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Kid Friendly Australia Series: A Guide to Food, Entertainment and Fun in Brisbane

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When it comes to Brisbane, there’s certainly no shortage of family fun. From parks and waterfront attractions to the state’s cultural highlights, there’s an abundance of activities just waiting to be enjoyed. Oh, and did we happen to mention that the city averages 283 days of sunshine every year? Tons of time for outdoor fun!

Brisbane is renowned for its lifestyle and is the envy of most world cities. It’s defined by its energetic spirit, its youthful vitality, and it’s hardcore passion for the outdoors. If it’s a city for kids you’re after, then Brisbane won’t let you down. This piece will guide you through all the best fun, entertainment and family-friendly dining options that Brisbane has to offer.

Top 10 Places to Dine with Kids in Brisbane

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1. Mecca Bah

Mecca Bah, located in the Emporium Complex in Fortitude Valley, is a restaurant serving Turkish and Moroccan-inspired cuisine. The dedicated children’s menu (complete with mocktails and fairy floss) can be tailored to suit any dietary requirement or “fussy” tendencies, and gentle on spice, it’s the perfect introduction to Middle Eastern food. There is even free face painting on weekends between 12pm and 4pm and every day during the school holidays!

As for Mum and Dad, you can enjoy delights such as Baharat spiced lamb shish, Moroccan spiced calamari, chicken tagine and Mecca Bar pizza.

2. New York Slice

Speaking of pizza, North Lakes’ New York Slice is conveniently located next to a children’s playground, meaning the kids will happily play as their pizza cooks to perfection. Alternatively, you can head there on a Tuesday or Friday night and enjoy all you can eat pizza for just $14.95 for adults and $8.95 for kids under 10!

New York Slice is a quality pizzeria that uses fresh and healthy ingredients. You choose the base, sauce, cheese, protein and viola – your very own unique pizza. Hungry kids never have to wait long, and fussy kids can put only what they want on their pizza. There’s even an option to build your own dessert pizza using ingredients such as nutella, marshmallows, chocolate sauce and whipped cream!

3. Apples on Ainsworth

Apples on Ainsworth is a child-friendly cafe that’s a firm favourite with Salisbury locals. Their focus is on locally sourced produce, juices, smoothies, organic milk, salads and more. Serving breakfast and lunch everyday of the week and now dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, you can enjoy yummy food like halloumi and pesto stack, or simply stop for a muffin and a mouthwatering coffee. Just across the road from a lovely little park, you can also take your goods to go if the kids don’t want to sit still.

4. Hop & Pickle

Hop & Pickle is a kid-friendly gastropub located on Little Stanley Street, right in the heart of Brisbane’s South Bank. A hop, skip and a jump from South Bank Parklands, it’s the perfect place for quenching your thirst and settling your appetite following a day of building sandcastles, swimming in the lagoon, and splashing in the water play area.

When you think of dining with kids, you might not think ‘pub’, but the Hop & Pickle is a pub like no other. The kids menu is extensive with dishes such as a chicken schnitzel burger to crispy calamari and pesto spaghetti.

5. Willow & Spoon

If you and the kids are looking to indulge in a whole new world of savoury goodness, then you must visit Willow & Spoon on Newmarket Rd, Wilston. With probably the friendliest cafe team in the city, it’s a place where everyone is welcomed and embraced like family. It’s also home to an ever-changing menu, so you are always kept guessing. That said, expect things like ham and asiago croquettes, chocolate chia pudding with house made coconut yoghurt, and buttermilk pancakes with house made maltesers, vanilla bean anglaise and strawberries.

Willow & Spoon is a funky set up with a large dining area and eclectic, colourful furnishings that the whole family will love.

6. Redland Bay Hotel

The Redland Bay Hotel is a fun-filled place for kids, offering a free feed to kids on Mondays and recognising Club 4 Kids members. Club 4 Kids members are treated to a free gift with every kids meal and the chance to enter monthly in-venue prize draws. There’s also a playground for the kids, plus special birthday treats making it even more family-friendly.

