Best FREE Things To Do This Summer 2016-17

  • Family
    Mums & Bubs

By: Phoebe Ackland, ellaslist

Oh Sydney…you really do sparkle in Summer, but my goodness you’re expensive! Luckily ellaslist has kids and families covered in the warmer months with fun and, more importantly, FREE things to do in Summer across Sydney!

Kid Friendly Events

Sydney Festival
Did you know, the epic Sydney Festival offers a heap of FREE activities too! On the cheap as chips agenda includes Ferrython, Opera In The Domain, Soul of Sydney, Opera Under the Stars, Roller Jam, the night markets and a HEAP more! More information here.
Where: Various Locations in Sydney
When: 7 January- 29 January 2017

sydney festival

Chinese New Year Lunar Lanterns
Always a highlight of the Lunar New Year celebrations! Check out the 12 zodiac animals standing up to 10m tall. This year, kids can ring the ‘gong’ belly of the rooster in Chinatown, marvel at a 23m long glistening snake, and climb aboard a glowing chariot pulled by 3.5m tall horses!
Where: From the Sydney Opera House along Circular Quay to Dawes Point, with an additional rooster lantern in Chinatown
When: 27 January–12 February 2017

Sydney Hills Lunar Festival
A fun and FREE fusion of flavours, cultures and traditions. Help ring in the year of the rooster with street performances, dragon dancers, drumming & so much more. More information here.  (pictured)
Where: Bella Vista Farm Park, Cnr Norwest Blvd & Elizabeth MacArthur Drive
When: Sunday 29 January 2017; 12-9pm

hills lunar festival

Chinese New Year Dragon Boat Races
Another highlight! Kids and adults alike are invited to watch the thrilling races as flamboyantly decorated 12-metre-long boats compete in the annual Dragon Boat Races. Roving entertainment will be there for your enjoyment throughout the day.
Where: Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour
When: Saturday 11 – Sunday 12 February 2017

Where Kids Eat FREE

Cut down on family meal costs at a kid friendly Sydney restaurant or cafe! We have made a list of the best meal deals across Sydney, check it out!  Some of our favourites include The Queens Park Shed (awesome playground adjacent) where kids eat FREE for dinner on Thursdays, and the Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel (nothing says Summer like fresh seafood and sea views) where kids eat free every Sunday between 5 and 7pm! You also can’t beat the ocean views at The Avalon on the Beach where kids eat free for dinner on Fridays from 5pm.

queens park shed

Make A Splash

Sometimes all families can handle on stinking hot days is getting soaking wet! There are awesome and FREE water play parks all across Sydney- check out our complete list!

Blaxland Riverside Park has a water play area with the WOW factor, we visited recently and had a ball.

On a balmy evening, you’ll find that the water play at James Ruse is packed with families escaping the heat.

Whilst beaches are free- some are more kid friendly than others. Topping the list are the calm watered, protected swimming areas of harbour beaches- we made a list of the best ones, check it out! Our favourites are Camp Cove & Murray Rose Pool (formerly Redleaf). There are also a heap in the Eastern Suburbs, Pittwater, North Shore, Northern Beaches & South Sydney, often with a cafe and playground close-by, meaning a full day of entertainment abounds. We also spilled the beans on Sydney’s best secret beaches- find one if you can for a FREE beach day with a twist! If sun-baking and sandcastles just aren’t your family’s things, check out one of Sydney’s best action beaches where you can stand-up paddle board or learn to surf!

To make it a fun and FREE day for every member of the family, check out one of Sydney’s best dog friendly beaches. 

blaxland riverside water play

FREE Outdoor Adventures

Get outside, explore and have a FREE family adventure with something a little bit more exciting than a beach day! Hop in your (air-conditioned) car and drive to one of Sydney’s natural gems- a waterfall fit for little mermaids and mermen. We made a list of six of our favourite waterfalls, including Collins Beach Waterfall where you might just spot a fairy penguin!

