The Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament is increasingly expanding its offering beyond 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 16 January – Sunday 29 January 2023) features lots of family-friendly activities so I'm excited to take my kids along.
Here are my top 10 tips for visiting the Australian Open with kids.
When is Australian Open 2023?
Australian Open 2023 is on from Monday 16 January to Sunday 29 January 2023.
Australian Open With Kids
1. Prebook Kids Ground Passes from $10
The best value ticket for the Australian Open is the Ground Pass, and kids 3-14 years can visit for just $10 on weekdays of the tournament and $15 on Friday 20 January 2023, Saturday 21 January and Sunday 23 January 2023.
You'll still have to pay for your adult ground pass ($19-$75) but the combined cost offers a full day of tennis-related fun. Even if your child is not really a tennis fan there are plenty of activities along Birrarung Marr and within Melbourne Park to keep everyone entertained all day.
You can buy your Ground Passes online or at the door (though I recommend pre-booking to avoid disappointment).
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 main ticket office further along at Eastern Plaza.
2. 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 to see an Aus Open match, the best station for the AO Ballpark (the kids zone) at Birrarung Marr is Flinders Street station.
If you're wanting to get into Melbourne Park directly then consider getting out at Richmond station instead of Flinders Street station. The line for entering Melbourne Park at Richmond station is a lot shorter than the main entrance.
If you're taking the number 70 tram from Flinders Street station then there are three stops – 7B Rod Laver, 7C John Cain Arena (formerly Hisense Arena) and 7D AAMI Park.
In previous years, we have opted 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.
Find out more about how to get to the Australian Open.
3. Head to the AO Ballpark first
The AO Ballpark is a dedicated entertainment and activity area just for kids and families. It's a bit smaller than in previous years but there's still lots to do.
At Birrarung Marr you'll find an aerial course with 17 metres of rope climbs and obstacles, an 8m high quick jump, a 3m high cloud pillow jump, LEGO play tables, live stage shows, competitions, and a waterplay and water slide zone.
Kids can also test their tennis playing skills at the Tennis Hot Shots miniature tennis courts and skills areas.
There are only two food options at the AO Ballpark (Baketico for coffee, pastries and pies and Chef Calamari for seafood) but plenty of seating and picnic tables, so I recommend BYO food if you want more choice.
Get to the AO Ballpark as early as possible to beat the heat and the crowds – the most popular attractions are the waterslide and the aerial walk so head there first. The site opens 10am with variable closing times.
If the people and the heat get too overwhelming there is a small Sensory Room that you can visit – I did not have a chance to look inside. I also carried my noise-cancelling Airpods with me so that kids could have a rest from the noisy atmosphere if needed.
4. Be aware of age and height restrictions at AO Ballpark
AO Ballpark has lots of cool activities inside, but don't promise the kids anything unless you know that they'll meet age and height restrictions.
For instance, the aerial adventure requires children to be 120cm+, while the waterslide is suggested for kids 5+ years.
Basically, the AO Ballpark is geared towards kids 5+ years. However, little ones can still enjoy the water play area which is designated for kids 6 years and under, the LEGO tables and watching shows on the main stage.
As an adult, I got to try the cloud jump!
Kids of all ages (who can wield a tennis racket) can also participate in most of the Tennis Hot Shots activities, which are all drop-in.
5. Bring bathers and closed-toed shoes to AO Ballpark
If you want to do the aerial obstacle course or the quick jump at AO Ballpark you will need to wear closed-toed shoes. I don't think of putting anyone in closed-toed shoes in 38-degree heat so Lady AB is very annoyed when she is not allowed to go on the course in her sandals!
If you think you're going to visit the water play then bring bathers and a towel – there are handy changerooms nearby. We take our trusty Tesalate super-absorbent travel towels!
6. BYO Food and water bottle
The main food/hospitality area is at Grand Slam Oval inside Melbourne Park, which is a bit of a hike from the AO Ballpark, especially in the heat.
Also keep everyone hydrated by regularly filling up at water stations with a refillable water bottle – just look out for the signs saying ‘Water Station'. The Australian Open Fan Shops also sells souvenir water bottles if you forget to bring your own.
7. 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 handing out free sunscreen samples 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 John Cain Arena. A ground pass will get you general admission seating for matches inside John Cain Arena.
8. Visit Grand Slam Oval for more eating options
What is handy at the Grand Slam Oval is that you can order food from the QR codes on every table, and then go and pick it up from the food stand when you receive an SMS notification.
Pro tip: it pays to make your way to the food vendor quickly after you place your order (ie before you get the SMS notification) so that 1. you know where it is and are not circling around Grand Slam Oval trying to find it (while hungry) and 2. sometimes the stalls are so busy with orders from customers who have lined up that they forget or de-prioritise the online orders. So if you've been waiting a while for your online order and haven't received an SMS notification then just ask at the counter as to your order's status. I had this experience and they gave me my order on the spot.
9. Try the Peach Melbourne
A hot day at the Australian Open means the perfect opportunity for ice cream!
Chill out with the Australian Open‘s signature dessert, a riff on the Peach Melba called Peach Melbourne. It's creamy vanilla soft-serve ice cream drizzled with peach syrup and topped with crushed freeze-dried raspberries.
Maybe it'll be as iconic as strawberries and cream at Wimbledon one day!
10. Exit via the gift shop
If you're after one of those giant tennis balls (the size of a basketball) then get in quick, as they often sell out during the Australian Open! There are 11 AO Shops around the precinct and you'll find the largest range at Centrepiece.
The other large merchandise gift shop is for Polo Ralph Lauren, which is the Official Outfitter of the Australian Open. You'll find AO2023 commemorative and limited ranges inside their pop up store at Rod Laver Arena Terrace.