7. Flour & Chocolate Patisserie

Flour & Chocolate Patisserie serves up artisan bread, decadent cakes and fine pastries using 100% organic flour and 100% free range eggs seven days a week. There’s also a pantry packed with preserves and curds, gourmet goodies, butter and exquisite cheeses, rocky road and biscuits. Every day of the week they offer a different special, but you simply can’t go past their donuts with flavours such as salted caramel, white chocolate pistachio, cinnamon sugar and toffee and their signature brioche “bronut”, a delicious new take on the classic sweet. The kids will be begging to go back every week!

8. Gambaro’s Restaurant & Function Centre

A Brisbane icon since 1953, Gambaro is Queensland’s most awarded seafood restaurant. From its humble beginnings as a fish and chip shop it has transformed into a thriving seafood venue of unrivalled excellence. Now you might be thinking this all sounds too fancy for dinner with the kids, but Gambaro loves kids as much as they love their lobsters. Dine at Gambaro and enjoy the freshest lobster in town courtesy of chef Lukas McEwan and your hosts, Michael, John, Donny & Frank Gambaro. What better way to eat with family then to be served by family?

9. Watt Restaurant & Bar

Watt is the quintessential Queensland restaurant, sprawled along the riverfront under the Brisbane Powerhouse at New Farm. Both child and dog friendly, Watt is a great place for a quick bite but is equally fabulous when whiling away the hours. Home to fantastic breezes and live music on weekend afternoons, you’ll never want to leave. The kids menu has favourites such as fish fingers and mini burgers, and everything on both the kids and main menu is locally sourced. During school holidays, kids under 13 years eat free.

10. Lord Stanley Hotel

A favourite among locals, the Lord Stanley Hotel is a relaxed and friendly place to eat with the kids. Located 800 metres east of the “Gabba” sporting ground, it’s just minutes from the city and offers a huge carpark with over 100 spaces. Furnished with comfort in mind, the bistro is spacious, welcoming, and open seven days a week. Kids can enjoy a meal, drink and ice cream for $9.90 or enjoy a free feed all day Sunday and between 5:30 and 6:30pm on Saturdays. Talk about value!

Top 10 Entertainment Options for Kids

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1. Scienecentre

Both children and adults will have hours of fun in this interactive museum. Take shadow pictures, spin yourself stupid, walk the revolving room, race against your own running speed record – you name it, you can do it here at the science centre. There are three galleries to get lost in: Earth Space, Body Zone and Action Stations. Discover what makes everyday things tick, challenge yourself to one of the 50+ challenges, and until 23 June 2017, shine some light on the science of light energy with an interactive science theatre show.

2. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Just 12km from the city centre, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has been in operation since 1927 and is the world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary with over 130 koalas. Hold a koala, hand feed kangaroos, and meet a huge range of native Australian wildlife including dingoes, wombats, Tasmanian devils, crocodiles, emus, turtles and birds.

3. Workshops Rail Museum

For any young boy or girl with an interest in trains, the Workshops Rail Museum is a must visit. This national treasure of a museum is set in an old boiler shop (c1903) that in its heydey saw 3,000 workers entering its doors. Today it is packed with beautifully restored engines and carriages from across the rail eras.

Nippers Station is a fantastic mock-up railway that the kids can play on and play dress ups, and the hands on interactive room with fun installations is a great way to show kids how life once was. Outside you’ll find a fun mini train and a working blacksmith running shows at scheduled times.

4. Brisbane Arts Theatre

Brisbane Arts Theatre is an iconic independent theatre company that produces high quality, engrossing theatre for both adults and kids. An intimate and welcoming theatre, it hosts a packed children’s theatre season and in 2017 kids can enjoy shows such as Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Snugglepot & Cuddlepie, The Little Mermaid and 101 Dalmations. Purchase a family pass and four people can see three shows from the 2017 children’s season for just $175.

