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9 Free Things to do in Canberra

What can you do for Free in Canberra?

I lived in Canberra during my teen years, again in my early 30s and since my family are there, I visit often.

During this time, I discovered so many wonderful things about our capital city.

Canberra has changed over the past few years, the food, culture, fashion and nightlife all picked up.

It’s definitely not the same as it was when I was going to high school there.

Now, Canberra is one of those cities where once you know how to get around, it’s easy.

Unfortunately, the public transport is not great so it is best to have a car.

Yes, it is the city of roundabouts, but if you use them correctly, traffic flows well and you get used to it.

As a family, there is a lot to see and do for free or pretty cheap, plus most attractions consider a family to be 2 adults and 3 kids so bonus points there for larger families!

Here are 10 free things to do in Canberra, followed by our top picks for paid attractions (as chosen by myself and my kids), plus some tips to save money on a trip to Canberra.

Be aware, there is a parking fee for most venues now.

1. Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial has had a major overhaul and is simply incredible.

It has many interactive exhibits, features portraits that are video, as well as paintings, has free tours and every evening there is a ceremony at dusk which will move you to tears.

Specifically for kids there is the discovery zone.

“The Discovery Zone features five environments inspired by Australia’s military history:

  • a trench on the Western Front in France from the First World War
  • the Australian home front during the Second World War
  • an Iroquois helicopter hovering in a field in Vietnam
  • an Oberon Class submarine, searching for enemy targets
  • a peacekeeping mission in a war-ravaged community”

Children can climb, jump, crawl, touch and explore in all areas of the Discovery Zone.

It looks, feels and even smells different to the Memorial’s other galleries.

Come and experience it for yourself.

Hands-on education like this cements the experience, the history and lessons in kids minds.

Cost: Free!

9 free things to do in Canberra

Australian War Memorial 

2. The Arboretum

The Arboretum has numerous walks containing rare trees, but aside from the trees, there is a pod playground kids love, amazing views, a bonsai pavilion and discovery garden.

Cost: Free!

3. National Museum

The National Museum of Australia is a social history museum, meaning it focuses on the land, nation and people of Australia particularly that of Indigenous cultures and early European settlement.

Kspace is a recent addition which allows kids to create their own time-travelling robot then blast off to explore a mystery location in Australia’s past.

It’s a fun, educational interactive game for kids.

Cost: Free.

4. Australian Botanic Gardens

Gorgeous gardens showing various natural habitats and even includes a red desert garden area.

When designing, creating and expanding the Botanical Gardens, a lot of care has been taken to ensure anything brought in (such as rocks in the red desert area) are sourced sustainably. In fact, those rocks came from a quarry close to Canberra.

Cost: Free

5. Parliament House

Learn about our government, past and present, view an extensive art collection, witness question time and experience what our government does at Parliament House.

Cost: Free including their daily tours which take 40 minutes

6. Canberra Deep Space Network

Want to know more about how Australia is involved with NASA and all thing space related?

You can take in magnificent views of the largest antenna complex in the southern hemisphere, see a piece of the Moon that’s over 3.8 billion years old, check out the latest images from across the Solar System and beyond, check out spacecraft models, plus flown space hardware and memorabilia. Discover the foods that astronauts eat on the space shuttle and space station, watch a movie on the history and future of space exploration, take a hands-on trip around the Solar System or across the galaxy, or just sit back and relax in the Moon Rock Café.” (as quoted on their site.)

Cost: Free!

7. National Film and Sound Archive

With over 2.16million preserved works, various screenings and events, the National Film and Sound Archive has something for everyone.

Cost: Free

8. Lake Burley Griffin

With the National Carillion (a gift from the British containing 55 bronze bells), Blundells Cottage, Captain Cook Memorial Jet (only operates between 2pm and 4pm) and the National Capital Exhibit, there is a lot to see and do around Lake Burley Griffin.

Plus it’s here you will find Boundless, Canberra’s all abilities playground which is amazing!

