Top 20 Picks – Free, Cheap and Something a Bit Different
Download this top 20 picks list as a checklist to stick on your fridge!
Winterlight is definitely the place to be these July school holidays, with 17 days of magical winter fun right at Prince Alfred Square in Parramatta, from 30 June to 16 July 2017.
Aside from the largest open-air ice rink in Sydney, there is a special undercover kid’s rink – perfect for little ones learning to skate. Then there are a range of free kid’s workshops, like cookie decorating, arts and crafts and drama classes. Plus a ferris wheel, vintage rides, snow play area and 28m long ice slide to enjoy. And when your tummy starts to rumble, sample a range of comforting European-inspired winter fare in the alpine food village.
For the first time at Winterlight, you can now also view beautiful light animations projecting onto the façade of St Patrick’s Cathedral.
2Ride Your Bike or Scooter
This July the Parramatta Council school holidays program celebrates all things bike! Kids can learn how to ride for the very first time or discover what lives in and around Parramatta River on the fish ladder ride. And, if they’re already a super cyclist, they can try BMX or unicycling. Registrations open on Monday 19th June at 9:30am. These FREE activities book out fast so set a reminder!
You can also throw the kids bikes or scooters in the car and head to one of the many parks around with a bike/ scooter track. Here are six good ones:
3Watch a Film at Riverside Theatres
Go along to Riverside Theatres these school holidays for some great family fun. From new releases to old classics back on the big screen, there are seven films to choose from! Films to be shown include Happy Feet, Dance Academy, Smurf and the Boss Baby. Single tickets are $10 and a family ticket is $35.
4Become a Scientist for the Day
Do you have a budding little scientist? Here are three ways you can encourage and develop your kids interest in science these school holidays:
- Book in for a Science for Real workshop with Quantal Bioscience at their North Parramatta location for kids in years 3-8. They have three workshops on – Microbe Planet, CSI Microbiology and Of Microbes and Minerals.
- Visit Winston Hills Mall and attend a FREE electro science workshop or Fizzics Science Show! Spaces are limited at the workshops and pre-registration is required.
- Australian Museum is also offering two science programs. Scientist for a Day lets children aged 8-12 years discover the science of light and colour and how animals see the world. And Fizzics Science workshops, where children aged 5-8yrs learn about properties of light in a fun interactive, half-day session.
5Celebrate Indigenous Culture During NAIDOC Week
NAIDOC Week is a time to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Kids can participate in a very special NAIDOC Week activity at City of Parramatta Library and all branches. During the first week of the school holidays, 8-12yr olds can help create artwork for special Gunyas (Aboriginal tents). This artwork will then feature at the NAIDOC Burramatta Family Fun Day on Saturday 8th July.
Burramatta is a amily-friendly afternoon event along Parramatta River Foreshore, with live performances, Indigenous games, native flower arranging, weaving, jewellery and tool making workshops, Gunya tent storytime, delicious bush tucker and the Blak Markets.
6Pick Your Own Oranges and Mandarins
Did you know that you only need to travel about 60mins north or north west to reach a number of farms that let you pick your own fruit? It is a great way for kids to learn about where their food comes from, plus a really lovely outing wandering around the farm and travelling through a bit of countryside. Be sure to pop some gumboots on though!
Available to pick these school holidays are oranges and mandarins. There are four nearby farms to choose from, though only the first two are open on week days.
- Schofields Orchard: Just in North Richmond, they are open 10am till 3pm Sunday to Friday. Entry is $5 per adult and kids free. Oranges are picked by the bag for $15 and a bag holds approximately 15kgs. Each car, or group of 6, must buy one bag.
- Anderson Farm: North of Windsor in Sackville North, this farm is open every day from 10am till 4pm while the fruit lasts. Entry is $5 for adults and kids are free, plus you pay for the oranges and mandarins you pick.
- Waktins Family Farm: Near Wisemans Ferry, they are only open Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm during picking season. They still have lots of mandarins to pick.
- Fords Farm: Also near Wisemans Ferry, they are open Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm but we hear that their fruit is already nearly all picked.
7Learn How to Make Chocolate and Cook Up a Storm
Let the kids have fun cooking, without you having to clean up afterwards!
