Expats moving to Sydney are spoilt for choice when summer or spring holidays hit, and way too many children are camped out in front of your TV set. Expat and GSGI Sydney Editor Charlotte Sherston has this down to a science....!
When your daughter has been staring at her Nintendo DS all day and your son is in a Sponge Bob induced coma, it is time to get-out-of-the-house. Pronto. Thankfully, as far as entertaining kids goes, Sydney is a city with lots to offer.
The Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park (www.entertainmentquarter.com.au) is a good start (formerly known as Fox Studios-a name that has stuck with the locals). There are three cinemas to choose from: Hoyts with all the big, new releases, Cinema Paris for the artsy, subtitled films and the newly opened Hoyts Imax for the full 3D experience. Tickets are $16.50 for most films (more at Imax) but head down there on ‘cheap Tuesdays’ and see a movie for $10. There is also a strike bowling alley (popular for kids’ parties) with arcade and pool tables. With a few shops, lots of restaurants, indoor play area for the little ones, ice skating rink in winter and Farmers Markets every Saturday, it is a good spot to keep all the family quiet.
If the sun is smiling down on you, put you wallet away and head to the beach. Bondi Beach is busy on the weekends (and tricky to park) but it has the most action (and decorative bodies). Bronte and Coogee beaches are also popular with the surfing crowd due to the good waves (always swim between the flags). If you really want to get your rip on try www.letsgosurfing.com.au and learn how to look like a pro on your board (when in Rome...) For a more relaxing swim, Redleaf (Double Bay), Nielsen Park (Vaucluse) or Balmoral Beach would be the best bet - you can grab a coffee and gourmet sandwich at the first two and awesome fish and chips at the third.
During the summer months (October-May), Botany Bay Aquatic center (www.botanybay.nsw.gov.au and follow links) is great for some outdoor pool action and lots of grass for parents to relax or picnic. It is a bit like a poor man’s country club, but for $12.60 entry for the whole family, its been a very useful find. Main draw card for the kids is the two huge water slides that cost $6.50 for 30 minutes of unlimited rides. If you are looking for an indoor pool, try Cook and Phillip Park Aquatic and Fitness center(www.cookandphillip.org.au) in the city, or Ryde Aquatic Center with a big slide included.
While Paris and the US get Disneyland, Sydney has Luna Park (www.lunaparksydney.com) to offer. More reminiscent of a traveling funfair, it does boast fabulous harbour views (get the birds eye from the ferris wheel). With a Waltzer, Ghost train, Dodgems and the Wild Mouse roller coaster, it will no doubt keep the kids happy and hopefully ensure they crash out when they get home. Entry is free and you pay for rides (between $20-$48 for unlimited rides dependant on season and height/age). For a better deal, head there Friday after 5pm for $25 unlimited rides for all. If you want a whole day out and don’t mind a drive, Jamberoo (www.jamberoo.net) water park will make you very popular (and very, very wet). Lots of wild, scary water slides, rocks to plunge from and rapids to raft across. If you want to stay dry you can race cars, play mini golf and take a chair life, but you would be kind of missing the point. Tickets for 4-12 yrs-$29 and over 13's -$37. To avoid the queues, book on line and get there early before the masses arrive.
For a more educational slant on the proceedings, try the Australian Maritime Museum (www.anmm.gov.au), Powerhouse Museum (www.powerhousemuseum.com.au) and Australian Museum (www.austmus.gov.au). On the cultured front, my favorite is a visit to The Art Gallery of N.S.W. (www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au ), set in the pretty parklands of the Domain. Sunday afternoons they run workshops for kids, exploring art through storytelling, music and dance. In the school holidays they run talks and shows and most of them are free (so is entry- so parking aside, it’s a cheap day out). Or if your children need the excercise, rent some bikes in Centennial park (www.centennialparklands.com.au) and offer to race them or time them from comfort of smart new café.
If you want to go mainstream, head to the madness of Darling Harbour - tourist central but you can find everything from Wildlife world (www.sydneywildlifeworld.com.au) to Laser Skirmish and Ten Pin Bowling (www.kingpinbowling.com.au/activities/laser-tag) - sure to get your heart pumping. Word of advice: most of the restaurants are overpriced, poor quality tourist fare so pack your own or eat somewhere else after. Make an exception for the Lindt Café, (www.lindt.com.au) and let your inner choco-holic roar.
Even if your kids may have grown out of the throwing tantrums stage, some restaurants are still more kid friendly than others. Teppenyake is a family favorite, with food cooked theatre style in front of you and the odd game at the end (food throwing makes a comeback).Try Daikoku (02 9327 2382) in Double Bay or I Chi Ban Teppan-Yaki (02 9283 4628) in the city. Pizza is a universal language most families speak -Try Christos (Paddington-02 9360 6769)), QP Pizza (Randwick-02 9398 3438) or spoil yourself at Pompeii (Bondi Beach-02 9365 1233). The latter is open all day (useful when a 4pm pepperoni craving gets the better of you) with pizzas to die for and home made gelato for afters. Next door is Hurricanes (www.hurricanesgrill.com.au ) for man sized plates of ribs and all things carnivore. Dish in Double Bay (www.dishpizzagelato.com.au ) is good for weekend lunches or early kids’ dinners in their al fresco courtyard. If you are looking for take away, the BBQ chicken shops dotted all over the city offer a fast, healthy and super easy option for dinner.
If the school holidays fill you with dread, (so many kids, so much time on their hands-arrrghh), then you may want to send them to one of the many camps on offer. For Federers in training there are lots of tennis camps. Lynne Park Tennis in Rose Bay (www.lptc.com.au) and Cooper Park tennis (www.cptennis.com.au) are full of the smart set (but with classes running from 9-1pm, you only get half the day off). For a longer break, Coogee Tennis (www.easternsuburbstennis.com) is great (classes run till 3.30 and cost nearly half) or try the Parklands Tennis Camps (www.parklandssports.com.au/tennis).
If they’d prefer to bend it like Beckham, Sydney Football Academy run camps (www.sydneyfootballacademy.com/camps). For drama queens (and kings) Startime (http://startime.com.au/holiday-workshops/) run holiday workshops based on popular themes (High School etc..) or try NIDA (www.nida.edu.au) who boast Mel Gibson, Cate Blanchet and Baz Luhrman amongst their ex graduates. Eastside Riding Academy (02 9360 7521) run 3 day riding courses in Centennial Park, which are very popular if a bit pricy ($400 for 3 days). Giddy Up! Most schools also run a vacation programs, with the public schools coming in cheapest (around $35 for a full day day).
Peace at last!