The HOT List: Top 10 blog posts of 2016

New Year’s Eve is the time when everyone is reflecting on the year that was – and so I’m joining in with the Top 10 TOT: HOT OR NOT Blog Posts of 2016.

This year has been a milestone for me and the blog. I have a million ideas about what I’d like to review and what I want the blog to become. With Lady AB starting school I have finally been able to devote consistent blocks of time to create content, interact with readers and be more strategic and organised with social media. Baby 2.0 has taken centrestage with more of the ‘kid-testing’ in between his busy 3yo schedule. I’ve accepted more guest posts and contributions and FINALLY started a weekly newsletter after years of procrastination.

These top blog posts of 2016 are those chosen by you – the posts that were the most shared, commented on, engaged with and emailed about. If you missed them, then this is the best way to catch up on the year!

#1 Top 25 Places to Go and Things to Do with Babies and Toddlers in Melbourne

A reader question prompted this blog post and so if you have something you’d like to ask me, please feel free to email me at any time!

The list is huge but trust me, you’ll refer back to it again and again.

#2 Top 40 of Australia’s best playgrounds

wulaba park waterloo sydney

It’s a bucket list for travelling families! I’ve used the list to discover destinations in Victoria and referred to the list when we visited Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane.

#3 Fig and Walnut

A wonderful family friendly cafe in quiet Seddon, with a cubby play space and interesting menu.

#4 Playshed Cafe

Playshed Cafe, 6 Abruzzo Crescent, Thomastown

An indoor play centre just for under 8s – wall to wall soft fall furnishings and foam.

#5 Top 18 Family Friendly Restaurants in Melbourne CBD

It’s an ongoing problem – where to take the kids to eat in trendy, tiny, laneway-ridden Melbourne CBD?

#6 Top 10 Indoor Places to go with Kids in Melbourne

Melbourne weather is so unreliable that you need the list of indoor play spots up your sleeve.

#7 Megasaurus Dinosaur Playground

Megasaurus Dinosaur Playground Cranbourne East

Awesome dinosaur-themed playground for adventurous climbers.

#8 Kodama Coffee

Hipster cool comes to Williamstown with matcha waffles combined with chalkboards and high chairs for the little ones.

#9 Stomping Ground Beer Hall

Stomping Ground Collingwood

Craft beer and a cubby play space for kids? Cheers to that!

#10 Family Friendly Wyndham – Top 10 Places to go with kids

Only 30 minutes from the CBD and a great location for a half or full day adventure with kids.

What has been your favourite blog post of 2016? Leave a comment below – I’d love to know!

HOT: Splashland Inflatable Water Slide Park, Mornington Racecourse and Caulfield Racecourse

Splashland is the newest pop up attraction for the Melbourne summer – an inflatable water slide park for kids and their adults!  It is currently set up at Mornington Racecourse 27 December – 8 January and then Caulfield Racecourse from 11 January – 24 January.

Think Inflatable World meets Slide the Park. It includes three big inflatable water slides, a water obstacle course and two small slides for the under 5s.


Each day there is a choice of a morning (10-1pm) or afternoon (1-4pm) session and we find three hours to be plenty of time.

Adults have the choice of a slider or non slider ticket. Keep in mind that there is only one slide that adults are allowed to slide on, even with a wristband, so unless you’re desperate to have a slide it will be a more economical option to just go for the non-sliding ticket.

Kids are given a different colour wristband depending on age – over 5s and under 5s.

Under 5s get to go on the two small slides in the ‘seal pup’ area only. These two slides are still quite steep and children need to be able to climb up themselves to slide. Our 4 year old wasn’t able to though I’m sure many 3+ could. There are also some colouring in tables but obviously in comparison to water slides these were not the big attraction and are largely ignored.

As such, entertainment for the under 5s is very limited and it’s not really worth taking them along (the only thing Rav (4) participated in today was the ice cream eating!). There is no water play apart from the slides and obstacle course.


