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The Top Free Things to do in Sydney with Kids

While family holidays are usually a great way for parents and their kids to share some quality time and form some amazing memories together, the price of a trip that includes everyone can quickly escalate, especially when all the factors such as airfares and travel, accommodation, attraction admission prices and much more begin to quickly add up - especially in a place like Sydney.

Travelling to Sydney with kids is no exception - it is, after all, Australia's largest city and has (in)famously received the title of "Australia's most expensive city" from such authority associations as The Economist for several years in a row, along with being ranked #7 on the "most expensive cities in the world" list again in 2012 (with Melbourne close behind at #8.)

Thus it becomes imperative for families to attempt to find fun things to do in Sydney with kids that are on the cheaper side of things or - even better - completely free, while still being actually enjoyable enough to justify a visit. After all, enjoyable attractions = happy kids, and happy kids = happy parents. We've put together a list of what we believe are both some of the best and most popular free things to do with kids in Sydney that provide the best balance of entertainment value with minimal - and sometimes zero - cost.

1. The Australian Museum and National Maritime Museum

Free things in Sydney with KidsWhile the mere mention of the word "museum" may instantly cause a cloud of boredom to pass across the average child's face, these two quality exhibitions that are long-time staples of Sydney each go to great lengths in an attempt to appeal to people on all ends of the age spectrum.

Sydney's Australian Museum, established in 1827, is the first originally-established museum in the country and has evolved over time to the point that it now puts a lot of effort into catering to kids as much as possible. Featuring numerous interactive, hands-on elements and exhibits that encourage participation rather than simple observation, kids will have fun trying out some of the displays while also hopefully learning something along the way. The numerous impressive exhibits that range from natural galleries through to human history, and parents with even a passing interest the the expected standard contents of a museum will also likely find themselves entertained.
Featuring numerous interactive, hands-on elements and exhibits that encourage participation rather than simple observation, kids will have fun trying out some of the displays.

While not COMPLETELY free - the museum is divided up into different sections that showcase varying exhibits, some of which are free and others which require an entry payment - the prices are highly reasonable for the amount of entertainment gained, and children aged 5 years and under will not be charged for any entry. Well-maintained, comprehensive and interesting, the Australian Museum is a great way to while away time with the family in Sydney that kids will also enjoy.

The National Maritime Museum is another alternative that is located along Darling Harbour and provides an emphasis on all things marine, yet is presented in such a way that you don't have to be either a huge ship or seafaring buff to enjoy it - and the kids will too. With completely free entry, it makes for a logical and ideal stop on the inevitable trip you'll take to see the sights of Sydney Harbour, and is full of well-preserved examples of Australian and Sydney marine history that range back from the arrival of the original settlers of the country through to the various military actions and conflicts that the Royal Australian Navy has participated in since its inception.

With such popular exhibits as full-sized and to-scale ships, an authentic submarine, and many other examples of shipping culture and history, there are plenty of things at the Maritime Museum for kids to look, learn, participate in and absorb.

2. Sydney Botanic Gardens - with Wildlife

Sydney Botanic Gardens Kids Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens aren't just a repository of some of the most beautiful flowers, plants and other flora in all of Australia; they are also home to a variety of animals that inhabit the trees and shrubbery that provides a scenic and - best of all - FREE alternative to exploring other wildlife facilities and zoos (although the selection is of wildlife is obviously not nearly as comprehensive).

Throughout all months of the year the gardens are full with the sound of birdsong, and over 100 species of birds can be found within the trees of the gardens, many of which are extremely cute and colourful such as staples like Rosellas and Black Cockatoos. Along with the birds are many marsupials which can be spotted if you and the kids are either patient, lucky or both, including Brush-tailed and Ring-tailed Possums, Greater and Sugar Gliders, and even the occasional (non-venomous!) Diamond Python. Although the wildlife is pretty to look at, a word of caution is necessary - the Gardens' rules generally advise against the hand-feeding of the animals and birds (even ducks) as the grounds staff and administration do not want to upset the balance of nature or make the creatures lazy at finding their own sources of food.

Along with being one of the "must-visit" places in Sydney for adults, the Botanic Gardens makes for an easily-reachable destination that is accessible within a short amount of travel time via public transport from all major accommodation districts near the Sydney city centre.

3. Sights and Entertainment at Darling Harbour

Sydney Harbour with KidsWhile Darling Harbour is one of the biggest tourist draw cards of Sydney in general due to its beautiful scenery and numerous famous landmarks, this may not be enough in itself to hold the attention of kids; short attention spans and lack of appreciation for "fine architecture" are a something parents are going to have to deal with. Luckily, Darling Harbour and the Circular Quay area are full of vibrant entertainment happening at all hours of the day, with plenty of street performers, balloon-benders and clowns who aim to keep the kids laughing, as well as stalls that sell ice cream and cotton candy/fairy floss to give them their sugar fix.

In terms of the Harbour itself, kids typically enjoy the experience of riding on boats and there are family Sunday tickets available at $2.50 per person that provide unlimited travel on the ferries around Harbour that will allow you to take in the sights from the waters and also drop you off at convenient locations to visit such attractions that are popular with kids including Taronga Zoo and Luna Park.

4. National Art Gallery (on Sundays for kids)

Sydney National Art Gallery Kids DayThe National Gallery of Art isn't just a stuffy place for those wearing French berets to criticise masterworks in a smug voice - while it's a great repository of art in its own right, on Sundays the facility regularly puts on concerts that are oriented towards children yet typically incorporate both animation and/or music in a celebration of these art forms that appeal directly to kids. This program, dubbed the Film Program for Children and Teens, aims to enhance the young ones' enjoyment of the Gallery's many different collections and exhibitions while emphasising the medium of film as an art form in its own right.

A range of films are chosen to best appeal to both kids and teens, and include an entertaining blend of live action, animation and classics, with age recommendations for each show given beforehand so that parents will have an idea of the level of suitability for their own kids. These concerts are free of charge, with seats available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so if you are planning to visit the gallery with the kids then it's best to allow yourself time for an early arrival. In addition, the gallery offers a special "Children's Audio Tour" aimed at kids between the ages of 7-12 that they can listen to to help "liven up" their experience of the gallery, operated through hand-held audio players.

These are just some of the most popular attractions in Sydney for kids - for more information on attractions, activities and things to do in Sydney in general, be sure to check out our main Sydney region page for hundreds of additional options!

In addition, if you're looking for more top things to do in Sydney with kids, be sure to check out our main Sydney region section for all the top tours, attractions and activities with children.