To get up close and personal with some marine critters, visit one of our favourite rockpools in Sydney! You’ll spy scuttling crabs, wee little fish and who knows what else? We recommend the Bogey Hole in Bronte, or the incredible figure 8 shaped rock pools in the Royal National Park- but be careful, this one’s a truly daring adventure.

Hide from the Summer sun under the shade of a big tree in one of Sydney’s secret gardens!

Pack a picnic, don’t forget to slip, slop, slap, and enjoy the FREE and lush surrounds of the likes of Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden with harbour views. You might even spot a fairy frolicking in the petals, but don’t hold us to it.

[caption id=“attachment_113928” align=“alignnone” width=“750”]wendy garden Source: Daniel Shipp for The Design Files[/caption]

Keep Cool & Get Cultured

Did you know you can get FREE entry to heaps of great galleries and museums in Sydney? And the best part is that they are all indoors, and air conditioned to keep families out of the stifling heat.
The Australian National Maritime Museum’s “Free Galleries” ticket allows adults & children to view the permanent galleries for free, and the same goes for the Museum of Contemporary Art. Gaze into the beyond with free entry during day visits (10am-5pm) at Sydney Observatory, or learn about some Aussie history at The Rocks Discovery Museum and take advantage of their free admission policy.

[caption id=“attachment_113930” align=“alignnone” width=“750”]syd observatory Source: Museum Of Applied Arts & Sciences[/caption]

Outdoor Cinemas

Make the most of balmy nights with FREE outdoor cinemas where families can enjoy blockbusters under the stars!

Strathfield Movies in the Park is screening kids flicks The Good Dinosaur, Zootopia & Inside Out.

Movies by the Boulevard at Sydney Olympic Park is free too, and family friendly highlights include Zootopia, Storks, The Lion King, The Jungle Book & The Secret Life Of Pets.

We also love the Little Darlings Night Owls Kids Film Fest at Darling Quarter, and Cinema in the Park in Blacktown (for one night only) that offers face painting and other kids’ activities.

movies sydney olympic park

Unlikely Spots To Spend The Summer

We bet you’d never think to head to Barangaroo to cool down, but this Summer you can when The Beach At Barangaroo hits Sydney thanks to Sydney Festival. Get FREE access between 10am and 5pm, where you can submerge yourself in art- 1.1 million recyclable polyethylene balls that make an ocean without sharks, gently lapping against a 60-metre wide shoreline free of sand.

Summer in Parramatta, – the hottest place to cool down this Summer! Join in their fun and FREE family celebrations for Australia Day complete with 80m of meat at the Big BBQ, vintage car and truck displays, wild jungle face painting, magic workshops, giant bubbles, a dedicated Kids’ Crescent & SO much more!

the beach

ellaslist Recommends

Every summer, ellaslist gets super excited about the great events happening for kids and families, and we love to share our top picks. Here are some of our favourites that won’t break the bank these summer school holidays:

Kids are never too young to be introduced to the arts- this Summer, take them to the MCA where families can create, play and learn in the FREE Miyajima Family Space. Turn light into music, meditate on a lotus leaf, create a collaborative light drawing and curl up on a bean bag with a picture book in the story time corner!

family-space (1)

Nothing goes down better than kids with LEGO® or getting sandy, and this summer, you can give children BOTH! Once you’ve paid entry to the Museum of Sydney (it’s reasonable- adults for $12, kids for $8 and under 5s FREE), then you can have access to the Sand in the City exhibition for FREE! Check out amazing sand and LEGO sculptures, and then roll up your sleeves and build your own! Kids will also eat FREE at The Governor’s Table with every adult main meal if you have visited this exhibition.


This one’s only for those in the know! It’s the perfect time to visit Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary- during school holidays, kids can participate in a Pirates Treasure Hunt where they will solve problems and learn fun critter facts. Kids who dress up in their favourite pirate costume up until 29 January can receive FREE entry with a full-paying adult!


Fresh out of summer school holiday ideas? Kids starting to get bored? You NEED our free digital Guide to Summer. Get it here now!