The 5-12yr olds are able to slide on everything unlimited for the three hours. Mini, who is seven, finds the biggest slide a bit intimidating so it means not being able to slide together. She really enjoys the water obstacle course ‘the reef’ but this would have been even more fun if she had a buddy sliding with her as it is set up as a race and attendants keep friends/family together.


Our morning’s session is not crowded so lining up is pretty minimal. The set up of the sheep runs to each slide is obviously catering to much larger crowds so I expect some sessions will be busier.

Inside the Splashland zone there are typical food choices from the two cafe vans – ice cream, coffee, sausage in bread etc. and lots of tables and chairs under umbrellas to make camp for your session. There is also a big screen that is showing the cricket on our visit.

Splashland is a fun attraction aimed at kids 5+ years who can confidently and happily climb big, wet inflatable structures and deal with large crowds of enthusiastic kids. If you have under 5s best to leave them behind!

Thanks to Kelly Devoil for her guest post. Kelly is a mum of two and blogger at Melbourne Minor, a parent and carer’s guide to arts, culture and quirk in Melbourne.

HOT Tips:

  • best suited to families with older kids 5+ years and, if you can, go with other kids who are 5+. It will make lining up and the obstacle course a lot more fun;
  • adults are only allowed one one slide so unless you’re desperate to slide buy a cheaper non-slider ticket;
  • Remember the hats and sunscreen;
  • Change rooms and toilets on site;
  • The cafes accept cards;
  • Plenty of free parking on site;
  • The are no public transport options while Splashland is located at Mornington but when it relocates to Caulfield it will be easy to get to from Caulfield Station; and
  • Tickets are available online or at the gate. All sessions are subject to cancellation for bad weather in which case a refund or alternate session are offered.

Splashland, Mornington Racecourse (27 Dec – 8 Jan) and Caulfield Racecourse (11-24 Jan)

Daily sessions 10-1pm, 1-4pm

Teen and adult (`13+ years) non-sliding entry $5

Teen and adult (13+ years) sliding entry $15

Tots (3-5 years) $9

Kids (5-12 years) $31.50


Thanks to Splashland I am giving away 1 x family pass (2 adults 2 kids ) for any remaining dates.

To win just follow the instructions below. The competition closes midnight Monday 16 January and the winner will be notified via email for postage details. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rhythm of Africa, Werribee Open Range Zoo – Giveaway!

Rhythm of Africa giveaway

Werribee Zoo is open late for ‘Rhythm of Africa’ every Saturday night in January and February and it’s a regular event on our summer itinerary.  There’s live music, African-inspired food, dancing, drumming, hair braiding, kids activities, safari tours and a fun way to explore the zoo in the cool of a summer’s evening.

From 4:30-8:30pm, there’s an evening performance for kids before the headline act at 5:30pm. Safari Tours run until 6pm and the African Pula Trail, the walking track around the zoo, remains open until 8pm.

Rhythm of Africa is included as part of general admission, which means children under 16 are free and it’s included as part of your Zoos Victoria membership. No pre-booking or special tickets are required.

Rhythm of Africa is one of the events listed in the TOT summer holidays bucket list! Click here for more ideas for summer fun in Melbourne.

Rhythm of Africa, Werribee Open Range Zoo, K Road, Werribee South +61 3 9731 9600

Every Saturday 7 January to 25 February 2017

General admission ticket permits entry from 9am, events 4:30pm-8:30pm.


Thanks to Zoos Victoria I have 3 x double adult passes for a single visit to Rhythm of Africa (which includes general entry to Werribee Zoo) on any Saturday from 7 January to 25 February 2017. Kids under 16 get in free.  

To win all you have to do is follow the instructions below. Competition closes midnight Wednesday 4 January and winners must respond with their details by midday Thursday 5 January so the tickets can be posted out express post for arrival in Friday 6 January. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The HOT List: Summer Holidays Bucket List for Melbourne families

summer holidays melbourne

We made it! Christmas is coming so I’m signing off on the blog for 2016!

For the next two weeks I’ll be taking a break on the Gold Coast and Hong Kong (follow my adventures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) so I wanted to leave you with this – my summer holidays bucket list!

