Call me strange but I usually love the summer school holidays. They’re long and warm and normally perfect for fun days at the beach, splashing at a pool or exploring outdoors and then resting at home. But with the bushfires continuing and poor air quality, these summer holidays is a whole different experience. And I’ve written and re-written this guide a few times now to suit the changing weather/ conditions…. settled in the end for a mixture of outdoor and indoor things to do. I’ve also searched high and low for all the cool, cheap and cheery local events.

This ParraParents Summer School Holidays Guide features 20 top picks –  a mix of events and outings in Western Sydney that are free, cheap and interesting things to do with your toddlers, preschoolers and young primary school kids. Plus our mega School Holidays What’s On Calendar – an easy to use listing of over 200 local events and activities!

| 20 Top Picks | Deals | Calendar Events

Top 20 Things To Do With Your Kids This January

1Thank a Fire Fighter and Visit the Museum of Fire | Penrith

It’s been incredibly hard to watch the destruction caused by the ongoing bushfire emergency. But at the same time incredibly inspiring that so many people are out there day in and day out protecting families and communities. So let’s thank them with a donation, thank you poster stuck outside your home or a thank you card for your local fire brigade.

We’ve talked a lot with our kids about bushfires, emergency services and a heap of related topics over the last month. There are some helpful books to read with your kids. And another way to help them understand and process what is happening is to visit the Museum of Fire in Penrith.

  • When: 9:30am to 4:30pm
  • Where:1 Museum Drive, Penrith
  • Cost: $28 family pass, $12 adults, $6 kids
  • More Info

2Eat and Play at the NEW Indoor Play Area in Liverpool Catholic Club | Prestons

A great fun way to escape the heat and poor air quality is to head to a local club with an indoor play area. And the new one at Liverpool Catholic Club would have to be one of the best in Sydney! It’s full of natural light (and air conditioning), great for climbers, there’s seating around the fenced play area and lots of yummy food options.

And if you after somewhere closer to home, or another option, there are 20 other local clubs/ hotels with an indoor play area. Some of our other favs are Hotel Pennant Hills and West Pennant Hills Sports Club.

  • When: 8am to late daily
  • Where: 424/458 Hoxton Park Rd, Prestons
  • More Info

3Cool Off at Dundas Park Water Playground | Dundas Valley

Water playgrounds are a fantastic way to cool down – no swimming skills need, great for a range of ages, including us parents, and they are free to use! There are 17 water playgrounds across Western Sydney. The one at Dundas Park is one of our favourites as the playground is also shaded and there’s a cafe, pizza restaurant and club a short walk away. We also really enjoy the shaded toddler pools at Putney Park.

  • When: 9am to 8pm daily
  • Where: Corner of Quarry Road and Yates Ave, Dundas Valley
  • More Info

The new library at Wentworth Point, across the road from Marina Square Shopping Centre, has a lovely kids area with reading nooks and space to spread out. You can stop by and read some books in the air conditioning before borrowing some for home.

There are lots of other kid friendly local libraries to visit as well, like West Ryde Library. And while the normal weekly rhyme and story time sessions aren’t on during the school holidays, a few have special school holiday ones.

  • When: 10am to 5:30pm Monday, Tuesday & Friday; 10am to 1pm Wednesday & Saturday; 10am to 8pm Thursday; 2pm to 5pm Sunday
  • Where: 10 Footbridge Boulevard, Wentworth Point
  • More Info

When the whole family wants to cool off (and it’s smoky outside), then a swim at an indoor pool is the way to go. While Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre is lots of fun, it also gets SUPER busy during the school holidays (unless you go really early or later in the day). But there are a number of other fun local indoor pools, like Auburn Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre, Ryde Pools and Hornsby Aquatic Centre. See the full list of kid friendly indoor public swimming pools here.

  • When: 6am to 8pm daily
  • Where: Church St, Lidcombe
  • More Info

Let the kids get creative at a number of free/ affordable school holiday activities, where you don’t have to clean up!

  • Parramatta Artists Studio: There are two 2hr workshops for just $8 at Parramatta Artists Studio these summer school holidays.
  • Bunnings: Every Tuesday and Thursday, there are free craft sessions at Bunnings Rydalmere (10am to 1pm), Seven Hills (11am to 1pm) and Lidcombe (11am to 12pm). Plus Bunnings at Blacktown has kids craft activities on every day from 10am to 12pm.
  • The Bower: Kids can create a range of scrapyard musical instruments while applying skills in using hammers, fine motor control and knot tying during a 2hr workshop.

7Swim and Paddle at Lake Parramatta Reserve | North Parramatta

Lake Parramatta Reserve is such a hidden gem in our own ‘backyard’. There’s a special swimming area at the Lake with beautiful clear water (when there aren’t heaps of people in there churning it up), with surf life savers on duty every day during the school holidays. Plus you can hire paddle boats, go for a kid friendly bushwalk, have a BBQ or play in the playground.

And here’s a list of other little known natural swimming spot gems around Western Sydney.

  • When: 9am to 6pm daily
  • Where: Entry is via the corner of Bourke and Lackey Streets in North Parramatta
  • More Info

8Go on a Mini Road Trip to the Early Start Discovery Centre in Wollongong

Early Start Discovery Space at the University of Wollongong

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. Plus, possibly a way to escape to better air quality, while enjoying air con in your car. It’s very important to always check Live Traffic NSW before setting off and also Fires Near Me given the ongoing bushfire crisis.

Our top road trip suggestion on a smoky or hot/ wet day is to Wollongong to Early Start Discovery Space. There are over 15 interactive zones, including a construction site, grocery store, emergency services, train, reading pod and digging site.  And they have a jam-packed school holiday program as well. Then there is also the Newcastle Museum to explore the summer sensory garden.

Madison's Mountain Retreat Bilpin
Feeding and patting the alpacas at Madison’s Mountain Retreat Bilpin

When air quality is good and it’s not too hot, then we definitely recommend you visit Bilpin. And help this community recover from the bushfires by spending in the area. You can pick fruit and flowers, enjoy a locally made apple cider and pie. Swim at Madison’s Mountain Retreat, as well as feed the alpacas and goats (and drop off your fresh Christmas tree if you still have it). A trip to the Central Coast is also great fun in the summer holidays. We particularly like Umina Beach for a swim at the beach, play at the fabulous playground, grabbing a book from the street library and enjoying lunch at the yummy cafe.

9Slide at Aquatopia Water Park | Prairiewood Leisure Centre

Want some of the thrills and spills of Raging Waters (previously Wet n Wild) without the price tag? Well for less then the price of one admission to Raging Waters, your family can spend the day at the Aquatopia Water Park in Prairiewood, about 20min south-west of Parramatta. There are three 10m high giant slides, an adventure aqua tower with 79 water elements and toddler pool with water jets and fountains.  Plus the Stingray Surf Rider and Fishpipe ride.

  • When: 11am to 5:30pm daily
  • Where: Prairie Vale Rd & Moonlight Road, Prairiewood
  • Cost: $65 family pass (not Fairfield City Council resident)
  • More info

10Chase Fish and Build Sand Castles at Greenwich Baths | Sydney Harbour

A hot summer’s day is a great time to pack up the swimmers and sand toys and head east, where it’s usually a lot cooler, to a nice beach! And Greenwich Baths is only about 35mins from Parramatta, with lovely views of the city and Parramatta River. Plus, it’s netted, has beach lounge chairs, shade and a kiosk.

And if you are after another kid friendly beach to build sand castles and swim at, there are 16 others within 35kms of Parramatta CBD.

  • When: 7am to 8pm
  • Where: Albert Street, Greenwich
  • Cost: small entry fee ($4.40 adult), free parking
  • More Info

11Be Wowed at a FREE Magic Show at Castle Towers

Abracadabra – got to love a kids magic show, complete with all the squeals and giggles. Even more so when its free! And thankfully there’s a few options these school holidays – Castle Towers, West Pennant Hills Sports Club and Lidcombe Shopping Centre. There’s also a $10 magic show at Ryde Civic Hall on 20th January.

Plus, there are lots of other free activities at other local shopping centres and clubs.

Sunflower picking at Pine Crest Orchard

Picking your own fruit and flowers is such a great, memorable outing for families. Fresh air, fresh fruit/ pretty flowers and fresh views on how our food grows. At the moment you can pick plums, peaches, sunflowers and possibly some strawberries. Unfortunately the recent record breaking hot day destroyed most of the blueberries that were available to pick in Kurrajong.

13Watch a Movie in Junior Class or Outdoors

Intermission in Event Cinemas Junior Class

The new Junior Class at Event Cinemas Macquarie is kid friendly movies to the max! There’s a play area at the front, 10min intermission, dimmed lights and other families in a relaxed cinema. It’s a great indoor option and tickets are about $14 each. There’s daily sessions in the morning.

But if you are keen to watch a movie under the stars, then there are plenty of outdoor movies these summer holidays! Almost all are FREE and some even involve pool noodles! Sydney Olympic Park is on Wednesday to Sunday. Moonlight Cinema is screening in Western Sydney almost daily. Auburn Library has some free movies for young kids and so does The Connection at Rhodes. Then there’s the Dive-ins at Mt Druitt and Riverstone Swimming Centres.

14Swap Books at a Street Library

Nothing like a pile of ‘new’ books to while away the morning/ afternoon at home (enjoying the air con). If you’re book shelves need updating, refreshing or decluttering – then head to a street library! There’s now an awesome local network of decorated mini libraries full of free books open 24/7 from Ryde to Blacktown – over 80 at last count! You can donate, swap or take a book and it’s also part treasure hunting, as you never know what gems you will find!

15Take a Ferry Trip to Cabarita

View of Cabarita Beach from the ferry wharf

There’s something so very Sydney and wonderful about travelling by ferry. It’s also a great way to travel with kids – they can wander around, enjoy the sights and nature spot. We’re fortunate to have many wonderful ferry stops along Parramatta River, with lots of great parks, playgrounds, swimming spots and picnic facilities nearby.

Our summer favourite is heading to Cabarita. Once you get off the ferry, you are welcomed by Cabarita Beach and Park. The large park has a lot to offer families – great shaded playground, outdoor swimming centre with views of Parramatta River, yummy kiosk and plenty of bbqs and picnic shelters. Plus there’s a beach, with lots of shells and some shade, where you can watch the ferries go by. This is the furthermost west spot along Parramatta River that has been deemed safe to swim at at the moment. And if you are lucky, see some dolphins!

Who doesn’t like a little treasure hunt and getting creative?! We’ve painted hundreds of rocks over the last two years and have had lots of fun ‘hiding’ them in local parks for other families to find. And finding the odd one has put a MASSIVE smile on my kids faces!

To get involve, you simply paint rocks with pictures or kind messages and place them in public places for other people to find. Join the Parramatta Rocks Facebook group to find out where some painted rocks have just been hidden or to let others know where you’ve hidden some.

17Ride Along Parramatta River

With the wind in your hair (hopefully a cooler breeze off the water), go for a scooter/ bike ride along Parramatta River…and there’s a lot of cycleway to choose from! We like the section along Eric Primrose Reserve from Rydalmere wharf (where there’s a toilet) to Halvorsen Park. Or you could ride from Sydney Olympic Park wharf over to The Connections at Rhodes via Bennelong Bridge. The kid friendly routes are endless!

And if you want something more off-road, as in at a park on a path just for kids), then we strongly recommend trying out some dinky tracks. The ones at Strathfield Park and Crestwood Reserve have some natural shade.

18Visit the Return and Earn Recycling Centre at Clyde

Now you may already drop off bottles and cans for recycling at a Return and Earn shipping container come vending machine. But if you don’t, and for something a little different, head to the Tomra Recycling Centre on Parramatta Road at Clyde/ Auburn and watch your recycling being sorted and processed at the same time! Plus there’s free on-site parking, colouring in and you can donate the money you get to the bushfire appeal or maybe your local school.

  • When: 9am to 7pm Moday to Friday; 9am to 5pm weekends
  • Where: 4 Parramatta Road, Clyde
  • Cost: free – you can $0.10 per acceptable container returned
  • More Info

19Meet a Park Ranger at Sydney Olympic Park

We love Mini Park Rangers during school term and now there’s a school holidays version! During the January Holidays, Sydney Olympic Park Authority Park Rangers will be “popping up” to meet and greet visitors across the Parklands. Check the schedule and meet the crew to find out some great parts of the Park to explore!

Or go on your own park explore – with our favourite 20 summer playgrounds.

Developed with a cast of 16 dancers and 48 musicians, ENCOUNTER invites you to celebrate the indomitable spirit of youth and the world they find themselves in. Bring a picnic blanket to the Prince Alfred Square and warm up with PRELUDE, a showcase celebrating Western Sydney dance culture.

  • When: Friday 10th to Sunday 12th January, 6pm to 8pm
  • Where: Prince Alfred Square and Riverside Theatres, Parramatta
  • Cost: FREE
  • More Info

Special Deals the School Holidays

Courtyard Dining & Espresso Telopea
Kids eat for FREE at lunch Tuesday to Friday at Courtyard Dining & Espresso in Telopea

Here are some family special deals for these summer school holidays that will help save you some money:

  1. Kids eat for FREE at lunch at Courtyard Dining & Espresso in Telopea
  2. About 50% off tickets to Calmsley City Farm
  3. About 37% off ERTH Prehistoric Aquarium show and a Big Ticket at the National Maritime Museum.
  4. Kids eat for FREE at the The Bavarian all school holidays between 11am and 4pm. For every regular meal purchased, a child (12yrs or under) can get a kid’s meal for free. You’ll find the Bavarian nearby at Rouse Hill Town Centre, Castle Hill and Wetherill Park.

Calendar of Summer School Holiday Events

The events listed in our special school holidays calendar are mostly free or cheap and usually don’t required pre-booking. And remember, this list of school holiday events will most likely continue to grow – so check back regularly!

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