Ditch the Playground: 20 Cool Places to Take Your Kid You Haven’t Thought of

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We live in a city that’s chock-full of interesting things to do. (Tonight I can choose from an aerial dance performance, an archaeology excavation, or a street cart festival, and it’s a Tuesday.) Yet, do you know where we spend almost all of our time? At the playground. Or the zoo, if we’re feeling adventurous. Or if we’re really crazy, the leisure centre. Ladies, I could be watching people dance on the side of buildings and instead I’m pushing my kids in the swing for the millionth time this month. 

So, enough. No more excuses and “I can’t think of where we could go because I have 45 people talking at me at once.” Here are 20 places to take your kid that are slightly outside the (sand)box and won’t break the bank. And the best part? They aren’t the playground. 

1. Hit up an art gallery. I took my three year old to the art gallery because there was a show I really wanted to see and was pleasantly surprised when we both had a great time. We cruised through pretty fast, but she loved studying the paintings’ details, we made up stories about a lot of the folks in the paintings, and I got to see my show. 

2. Give runners a boost. Check out runningcalendar.com.au for a local running race and head down to cheer the runners on (or even take part yourselves!). Your cheers will add a bounce to their step (I promise), while watching the race shows your kids what working toward a goal looks like, literally.

3. Get your car washed. You know your car needs it and your kids will love the whole drama of going through the rollers and wash.

4. Take ’em dancing. Lots of RSLs and clubs across the country have a kids’ disco night where under 12s boogey the night away with the latest music and professional dancers and kids’ entertainers. Call your local club and ask.

5. Go on a culinary adventure. Want your kids to try new foods? Take a mini food tour where you sample a croissant from your favourite bakery, try a cheese sample from the local cheese shop, and round it out by sharing a Pad Thai. 

6. Stop by a party supply shop. They’ve got princesses, they’ve got pirates, and they’ve got pretty much everything you can imagine in between. Take a jaunt down the aisles and let your kids try on hats, check out the latest in crazy glasses, and pick out a sticker momento for the ride home. Inexpensive, yet highly entertaining. 

7. Go to a retirement community or nursing home. My great-aunt lives in a retirement community, and when we visit it’s like we’re visiting royalty. The kids get more attention than they know what to do with—during our last trip the kids rode on a scooter, helped push wheelchairs and danced for crowds of people (seriously)—while the residents get their kid fix. It’s a win for everyone, including mama who gets to put her feet up and revel in the free babysitting…

8. Have a latte/babycinno at an open-kitchen cafe. You get a caffeine hit, the kids get a treat and you all get to watch the free entertainment that’s coming from the kitchen (just be ready to block little ears from time to time, especially if it’s busy).

9. Cheer on a high school. The local GPS rugby and netball tournaments are highly entertaining and you can bet the big kids will love having a few little kids cheering them on on the sidelines. Most primary schools have regional comps on Friday mornings too, call the council to see when they are using the public ovals.

10. Relax at a movie. And I do mean relax. The kids are entertained, it’s dark, and no one will notice if you close your eyes for one teeny, tiny second, I promise.

11. Play farmer at a local farm. Many farms are happy to show the kids around and even give them a quick ride on the tractor so your kids know where food comes from. A surprisingly short drive out of most cities will get you there.

12. Volunteer your time. Head to your local shelter with the kids and help serve meals, take them with you to wrap presents for less privileged kids, sort cans together at your local women’s shelter—the non-profits will love the help, and your kids will love the feeling you get from helping others.

13. Take an art walk. Most communities have some sort of art walk, where galleries and local businesses stay open late once a month. Take the kids down for an evening stroll, meet the business owners, and support your local shops. 

14. Go antiquing. Antique shops are a veritable treasure trove of weird objects for kids to study and wonder about, leaving you free to wander and hunt for your next big score. Just steer them away from the porcelain section.

15. Play tourist. Take off your local glasses and hit some of the hot spots you’d go to if you didn’t live in your town. Bonus points if you download one of the Lonely Planet guides and make your way down the list.

16. Hit the great outdoors. Kids love to be outside, whether it’s in the bush, at a lake, or just a walk through the fields. Get your hike on—you’ll get your exercise and the kids will expend enough energy they may just take a nap…

17. Go to a play. There’s nothing quite like the magic of watching performers live. Keep it inexpensive with your local kids’ theatre or, if that’s not available, check out your local high school, where they most likely perform a musical or two a year. 

18. Swing by a pet store. Is there anything kids love more than animals? Take ’em to the pet store and let them admire the guinea pigs, fish and puppies up close and personal where they’re someone else’s responsibility.

19. Check out a new suburb. It’s easy to get stuck in the mile around your house. Get out of your neighbourhood (literally) by picking a new ‘hood to wander around. Hit the local coffee shop and ask if there’s anything noteworthy to see, or just take a stroll through the streets and see what you run into.

20. Take time. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, I find I’m always moving us along to the next thing. Instead, take a moment where they can take as much time as they need to look at bugs, study princesses in Target or, yes, spin in the park. 

More fun things for kids to do:

Image: Getty