Southwest Sydney really has some fantastic places for families to enjoy the great outdoors. One of our faves is the Plough and Harrow Park in Abbotsbury. The park is part of the massive Western Sydney Parklands that spans across the suburbs of Abbotsbury, Eastern Creek, Prospect and Horsley Park. The entire parklands covers 5,280 hectares, and includes several playgrounds, events centres and sporting venues.
We end up at the Plough and Harrow in Western Sydney Parklands East a fair bit. It has a fantastic playground, 22 electric BBQs, parking for over 200 cars, 24 picnic shelters, a pond with ducks and other water birds, public bathrooms and a cafe/restaurant: Amoretti’s.
The big draw for us is the playground. It’s spread out across a large area, interspersed with trees and other Australian bush pants. The playground features include a hamster wheel, flying fox, sand pit, little kid play area, large climbing spiderweb, basket swing, big kid swings and a water pump feature. The park has play equipment for all different ages, so it’s a suitable venue for families with kids of all ages.
The only downside to this playground is the lack of shade. It could do with some shade cloth!
Make a day of your visit to the park by booking into Treetop Adventure Park too, which is located in this part of Western Sydney Parklands, too.
Plough and Harrow Park
Western Sydney Parklands,
Elizabeth Drive, Abbotsbury Bathrooms: Yes Picnic tables: Yes Shade cover: No Cafe: Yes Skatepark: No Off-street parking: Yes Children’s playground: Yes Water features: Yes Get Directions
Parramatta Park is one of Sydney’s most historic places. In the centre of the park is Old Government House, which, along with the surrounding pack, is one of 11 sites that form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage property. The park is also notable for its Aboriginal heritage: Evidence of Aboriginal occupation from over 200,000 years ago has been found there.
Sydney-siders have been enjoying Parramatta Park for recreation for a long time – it became a public park in 1858 – making it one of the earliest designated public parks in the world.
We particularly love the recently renovated Domain Creek Playground in Parramatta Park – it’s located on the Westmead side of the park, opposite the Queens Road Gatehouse.
The playground features activities for all ages and abilities, including flying foxes, swings, slides, trampolines, water pumps, sand pits, small trampolines built into the ground and spinning carousels.
Each section is connected by ramps and walkways, making it easy for strollers and wheelchairs to get between each area.
The double flying fox is a particularly popular feature of the new park, with one of the flying foxes adapted to be used by people with disabilities. The seatbelt feature makes it popular with young children too, who are a bit scared to use the regular one.
Adventurous kids will also enjoy the slide, which requires thrill-seekers to climb up a rope ladder to the top, and then scoot along to the top of the slide. Getting up was a bit scary for little Cheese due to the lack of handholds to pull herself up at the top of the rope ladder, but she had no problem climbing it, or going down the slide, either.
Other sections of the playground worth noting include water pumps that flow into a sand pit, a climbing net that looks like a spider’s web, a second sand pit with equipment for bigger kids like sand diggers, swings, and one last sandpit in the shade that was ideal for small kids.
The playground is beautifully designed to blend into the bush surrounding it, with plenty of fun surprise activities to discover. In the bush section in the middle of the playground few discovered a bush xylophone and cubby house, and there are also small metal sculptures of native Australian animals and a few roses dotted around the park.
The playground doesn’t have a shade cloth over it and there are very few sections with tree coverage, making it a bit of a scorcher on a hot day – particularly the metal play equipment. I would suggest this playground for milder to cold weather!
Bathrooms are also scarce – the nearest ones are a good 10 mins walk away at the Parramatta park Cafes, near the Queen Gate Entrance.
Near the playground is the river and lake, which is home to many birds such as ducks and ibis. Watching the birds is also an excellent way to entertain the little ones.
Domain Creek Playground, Parramatta Park
Pitt St & Macquarie St, Parramatta
Bathrooms: No – nearest one is a few mins walk away at nearby Parramatta Park Cafe.
Picnic tables: Yes
Shade cover: No
Off-street parking: Yes
Children’s playground: Yes
Water features: Yes (but minimal) Get Directions
We are frequent visitors to The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney’s CBD, but had never been to the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan, in Sydney’s south-west, until recently.