- The new Cocoa Rush Chocolate Shop & Cafe in Rydalmere is running a series of hands-on chocolate lessons for 5-9yr old and 10-16yr olds. They will have lots of fun learning how to temper chocolate, make moulded chocolates and fudge truffles and decorate their creations.
- Kids (4yrs+) can make winter snowmen biscuits at North Rocks Shopping Centre for free.
- Ikea at Marsden Park and Rhodes are holding afternoon cooking workshops for kids aged 7-12 years.
8Escape to a Winter Wonderland for the Day
Rug up, step out into a winter wonderland at Central Gardens in Merrylands. This free school holiday fun is for kids aged 0-12 years and presented by Cumberland Council. There is will be jumping castle, giant play snow pit, winter craft, cupcake decorating, stage shows and lots more.
9Get Creative at a Recycle Arts Workshop
Kids aged 7 to 12 can make some really cool sculptures, a masterful mosaic piece, art and even a marionette using recycled materials at The Bower in Parramatta. The workshops are running on Wednesday 5th and Wednesday 12th July and only cost $5 for City of Parramatta residents.
10Celebrate Imagination, Spontaneity, Creativity and Storytelling at the Way Out West Festival
Way Out West (WoW) Festival is Sydney’s only contemporary arts festival dedicated to children (0-12yrs) and families. There will be four inspirational days of creative sessions with Australia’s leading artists at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. All events and performances are free however numbers are limited at selected events. Registrations for sessions are now open.
11Rug Up and Play at a Winter Playground
There is still plenty of fun to be had outdoors during winter….well with a warm jacket and when it isn’t too wet. We have created a list of the top playgrounds worth visiting in winter, for toddlers through to teenagers. Plus we have a special list of our favourite winter playgrounds for little ones, with 15 mostly fenced playgrounds.
If you want to combine a play at the park with coffee, brunch or lunch, then we have mapped over 50 local playgrounds with cafes nearby for you to choose from. And by taking your reusable coffee cup, you can save yourself some money and landfill at these local Responsible Cafes.
12Pop into Parramatta Library for Toys and Books
Kids missing their usual story time sessions? Bring them into Parramatta Library in the morning for holiday play, with lots of toys and then borrow a bunch of books for afternoon reading. The library is right near Westfields and the new Lil Miss Collins pop-up cafe.
For older kids, there are a host of activities on at the library throughout the holidays. From the Taronga Zoo Mobile visiting Dundas Library to sun catcher craft at Carlingford Library and drumming class at Ermington Library. Just remember to register on Monday 19th June at 9:30am – they will fill fast!
Getting out in nature and letting the kids explore is a wonderful free activity for everyone. And it is a rather pleasant thing to do on a rain-free winters day with a warm jumper.
We are fortunate to have plenty of bush parks in and around Parramatta and a host of kid friendly bushwalks. Plus the Parramatta Visitor Information Centre runs a wonderful series of outdoor and indoor environmental activities for primary school kids in the school holidays. From attending the Bush Detective School to learning about the Riverkeepers and guided bushwalks.
14Monkey Around at Rhodes Waterside
Kids can run a bit wild at Rhodes Waterside Zoo Safari these school holidays with animal zoo safari displays, safari tours and storytelling around the campfire! Plus there is the new monkey bar playground to enjoy, shopping at Ikea, Ikea’s free Småland play area and the crying rooms at Reading Cinemas if you have a bub.
There are two ways kids can step back in time these school holidays and have fun developing an appreciation for life of days gone by.
- The Australiana Pioneer Village will absorb you into the atmosphere and activities of life over 100 years ago. They are open every Tuesday and Wednesday during school holidays and the theme this July is nature. Entry is only $5 for adults and $3 for school aged kids and there are plenty of places to picnic.
- At Elizabeth Farm in Rosehill, Mr Macarthur is returning from England and there’s much to do before he arrives. The Convict Kids of Elizabeth Farm activity is for primary school kids and promises to be lots of good old fun!
16Watch a Live Performance
Let your kids get swept up in the kind of magic that only live performance can deliver, with family productions at our local Riverside Theatres, and The Joan in Penrith, these school holidays.
- Mr Snot Bottom Seriously Stinky Songs: Expect tasteless tunes, horrible harmonies and repulsive rhythms, plus plenty of gross gags and wrong routines in this symphony of silliness!
