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Holiday at home: Canberra:

Canberra has something for all ages and all interests - and this summer, you can also enjoy a little bit of Paris on Lake Burley Griffin!
By Motherpedia
Date: December 18 2012
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Photo courtesy of Australian Capital Tourism.


Whatever you do, do not confuse Canberra the city with the politicians who spend part of the year there. That's unfair to our charming ‘bush capital’ – because all but five of the politicians that fill Parliament House are from everywhere else in Australia, including your hometown!

Whether you're already heading to Canberra for the holiday break, or are thinking of somewhere to go for a few days, the national capital has lots to see and do for the entire family - and that's without including Parliament House in our list below.

We haven't included Parliament House simply because many school children make a visit during the year, but if you haven't been there or haven't been for a while, it's also worth a visit. It is one of Australia's great public buildings and, regardless of what you think of politicians, it's something of which the entire community can be proud.

In the meantime, here are just some of the other highlights.

Christmas Carnival in the City

From now until this Friday, join in the fun with camel rides, bumper boats, rock climbing and trampolines for the free Christmas Carnival in the City from noon until 8pm daily. There’s also a carol performance from local choirs every evening between 6pm – 7pm. Wander into Civic Square, City Walk and Garema Place and you’ll be in the midst of the Carnival.

New Year’s Eve in the City

Canberra comes alive with a free family concert and dance party on New Year’s Eve – which also heralds in Canberra’s centenary as a city! Yes, the little country capital is 100 years old in March. The concert is in Civic Square and dance part in Garema Place. Both events are alcohol and glass free.

Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre

Enter the dark and dangerous world of giant sea creatures and bizarre fish when you journey below the earth’s surface at Questacon’s newest exhibition, Deep Oceans. See a five metre giant squid model, see glow-in-the-dark sea creatures and met Mr Blobby, a fathead found in the depths of the Tasman Sea.

But that’s just to begin with! The Questacon is a fantastic space to explore for every member of the family with eight themed galleries where you can explore, learn, splash around and take part in an adventure. Don’t miss it!

National Museum of Australia

Fans of electronic games will love Kspace, where you use computers with touch screens to design a vehicle of the future and then watch your creation appear in a 3D cinema. Join the kids for a multimedia experience in Circa, the revolving theatre telling Australia’s history. Let the kids run wild in the Garden of Australian Dreams or relax on the deck and enjoy the views of Lake Burley Griffin. This place doesn’t look like a museum, and it certainly doesn’t feel like a museum, so kids have fun while learning about Australia’s history, events and characters.

Australian War Memorial

Put war into perspective and its historical context when you visit this fantastic museum. Visit the hands on Discovery Zone, full of things to do, touch and hear. Discover the life of a First World War soldier on the Western Front, or put yourself in the place of a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Explore life aboard a Cold War era submarine or be a part of a peacekeeping contingent. Join in special school holiday programs, handle real objects, dress up in nurses’ and soldiers’ uniforms, and hear their incredible stories.

Australian Institute of Sport

Discover Australia’s sporting powerhouse with an athlete-guided, behind-the-scenes tour, and find out where Australia’s sporting champions live and train. Step into a world of fun and excitement at Sportex, the interactive sports experience. Kick a goal in a Rugby Union or AFL simulated environment, the simulator will depict the speed and trajectory to see if you scored. Challenge a friend to a simulated mountain bike race or try your hand at wheelchair basketball.

Royal Australian Mint

Visit the Mint – it makes cents.  Discover how coins are made, see robots in action and learn the history of coins all on a visit to the Mint!

So you can’t get to Paris this year?

No problem. Go to Canberra instead where you can not only see one of the best copies in the world of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, but also a wonderful exhibition of works from Parisian painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. The Mona Lisa copy, which was painted by Adelaide born artist Mortimer Menpes, is on show in the Treasures Gallery of the National Library, while the Toulouse Lautrec exhibition is about 50 metres up the road at the National Gallery of Australia – until Easter. While you’re at the Library, make sure you have lunch at Bookplate: you can eat outdoors overlooking Lake Burley Griffin, or indoors under some stained glass windows.

Be active!

There’s a reason why Canberra has more people participating in some sort of sporting activity than any other city – it’s so easy to do so. Get into the swing of things, by hiring a bike and go for an easy ride around the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. There’s also canoes, kayaks and surf skis for hire – or you can pile the family into a paddleboat and have some fun!

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