The gardens are massive! 416 hectares of botanic gardens set in a hilly area of the southwestern Sydney suburb of Mount Annan. I’ve driven past the gardens many times on my way between Campbelltown and Camden, and decided that it was time to see what beautiful plants they had on offer for myself.
The Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan are free to enter. They are popular place for families in Sydney’s west and south-west to visit for picnic lunches, due to their large grassed areas and excellent facilities. At the entrance to the gardens you can find the welcome centre (pick up a map!) and the public bathrooms, including a baby change/disabled toilet.
We had lunch at the on-site cafe, Melaleuca House. The prices were higher than I’d expected for a cafe inside a garden, but the food was excellent quality and apart from the “Vintage Tea Pyramid Selection” tea that I ordered for $3.90 that turned out to be a Twinings teabag dropped in water, I felt like it was a great meal.
As we arrived after the breakfast menu had finished, we ordered the Roast Pumpkin Salad (with zucchini, roast capsicum, goat’s cheese, oak leaf toasted pine nuts & pesto dressing, $20.90) Jumbo Scone (served with jam and cream, $4.90), Herb Crusted Chicken Tenders (with paprika lime dipping sauce, crisp garden salad & honey-lemon dressing, $19.90), Grilled Barramundi Fillet (served with bush tomato relish fresh lemon wedge & crisp garden salad & chunky chips, $24.90).
Kids aged 10 yrs and under can order off the reasonably-priced kids’ menu, which includes Grilled Sausage & Chips, Toasted Ham, Cheese Sambo & Chips, Cheese Burger & Chips and Chicken Nuggets & Chips. All kids’ meals cost $12 and include a Pop-Top Fruit Juice.
When we arrived the table next to ours had been waiting a long time for their meals and we were a bit concerned that ours would similarly take ages, but the food all arrived quickly, and the unanimous agreement was that it was all delicious.
Just past the cafe is a fenced playground with decent shade. It includes several climbing structures, swings and a flying fox. We had a hard time removing Cheese to go and explore the gardens, but promised her lots of rocks to climb as an incentive.
The gardens are quite spread out, and if you have the time and inclination there is a lot of walking you can do. We did a shorter route through the main gardens up and down the main hill area, climbing over rocks and running down grassy slopes. Along the way we explored native Australian plants and wandered through flower beds with butterflies dancing around us.
A flat, cement path winds around the gardens making them fully accessible for strollers and wheelchairs (it’s worth noting that the cafe area, particularly the outdoor seating, is also very suitable for large strollers or wheelchairs, too).
A new addition to the garden is the Jurassic Garden Augmented Reality trail.
Download the app, pick up a map at Information, and take a journey back through time through the garden to spot Australian Dinosaurs and megafauna next to plants that were important to them.
Once you’ve downloaded the app to your smartphone or tablet, point your device at the Jurassic Garden AR marker and watch the creature come to life.
The Australian Botanic Gardens Mount Annan are just beautiful, and are a welcome place to enjoy the beauty of nature in the heart of southwestern Sydney.
The Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan
Narellan Road, Mount Annan 2567
The Garden is open every day of the year.
Autumn, Winter and Spring: 8am-5pm
Prices: FREE Online
Melaleuca House is open Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat & Sun 8am-4pm.
Do you have a kid who loves climbing, heights and physical challenges? Then TreeTop Adventure Park is a must-do for your family. TreeTop Adventure Park operates three parks, in Wyong, Newcastle and Sydney – we visited the Sydney one which is located inside the Plough & Harrow Park in South-West Sydney.
TreeTop Adventure Park has courses for kids and adults, with the children’s course suitable for little ones aged 3 – 9. The next group, “Juniors”, consists of three courses for kids aged 10 – 17 who are at least 1.4m tall.
The children’s course is made up of four courses with different degrees of difficulty, and four flying foxes.
While booking isn’t mandatory, the sessions are so popular that I highly advise booking a few days in advance to ensure you can take part in the timed session of your choice on the day. One the website TreeTop advises you arrive half an hour before your timed session, and if the weather is nice you may as well arrive early to make a day of it. The Adventure Park is right next to a massive playground in Plough & Harrow Park so kids can play there until they need to put on their helmets and harnesses.
