HOT: KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil, Flemington Racecourse, Flemington

Kooza by Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil is back in Melbourne with KOOZA!

This is old school Cirque du Soleil that focuses on the  two traditional circus crafts- acrobatics and clowning.

The show begins with the Trickster arriving in a jack in the box (Kooza comes from the Sanskrit ‘Koza’ meaning box) delivered to the child like character of The Innocent. The circus unfolds with the Trickster bringing with him all sorts of characters to perform your favourite acts- high wire, contortions, hula hoops, bikes and many more.

The performance is perfectly intertwined with live music that has drawn inspiration from many styles and origins.

The King and his clowns were a crowd favourite, especially with the children in the audience. They brought humour and lightness to the narrative that, at times, did get a bit dark. Sharing the stage with the sweet Innocent, the clowns and the suave Trickster there are the skeletons, the demon clowns in their ring of death and a mysterious masked creature that pops up through man holes during the show. My seven year old adored the show and she was not the youngest there but there are some acts that may scare some young children.

Kooza by Cirque du Soleil

We really enjoyed KOOZA! Lately we have seen a lot of circus acts but this show managed to deliver new acts and a totally different spin on others. The costumes and set design are second to none and give the stage a feeling of a royal court in a distant, exotic land.

Kooza by Cirque du Soleil

All the fun is being held in the blue and yellow big top that is set up at Flemington Racecourse. Melbourne season runs until March 26 and the Perth season opens on April 13. www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza for  information and tickets.

Thanks to Kelly Devoil, blogger and mum of two, for the guest post. You can follow Kelly’s adventures at Melbourne Minor, a parent and carer’s guide to arts, culture and quirk in Melbourne.


HOT Tips:

  • Parking available on site or there is a tram stop outside the racecourse.
  • Food, drinks and a very well stocked gift shop inside the tent.
  • the performance goes for 2+ hours (with a 25 minute interval in between) so might not be suitable for younger children;
  • the performance is in the round and set up with grandstand seats, all seats have great views. Kids can also request a cushion to lift themselves higher on their seat.

KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne

20 Jan – 36 March 2017

Tickets from $60

The HOT List: Top 10 tips for visiting Hong Kong with Kids

hong kong

I have a curious relationship with Hong Kong. It is my birthplace but I don’t have many memories of it (left when I was 6 years old). I look and speak Cantonese but I don’t dress or act like a Hong Konger.

As such, my advice about travelling to Hong Kong with kids combines a foreigner’s perspective on this intense city with a sprinkling of local knowledge about where to find respite.

Here are my Top 10 tips for travelling to Hong Kong with young children.

 

1. Airport transfer

Unless you’re hauling a lot of luggage the Airport Express takes passengers to Central in just 24 minutes. Quick and comfortable, trains depart at about 10-12 minute intervals.  It costs HKD$100 to Hong Kong station (there are 3 other stops) but if you book through Klook you get a 30% discount to HKD$70.

If you take the Airport Express to the airport you can check-in your luggage at Hong Kong and Kowloon Stations between 90 minutes and one day ahead of the scheduled flight departure time. You can leave any hand luggage you don’t want to carry around at the Left Luggage counter at Hong Kong and Kowloon stations.

At the Airport Express ticket counter also buy an Octopus prepaid tap and go cards for public transport and sundries. We start our cards with HKD$200, note kids from 3-11 years have to pay ½ price. For our trip the grandparents gifted the kids a SmileyWorld Octopus ornament so they can wear and tap their own transport fares.

You can get a refund for the return of the card at the end of the trip.

If you’re taking a taxi just be aware that traffic jams can mean the fare is hugely expensive. If you have some local knowledge (or a helpful Airbnb host) it may be preferable to book a private car pickup.

 

2. Find accommodation out of the central area

On our first visit to Hong Kong as a family we decide to stay somewhere central. For 3 adults and 2 children we rent this Airbnb apartment in Wan Chai, right in the heart of the party and entertainment district.

The positive of the location is that public transport, convenience stores and eateries are all in close proximity. We also get to explore a bit of local Hong Kong culture through Wan Chai Market, the cooked food centre at Lockhart Road and the morning fitness regimes at Southorn Playground.

hong kong wan chai market

The negative of the location is the size and noise. Our apartment is relatively spacious by Hong Kong standards but tiny by Australian standards. I feel like we were all on top of each other and we are always forced to leave the apartment before the kids start climbing the walls. Also there is a bit of traffic noise from the front room even though the road doesn’t have buses or trams running along it.

Next time I visit Hong Kong with kids I’m going to stay out of the main commercial areas – Wan Chai, Admiralty, Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsiu. Maybe Repulse Bay or another stop somewhere along the new South Island MTR line with direct connection into Admiralty. Even the ‘suburban’ areas are convenient for shops and eateries as Hong Kong is such a densely populated city and as long as you’re close to the MTR it’s easy to get to the commercial areas quickly.

If you book Airbnb use my discount link to get $50 off your first booking (I also receive credit) www.airbnb.com.au/c/jwatts3?s=8

3. Use public transport

 

hong kong

Public transport in Hong Kong is generally fast, efficient and cheap. With your Octopus card you can travel on any mode of public transport easily.

I think public transport in Hong Kong is a tourist attraction in itself. There are 6 must do public transport experiences:

star ferry hong kong

  1. Ride the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour, one of the most relaxing ways to see and experience Hong Kong. Apparently the view from Tsim Sha Tsiu (Kowloon) to Central or Wan Chai (Hong Kong Island) is better but either way is really find with kids.
  2. Take a double decker bus to the Mid-Levels or the Peak. My kids LOVE sitting in the front seat of the double-decker buses for the view and I find it much easier to orientate myself on a bus than in a subway. The buses all have English stop by stop announcements too so they’re easy to navigate. A bus that winds up the Mid-Levels towards the peak takes a particularly winding route that can be fun (if you don’t suffer from motion sickness). For more scenic bus routes in Hong Kong click here.
  3. Ride the Peak Tram. Hong Kong’s oldest public transport vehicle takes a gravity-defying trip up to Victoria Peak, Hong Kong’s highest point. Pre-purchase discounted tickets via Klook or avoid the queues and combine the your ticket with other attractions via Klook.
  4. Ride a double decker tram. It’s a bit squashy, a bit hot, but trundling on a double-decker tram is a quintessential Hong Kong experience.
  5. Take the MTR. Hong Kong’s subway is fast and clean and will transport you to longer distances quickly. Just avoid the intense squash of peak hour. For short distances (eg one or two stops) I prefer the bus.
  6. Ride the Central to Mid-Levels Escalators. The world’s longest escalator takes commuters from Mid-Levels in the mornings and from Central to Mid-Levels from 10am. There’s lots of shops and eateries enroute too.

Just note that the green mini buses can be more difficult to navigate than the double decker buses. The bus stops are not always apparent, you’re allowed to flag them down but only in designated areas and they don’t always have English signage.

 

  1. Avoid peak hour

Peak hour is normally weekdays 7:30-9am and if you can avoid travelling by MTR then do so. The exchange stops of Central and Admiralty are particularly crowded because it’s the financial and business district.

Note about prams and the subway. Subway stations will normally have at least one elevator to get you from ground level to platform – but you may not be at the right entrance for such a facility. In such cases you will have to bounce or carry a pram down stairs so it’s a two-person job. It is sometimes easier taking the pram on the escalator, though technically you’re not supposed to.

 

  1. Download Uber

Uber is an international taxi, private car and rideshare app which I use regularly in Australia. It’s easy, quick and convenient.

I use Uber in Hong Kong to get to the airport with kids and luggage instead of taking the Airport Express. It’s cheaper than a standard taxi plus I can track a car’s progress and the cars and drivers are vetted and rated and I get billed to my credit card so I don’t have to fuss about with the right money.

Note that in Hong Kong child seats are not required by law but of course recommended (more info here). As such, you can use UberX vehicles with kids even thought they are private citizen’s cars.

Sign up to Uber with my referral code ‘cnoub’ to get $10 off your first ride.

 

  1.  Eat well

hong kong dim sum

Hong Kong is an international city so if you choose to you can eaten (good) Western food the whole time.

However, it’s worth trying some quintessential Hong Kong dining experiences:

  • Yum cha – there’s high end and low end options. We choose to go to Maxim’s Palace at City Hall as it’s spacious, with great views of the Hong Kong Wheel and the food is pretty good.