9. The Royal Australian Mint

Learn about our currency, past and present, see money being made or make your own (there is a cost to make your own), go on a free guided tour, complete The Mint Treasure Hunt and see real robots in action at the Royal Australian Mint.

Cost: Free, although it is $3 to make a $1 coin.

9 free things to do in Canberra

Other Places of Interest that cost (and how to get them Cheaper!)


Questacon is a hands-on, interactive science and technology centre with something for everyone.

You can see lightning strikes, touch virtually everything, take a selfie in the blue tunnel, do a freefall drop and learn so much while having fun.

If you have young kids there is a section called mini Q which is popular.

Cost is $73.50 for a family of 5 (2A and 3C) for one visit or an annual pass for a family of 5 is $160 which has a lot of bonuses.

Or free if you are a member of certain other museums.

To save money sign up to be a member of Museum Victoria for $99 and you get access to:

Questacon and the National Museum in Canberra, Melbourne Museum, Immigration Museum and Scienceworks in Melbourne, the Australian Museum, Australian National Maritime Museum and Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Discovery Science and Technology Centre in Bendigo, Science Centre in Brisbane and the one in Wollongong, SciTech Discovery in Perth, South Australian Museum in Adelaide and Science Alive in Christchurch NZ plus you get discounts on a bunch of other attractions in Melbourne.

Merry Go Round in Petrie Plaza, Civic

A gorgeous Merry Go Round built in 1914, you can ride with your kids and experience a Merry Go Round rarely seen anymore.

Situated in the heart of Civic, if you are shopping at the Canberra Centre it’s easy to get to plus you can then explore some of the statues, artwork and fountains in the centre of Canberra.

Cost: $3 per person and adults can ride too!


Tidbinbilla is a wonderful nature reserve with kangaroos, koalas, platypus, potoroos, wallaroos, possums, wombats, echidnas, emus, lyrebirds as well as many other birds and reptiles.

It has various endangered species such as Northern Corroboree Frog, the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby and Eastern Bettong, and is not only enjoyable but also an educational experience for kids.

Cost: The site says entry fees will not be charged until further notice.

CSIRO Discovery Centre

Offering a unique look at the CSIRO and Science in Australia, past and present, the CSIRO Discovery Centre is a popular attraction and must-see for all budding scientists.


Telstra Tower: Currently Closed for Refurbishment

See Canberra from all directions from Telstra Tower.

Telstra tower lights up at night with different colours corresponding with things such as when local teams play (green for the Raiders, blue for the Brumbies, orange for GWS), there are two viewing platforms, a lower level and upper level, you can view from inside or out, it’s up to you.

Cost: $17 for a family of four

Cockington Green

My kids love the tiny villages, exceptional sculptures and the mini train ride involved with Cockington Green.

The family who established Cockington Green have put an incredible amount of time and effort into recreating villages in England, developing an International section with buildings from around the world, creating a hedge maze and ensuring a fun experience for all.

Cost: $75 for a family of 2 adults and 3 kids (4 to 16yrs old)

Old Parliament House

Within Old Parliament House is the Museum Of Democracy where you can learn all about our governments past, plus in August 2014 they launched Play up!

A super fun, interactive area for kids allowing them to dress up, play and get involved to learn about history.

Cost: $5 for families

Dinosaur Museum

The National Dinosaur Museum has a small collection of 23 complete skeletons and 300 fossils.

To be honest, my kids find the outside and the shop to be more entertaining than the museum itself.

On the lawns are a variety of dinosaur statues kids can touch and have a photo with (not climb!)but to access most of them now you need to buy a pass.

The outdoor dinosaur garden is fantastic for kids though, complete with some cars they can climb in and play on.

Cost: $55 for a family of four

Fun, free and cheap things to do in Canberra

National Zoo and Aquarium

With keeper talks, roaming peacocks, a combined zoo and aquarium experience, plus daily features such as dingo walks (where you can pat the dingos being walked around the zoo), penguin feed and other animal feeds it’s a fairly hands-on experience.