We were incredibly unlucky with the weather on our day. The skies opened and it poured just when we arrived. The session before ours climbed in the rain, but thankfully it eased up when our session was beginning to a slight drizzle. The sessions go ahead unless there is lightning or heavy winds, in which case the courses are suspended until they can begin again. I advise bringing a rain coat if there is a chance of rain, or investing in a $2 rain poncho from TreeTop like we did on the day.
Each group is restricted with numbers for safety reasons. The kids are strapped into the harnesses and helmets by TreeTop staff, and then given a very detailed talk on safety. The instructors drill the kids on the number of kids allowed on each platform, challenge and flying fox at a time, and ask the kids repeatedly to make sure the kids understand all the information.
Each child’s harness has it’s own metal pulley that is used to hook onto the wire that runs above each course for safety. They are large and heavy, making them quite dangerous for little kids to be trusted with, but the instructors had an excellent way of teaching the kids about how to use the pulleys, calling them a “froggy”, and using terms that kids would understand – like the “froggy” had to be put onto the wire “frog to the log” so he could “eat his food” (AKA the wire). The rope dangling down was called the “tail”, so we were calling out repeatedly “hold onto the tail!” and so on to describe how to get across the challenges.
The first course, “white”, was the easiest, and designed low to the ground so parents could hold their child’s hand if needs be. It also allows parents to assist kids with getting the pulley over the connectors at each platform – this, for the little kids, proved to be the hardest element of the courses. It was really difficult to swing the rope hard enough to get enough momentum to push it over the edge of the connectors at each platform. Once the kids are up on the higher courses, they must to every element on their own, as adults are on the ground and can’t reach to help.
For my four-year-old, the courses were exceptional for not just physical enjoyment, but also to help her self-confidence and resilience. Quite a few times she struggled to get her pulley over connectors, but had to work it out herself – and while she got frustrated, she managed to do it, every time. She also lost a shoe at one stage, while she was several metres over our heads. Even though she couldn’t reach her feet with her hands, and she was balancing high up on a tiny platform, she managed to use her foot to place the shoe in the right position and jam her toes inside so it was on well-enough to get to the next platform where an instructor could fasten it for her.
As an only child, Cheese is used to us doing a lot of things for her that she could probably work out herself, so this ropes course was just what she needed to realise that she was more than able to conquer many difficult things on her own. As the courses got harder, they involved more problem solving skills as well as balance, agility and also confidence! The last two courses involved a lot of moving logs and sections that were quite far apart – pretty hard and scary for little kids whose arms and legs couldn’t reach them. I was so incredibly proud of how Cheese conquered all of the four courses.
The minimum age for participation is three, with no height minimum, and, while there were three year olds on the course, there were a few who attempted the harder courses, got stuck or scared, and then couldn’t get down. The way the courses are created, you hook on at the start and unhook at the end. There is no way to unhook in the middle – AKA there’s no going back if you get scared or can’t physically finish the course. We had a moment during one of our courses where the kids all had to reverse backwards through the course to the beginning and unhook to allow a smaller child to leave the course.
On the website it’s advised that you buy or bring gloves, and while we didn’t this time, we will definitely buy a pair when we return. Shoes must be closed toe like sneakers, and I would suggest long tights for girls so their legs don’t rub on the harness.
Looking around the courses I was pleased to see that they were set up in a way so as to not harm the trees – there was no drilling used to attach the platforms, and the structures were designed to allow trees to grow free of restrictions.
The children’s course costs $28 per child. While initially I thought it sounded pricey, the you have two hours to spend on the courses. Time absolutely flies by and I really thought that it was money well spent.
Cheese finished the day feeling strong, brave and incredibly happy! She told us she had the best day ever and can’t wait to go back.
TreeTop Adventure Park
Plough & Harrow, Western Sydney Parklands,
Elizabeth Drive, Abbotsbury Online
I knew we had stumbled on one of the best kid-friendly restaurants in Sydney when we were greeted with “the kids can draw on anything!” at the door by the very friendly staff at Little Tastes Cafe St Peters.
