The words “school holidays” needn’t strike fear in the hearts of Sydney parents. Just load up the schedule with fun activities, learning workshops and amazing performances and make memories out of the madness.

Here’s our round-up of what to do these Sydney school holidays.

The Australian National Maritime Museum

Kids and shark puppets at the Australian Maritime Museum Guruwin
Guruwin at the Australian National Maritime Museum

Keep all heads above water these Sydney school holidays at the Australian National Maritime Museum where the program includes TV-presenting workshops for budding David Attenboroughs, photography workshops for National Geographic aspirants and art-making sessions where kids can recycle bottlecaps in a plastic recycling machine into new and exciting items such as bubble wands and carabiners. Most thrilling is Guruwin: Sharks of Sydney Harbour, an experience designed by visual theatre-makers and puppeteers Erth Visual and Physical Inc, described as a “live poetic documentary” involving incredibly lifelike shark puppets.

Where: The Australian National Maritime Museum, 2 Murray Street, Sydney
When: Throughout the school holidays
Cost: Various

Common Threads at the MCA

At the Museum of Contemporary Art these Sydney school holidays, children become part of the art-creation process. Common Threads is an installation that kids are actually allowed to touch and contribute to, playing with soft materials including fabrics, string and yarn. Rejoice at a museum visit that doesn’t involve disapproving glares from security guards as small sticky fingers range a little too close to the art for comfort.

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George St, The Rocks
When: 17-20 July
Cost: Free

Fantastic Fairytales at Centennial Park

Fantastic Fairytales at Centennial Parklands kids and performers
Fantastic Fairytales

Fairy tales have long transported children into mysterious, magical worlds, but Fantastic Fairytales gives them the chance to really live it. At Centennial Park’s Wild Play Discovery Centre, kids can choose between three classic fairy tales – Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk or the Three Little Pigs – then become part of the story. Children aged four to 10 step onstage and interact with the actors, bringing the tale to life. Any parent who’s endlessly huffed and puffed their way through the Three Little Pigs will be pleased their hard work came in handy.

When: 17 July 10:30am-12:30pm
Where: Wild Play Discovery Centre, Centennial Parklands
Cost: $17 per child, accompanying adults free

Winterfest at Darling Harbour

Sydney school holidays winterfest darling harbour ice skating
Winterfest at Darling Harbour

Rug up for a chilly adventure at Winterfest in Darling Harbour these school holidays. Tumbalong Park is transformed into a wintry playground with gaming, slime-making workshops, films and children’s entertainers. The Palm Grove Forecourt becomes an open-air ice-skating rink with views of Cockle Bay, and evenings are celebrated with fireworks displays and live music at Winter Park Beats.

When: 6-21 July
Where: Darling Harbour
Cost: Various

Read more: The best things to do with kids on a wet weekend

Pine Street Creative Arts Centre

Ceramics, printmaking, jewellery-making and painting are just some of the workshops on offer for young creatives these school holidays at Pine Street Creative Arts Centre in Chippendale. Class sizes are small (maximum 10 students) and all materials are provided. Classes are tailored for kids aged nine to 12 and 13 to 17 years old.

When: 8 and 9 July
Where: 64 Pine Street, Chippendale
Cost: Various

Witches and Sorcerers High Tea

Treats on a table at Shangri La Witches and Sorcerers
Witches and Sorcerers High Tea

Combining magic and confectionary is a stroke of genius on the part of Shangri-La. What child could turn their nose up at a spread of treats including a chocolate fountain with marshmallows, strawberries and raspberry cookies, partaken in a ballroom decorated to look like a castle with gilded thrones, flickering candlelight and sorcerer’s spell books? Or hot chocolate drawn from a bubbling cauldron? Seatings last for two hours and costumes are encouraged.

When: Various dates and times
Where: 176 Cumberland Street, Sydney
Cost: $64 child, $84 adult

Kids at the Con Sydney School Holiday Workshops

The Sydney Conservatorium is running classes for children aged three to 10 years during the school holidays. They’re an excellent entrée into the world of music: these workshops are about developing a love of music via singing, dancing, improvisation, story-telling and playing percussion instruments. No prior music knowledge is required for Kids at the Con and it’s a great way to sample the Con’s regular term-time programming.