Everyone loves the National Zoo and Aquarium.

You can opt to get even closer to the animals by either staying on a lodge on site (which we haven’t done) or having a full on feed the animals tour where you feed the lions, tigers and other big animals.

Cost: $150 for a family of four

Canberra Walk-In Aviary

Get up close and personal with over 500 birds from 60 different species.

Upon admission, you are given a small plate of food to feed the birds.

Some birds will fly right up and feed from your plate, right in your hands at the walk-in aviary.

Cost: $52.50 for a family of 5


The Australian Institute of Sport allows you to go behind the scenes of where our elite athletes’ train, compare yourself to their records and challenge yourself throughout the tour.

Cost: $57 for a family of 5

Depending on the time you visit, Canberra has many festivals and events such as Enlighten (a light festival), Floriade (flower festival), Balloon Spectacular (hot air balloon festival) and many more. Check what’s on when you visit.

How to Save More Money on Your Trip

– When we travel we tend to stay with friends and family or book direct with accommodation.

On our last trip, I secured a 4 star hotel, in the city for the same price as the most basic budget hotel on the outskirts of the city.

– Get discounts on attractions through Groupon or buy an Entertainment Book from a local charity.

– Plan your trip. Many attractions are close to each other so if you plan well, you won’t need to drive back and forth.

For example, Cockington Green, The Dinosaur Museum and the aviary are all located next to each other (along with Gold Creek Village and Canberra Reptile Park) and have a special attractions pass for a discount.

Telstra Tower, the Botanical Gardens and CSIRO Discovery Centre are in the same area and only an 8-minute drive to the War Memorial.

Parliament House, Old Parliament House and Questacon are within walking distance from each other.

Plan your trip and you can save heaps.

Budget for a Canberra Trip

One extra tip, have a separate account and save for your trip. Have a specific budget and don’t go into debt for travel.

If you are about to travel then travel insurance is probably something you are considering. Get 10% off with Freely if you use the code Thrifty10 at the checkout.*

Canberra is a gorgeous city to visit with much more going for it than people expect. When was the last time you visited?

For more ways to make and save money follow us on social media:
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*If you use the link on this page to purchase travel insurance, we will receive a fee from Freely, a brand of Cover-More Insurance Services Pty Limited ABN 95 003 114 145 (AFSL 241713) (Cover-More). We do not act for Cover-More or Freely. The information provided is only on the availability of Freely products. We do not give advice & the information provided is not intended to give an opinion or recommendation regarding the product. For information on how to contact Cover-More or Freely refer to the PDS, FSG & TMD which can be found here:

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Thursday 30th of August 2018



Thursday 30th of August 2018

it also cannot be the high court of australia.


Thursday 30th of August 2018

something educational that is free? it has to not be questacon, parliament house, old parliament house, royal australian mint, war memorial, lake burley griffin, national zoo and aquarium. it must be in canberra. i need this answer today. now.

The Thrifty Issue

Friday 31st of August 2018

Thanks for your comment. We aren't on 24/7 so couldn't give an immediate answer. If none of the things in the post suit, I'd recommend checking the Visit Canberra website

Have fun in Canberra!

Claire @ Life on Wallace

Wednesday 21st of September 2016

Canberra really is a great spot to take kids. It's a bit of a hidden treasure really.


Thursday 30th of August 2018


Alma Quick

Wednesday 21st of September 2016

Great lidt. Please note most of them now have paid parking not just the Arboretum - Museum, Botanic Gardens, etc; a bit unfair to lay this charge just on the Arb. Also the eateries in the Botanic Gardens are at standard costs. While at the Arb may i recommend the National Rock Garden. It's off the appoach road to the Arb Lady Denman Drive near that bottom set of traffic lights. One huge rock representing each Australian state. It's free.

The Thrifty Issue

Wednesday 21st of September 2016

Hi Alma, thanks for your tips, didn't know about parking costs everywhere else. Last time I went I didn't incur these. I'll edit it. Thanks.

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