Inside the cafe is the much-lauded play area. It’s a great size with loads of toys, and the walls and tabletops are covered in chalk paint, so kids are literally welcome to draw on the walls. I’ve heard that on Saturdays the cafe hangs paper on the walls for kids to paint on, but we arrived on a quiet Thursday during the school holidays just after a massive group, and had the playroom all to ourselves.
Our friendly server let us know that babyccinos were on the house, officially making it the best deal in Sydney. They usually come with a marshmallow, but had had an unfortunate incident on the day we arrived that deprived our kids of their marshmallow. Not like they even noticed, however, they were having so much for playing that we had to beg them to sit down to eat. As an indication of how this compares to our usual cafe outings – if a babyccino arrives without a marshmallow, it’s usually met with a turned up lip and serious attitude.
The cafe serves all-day breakfast and simple burgers, rolls and salads. They have a great kids’ menu with items like toast with jam, toasted sandwiches, the “Big Bubba Breakfast” with eggs, bacon sausages and toast, “Eggs with Toast Soldiers” and a fruit salad. All of the kids’ meals are under $10, with cheapest being $3 for the toast with jam, peanut butter or Vegemite.
All of the meals at the cafe are reasonably priced, which is another massive plus in my book. We love eating out, and often with kids you end up needing to eat out even if you hadn’t planned to, so it can seriously add up to be very expensive, very fast. With prices like these, however, we will be dropping by all the time rather than just on special occasions. The meals for adults at Little Tastes range from $6 for an egg and bacon roll to $10 for the “Budget Brekkie” (two eggs, bacon or spinach, feta on thick toast) and $17 for the most expensive dish on the menu, the “Big Breakfast” (two eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, haloumi, grilled tomato, toast).
We ordered toast with jam and a grilled cheese sandwich for the kids, and a SpanishOmelette ($14, three egg omelette with red onion, tomato, chorizo and paprika served with thick cut toast) and Smashed Pumpkin ($16, two eggs your way on a bed of smashed pumpkin and feta with bacon and tomato served with thick cut toast). They happily swapped my bacon for spinach which I appreciated too.
While we waited for the meals, the kids played and played and played. The kids’ meals arrived first, and they sat relatively peacefully at their table to eat. It was a bit of a wait for our meals, but with such a small cafe and only two staff members working there, it was understandable.
I really enjoyed my smashed pumpkin dish. It really hit the spot for me, and I loved the thick cut toast, plus the delicious pumpkin and feta. All of the dishes were very generous in portion size, too.
The bathroom is around the back of the cafe, and has a change table – hallelujah!
The cafe has both a fantastic and terrible location. It’s wonderful as it is right across the road from the massive Sydney Park, making it a great cafe to team up with a park visit. It’s also on a very busy road however, so keep a close eye on kids when you’re walking to the cafe. The cafe itself is quite small, so if you arrive on a busy day and need to sit outside, you’ll need to also keep a very close eye on little ones.
We loved our lunch at Little Tastes and can’t wait to go back.
Hubby and I have been big fans of the Ice Age movies for a long time, so when I saw Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure was coming to town, I was pretty excited at the chance to see characters I love come to life on ice.
It was also an opportunity to introduce young Cheese to the show as she has been too young thus far to watch the movies (mainly because she is a very sensitive soul).
Ice Age Live: A Mammoth Adventure tells the story of the latest batch of Ice Age characters from the movie, including Manny (Cheese’s favourite), and Peaches, the new baby. Without giving the story away too much, I really enjoyed how simple the storyline was. Peaches gets kidnapped by a scary bird, Shadow (Cheese kept calling him “The Boss”), and the rest of the gang need to bring Peaches home.
The simple storyline meant that little kids could easily follow what was happening, leaving them enraptured in the spectacular costumes, puppets and areal acrobatics.
I was incredibly impressed with how well the movies translated to a show on ice, which I think was mostly due to the superb designs by co-director Michael Curry, who has worked on Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney’s The Lion King. The puppetry was extremely well done, with the characters making very life-like movements, blinking, lip-syncing, as well as skating. It looked like hard work!
When I saw the large characters lumbering out onto the ice, I did wonder if the people inside them were going to do much skating, so I was thrilled when I saw them emerge from the suits, still in character, to engage in breathtaking acrobatics. It was a really clever way of ensuring the people inside the suits had a chance of showing their exceptional skills off as well as portraying these huge creatures in their amazing puppets.
