We began with a road trip that I nicely timed for the early morning so the boys would sleep through most of it. They didn’t. Oh well. We finished listening to Matilda read by Kate Winslet. I listened to a podcast. We stopped for the traditional McDonalds breakfast. We began listening to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe which I had borrowed from the library. I missed the exit because I was so enthralled. One quick U-Turn later and we were on the Federal Highway. Finally we arrived. It was too early to check in so we parked at the beautiful Commonwealth Park for a stretch, a wander and a check in at the visitors’ centre.
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Up first was a visit to Parliament House. Mr 4 recognised it on sight and was very excited to go inside. We signed up for a free tour which I found interesting and Mr 4 tolerated. Then we quickly visited both the Senate and the House of Representatives which were sitting on the day. I found everyone very helpful and friendly towards the boys. We went up to the roof and had a romp on the grass under the flag. We browsed the shop (where he pretended to report the news – “The letter B has been found in its -ook!”) and finished with a light lunch in the Queen’s Terrace Café. I love that now when he sees Parliament House on television or in photos he has a personal connection to this important place.
Next, we headed to the Royal Australian Mint where, again, we signed up for a free tour. Our tour guide was amazing. She was a wonderful storyteller and clearly passionate about her topic. The boys got a bit bored during the history part of the tour (I loved it!) but both were excited when we reached the manufacturing section. Mr 4 was absolutely enthralled by the robots and machinery and sat at the window for easily 30 minutes just watching the process. The only way I could get him away from it was by taking him downstairs to press his own coin – a train themed one, I think they knew we were coming. A really wonderful place to visit.
From here we drove to our accommodation to check in and unpack. We stayed at the Alivio Tourist Park in one of their cheapest rooms. It was exceptionally good value (even better if you sign up as a member). We had a double bed with two single beds for the boys (no bunks for our little climber), a full kitchenette with stove, oven, microwave and fridge. It was exactly what we needed for the price we were looking for. Our favourite features of the Tourist Park were the pool (which we didn’t use since it was cold but important to note for future visits), playground, restaurant and free wifi! We liked it so much that we will definitely stay there again next time we visit.
Our final stop for our first day was a visit to the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain. We arrived in the daylight and watched the sun set and the city lights turn on. It was the perfect time to visit. We enjoyed a hot drink and some lollypops and the boys raced laps around the tower. The boys particularly enjoyed watching the lights of the tower change colour.
Day Two began with a visit to the National Museum of Australia which was hosting a Lego Exhibition (Towers of Tomorrow). We built towers with the Lego and then wandered through the rest of the exhibits and the delightful shop. The Museum is wonderful and has some meaningful Australian History displays. Most of it was over Mr 4’s head, but he pointed out a few things with excitement.
From there were went to Questacon. What a place! We used our membership for the Science Centre at Wollongong to get free entry and stayed for hours. Some of the galleries were a bit bland (or possibly set up more for group presentations) but some were amazing. Mr 4 particularly enjoyed flying his own jet plane, the earthquake simulator, FUNdaMental and Mini Q. Mr 2 loved Mini Q and ran from one thing to the next with squeals of delight and lots of joyful gibberish. Questacon, as with other places that we visited, had a few school groups but they tended to stick together. There really were no crowds.
After Questacon we headed to Canberra Outlet Centre for something fun for me! I found two delightful book/game stores and spent a long time perusing their shelves. I got a few children’s books from my wish list at bargain prices and two new games including Temple Trap which Mr 4 has been enjoying since. My husband and I decided that the Outlet Centre is the perfect shopping centre for guys. It had lots of men’s shops, lots of space, and few crowds (well, when we were there anyway). We walked away with quite a few goodies for both him and the boys and nothing for me! I remedied that the day after we returned home with a little retail therapy of my own.
Our third and final day began with packing our bags. What a bummer. Next time we will definitely stay for at least three nights. Two was barely enough. But we still had a big surprise in store for our 4yo. I asked on my Facebook Page in the lead up to our visit for recommendations of places to visit and the wonderful Meg suggested Corin Forest. We quickly arranged to borrow some snow gear from friends (to avoid paying hire) and tucked them away out of sight of little eyes. The drive to Corin was breathtakingly beautiful. We continued to listen to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. “Oh, they’re in the snow! Wouldn’t it be exciting to see snow?” See what we did there? Totally unplanned, but we took advantage of it.
Corin Forest was a perfect first visit to the snow. Only Mr 4 and his dad geared up, Mr 2 and I enjoyed the warmth of the fire and the lovely view in the café. They tobogganed and threw snowballs and simply experienced snow. Mr 4 lasted about an hour or so which we were expecting (the session went for 2.5 hours). This is part of why Corin Forest was so good for him. You don’t have to do the whole snow holiday. It’s just a taste of it. A fun experience without the full commitment of a ski resort. We finished in the café by toasting marshmallows in the fire. Glorious.
Our final stop in our Capital City was the National Arboretum. We wanted the boys to exhaust themselves so they would sleep on the way home (they didn’t – I failed twice there). The Arboretum was amazing. I loved reading about what they’re doing there. We ate lunch overlooking the city and then the boys played in the Pod Playground. Unfortunately the wind was biting and the rain soon blew in. Nevertheless it was a great place to visit. It will be wonderful to watch it grow.
There is a monument at the Arboretum which quotes Dorothea Mackellar’s poem “My Country.” We have read this poem during Poetry Teatime and talked about how much we love Australia. Standing there, overlooking our Capital City and the rolling hills surrounding it we agreed, we really do love Australia.
“Core of my heart, my country!”
PS. If you are a registered homeschooler check out Canberra Excursions for educator discounts (we didn’t qualify yet as our son is not yet old enough to register).