The ultimate parents’ dream – a summer holiday experience that we can actually enjoy as much as our kids. Luckily, Melbourne’s bristling with such activities in the warmer months. Here are our top picks for all-consuming, energy-busting and inspirational kids' experiences, which you’ll be entertained by too.
Jean Jullien’s Ocean-Themed NGV Triennial Exhibition
Renowned graphic artist and designer Jean Jullien’s new exhibition RIFIFI: Jean Jullien for Kids, produced as part of NGV International’s 2023 NGV Triennial, channels early childhood memories to create an immersive underwater seascape for kids and families. Designed in the artist’s signature drawing style, with thick black brushstrokes and bold palettes, RIFIFI is a multisensory labyrinth of pastel-coloured sea life, allowing children to dive head-first into his whimsical aquatic world. Illustrations of jellyfish cover the walls, fish mobiles hang from the ceiling, a bench shaped like an eel sits in one corner and a large, illustrated spider crab guards the entry to the room. RIFIFI features an Underwater Drawing Club, where kids can draw their own sea animals and a relaxation room where they can kick back on plush pink starfish mats. They can also don a fish-shaped costume and “swim” around the room, collecting illustrated pieces of ocean rubbish and placing them in a bin.
RIFIFI: Jean Jullien for Kids is on display from December 3, 2023 – April 7, 2024 at NGV International.
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Connection at The Lume
Finally, a gallery where children can run around in circles and roll around on the floor. The bonus is they’ll be doing it surrounded by the beauty of artwork from over 100 First Nations artists. In June, Melbourne digital art gallery The Lume’s much-loved Monet & Friends Alive was retired and replaced with another larger-than-life, multi-sensory art experience. Connection draws together traditional art and paintings, portraits, landscapes, nature photography and drone footage to capture diverse storytelling about First Peoples’ connection to Country. Plus, the experience is accompanied by a score featuring First Nations artists such as Yothu Yindi, Archie Roach, Emily Wurramara, Gurrumul, Alice Skye, and Baker Boy. Here, the artworks will swirl around you and the kids, beamed out of 150 projectors onto four-storey canvases. Included in an entry ticket is access to Artplay, an immersive cylindrical room where kids can interact with projected artworks which respond to their movements, representing Land, Water and Sky Country. Children four years and younger go free; tickets for kids aged five to 12 cost $34; adults are $49.
Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs at Melbourne Museum
Melbourne Museum’s Dinosaur Walk is a tried and true school holiday favourite, but this year the museum’s brought out the big guns – the largest and most complete Triceratops skeleton in the world is currently on display as part of the Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs exhibit. Kids can discover how and where the Triceratops lived and learn about other prehistoric creatures of the time. There are both museum staff-led and self-guided tours where kids will examine fossils and learn about how palaeontologists uncovered the Cretaceous period. Entry is included with tickets to the museum; kids enter for free and adults pay $15.
There’s a wave for everyone at this sprawling Tullamarine wave park: learn-to-surf and beginner sessions; cruisers and intermediates; some gnarly coaching events. Refuel between waves at Three Blue Ducks, which overlooks the crystal-clear lagoon. Your kids will be stoked, you’ll be caffeinated – or on the summer cocktails.
Relics: A New World Rises at Melbourne Museum
The invention of one simple, tiny toy brick has led to generations of Lego-obsessed children (and adults) around the world. (And endless random Lego pieces appearing in my car, home office, bathroom and living room.) If you’ve got a brickhead in your family, head to Melbourne Museum this summer for a mega new interactive exhibit – with 15 miniature dystopian civilisations built around discarded human artefacts. 2020 Lego Masters Australia winners Jackson Harvey and Alex Towler have imagined a world where humans have abandoned planet earth after over-consumption ravaged all of its natural resources. Whole Lego civilisations are housed in jukeboxes, car hoods, and grand pianos. Plus, there’s an interactive build zone where the whole family can get creative. Tickets are $27.50 for adults, $17.50 for children and free for children aged three and under.
Australian Shakespeare Company kids productions
Pack the snacks and your picnic blanket for interactive, outdoor version of some classic stories this summer – including Alice in Wonderland at The Capitol (with dates from December 24 to January 21) and Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows at the Royal Botanic Gardens (with dates from December 21 to January 28). There’ll be plenty of songs and laughs as the Head Chief Rabbit gets the kiddies involved, transforming each of them into rabbits. For young ones in need of a fairy fix, Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies: Adventure to Bubble Land at Rippon Lea Estate is our pick. It’s literally Tinkerbell meets the fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Don’t forget to dress up (you too, parents). Tickets start at $25. Children under 12 months are free.
Circus 1903 at Arts Centre Melbourne
This January, the award-winning makers of The Illusionists and War Horse are bringing a circus show that’s brimming with wonder to Art Centre Melbourne. Watch on in awe as contortionists and acrobats perform their death-defying stunts. Plus, the puppeteers behind the British National Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of War Horse will bring their magnificent elephants to life on stage. Circus 1903 will be showing at the State Theatre from January 4 to 14, 2024.
Lego Certified Store at Melbourne Central
At 559 square metres, this Lego store is almost double the size of the southern hemisphere’s next-largest outlet. But more importantly, it’s filled with immersive and hands-on experiences that go beyond boxes on a shelf. Kids and adults alike will have a ball here. There’s a never-before-seen model of a Melbourne tram, made from 651,489 bricks and standing at five metres long. At a Minifigure station, you can mix and match heads, torsos, legs and accessories to design your own Lego Minifigures.
Marshmallow Laser Feast: Works of Nature at ACMI
London-based experimental art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) brings its spin on large-scale moving images and technology to consider our place in the natural world with Works of Nature. The world-premiere exhibition features four major immersive digital artworks as well as a series of works on paper. From microscopic cells and tiny droplets of water to the majesty of ancient Amazonian trees and the galactic expanses of black holes, the exhibition plays with scale to guide visitors on a trippy journey through the natural world.
This article was originally published on December 10, 2021. It was updated on December 11, 2023 to reflect new events and remove out-of-date details.
Alana Kushnir is the founder of Guest Club, a membership network for art lovers and collectors.