I also enjoyed the set design. The ice stalactites on the roof glowed with various colours, and a video screen integrated into the back set really enhanced the feeling of moving over vast distances as the group travelled on their big adventure.
Cheese, who is 4.5, loved the show. She is extremely sensitive to anything “scary” and was a little bit worried when Peaches was stolen, but she very quickly relaxed when she began to understand that nothing bad was going to happen to any of the characters. There was so much light, joyful music and a celebratory tone to the show that she was swept up in the mood and when it ended, said “Is it over? That was fast!”. The show went for almost two hours including interval, so I think that’s incredibly good, for a show to be so long and leave a preschooler with a short attention span wanting more.
If you or your family enjoy Ice Age, or if you’re wanting to introduce your little ones to the characters, this is the show for you. We highly enjoyed Ice Age Live: A Mammoth Adventure.
Inner city cafes that are kid-friendly with room to run are extremely rare. The Junction, a cafe attached to the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, is an oasis of space for families to relax, eat and take time to relax on a busy day in the city.
The Junction is located on the lower street level of the Powerhouse Museum complex, positioned so you can enter the cafe and enjoy the courtyard and playground without entering the museum. This means, of course, that you can drop by any time for a coffee, snack, play or bathroom break.
The cafe has a very simple menu. Burgers, fries, kids’ meals, milkshakes. It has a wide selection of snacks like fruit, yoghurt, pre-made sandwiches, banana bread, donuts, pretzel cups and a crazy amount of lollies.
Order at the counter and take your number to a table. I’m not sure what the numbers were for, however, as when the order was ready it was placed on the counter to be collected, rather than brought to our table.
The cafe has indoor and outdoor seating in a bright, open space. It’s a very light and airy environment, with open panels so the air flows freely, and there is plenty of ambient sound to cover the noise of cranky kids, but also no loud music to prevent conversation. My favourite!
The walls are glass or open to the courtyard so when dining inside there is a clear view of the playground – both from inside and outside the cafe. It’s a fantastic design so if you have young children you can sit at the end of the cafe outside, right next to the playground.
The playground itself is pretty big, with shade cloth covering. It’s clean, big and well-designed. There are several public bathrooms inside the courtyard including a disabled and baby change toilet.
I was impressed at how the entire set up was stroller and wheelchair assessable. The entry from the street into the cafe and courtyard is wide and smooth, and the cafe has plenty of space to enable wheelchairs and strollers to maneuver.
We had eaten lunch earlier when we visited, so we only tried the donuts ($4.50 each, delicious!) and milkshakes. The milkshakes were incredible value for Sydney – $7 for a massive shake.
The Junction is a great cafe to try if you’re in the area or visiting the Powerhouse Museum.
The Junction, Powerhouse Museum 500 Harris St, Ultimo NSW 2007 Hours: Daily from 8:30am Online
There’s still time to see the amazing The Art of the Brick: DC Comics exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum before it closes on May 1.
This contemporary art exhibition by LEGO® artist Nathan Sawaya uses over a million bricks to create more than 120 large-scale sculptures of famous DC Comics superheroes and villains.
We enjoyed seeing interpretations of Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, The Joker and Super Girl made, astonishingly, out of LEGO bricks. The exhibition is spread over 10 galleries, and is the world’s largest collection of DC Comics-inspired LEGO ever created.
I visited with two almost five-year-olds who were mostly interested in finding Wonder Woman, and the LEGO video that filmed in one of the middle galleries.
The exhibition is hands-off until the last section, so keep your eye on little ones who might want to grab the LEGO for themselves.
If you visited during the first few months and are a hardcore fan, you might want to revisit before the exhibition closes to see the new sculpture that has been added to the collection to coincide with the Australian launch of Warner Bros. Pictures film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Called ‘Showdown’, the piece features a battle between Batman and Superman, made from over 30,000 bricks.
The exhibition ends in a gift shop with large Duplo and LEGO areas for kids to build in, plus superhero video games to play. It was almost impossible to drag the kids out.