If you’re on social media I’d LOVE to see what you’re up to this summer. Please use #tothotornot #totsummer on your posts so we can all be inspired to enjoy a fun, restful and HOT summer holidays!


Sun 1 Jan – Visit the National Gallery of Victoria

NGV car wash

National Gallery of Victoria is one of the few public institutions open on New Year’s Day and in our experience it’s a great time to go, especially in the morning. The gallery is virtually empty which means you’ll be able to run riot at the NGV Car Wash and Atelier: Viktor & Rolf for Kids.

National Gallery of Victoria

Daily 10-5pm


Mon 2 Jan – Get splashy

Splashland is a new inflatable water slide park with 7,000m2 of slippery summertime fun for kids. See you at the bottom!

Splashland Mornington Racecourse: 27 Dec 2016 – 8 Jan 2017

Splashland Caulfield Racecourse: 11 Jan – 24 Jan 2017

Tickets from $9 for under 5s


Tue 3 Jan – Road trip to the Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road Chocolate

Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Icecreamery is a delicious family-friendly destination on the Great Ocean Road in Bellbrae from the founders of the popular Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice creamery in Yarra Glen.

The shop, cafe and gardens are a perfect destination if you’re taking a trip to the Great Ocean Road. They also run junior chocolatier classes for kids!

Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Icecreamery

1200 Great Ocean Road, Bellbrae

Daily 9am-5pm

Wed 4 Jan – Iggety, ziggety, zaggety, ZOOM!

room on the broom

Zooming onto the stage this summer, the magical, musical adaptation of the award-winning picture book Room on the Broom is coming to the Arts Centre Melbourne.

Room on the Broom, Arts Centre Melbourne

Wed 4 Jan  – 15 January 2017

Tickets from $26


Thu 5 Jan – Have a playdate with Peppa Pig

Visit Peppa’s house, sail on the pond, jump in bouncy muddy puddles and have a special playdate with Peppa, sit on a picnic rug to watch a musical show starring Peppa Pig and George live on stage, visit Danny Dog in the music room to play musical instruments and ride on Grandpa’s train.

Peppa Pig Playdate, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

Thursday 5 to Monday 9 January

Tickets from $45.90


Fri 6 Jan – Enjoy free water play

riverwalk water park

Enjoy free water play at Riverwalk, an amazing splashy playground in Werribee. Click here for more free water play areas.


Sat 7 Jan – Explore the zoo in the cool of the evening

Rhythm of Africa, Werribee Open Range Zoo, K Road, Werribee South

Werribee Zoo is open late for ‘Rhythm of Africa’ every Saturday night in summer. There’s live music, African-inspired food, dancing, drumming, hair braiding, kids activities, safari tours and more!


Sun 8 Jan – Go Fruit picking

sunny ridge

Go on a day trip to pick strawberries at the Mornington Peninsula’s Sunny Ridge or go cherry picking in the Yarra Valley at Cherryhill Orchards.


Mon 9 Jan – Learn about robots

Over the summer holidays, Scienceworks are rolling out the robots, rollbots and drones in workshops, activities and shows.

Book into a Lego or Sphero Robotics Workshops where you’ll learn how robots move, sense their environment, and ‘think.’


Tue 10 Jan – Enjoy scientific fun

SciencePlay Kids Maidstone

SciencePlay Kids are holding special school holiday programs for 6-10 year olds in January for $20 per child and $5 siblings (who can be under 6).


Wed 11 Jan – Visit the music festival just for kids

MusicPlay Melbourne Recital Centre

Melbourne Recital Centre’s annual children’s music festival ‘Music Play’ is back this year with another fun program. We’ll be heading to Justine Clarke and The Race for the Chinese Zodiac.

Music Play, Melbourne Recital Centre

11-14 January


Thu 12 Jan – Learn about digital technology and films

Screen Worlds ACMI

With a huge suite of creative workshops as well as screenings of popular film classics, there’s something for kids of all ages during ACMI’s school holiday program. The free Screen Worlds exhibition is worth visiting too.

ACMI, Federation Square

Daily 10-5pm

Free, workshops paid


Fri 13 Jan – Visit Melbourne Museum

Pauline Gandel Children's Gallery Melbourne Museum

Melbourne Museum children’s gallery is ah-mazing. Check out the dinosaur digs, giant climbing frame, sensory play areas and train station.

Melbourne Museum Nicholson St Carlton

Daily 10-5pm

Adults $14, children free


Sat 14 Jan – Visit a beach playground

Carrum Beach Playground, 15 Old Post Office Lane, Carrum Beach Foreshore, Carrum

Carrum Beach is one of our favourite beaches in Melbourne with a gorgeous nautical-themed playground on the foreshore. Also check out the beach playgrounds we’ve reviewed at Williamstown, Altona, Albert Park and Frankston.


Sun 15 Jan – So Frenchy So Chic

Head to the sophisticated French music festival where the kids get in free and there’s a whole section devoted to families.

So Frenchy So Chic, Werribee Park

Sun 15 Jan

$89 per adult, kids free


Mon 16 Jan – Enjoy the free art festival for kids

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2016, NGV International and NGV Australia, 180 St Kilda Rd and Federation Square, Melbourne

Enjoy eleven days of free artist-led workshops and spectacular performances for kids at NGV International and NGV Australia.

Mon 16 Jan – Thu 26 Jan, 10AM–3PM DAILY

NGV International and NGV Australia



Tue 17 Jan – Australian Open

The Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific takes over Melbourne 16-29 January. Even if you’re not a tennis fan you can enjoy the free family-friendly activities at the AO Festival at Birrarung Marr.

Australian Open Festival, Birrarung Marr

16-29 Jan



Wed 18 Jan – Sample the world’s cuisines

Queen Victoria Night Market, Elizabeth St & Victoria St, Melbourne

Head to Melbourne’s oldest night market every Wednesday at Queen Victoria Night Market. If you’re southside there’s also the South Melbourne Night Market every Thursday night in January and February too.

Queen Victoria Night Market

Every Wednesday 5-10pm

16 Nov 2016 to 8 Mar 2017

South Melbourne Night Market

Every Thursday 5:30-8:30pm

5 Jan – 23 Feb


Thu 19 Jan – Hang out at the pool

North Melbourne Recreation Centre pool, 1 Macaulay Rd, North Melbourne

Head to your favourite public pool for some splashy fun. North Melbourne pool is only open during the summer months so make the most of the water play there.


Fri 20 Jan – Eat gelato

miinot gelato

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Work your way through my list of Melbourne’s best ice cream and gelato.


Sat 21 Jan – Open air cinema

Watch a film at one of the several open air cinemas dotted around Melbourne – Moonlight Cinema, QV Cinema and at Barkly Square.

Many councils also hold free outdoor cinema screenings (and live music concerts) over summer – check out your local council’s website for more info.


Sun 22 Jan – Catch a crab

Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary, 420 Beach Rd, Beaumaris

Explore marine life in the shallow rockpools of the marine sanctuary at Ricketts Point and Point Gellibrand


Mon 23 Jan – Take your scooter out for a scoot

Micro Scooter Altona Beach

Altona Beach is a fantastic bay beach with long stretches of sand, a pier, cafes and a beach playground. It’s also one of the best places to scoot in Melbourne.


Tue 24 Jan – Catch a movie

Beat the heat and hide in your local cinema to catch the latest family-friendly flicks.

 Vjunior is a special cinema designed for children aged 3 to 10 years. It features a dedicated play area in the foyer, and two cinemas that are specifically designed for kids. Vjunior is exclusive to Village Cinemas and is open at Westfield Southland at the moment.


Wed 25 Jan – Get ready for the Year of the Rooster

Chinese New Year falls on Saturday 28 January this year. Celebrate the Year of the Rooster with dumplings at family friendly Din Tai Fung.


Thu 26 Jan – Australia Day

Here’s what’s on in Melbourne for Australia Day celebrations. We highly recommend the Government House Open Day event where you can tour the main House and enjoy lots of free family friendly activities.

HOT: Peppa Pig Playdate, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Southbank

Peppa Pig Playdate

The hottest ticket for toddlers and preschoolers this summer has got to be the new Peppa Pig interactive experience Peppa Pig Playdate! We got a sneak peek of the set today and Lady AB said ‘this place is so fun, I never want to leave!’

Peppa Pig Playdate

Peppa Pig Playdate is even better than a traditional stage show because families can actually visit and experience many of the places that feature in the TV series and get close to their favourite characters.

You can visit Peppa’s house and help sort the recycling…

Peppa Pig Playdate

….’sail’ on the pond by riding little duck-themed trikes around…

Peppa Pig Playdate

….or if you’re under 3, play with some of the toys in the middle of the pond…

Peppa Pig Playdate

…ride on Grandpa’s train and wave to Peppa….

Peppa Pig Playdate

….or enjoy some quieter time with colouring-in, craft and a musical show starring Peppa Pig and George.

For my kids the highlight is the area where you can jump to your heart’s content in inflatable muddy puddles!


Young fans can have their photo taken with Peppa Pig during your timed ‘playdate’.

Peppa Pig Playdate

Peppa Pig Playdate tickets are already popular and a new date has just been released for Melbourne Wednesday 4 January. Don’t miss out!

Peppa Pig Playdate

HOT Tips:

  • most suitable for kids 2+ years who are able to walk;
  • pram parking available at front of entrance but not permitted inside;
  • each timed session is 2 hours, which is about the right time for attention span and energy for little kids;
  • on entry you are provided with a timed ‘playdate’ and location of playdate with Peppa Pig. BYO camera;
  • ideally have 1 adult to 1 child ratio. There are different zones and many exciting things to do and I found it stressful trying to keep track of children as they ran in different directions!;
  • there’s active and quiet play areas;
  • you can BYO food and drink, there are a few picnic benches dotted around where you can sit;
  • line up about 10 minutes before your scheduled playdate;
  • toilets and change table facilities available; and
  • take public transport to Southern Cross station then tram down to Spencer St.

Peppa Pig Playdate, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Southbank

Wednesday 4 to Monday 9 January Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

Saturday 14 to Wednesday 18 January Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

Wednesday 25 to Sunday 29 January International Convention Centre Sydney

Saturday 8 to Wednesday 12 April Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre

Thursday 20 to Sunday 23 April Adelaide Showgrounds

HOT: Harleston Park, 40 Allison Rd, Elsternwick

Harleston Park Elsternwick

**A concept design has been developed for new play and activity spaces which complement the existing natural water play area and introduces new sensory elements and a range of play areas. There are a number of ways to provide feedback, including Council’s Have Your Say forum online at or via email The opportunity to provide feedback on the concepts is available until Wednesday 12 July 2017.

Harleston Park in Elsternwick is a quiet, pretty park with a popular playground in its centre as well as surrounding picnic and barbecue facilities.

The playground is a large colourful plastic structure, commonplace in many local playgrounds, but there are two distinguishing features which make it a drawcard. 

Harleston Park Elsternwick

Firstly, there’s a riverbed water play area with natural elements such as stepping stones and greenery. BYO bucket!

Harleston Park Elsternwick

Secondly, there is a very tall and long metal slide off to the side of the hill. Naturally it does get hot in the high heat of summer but it is a very popular feature in the playground.

Harleston Park Elsternwick

Otherwise, the rest of the playground features two banks of swings, a see-saw and various poles, ramps and climbing apparatus in amongst the walkways. Away from the main playground is a giant chess board (no chess pieces visible to me though) and a bocce court. Note ball games and bikes aren’t allowed, so it’s great for protecting babies and toddlers but may not appeal to older kids.

Large trees provide natural shade surrounding the playground, great for picnics. There’s also public toilets,  a water tap and free street parking on the street.

For other free water play areas in Melbourne click here.

HOT Tips:

  • Suitable for babies;
  • Free parking on the street;
  • public toilets ;
  • Picnic shelters and barbecues;
  • Natural shade;
  • Water play; and
  • rotunda can be booked for parties.

Harleston Park, 40 Allison Rd, Elsternwick

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