- Live Laugh Smile: a spectacular musical variety performance about living for the moment, laughing at the memories we make every day, putting a smile on your face and believing in yourself. It is presented by the Scouts and Guides of Greater Western Sydney Region.
- The Wolf and Peter: In this adaption of Peter and the Wolf, the story is told through the eyes of the WOLF and is filled with dance and live music.
- Emily Loves to Bounce: Inspired by three of the most loved books of Stephen Michael King, this production creates a whimsical world full of balls and boxes where amazing ideas are expressed in extraordinary ways.
17Splash and Slide at the Renovated Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre
We love heading to an indoor heated pool in winter! And just in time for the school holidays, the Splasher’s Water Playground at Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre has had a refresh, including a new 45m multi-coloured tube-slide being installed.
There is also the recently opened Auburn Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre to visit and my family favourite at the moment is the Hornsby Aquatic Centre. Plus, there are 6 other local public swimming pools that we think are worth take a warm splash at in winter.
18Be a Farmer for a Day
Golden Ridge Farms in Dural is holding three ‘Be a Farmer for the Day’ events in the first week of these school holidays. During the day you have full free range of the farm to do any activity at any time – all fully supervised by farmers. There is animal patting and feeding, egg collecting, pony rides, cow milking, musical hay bales, egg smashing and more.
We also recommend visiting Calmsley City Farm and Nancy’s Freedom Farm for a great day out on the ‘farm’. And for some native animal encounters that are free, Central Gardens in Merrylands or Auburn Botanic Gardens are definitely worth visiting.
19Take a Short Road Trip
Going on a little road trip can be an adventure in itself, made all the more fun when arriving at a great family-friendly destination. Five mini road trip suggestions for these school holidays are:
- Wollongong to have a fantastic time playing in the 14 interactive zones at the Early Start Discovery Space (review). They also have a bumper school holiday program.
- Wyong to attempt the mazes at the Amazement Farm and Fun Park (review) and visit the great Wyong Milk Factory for a bite to eat and shop.
- Mt Annan to explore the Australian Botanic Gardens and join in one of their many indoor and outdoor school holiday activities.
- Thirlmere to learn about trains of days gone by at Trainworks – NSW Rail Museum.
- Blue Mountains to be mesmerised by the view at Scenic World, with a pit stop at Cafe 2773 and visit to the Gingerbread House….and you may even get to see some snow!
20Enjoy a Free ‘Kids in the Park’ Event at Sydney Olympic Park
Kids in the Park is an exciting school holiday program, whether your kids love to be creative, sporty or are into nature. Of the 40 activities on offer this July holidays, six are free: Circus Solarus, Heritage Hunt, Riverside Birdlife, Sports Star and Dance Star, Writing Workshop and Walk and Squawk. You will need to book quickly as they fill up fast. Call 02 9714 7888.
School Holidays Programs Run by Local Parents
Here is a list of school holiday programs run by local parents that are worth checking out:
- Book your little scientist in for a Science for Real workshop with Quantal Bioscience at their North Parramatta location for kids in years 3-8. They have three workshops on – Microbe Planet, CSI: Microbiology and Of Microbes and Minerals.
- The new Cocoa Rush Chocolate Shop & Cafe in Rydalmere are running a series of chocolate hands-on workshops for primary and high school kids. They will have lots of fun learning how to temper chocolate, make moulded chocolates and fudge truffles and decorate their creations.
- Pinta Craft are running a series of ceramic painting activities at various locations these holidays. Artistic talent is not a requirement – they can help bring out the artist in everyone.
- RUNSTEM is where children are inspired to learn programming, coding games and robots, engineering, science and maths. They are running programming and robotics camps at three locations these school holidays, including Carlingford.
- UsefulBox can teach your kids how to sew.
- Futsal Institute are running a soccer clinic during the first week at Wetherill Park.
- Banjos Bead House offer a variety of classes for children 6yr to 12yr or teenagers. Within a safe and creative environment, they can learn basic beading and sewing skills to make jewellery or gifts.
Calendar of July School Holiday Events
The events listed in our July school holidays calendar are mostly free or cheap and usually don’t required pre-booking. It will continue to grow as more activities become available.