5. Kingston Park Raceway

For the ultimate adrenaline-pumping action, look no further than Kingston Park Raceway.  Australia’s premier go karting and amusement venue, it has three specially-designed outdoor tracks, including a purpose-build Indy Track for the kids. The track has bumpers, meaning the kids can happily whizz away while you hold a smile knowing they are safe.

6. Roma Street Parklands

Generously spread over 16 hectares, Roma Street Parklands is centrally located yet made to feel like a million miles out of the city. There’s a ton of guided walks to take and kids can enjoy the cute, trackless train that you can board for a gold coin donation. The Parkland Explorer can drop you off and pick you up at different locations around the park and kids will love weaving along the pathways as the little train toots its horn. Aside from the train, you’ll also find plenty of action in the Children’s Garden and Playground, an area designed to celebrate natural play and the exploration of herbs and vegetables.

7. Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium

Discover the secrets of the Universe at Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, Queensland’s first planetarium. Established in 1978 and located in Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, the Planetarium is home to the Cosmic Skydome, a 12.5 diameter projection dome. It’s a must see for budding astronomers.

8. QAGOMA

The Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art features collections of Australian and international paintings, sculptures, decorative art objects and fun-filled activities for kids. The Children’s Art Centre works with artists to create interactive installations, artist projects, storytelling and more, and entry is free. This year the GOMA is turning 10, meaning there’s even more fun to be had than normal. Stroke a furry wall, surround yourself with finches making music, build the highest LEGO tower, and whiz down the slides.

9. South Bank

Within the South Bank Parklands you’ll find Aquativity (a free water activity park), Picnic Island Playground (perfect for a play over lunch), Riverside Green Playground (a state-of-the-art playground facility) and Epicurious Garden (an edible garden where kids can learn about herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables). Within the Precinct you’ll also find The Wheel of Brisbane, which offers fantastic views over the city, river and South Bank. Great at any time of day, but it’s particularly beautiful at sunset.

10. Queensland State Library

Situated at South Bank and housed between the Art Gallery and GOMA, the Queensland State Library has got to be Australia’s most child-friendly library. Offering an entire section devoted to kids you’ll find ‘The Corner’, a program of activities for children under 8, and a ton of opportunities for discovery, creativity, physical, imaginative, social and manipulative play. The staff are always nearby and happy to help pick out great books. During school holidays you’ll often find free performances by actors and musicians.

Top 10 Activities for Kids
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1. Ride the Brisbane Explorer

Explore the city with a 24 hour or 48 hour ticket on-board the Brisbane Explorer’s open-top double decker buses. Hop on and off at any one of the 15 designated stops, which include Post Office Square, City Hall, Riverside Centre, the Maritime Museum, ANZAC Square and Chinatown. Buses run seven days a week from 9am to 6:45pm. The tour includes entertaining and informative commentary available in 8 languages. How long you spend at each stop is up to you.

2. Building Block Studio

Building Block Studio in Sandgate is a learning activity centre where kids of all ages can build Lego, electronics, robotics and more. Family owned and operated, it aims to inspire a new generation of Australian innovators and there is always exciting learning opportunities to be had. During school holidays kids can learn coding, robotics, and how to make their own computer game, as well as 3D design, Arduino, Minecraft and more. Prices start at $6 for 30 minutes.

3. Cycle, scoot or rollerblade

Get around town on two wheels or eight and explore Brisbane in the ultimate express lane. Skate, take the scooter, or cycle along the river, past the Kangaroo Point Cliffs and onto South Bank or over the Goodwill Bridge. Feel the wind in your hair as you glide past Brisbane’s iconic landmarks, enjoying an extensive network of bikeways and shared pathways.

4. Crank

Crank is Brisbane’s biggest indoor climbing centre and is located on Kessels Road behind Nick Scali and AMF Bowling. Suitable for even the tiny tots, it features brightly coloured walls of all sizes, a cargo net, giant rope and obstacle course. Each new climber completes an induction course before starting, giving kids (and adults) a new skill for life.

