country. The road swings past natural bridges and gorges carved into the limestone cliffs by the ocean. Koalas are easy to spot on the roadside, hanging in the gum trees like fuzzy pieces of fruit. Along the way, you'll find quaint seaside villages where you can amble around and enjoy fish and chips. The highlight of the trip is the Twelve Apostles—giant monoliths rising right out of the sea. Take in these wonders by car, on foot, or from the seat of a helicopter. The trip is a great chance to venture out of the city for a night, see some of Victoria's most stunning beaches, and marvel at the natural world.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    Puffing Billy
    Forty minutes out of town, you arrive at the platform for Victoria's little engine that could: Puffing Billy. This narrow gauge steam engine is more than 100 years old and is crewed by volunteers and train enthusiasts. The train cuts through the countryside as you lean out of the window and listen to it chug along the tracks. You pass a tree fern forest before crossing a curving trestle bridge. Young or old, it's hard not to be charmed by the hissing of steam and the long sigh of the train's whistle. At the Lakeside stop, you can hop off and enjoy Emerald Lake Park—a great spot to rent paddleboats or have a picnic. For true train enthusiasts, there's also a museum and the chance (for a fee) to be a guest conductor.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    Phillip Island
    There are plenty of reasons to take your family to Phillip Island on a day trip from Melbourne, but three rise above the rest: chocolate, mazes, and penguins. The Phillip Island Chocolate Factory gives kids the chance to create their own chocolates while witnessing the inner workings of this Wonka-esque operation. Once the family is sugared up, head to A Maze 'N Things, an adventure park filled with optical illusions, interactive games, and multiple mazes. As the afternoon rolls around, find a spot at Summerland Beach to see the world-famous Penguin Parade. The aptly named little penguins, the planet's smallest penguin species, waddle up the beach to their nests while guests crowd the adjoining boardwalks to "ooh" and "aah."
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria