The Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament is increasingly expanding its offering beyond pure tennis, with music, movies, food, activities and more all adding to the sporting experience.
Tennis is one of the few sports that I actually understand and enjoy watching! This year’s Australian Open (Monday 14 January – Sunday 27 January 2019) is even more family-friendly than ever so I’m excited to take my kids along.
Here are my Top 10 Tips for Visiting the Australian Open with kids.
The AO Festival is free
If you don’t have a ground pass or arena tickets you can still get into the Australian Open spirit by visiting the free AO Festival.
It’s mostly located on the lower terrace of Birrarung Marr, while the upper terrace has outdoor seating and food stands there.
Inside the AO Festival, you’ll find ANZ Hot Shots courts, sponsor activations, a Fan Shop, food trucks, giant video screens, the Garden State Hotel pop up. There’s also ticketed music on the AO Live Stage.
They are also showing free movies as part of the AO Sports Film Festival over the two weeks.
2. Kids Ground Passes are $5
The best value ticket for kids aged 3-14 years to visit inside Melbourne Park are the ground passes for just $5. You’ll still have to pay for your adult ground pass ($54) but the combined cost offers a full day of tennis-related fun. Even if your child is not really a tennis fan there is plenty of activities within Melbourne Park to keep everyone entertained all day.
You can buy your Ground Passes online or at the door. The least busy ticket office for Ground Passes only is located just outside the exit of Richmond train station, along Olympic Boulevard. If you are needing Centre Court or other court passes then you’ll need to go to the ticket office further along at Eastern Plaza.
3. Take public transport or ride a bike
There is next to no parking around Melbourne Park, so don’t even try.
If you’re taking the train then get out at Richmond instead of Flinders Street if you want to head to the AO Ballpark kids area first. If you enter from Flinders St/Birrarung Marr/AO Festival the AO Ballpark is literally the other end of the ground.
Even if you have no interest in AO Ballpark the line for entering Melbourne Park is a lot shorter than the main entrance. Have a look at the security line at Birrarung Marr when gates open at 10am!
If you’re taking the number 70 tram then there are three stops – 7B Rod Laver, 7C Melbourne Arena (formerly Hisense Arena) and 7D AAMI Park. For the AO Ballpark, you want 7D AAMI Park.
We opt to cycle to Melbourne Park and there is bike parking along Olympic Boulevard and outside Richmond station. The ride along the Yarra River to Melbourne Park is lovely and we avoid all the whining associated with walking in the heat!
Note there are also designated Uber pickup and dropoff points along Olympic Boulevard.
4. Head to the AO Ballpark first
The AO Ballpark is the dedicated area just for kids and families. It’s located at the Richmond station end of Melbourne Park, near the National Tennis Centre. There most direct entrance to the AO Ballpark is on Olympic Boulevard, near Richmond Station and 7D AAMI Park tram stop.
Grab an AO Ballpark Passport on the way in which contains some activities and a handy pocket guide to the Ballpark Stage Schedule and site map.
5. Be aware of age and height restrictions at AO Ballpark
AO Ballpark has lots of cool activations inside, but don’t promise the kids anything unless you know that they’ll meet age height restrictions.
For instance, the rock climbing and Kia Junior Drive requires children to be 8 years old and 130cm+ and the 55m water slide requires children to be 110cm+. Basically, the AO Ballpark is geared towards kids 5+ years.
Little ones can go into the Super Soaker Blast – but to be honest are likely to be bowled over by the bigger kids.
The main stage also has regular shows such as Peppa Pig and Octonauts and younger kids can join in most of the ANZ Tennis Hot Shots activities.
Note that you need to book ahead for the Kia Junior Driving experience at bit.ly/kiajrdrive. Select your day and time and present your ticket for scanning at the time of your booking.
6. Bring bathers and closed toed shoes to AO Ballpark
If you want to do the rock climbing, the Kia Junior Drive or the Australian Ninja Warriors course you will need to wear closed toed shoes. I didn’t think of putting anyone in closed toed shoes in 38-degree heat so Lady AB was very annoyed when she was not allowed to go on the course in her sandals!
The water slide is VERY wet so unless you’re happy for your kids to be completely soaked it’s best to bring bathers and a towel. We bring our trusty Tesalate super-absorbent travel towel!
7. BYO Food and water bottle
The main food/hospitality area is at Grand Slam Oval which is a bit of a hike from the AO Ballpark, especially in the heat.
Midway between AO Ballpark and Grand Slam Oval is the Emirates Family Sanctuary area with a kiosk and Haagen Daaz ice cream van. Melbourne Arena also has their standard food stalls open.
Keep everyone hydrated by regularly filling up at water stations with your refillable water bottle. The Australian Open Fan Shop sell souvenir water bottles if you forget to bring your own.
8. Slip slop slap
The heat in Melbourne during the Australian Open can be brutal. On our visit the UV rating is ‘Extreme’ so it’s important to bring a hat, wear sunscreen and if you can bear it, clothing that covers you. And seek out shade!
If you do forget your sunscreen, fortunately there are lots of promotional people and stands spruiking La Roche-Posay Sunscreen throughout Melbourne Park so there’s no excuse not to be protected.
If the heat is getting too much then hang out in the carpeted, air-conditioned foyer area surrounding Melbourne Arena. A ground pass will get you general admission seating for matches inside Melbourne Arena.
9. Hang out at the Emirates Family Sanctuary
After you’ve experienced the AO Ballpark head to the rest of Melbourne Park and stop off at the Emirates Family Sanctuary. There are two free Lego tables, comfy beanbags with umbrellas facing a big screen, a colouring activity booklet you can pick up from the Emirates Imagination Station and the Hide & Seek food outlet serving Sushi Sushi and other takeaway food and Haagen Daaz kids scoops for $4.20.
The Emirates Family Sanctuary is also the location of the AO Kids Club.
For the first time ever, the Australian Open are providing onsite childcare for parents to drop their kids off and enjoy the tennis for a while! KidsCo are providing onsite childcare for children aged 5-12 years for a full day or half day. Kids who are booked into AO Kids Club get priority access to the AO Ballpark, player practice viewing, a tennis lesson with a professional coach and lots of other games and activities.
Even better all bookings into AO Kids Club have the chance to win the ultimate VIP experience! This includes:
- Exclusive VIP access to Rod Laver Arena matches of Monday 21 January
- Exclusive access to The Lounge to enjoy free food and beverages throughout the day amidst the company of tournament players
- a Rod Laver Arena Walk On that allows the winners to experience what it feels like to be a top ranked tennis player as they are brought onto RLA to watch the players warm up courtside before scoring a picture with the players themselves.
This is a money can’t buy experience!
In order to go into the draw, parents must enrol their child into AO Kids Club (multiple children and days equals multiple entries).
10. Visit Grand Slam Oval for more eating options
Notable Melbourne eateries such as Hellenic Republic, Mamasita and Biggie Smalls have food stands there, the Australian Open has the exclusive opening of Beijing Betty or you can go for a sit-down meal at Rockpool, Barilla or Nobu.
At Grand Slam Oval we had planned to visit the Garnier ‘Nature’s Playground’ which promises a hedge maze, Sunflower Slide, mini trampolines, a Fructis-scented bubble-blowing see-saw and a Micellar Water ball pit filled with 100% recycled plastic balls and fruit-shaped inflatables! But the line is hot and long so we discard that plan.
To be honest by the time we hike to the Grand Slam Oval from the AO Ballpark all we want are the little free electric fans being handed out by ANZ! You can find at the ANZ Fan Hub stands dotted around Melbourne Park.