It is easy to understand why a lot of parents with little ones dread the school holidays. Regular weekday activities stop, playgrounds and shopping centre become overcrowded and weekly activities for under 5s go on holidays too. Plus, most of the school holiday activities are geared towards primary school kids.
There is still a LOT of fun to be had, it just may require a bit more effort or travel time. Here is our top 15 things to do these July school holidays with little ones.
And if you have older kids, or a mix of ages, then check out our general July School Holidays Guide, with 20 top picks and over 200 events.
1Enjoy FREE Activities at Central Gardens
The lovely Central Gardens in Merrylands are always worth a visit with little ones. There is the free native animal enclosure, two playgrounds, waterfall and plenty of open grassed area and paths to explore. And these school holidays there are two extra special reasons to go.
- Storytime with Poppy is on 3rd July at 10am.
- Rug up and 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.
2Pick Your Own Oranges and Mandarins
Did you know that you only need to travel about 45-75mins north or north west to reach a number of farms that let you pick your own fruit? This is a wonderful activity to do with little ones and toddlers plus should be able to easily pick the fruit. Just be sure to pop some gumboots if it has been raining!
Available to pick these school holidays are oranges and mandarins. There are three nearby farms to choose from:
- 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, plus you can eat as much as you want while picking. Each car, or group of 6, must buy one bag. Read our review here.
- 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 open Monday to Wednesday during these school holidays, plus Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. They still have lots of mandarins to pick and there are some sheep and chickens to feed as well.
3Rug 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 our favourite winter playgrounds for little ones. As most are targeted at young kids, they don’t get as busy during the school holidays. There are also three new playgrounds to check out – Sherwin Park, Tuckwell Park and Golden Jubilee Fields.
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.
4Have a Ferry or Train Adventure
Catching a ferry or train to your destination is a great way to extend your outing and add some more fun. And the beauty of a ferry or train, is that little ones can stretch their legs and wander around. Going by ferry in winter though can be cold, so make sure to rug up. Check out our ferry guide for Parramatta River and train guide for plenty of ideas.
Some top ferry or train adventures these holidays are:
- Visit the All About Flowers display in the Caylx at the Royal Botanic Gardens by ferry or train.
- Catch the train to Beecroft Train Park.
- Catch the ferry to Wild Life Zoo and enjoy the daily storytime at 11:15am.
5Pop 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.
You will also find some special school holiday storytimes at North Ryde, Gladesville and Pennant Hills Libraries. Plus the monthly Magic of Storytelling playgroup is on Tuesday 4th in Miriam Park, West Ryde.
And just visiting a library is a good little outing. Here is a list and map of 35+ local libraries!
6Join in the FREE fun 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.
7Play in Snow, Skate and Get Creative at Winterlight
Even little ones should have lots of winter fun at Winterlight in Prince Alfred Square these school holidays. We do recommend though going in the morning to take advantage of parents being allowed into the snow play area for free with their little ones before 12pm. Plus there are quiet times in the morning on Monday to Wednesday.
Our top picks for little ones at Winterlight are:
- Skating with the helping hand of penguins on the kids undercover ice rink
- Getting creative at one of the free kids workshops
- Enjoying the winter gardens and roving entertainment
- Going on some of the vintage carnival rides
8Ride a Scooter or Bike
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 for little ones:
9Celebrate NAIDOC Week
NAIDOC Week is a time to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There are a host of free activities and events taking place during NAIDOC week. Here are some suitable for little ones.
- NAIDOC family day at Blacktown Showground is on Tuesday 4th July, with live entertainment, kids activities and free bbq.
- Kids can paint boomerangs at Bunnings Rydalmere from 3rd to 7th July, between 12pm and 2pm.
- Burramatta is a family-friendly afternoon event along Parramatta River Foreshore on 8th July. There will be live performances, Indigenous games, native flower arranging, weaving, jewellery and tool making workshops, Gunya tent storytime, delicious bush tucker and the Blak Markets.
Getting out in nature and letting the kids explore is a wonderful free activity for everyone. And a great way to avoid the crowds of school holidays. Just remember to rug up!
We are fortunate to have plenty of bush parks in and around Parramatta and a host of kid friendly bushwalks. Some top picks are:
11Get Up Close to Animals
Animals are usually a crowd pleaser. And there are a few places you can visit where your little ones can get up close to some animals. Our top pick in winter is Wild Life Zoo at Darling Harbour. It is indoors and easy to navigate with prams and little ones. Plus, there is a storytime at 11:15am daily, where you get to hear about an animal and meet it.
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. Plus, kids go free at Featherdale Wildlife Park this July.
12Watch a Show at Rouse Hill Town Centre and Winston Hills Mall
Nearly all shopping centre’s put on free activities during school holidays. But they can get crazy busy and a lot of the activities are more geared to primary school kids. Some though are putting on shows, which make it more interesting and easier to take little ones to. Rouse Hill Town Centre has a daily Disney show and parade during the first week and a Paw Patrol show the second week. And Winston Hills Mall is putting on a Fizzics Science show.
13Visit a Museum
It may seem counter intuitive, but I have actually found that some attractions, like museums, are less busy during school holidays. I think it has to do with the fact that there aren’t big school groups visiting. And they are generally no more busy then on the weekend, at least when we go in the morning.
- Our hands down favourite is the Australian Museum. It has a large, dedicated space for kids under 5 and plenty of interesting things to see and touch. Entry is free for kids and only $15 for adults.
- The Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour is our next favourite. There is a free to use mini mariners play space. They also run a fantastic kids on deck activity area during school holidays.
- Then there is the Museum of Contemporary Art (which we have heard great things about), Rouse Hill House and Farm (with their Lego bricks exhibit), Sydney Museum (with their cool Sand in the City exhibit) and the Powerhouse Museum (with a good Wiggles Exhibit).
14Splash at a Heated Indoor Pool
There is something really nice about heading to a heated pool in winter. Some like Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre are best avoided during school holidays with little ones as they get very busy. Others, like Hornsby Aquatic Centre and Ku-ring-gai Fitness & Aquatic Centre make for a great outing. For information on other swimming centres with indoor pools, check out our kids friendly local swimming pools article.
15Take a Mini 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.
If you and your little ones don’t mind crowds, then a visit to your local shopping centre to participate in one of their activities is another option.