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Melbourne Museum for Kids: 9 Exhibits You Shouldn’t Miss

Melbourne Museum is a place of wonder, curiosity and delight for visitors and locals alike. 

The museum was established in 1854, which makes it one of the oldest museums in the Southern Hemisphere. With over two storeys of exhibitions to explore including science, history and art, it’s a definite stop on your to-do list in Melbourne.

Melbourne Museum Main Entrance

Over the ten years that we’ve been visiting Melbourne Museum, it’s been a favourite place for learning and play. It’s the location of many happy, treasured memories for myself and my kids. 

From dinosaurs to bugs, Melbourne Museum has a lot of displays that will excite kids. Whether you’re a new or returning visitor to Melbourne Museum, here are 10 exhibits you shouldn’t miss.

Melbourne Museum Foyer

Melbourne Museum kids activities

The Children’s Gallery is a wondrous place for kids to explore, play and learn. 

Childrens Gallery filled with sensory experiences,

It’s primarily aimed at babies to 5-year-olds but older kids will also enjoy the sensory experiences, hands-on exhibits and fun atmosphere. 

Lady AB creates a colorful kaleidoscope

My kids keep going back again and again to butterfly-designing touch screens in the gallery to make kaleidoscope creations, brimming with colour. 

Childrens Gallery px

2. How many dinosaurs can you spot?

Melbourne Museum’s iconic Dinosaur Walk needs no introduction!

A giant dinosaur is displayed inside Dinosaur Walk

The double-level exhibition is an awe-inspiring sight for any dino fan – the question is, how many prehistoric animals live there?

Answer: tick off the ten dinosaurs, three pterosaurs, one mammal-like reptile and Australian megafauna in this impressive collection. And coming soon is a new Triceratops!

5 Dinosaurs can be seen in this area of Dinosaur Walk.

3. Spot the frogs hidden in the forest

In the centre of Melbourne Museum is the Forest Gallery – a piece of Victoria’s mountain landscape in the city. 

On the ramp to  the Forest Gallery.

Once you pass through the glass doors take a deep breath and smell the misty air and damp earth. 

Lady AB stands amongst the giant trees.

Then keep your eyes peeled for the many creatures hidden amongst the temperate rainforest plants and in the water, including the camouflaged tree frogs. 

A tree frog sits on the moss sprouting from the tree.

4. Get up close and personal to creepy crawlies

See, hear and even smell a whole world of bugs and insects, and learn how they affect us through interactive exhibits inside Bugs Alive.

encased in glass are butterflies, wasps, and other bugs and insects.

A favourite photo opportunity is the glass dome where you can watch a colony of green ants diligently going about their work.  

Baby 2.0  is inside the glass dome of the green ants display.

5. Immerse yourself in the creation myth of Bunjil 

First Peoples tells the story of Aboriginal Victoria from the time of Creation to today and celebrates the history, culture, achievements and survival of Victoria’s Aboriginal people.

A large screen displays photos and videos about the indigenous culture and history of Australia.

I think it’s an extremely well-curated exhibition that offers a balanced insight into the indigenous history and culture of Australia. 

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There are many thought-providing images and videos which at times brings me to tears, particularly around stories of the Stolen Generations. 

It’s a particularly hard topic to discuss with children, and the exhibition does an excellent job of expressing the grief, anger and hurt of that period. 

Some stories of the Stolen Generation are displayed on a big white wall

Our favourite part is entering the darkened nest of Bunjil the wedge-tailed eagle and ancestral spirit. Inside you can sit and listen to the story of how the Country, Law and people of the Kulin nation were created while watching light projections on a stunning set of floating bird’s wings. 

The light projections transition from yellow to orange on the floating bird’s beautiful wings.

6. Lie back and explore The Mind

The Mind Gallery is a permanent exhibition that examines the human brain – the most complex structure in the universe. 

In the entrance to the exhibit, the wall is filled with overlapping lines and little dots that light up imitating brain cells.

There are many immersive experiences, from mazes to interactions with historical psychiatric objects and artworks.

Baby 2.0  interacts with one of the displays.

The most popular exhibit is probably the Ames room – a distorted room that creates an optical illusion that makes big things small and tiny things gigantic. 

Lady AB Explores the Ames room

But my personal favourite is the pretend psychiatrist couches, where you can lie back and watch videos that help you reflect on the workings of your mind. 

Confession: It’s also a very relaxing experience after running around with the kids!

testing out the psychiatrist couches.

7. Imagine yourself in the grandest bookshop in the world

The Melbourne Story is a fascinating insight into our hometown’s past and the many ways in which it has changed. It’s a must-do for families and anyone looking to discover the history of this amazing city.

Lady AB sits on the moon.

We love watching old films about Melbourne life inside the miniature art deco cinema, pretending to ride the historic Luna Park roller coaster and snapping a selfie at the iconic Luna Park moon. 

Watching the old film while sitting on  the seats of the historic Luna Park roller coaster.

Our favourite spot is the entryway to Cole’s Book Arcade, one of the great iconic stores of Melbourne in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It closed its doors in 1931 but lives on Amelia Mellor’s wonderful children’s book ‘The Grandest Bookshop in the World’ and you can see various artifacts from the shop such as the golden eggs!

A rainbow lines the entryway to Cole's Book Arcade.

8. Horses and courses

Just outside The Melbourne Story is a tribute to Australia’s most famous horse – Phar Lap

Phar Lap is encased in glass in the center of his exhibit.

There’s the horse itself as well as objects from the horse’s life such as his training saddle, his shoes and his tonic book. Art and souvenirs from the period all help tell the story of Australia’s greatest racehorse as well as provide a window into the past and present of Australian culture.

In the same way that horses are measured by hands, I measure the height of my children by how far they are from Phar Lap’s head every time we visit!

Lady Ab and I get a closer look at Phar Lap.

9. We love Sad Otter

The Melbourne Museum Shop can be just as wondrous for kids as some of the exhibits, and it can be hard to know where to look. 

Lady Ab walks around the gift shop holding her very own sad otter.

Well, look no further. I think the perfect souvenir of your Melbourne Museum visit is the plush Sad Otter!

‘Sad Otter’ was part of a beloved exhibit at Melbourne Museum whose main claim to fame is that he was featured on the popular website Bad Taxidermy. He is so very cute and his expression really is a bit crestfallen. 

Lady AB picks out  her very own sad otter!

While the original Sad Otter is not currently on display, you can take the plush replica home to remind you of your time at Melbourne Museum

Checking out other souvenirs to take with us to remember our wonderful day at Melbourne Museum.

What are your favourite moments and exhibits at Melbourne Museum?


For more things to do at Melbourne Museum go to Road to Zero and Mini Mega Model Museum

Play outside at Carlton Gardens

Click here for more things to do in Melbourne with kids


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About Joyce Watts

Joyce Watts is a former intellectual property, IT and media lawyer turned serial entrepreneur.

As well as being the founder of TOT: HOT OR NOT she helps businesses with their SEO, email marketing & social media as BrightSmart.com.au; she owns an online bike store CycleStyle.com.au and develops and produces creative experiences for families via WheelieGoodFun.com. She used to publish another popular lifestyle and food blog called MEL: HOT OR NOT The decisive guide to Melbourne.

She lives in inner-city Melbourne with her husband, two children and seven bikes.

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