During the school holidays you’ll get even more value for the entry fee with the free activities run by the Powerhouse Museum. Our girls highly enjoyed colouring in the Giant Comic Strip and the Bird’s-eye Super Hero Photos, both open daily until April 25.
The Super Hero photo was a particular hit. The kids donned Wonder Woman capes and had their photo taken to make it look like they were soaring through the air.
Note: The exhibition is extremely popular right now, so I recommend buying tickets in advance and try to make it to the 10am session (the first session of the day).
After checking out the exhibition and activities, be sure to drop by the Wiggles Exhibition on the ground floor. It’s been updated with Emma Wiggle.
Powerhouse Museum 500 Harris St, Ultimo NSW 2007 Online
Sydney will be home to the world premiere of this entertaining show in September this year, for a limited three month engagement.
“Who is Bobby Darin?” I hear some of you ask. Well, let me tell you exactly who he is. Bobby Darin is a legendary American singer, songwriter and Academy Award-nominated actor whose songs are synonymous with the 1960s. You probably know the majority of his songs even if you didn’t know his name. Think Mack the Knife, Splish Splash, Beyond the Sea and of course, Dream Lover … ahhhh yes, that’s him! I have loved these songs all my life and knew nothing about the life of the man who sang them.
Bobby Darin led quite the extraordinary life, which became the basis for the new musical. As well as his musical and acting prowess (he played 9 instruments!), Bobby was married to the film star Sandra Dee (YES… LIKE IN GREASE!!), and, like many of our stars today, died before his time at age 37.
It seems Bobby had a feeling he wasn’t going to life as long as most people so was determined to cram an entire lifetime into the years he had. Bobby’s motto was to make every moment of every day count – something which I’m sure we can all relate to, even if we’re not destined for superstardom.
Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical will tell the extraordinary tale of this musician and feature his famous works, sung by the dreamy (and let’s not forget, extremely accomplished) David Campbell, with the lovely Hannah Fredericksen playing his wife, Sandra Dee. There will be 40 performers on stage, including a live 18-piece big band.
As the show is only going to be staged in Sydney, I highly recommend you get your tickets to see the musical when it premieres.
To celebrate the launch of this new musical, I’ve teamed up with Dream Lover to offer Adventure, Baby! readers a chance to win a double pass to see a preview showing of Dream Lover when it opens in September. All you need to do to be in the running to win is enter the question in the form below in 25 words or less, “What is your favourite song from the 1960s and why?”.
The giveaway is open to Australian residents only, from 6pm April 6 to 9pm 27th April, 2017. The winner must arrange their own transport to and from the Lyric Theatre to see the show. See full terms and conditions here.
Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star Season From 30 September 2016 Performance Times Wed & Thurs 7.30pm, Fri & Sat 8pm, Matinees Tues & Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm PRICES: From $69.90* BOOKINGS: ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 795 267
We end up in the Darling Harbour area quite a lot due to its proximity to the Powerhouse Museum, excellent water playground and Maritime Museum. Finding somewhere to eat that is reasonably priced and also great for kids is a bit of a challenge. I’ve recently discovered Yots Cafe, a super cute nautical themed place attached to the outside of the Maritime Museum.
It’s almost impossible to drag kids past this cafe when they spot the giant connect four game that is out the front for its customers to use. I’ve also seen kid-sized tables and chairs out the front on previous visits, although they weren’t there when I dined recently myself.
The view from Yots is pretty stunning, which you do pay for in the prices of the menu. You can however get takeaway items for yourself and the kids if you prefer to grab a meal and eat it on a nearby bench or park.
We chose to dine in, and hubby ordered the Wild Barramundi (grilled or battered, with beer battered chips and house made tartare sauce, $20), while I struggled with no brunch/brekkie items for a vegetarian and settled for a yoghurt cup ($6). Cheese had just eaten and wasn’t hungry so we let her play and ordered her a takeaway lunch box for $7.50. Dine in options for kids start at $10 which is very reasonable for city lunches.
The lunch box was great value – a full-sized vegemite sandwich, a fruit cup, Nudie juice, chocolate coin and an eye patch.
One of the best bits about the cafe is it is right underneath the Maritime Museum, so it’s easy to duck out for lunch or a snack, and then go back inside for more fun. You get a break from the museum without having to go very far.