Hong kong maxim's palace city hall

  • Won ton noodles – It’s worth seeking out won ton noodles even though the restaurants can often a bit squashy and with no English menus. Just point! The most famous chain is Mak’s Noodle.
  • Egg puffs – a street food that’s best eaten fresh, these Hong Kong style waffles are the throwback to my childhood.

hong kong ice puff tin hau

  • Hong Kong desserts – sweet soup and glutinous rice balls are two of my favourite Chinese desserts. We try the famous steamed egg and milk puddings at cranky Yee Shun Dairy Company and the sesame and almond soup at Ching Ching Dessert.

hong kong dessert

  • Cha chaan tang – what do Hong Kongers eat for breakfast? Traditionally congee (rice porridge) but often a mish-mash of Western and Chinese food at a Cha Chaan Tang (Tea restaurant). Lady AB and I become regulars at the one in Wan Chai Market where she gets a fried egg, sausage and white toast and I get instant noodles with processed ham with tea for just HKD $34.
  • Dai pai dong – really more of a late night venue, with street food galore at rowdy, messy ‘cooked food centres’. Best to go with a recommendation and a blind eye to the dirty surroundings.

hong kong dai pai dong

For food research I like to use OpenRice, the Zomato/Urbanspoon equivalent in Hong Kong with user reviews. Many of the reviews are in Chinese but a few in English so you’ll get the gist. I find English-dominant sites like Tripadvisor/CNN etc provide more of an ‘expat’ view of the food scene in Hong Kong.

 

  1. Prepare for nightlife

hong kong disneyland

Hong Kong is a late night city – everything opens late and stays open late.

This poses problems with our early-rising crew, not aided by the 3 hour time difference which means 4am wakeups.

In the mornings we take advantage of no crowds to visit produce markets (normally open 6am) and park playgrounds to kill time before most things open at 10am.

hong kong wan chai market

  1. Hire a pocket wifi

If you are using a smartphone save on international roaming and data fees by renting a pocket wifi for your time in Hong Kong. I find it invaluable as we can search Google Maps on the go, check emails for ticket information and communicate with each other via iMessage or Whats App whenever we get separated or lost!

I book through Klook, the cheapest company I could find for 7 day hire with 1GB data usage for HKD$60. You pick up the pocket wifi at the Airport Arrivals terminal and drop off at the same place. Easy.

 

  1. Book ahead for attractions

hong kong disneyland

If you’re visiting the big theme parks Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park Hong Kong then book ahead to get discount tickets sent to your email/mobile and avoid waiting in queues.

 

  1. Find some quiet

hong kong park

Hong Kong is an intense, noisy and busy city and when you’re travelling with young kids you need to find some respite.

It’s highly likely that your accommodation will be too small to hang out comfortably for long periods so seek out playgrounds inside parks, Hong Kong Central Library (including the Toy Library) and the Star Ferry.

kowloon park hong kong


Note: This post contains Klook affiliate links. If you purchase via affiliate links there is no extra cost to you and I receive a small commission. I used Klook in Hong Kong with no problems and saved time and money! Check out all the discount activities, tours and attractions they offer here.

 

HOT: Summer Pirate Playground, Harbour Town Melbourne, 440 Docklands Drive, Docklands

Pirate Playground Harbour Town

Ahoy me mateys! Pirates have run aground at Harbour Town Melbourne and you can join in free pirate playground activities and experiences at the shopping centre’s Summer Pirate Playground from 16 January – 26 February.

Pirate Playground Harbour Town

At the Neverland Adventure Experience you can clash swords with Peter Pan in the foam pit…

Pirate Playground Harbour Town

….take a walk through Treasure Island and meet characters from Peter Pan….

Pirate Playground Harbour Town

….and participate in pirate craft inside the giant Neverland tall-ship with different activities every week.

Pirate Playground Harbour Town

We were also invited by Harbour Town to experience a special pirate-themed Enterprize Tall Ship, sailing from Melbourne City Marina just across the road from Harbour Town. The Enterprize is a replica of John Pascoe Fawkner’s Schooner Enterprize – the ship that sailed from Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1835 with the first permanent white settlers that started Melbourne.

Pirate Playground Harbour Town

Pirate Playground Harbour Town

A sail on the Enterprize Tall Ship is a fun way to admire Melbourne and its surrounds and there are regular sails leaving from Docklands,Williamstown, Mornington and Geelong, sometimes with pirates aboard! The public summer sailing schedule is here.

Pirate Playground Harbour Town

For more pirate fun in Melbourne check out this playground and this playground.


HOT Tips:

  • in busy times you may need to wait to enter the playground if it’s near capacity. I suggest going right at 11am or close to 2pm;
  • the craft village is inside the tall ship;
  • playground is not shaded so wear a hat and sunscreen;
  • craft activities are different every week so check the schedule;
  • Harbour Town has pram access, baby change facilities and feeding areas;
  • accessible via free tram zone, Southern Cross station or 2 hour street parking and $10 all day parking; and
  • The Enterprize has public sails from Docklands, Williamstown, Mornington and Geelong and fees apply.

Summer Pirate Playground, Plaza near Degani Cafe,Harbour Town Melbourne, 440 Docklands Drive Docklands

Neverland Adventure Experience and Pirate Craft Village open Mon 16 Jan – Sun 29 Jan 11-2pm and every weekend in February 11-2pm

Australia Day treasure hunt 26 Jan 11-6pm

HOT: Australia Day at Government House, Government House Dr, Melbourne

Australia Day Government House

Every year on Australia Day, the official residence of Victoria’s Governor-General, Government House, opens its doors and the gardens to the public.

Australia Day Government House

It’s one of the best things to do with kids on Australia Day and all the activities are free!

This is the one opportunity for the community to visit the historic house and its extensive gardens and so the lineup can be long ahead of the gates opening at 9:30am. My tips is get there around 9am with snacks and sunscreen – there’s normally someone handing out balloons along the queue and street entertainment.

Australia Day Government House

Generally the forecourt area host displays from community services such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Country Fire Authority.

Australia Day Government House

Kids can have the opportunity to visit the inside of a RFD plane and to ride a CFA fire engine.

Australia Day Government House

Last year Collingwood Children’s Farm had a penned area to pet some of the animals.

Australia Day Government House

Inside the building Inside the Brick set up an amazing Lego display of Government House as well as free Lego play. That was the only part of Government House we saw as the kids were not so interested in touring the building. You can access it from the side entrance without having to go through all of the house.

Australia Day Government House

Australia Day Government House

Various sporting clubs also have try-out activities, include croquet and tennis and AFL plus free face painting.

Australia Day Government House

Australia Day Government House

For refreshments there are various food trucks and cheap and delicious scones from the Country Women’s Association. Otherwise BYO picnic and enjoy the live music throughout the day on the West Lawn.

Australia Day Government House

Just outside Government House other Australia Day festivities include the multicultural Australia Day Parade down Swanston St/St Kilda Road and the RACV Australia Day Festival Kings Domain.

Australia Day Government House

Australia Day Government House

Click here for all events happening in Melbourne for Australia Day.


HOT Tips:

  • Government House is 1.5 kilometres and a 20-minute walk from Flinders Street Station. There is no vehicle access to Government House;
  • Parking is limited and parts of St Kilda Road are closed off for the Australia Day parade. If you arrive early you may find a paid parking spot further down St Kilda Road or surrounding streets;
  • Bring hat, sunscreen, water as there’s not a lot of shade;
  • Arrive at 9am to beat the queues;
  • Free entry
  • Access is pram friendly.

Australia Day at Government House Government House Dr, Melbourne

9.30 am to 3.30 pm.

Self-guided tour of the State Apartments 10.00 am to 3.00 pm             

HOT: NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017, NGV International and NGV Australia, 180 St Kilda Rd and Federation Square, Melbourne

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

From Monday 16 January to Australia Day Thursday 26 January the National Gallery Victoria on St Kilda Road (NGV International) and Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square (NGV Australia) are hosting its annual NGV Kids Summer Festival with 11 days of FREE events for families.

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

This year the festival’s activities are inspired by David Hockney: Current and Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists and the artists’ shared love of dogs.

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

You can design your own paper dog with illustrator Alice Oehr….

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

….and then take your dog for a walk in Alice’s dog park…

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

… make magical masks with Kitiya Palaskas..

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

…watch sausages become sausage dogs with Soft Stories adorable installation ‘A Matter of Factory’…

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

…plus participate in kids yoga, magician performances and other creative workshops with local artists.

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

On Australia Day make sure you have a front row seat for the dachshund fashion parade!

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

Check out the full program at ngv.vic.gov.au plus of course don’t forget the current exhibitions suitable for kids – the NGV Car Wash and Atelier: Viktor & Rolf for Kids.

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017


HOT Tips:

  • all of the sessions are free and drop-in, so get there right at the start at 10am or close to 3pm when it finishes (gallery closes at 5pm). It gets really, really busy;
  • not all workshops are available every day. If there’s a specific workshop/performance you want to attend check the calendar and double-check at which gallery it’s being held;
  • Also check out Atelier: Viktor & Rolf for Kids and the NGV Car Wash. The sculpture garden is a great spot for lunch;
  • While you’re at NGV also check out:

NGV Kids Summer Festival 2017, NGV International and NGV Australia, 180 St Kilda Rd and Federation Square, Melbourne

Monday 16 Jan – Thursday 26 Jan 10am-3pm

Gallery open 10-5pm daily

Free, no bookings

HOT: Screen Worlds, ACMI Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Melbourne

Screen Worlds ACMI

ACMI stands for the Australian Centre for Moving Image and it’s Australia’s national museum for film, television, video games, digital culture and art. The free Screen Worlds exhibition is a fantastic destination for families.

Screen Worlds ACMI

I had always assumed that Screen Worlds was a historical display and thus aimed at older kids who could read exhibition plaques. In reality it’s a lot more interactive than that and there is a fantastic Kids Space area that’s great for under 5s (as well as older kids).

Screen Worlds ACMI

Lady AB skips past all of the displays and zooms straight into the Kids Space. It features four mounted ipads filled with fun and educational games and two TV screens with a selection of cute short films. Lady AB plays tic tac toe with The Gruffalo, reads storybooks and helps a toy rabbit get dressed and fed!

Screen Worlds ACMI

In this i-generation even the youngest baby seems to know how to swipe and click and by the time they’re Lady AB’s age (5) they can pretty much manage the iPad games and TV touch screens without much adult supervision. As such, the Kids Space area a very relaxing place to hang out if you need to have some zone out time with electronic babysitters!

Screen Worlds ACMI

Baby 2.0’s favourite area is the Games Lab, with a semi-circle of TV screens and a selection of iconic video games. He tries to play Mario Kart a couple of times, never gets the hang of the joystick, but seems to enjoy trying and watching the other kids play. As you can imagine it’s a particularly popular area with kids so it’s worth visiting at opening time 10am so you can grab a console.

Screen Worlds ACMI

The Games Lab has a dedicated Minecraft area too which is hot demand. 

Screen Worlds ACMI

The kids are so absorbed by the Kids Space and Games Lab that I am able to spend some time wandering through the exhibits.

Screen Worlds ACMI

You’ll find Dexter, the Perfect Match Robot…

Screen Worlds ACMI

…. the car from Mad Max…

Screen Worlds ACMI

….and other Australian cinema paraphernalia and interactive works. If you have more time you can deep dive into different cinematic themes and watch lots of content. We just scratch the surface of all that’s available!

There is a free ‘Kids Trail’ self-guided activity booklet to help younger visitors navigate the exhibition but to be honest the games and iPads hold much more attraction!

As well as presenting Screen Worlds ACMI holds family-friendly exhibitions, film screenings (including the popular Kids Flicks) and free and paid workshops and activities every school holidays.

Screen Worlds ACMI

In January 2017 younger kids can make a flip book and thaumatrope at drop in sessions of Flip It and Spin It. Most of the other sessions are for children 8+ years. More info on school holiday programs here.

ACMI Cafe Bar

After your visit to Screen Worlds drop into the ACMI Cafe and Bar. It has loads of room for prams, booths, high chairs and a choice of children’s dishes for $12.

Note if you’re a frequent visitor to ACMI it’s worth taking up ACMI’s household membership. It provides discounted rates for ACMI programs and activities, $12 parking at Federation Square, discounts at the ACMI shop and cafe and free member-only screenings. On joining you receive 2 x Member Exhibition Pass for a paid exhibition and 4 x Member Cinema Pass, which basically covers the cost of your membership fee of $90. Click here for other must-have memberships for Melbourne families.


HOT Tips:

  • Free entry into Screen Worlds;
  • Arrive at 10am for better access to the most popular areas for kids – the Kids Space and Games Lab. Gets busy by 11am, especially during school holidays;
  • Meet daily in front of Screen Worlds at 11am or 2:30pm for a guided tour;
  • There is a free ‘Kids Trail’ self-guided activity booklet to help younger visitors navigate the exhibition;
  • Kids’ Flicks films for kids and families screen regularly. All sessions are ticketed at the ACMI Kids’ Flick rate of $8;
  • For snacks and food visit the ACMI Cafe and Bar;
  • Within ACMI you’ll find disabled toilets;
  • Join ACMI’s household membership for discounts; and
  • Access via public transport (Flinders St station) or on weekdays park for up to 3 hours and only pay for 1 hour by using Book A Bay at Wilson Parking at Federation Square.

Screen Worlds, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square Melbourne (03) 8663 2200

Daily 10-5pm except Christmas Day

Free entry, other paid exhibitions and workshops

Summer school holidays activities 4-25 January

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