5. Explore local parks

Every kid loves a park and if there’s a coffee shop nearby then chances are Mum and Dad are fans too. For those who like to get wet, Wynnum Wading Pool Park is brilliant on a hot day, being located beside Moreton Bay and featuring beautiful water views. For those who like the water theme without the wet, Colmslie Beach Reserve is an incredible ocean-themed park that boasts great slides, balance beams, a flying fox and more. Little BMX stars will also have a ball riding the gentle rolling hills.

For those wanting to mix imaginative and water play with great water views, Rocks Riverside Park in Seventeen Mile Rocks was created from an old cement quarry and features a half-sized basketball court, junior playground, climbing net, flying fox and water play area.

6. Treetop Challenge

At the Treetop Challenge, Mount Tamborine, families can undertake the 100+ TreeTop challenges spread over six huge courses. Spanning through 10 acres of unspoilt natural bushland, it’s Australia’s first adventure theme park set in the trees and home to the Canyon Flyer, the most extreme adventure attraction around. The Zipline Tour consists of seven huge zip lines that cross Cedar Creek Canyon multiple times before dropping into the canyon and flying just above the treetop canopy below. Enjoy speeds as fast as 70kms per hour and heights of more than 60 metres!

7. Brisbane Botanic Gardens

The Brisbane Botanic Gardens feature a spectacular array of plants and attractions, including a Japanese Garden, Tropical Dome, Freedom Wall, Cactus Zone, Bonsai House, Scented Garden, Bamboo Grove and children’s Hide & Seek trail. The new and improved playground has been designed to host a range of sensory, musical, imaginative and physical play and is fun for all ages. With plenty of shady trees, Mum and Dad can sit back and simply take in the beautiful views of the Brisbane River.

8. Natural Bridge Circuit

One of the most spectacular sights in Springbrook National Park, around 1.5 hours from Brisbane, is Natural Bridge, a beautiful natural arched cave through whose ceiling a sparkling waterfall tumbles. The 1km circuit makes it a perfect introduction to bushwalking with the kids and is packed with wildlife, from skinks and lace monitors to beautiful rainforest birds. You may even be lucky enough to see a few pademelons.

Remember to pack good walking shoes and the insect repellant.

9. Beaches

Nestled between the beautiful bays of the Sunshine Coast and the stunning expansive sands of the Gold Coast, Brisbane enjoys an enviable position. To the north you’ll find delights such as Mooloolaba and Caloundra beaches and to the south Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise, but there is plenty in between too. Paradise Point is a great day out for families, as is Tallebudgera Creek. Bribie Island is a must visit too, offering gentle sloping sands into sheltered waters.

10. Tangalooma Wrecks

What kid doesn’t love the idea of exploring a shipwreck? Just off the coast of Brisbane, Tangalooma Wrecks is the rusting bones of fifteen vessels that were deliberately sunk to form a breakwall for small boats. The result is an amazing underwater world for snorkelling and scuba diving.

Tangalooma is located on Moreton Island, famous for its crystal clear waters and excellent visibility. View marine life such as wobbegongs, trevally, kingfish and yellowtail, marvel at the coral formations, and explore the areas around the wrecks. Just be careful to watch the current, as it can sweep between the wrecks and the beach when the tide is running.

Supporting kids through shared experience

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Family is your child’s first support network, and strengthening the bonds through shared experience – be it a meal, an activity, or some form of entertainment – creates feelings of security. A family that plays together is more emotionally connected with each other and this results in fewer arguments, better conversations, and improved social skills.

Family days out are often packed with new experiences and opportunities to learn. As a parent, you are your child’s initial teacher, and teaching your kids to be interested in science, nature, reading, history and culture can have an incredible impact on how they cope with academic life. Make learning opportunities fun and your kids will flourish.