When: 9, 10, 11 July 9am – 3pm
Where: The Sydney Conservatorium of Music, 1 Conservatorium Rd, Sydney
Cost: $40

Ghostly Garden for Kids

People at Royal Botanic Garden for Ghostly Garden
Ghostly Garden

There’s something deeply thrilling about being just a little bit scared. Little people with a penchant for the spooky can test their mettle at the Ghostly Garden for Kids at the Royal Botanic Garden. Visitors will be met by a suitably attired guide (a top hat is involved) at the Woolloomooloo Gate to set off for a tour of the gardens’ oldest buildings, ghostly grottoes and gnarled trees and hear tales of the past. Bats glide overhead and night animals prowl as the haunted houses loom – do you dare enter?

When: 12 July, 5:30pm-7pm
Where: Woolloomooloo Gate, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Cost: $45 adult, $20 child (children must be accompanied by an adult)

Keep the Fire Burning

traditional Indigenous fire starting Keep the Fire Burning kids school holiday activities
Keep the Fire Burning

Stoke the flames of knowledge these Sydney school holidays at the Royal Botanic Garden this winter school holidays at Keep the Fire Burning workshops. First Nations guides use storytelling and interactive experiences to teach kids about the relationship between plants and fire, First Nations land management and ancestral knowledge of harnessing the power of flames.

When: 10, 11, 16 and 17 July, 10am-11:30am
Where: Rathborne Lodge, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Cost: $18.50 per child

A Forest in the City

A forest in the city adults and kids dancing
A Forest in the City

Staged in the Opera House’s Studio, A Forest in the City is an immersive, interactive performance for kids. Using full-scale projections and dance, the show features two dancers who “draw” a magical green city together. During the Sydney school holidays, kids join the dancers on-stage to help the city, an urban environment interwoven with greenery, grow harmoniously with creativity and imagination. This is A Forest in the City’s debut in Australia, direct from Italy.

When: 16-17 July at 9.45am, 12.15pm, 2.45pm each day
Where: The Studio, Sydney Opera House
Cost: From $35

Children’s International Film Festival

Girl and cat Childrens International Film Festival
A Cat’s Life is screening at the Children’s International Film Festival

The current crop of kids must be the most discerning consumers of film ever. Where previous generations were content with whatever ABC programmed on Saturday morning, these kids have streaming services tailored to their precise tastes. Give them a break from small screens for a true film event at the historical Ritz Cinemas in Randwick. In time for the Sydney school holidays The Children’s International Film Festival is screening new releases such as Inside Out 2 and international films such as A Cat’s Life from France about the bond between a girl and the kitten she discovers in her Parisian attic, and the Irish tale of a girl who dreams of becoming a chef A Greyhound of a Girl.

When: Until 14 July, various sessions
Where: Ritz Cinemas, 45 St Pauls Street, Randwick
Cost: $16 general admission; $14 for members; $55 family pass (two adults and two children or one adult and three children)

The River That Ran Uphill

Man onstage at The River that Ran Uphill
The River That Ran Uphill

A tiny girl survives a devastating cyclone in this moving production for kids aged eight and older. The River that Ran Uphill is based on the experiences of Edgell Junior from Pentecost Island in Vanuatu, who endured – and survived – Cyclone Pam, which ravaged the South Pacific in 2015. With an emphasis on resilience and the importance of all of us working together, this 55-minute performance showing just after the Sydney school holidays is the perfect intro to the power of theatre and a great post-holiday treat.

When: Thursday 25 July, 7pm, Saturday 27 July 11am and 2pm
Where: The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House
Cost: From $35 plus $8.95 booking fee

Read more: The best kid-friendly restaurants in Sydney

James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach at the Opera House
James and the Giant Peach

Running every day of the school holidays, this performance of Roald Dahl’s children’s tale about a giant peach and its enormous many-legged inhabitants is fun, weird and heart-warming. These Sydney school holidays, Join James and his mates in the Playhouse at the Sydney Opera House to find out just how far one giant peach can take one small boy. Suitable for kids aged six and up.

When: 5 – 21 July 2024
Where: The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House
Cost: $39 plus $8.95 booking fee

Mada’s Magic Marvels

If you’ve never heard of Adam Mada, perhaps you’ve seen his work: the master illusionist has worked with Australia’s Got Talent, NIDA, and the production of Harry Potter & the Cursed Child. His show, Mada’s Magic Marvels, is a family event full of mind-boggling tricks and stupendous illusions inside the magical Spiegeltent. Best of all, during the show Mada’s on the lookout for a young apprentice and kids from the audience get to assist in confounding onstage magic.

When: 17-21 July
Where: 122 Lang Road, Moore Park
Cost: From $23 is the ultimate guide to visiting Sydney. It provides up-to-date information on attractions, places to visit, restaurants, shops, visitor information and transport. The site is published by Cruise Media Australasia, a Big Splash Media company. Editor-in-Chief and Publisher: Peter Lynch.

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