real life

TRAVEL: Entertaining kids for free in Brisbane


You’ve already forked out for airfares, possibly accommodation and eating out can break the bank – wherever you go.  So when it comes to entertaining your kids in Brisbane, it’s nice to know you don’t have to spend a dime.  In this city, you can get your kicks for free. Rebecca Sparrow reports …

Queensland Art Gallery / Queensland Museum / State Library of Queensland

I know, I know. You hear the words “art gallery” and all you can think of is lots of shooshing. And adults standing around staring at paintings they don’t really get muttering “blah blah blah sympathetic” and “rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb evocative”.  Art galleries hardly seem kid-friendly. But that’s probably because you haven’t visited the Queensland Art Gallery. This world-class gallery offers internationally acclaimed children’s programs – allowing kids to engage with the galleries’ collections and visiting exhibitions. There are special Kids’ Tours for kids aged 4-10 where a handful of paintings are explored through storytelling and clues.  And on certain Sundays, local Queensland artists host free creative workshops for kids. Trust me, it’s nothing short of brilliant and worth checking out.

If you’re kids are obsessed with dinosaurs and bugs and other cool stuff then right next door to Queensland Art Gallery is the Queensland Museum.

There are always different exhibitions happening with great activities for kids. As I write there’s an Insectarium Exhibition happening. Kids get to look up close at butterflies and beetles and bugs, make their own butterflies using paper and patterns and Insect Match Up – a giant insect memory game.

While you’re there, why not stroll five minutes down the road to the State Library? It has a fabulous space called “The Corner” specifically designed for children under eight. The area offers hands-on exhibits, interactive games and reading activities for kids. Then there’s “The Parlour” which is stacked with board games. It’s all totally free and perfect for kids who prefer to find their fun indoors.  If you’re going slightly bonkers with a toddler, the State Library also offers weekly activities like Rhyme Time and Yoga for littlies. Check out the website for times.

Where: All of them are at Stanley Place, South Bank

Distance from Brisbane CBD: 10 minute walk from the Queen Street Mall (across the Victoria Bridge)

When: QAG: 10am – 5pm weekdays (9am – 5pm on weekends)*

Queensland Museum: 9.30am – 5pm every day *

State Library of Qld:  Every day 10am – 5pm (The Corner is open 10am-3pm every day)*

* Except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Good Friday

Cost:             Free Free Free

For more info:   



New Farm Park Playground

One look at this inner-city playground and you immediately understand why it’s a favourite with Brisbane children. It’s HUGE and features activities for all ages including toddlers.  A massive climbing net, a ginormous magical wooden fort and a four-person swing are just some of the play equipment on offer.  The giant fig trees provide plenty of shade (and the perfect hiding spot for those mandatory games of hide and seek). This playground recently underwent a $200,000 upgrade to incorporate new equipment and a dragon theme. What’s not to love?

Where:            Brunswick Street, New Farm. The playground is on the “Powerhouse” side of the park. So head in that direction.  You can get to New Farm Park direct by bus or CityCat.

Distance from Brisbane CBD: 2km

Open:            All year round

Cost:             Free (well, except for the inevitable ice-block you’ll have to buy at the kiosk nearby)

For more info:  

Powerkidz, Brisbane Powerhouse

This old power station on the river has been converted into what is arguably Brisbane’s hottest inner-city venue.  Comedy festivals, live bands, plays and art exhibits all unfold inside the graffiti–heavy walls. During the Queensland school holidays, the Powerhouse offers Powerkidz — a program of events to delight kids aged 4-12.  While some of the more extravagant events (like the circus workshop) have a fee, there are plenty of freebie events including puppet shows, African drumming, AFL (football) lessons and face painting.

Where:            119 Lamington Street, New Farm

Distance from Brisbane CBD: 2km (sits on one side of New Farm Park)

Open:                        Operates during Queensland school holidays

Cost                        Free! But some sessions require bookings.

For more info:  

Streets Beach, South Bank

Most people visit Queensland for a dose of blue skies and sunshine.  If you’re staying in the city and want a day at the beach without actually, well, going to the beach – South Bank is your kinda place.  This former Expo ’88 site is now 17 acres of family-friendly parkland complete right in the CBD. It boasts three interactive playgrounds, a water-play park (Aquativity) and zillions of barbeques.  And then there’s Streets Beach – a man-made beach smack dab in the middle of it all.  White sandy beaches, palm tree, its very own dedicated lifeguards and no risk of coming face to face with Jaws.  BYO Pool Pony.


Where:            South Bank, Brisbane (across the river from the CBD). Buses, trains and CityCats frequently stop at South Bank.

Distance from Brisbane CBD: 10 minute walk from Queen Street Mall

Open                        Every day.  Lifeguards are on duty from 9am -5pm.

Cost:                        Free!

For more info:  

Hide’n’Seek Children’s Trail, Brisbane Botanic Gardens

If your kids love the outdoors, love looking at bugs and plants and birds then this activity could be right up their alley.  This Hide’N’Seek Trail at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens offers kids the chance to grab a map and search for all kinds of animals, plants and a few surprises as they trek through what was once an ancient forest!  There are no flashing lights and high-tec gizmos here – but kids will love ticking items off the list as the wander along the rainforest trail.

Where:            Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha Road, Mt Coot-tha

Distance from Brisbane CBD: 7km (about a fifteen minute drive). Parking is free.

Open:                        Every day. Check website as opening hours vary during the year.

Cost:                        Free

For more info:

Farmers’ Markets

Is your child the next Matt Preston? The next Poh Ling Yeow?  If your kids love food then a visit to some farmers markets could be just the ticket.  The best-known and best-loved farmers markets in Brisbane are the ones run by legendary foodie Jan Power. Her markets offer an authentic grass-roots experience with stalls run by local farmers and growers.  Spend an hour or two (or three) wandering around the stalls, which sell everything from the freshest homemade breads, jams, chocolates and cheese to chillies, beef, yabbies, berries, biscuits and more.  It’s also a great way to remind your kids that all the food they eat actually comes from somewhere other than Woolworths. Chat to the farmers, taste-test everything on offer.  You don’t need to spend a cent to have a great time.

Where:            Jan’s operates her markets in several locations across Brisbane but the Farmers Markets at the Powerhouse in New Farm are probably your best bet. 119 Lamington Street, New Farm

Distance from Brisbane CBD: 2km

Open:            Second and fourth Saturday of every month. From 6am.

Cost:             Free!

For more info: