Australian War Memorial Canberra – is it good for kids?

 Today we spend the day at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra…

The Australian War Memorial - Canberra

The Australian War Memorial is a majestic museum – a place to remember Australia’s lost soldiers and commemorate their sacrifices in war. Here also is a multitude of rare war artefacts, displays and art works housed in a huge complex of galleries. But is this the kind of museum you’d take children to? Well, as it turns out, it’s fabulous for kids.

I did have a few initial doubts about taking the kids to the War Memorial. I hadn’t visited this museum for many years, and couldn’t remember it as being particularly suitable for children. Happily I was to find out that over the years it has developed some excellent children’s educational and interactive areas. But even without the kid-friendly areas, the War Memorial has a lot to offer children and families. The gravity of the history and stories it has to tell is invaluable to every Australian, young and old – and it can also be a lot of fun!

There is a lot to see inside the Australian War Memorial!

There is a lot to see inside the Australian War Memorial!

Upon arriving we found ourselves in the enormous open courtyard of the Roll of Honour, where the tens of thousands of lost soldier’s names are inscribed on the walls covered in bright red Remembrance Poppies – it’s a sobering sight. It had the children thinking and asking all sorts of questions – and examining the names on the walls. Here too is the eternal flame, and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier that represents so many lost soldiers.

We circled back around and entered the inside of the museum, stopping by the information desk to pick up a free map – which it turned out we barely needed, thanks to the extremely helpful guides dotted around the museum.

We made our way through numerous galleries and exhibitions of the different World Wars taking in life-like war scenes, articles, photos, weapons and so much more. Now and then I wistfully gazed at some display or other that I would have liked to have examined more closely as we passed by at our eager-child’s-pace – oh well, perhaps when they were a bit older!

Authentic boats, planes, motorcycles, jeeps are all on display

Authentic boats, planes, motorcycles, jeeps are all on display

The children found the many dioramas and small models of battle scenes  fascinating rather than frightening. Stuffed, life sized war horses stared glassily out of their cases. Old uniforms, bullet-marked hats, a Gallipoli landing boat complete with artillery holes – the sheer volume of artefacts was astounding.

Half way around we emerged into the Aircraft Hall and then over the bridge to Anzac Hall, a huge pavilion containing several full-sized aeroplanes, a Sydney-Harbour-invading Japanese midget submarine and scattered war guns, all with accompanying eerie light and sound shows – the affect was remarkable, and the kids loved it as they ran about exploring and playing imaginary games.

Here’s a quick 30 second snatch of what the Anzac Hall aeroplane show is like…

Keeping up with two excited kids often going in opposite directions is hard work, so at this point we stopped at The Landing Place Café and enjoyed some lunch overlooking Anzac Hall It gave us time to stare at and puzzle over just how they got the blue lighting to look like shimmering water! Then we set out on a mission to find The Discovery Zone.

The Discovery Zone interactive children's area

The Discovery Zone interactive children’s area

A child-focussed area, The Discovery Zone is open mostly to school children during the week days, but is open to the public all day on the weekends and holidays. For families, it’s worth visiting the War Memorial just for this interactive area alone, as this is where the kids probably enjoy and learn the most at the War Memorial.

Children can take the controls of an Iroquois helicopter - a film plays in front!

Children can take the controls of an Iroquois helicopter – a film plays in front!

A kids hands-on area, at the Discovery Zone children can dress up in different war outfits, sit in an Iroquois helicopter “in flight”, play in a fitted-out submarine complete with periscope, radar and sleeping quarters and try out life in a trenches replica (even find out what “Trench Foot” – a rotted foot disease looks like on their own leg thanks to some tricky lights – ugh!).

Ewww! Brooke wasn't keen when trick lights turned her foot into a mass of sores - ugh!

Ewww! Brooke wasn’t keen when trick lights turned her foot into a mass of “Trench Foot” sores!

Next stop in The Discovery Zone is learning all about how to be a Peace-Keeper, including bridge engineering, land mine removal and water purifying – all in model form, of course! Lastly you enter a World War 2 backyard for some real 2nd World War-time atmosphere. The Discovery Zone is pure child-gold, and highly recommended for families.

Kid's can play in a replica submarine interior, complete with radar, periscope and bunk-beds!

Kid’s can play in a replica submarine interior, complete with radar, periscope and bunk-beds!

I finally managed to extract the girls from the Discovery Zone to go and see the Vietnam exhibitions. This featured a large area housing army tanks, jeeps and aeroplanes. From here we were directed to seek out the bridge of the Gulf War ship, the HMAS Brisbane – which was another exciting discovery for the kids – they raced up a flight of stairs to find a complete ships bridge just waiting to be explored!

Check out the actual control bridge of the HMAS Brisbane!

Check out the actual control bridge of the HMAS Brisbane!

Our last areas to visit were the corridors of the Boer War, then back down to the World War 2 galleries. It was hard to take it all in, but somehow we covered an awful lot, and in the end we had spent a quite a few hours really enjoying this museum with two kids under ten years old.

If you’re visiting Canberra with the kids, the Australian War Memorial is a great way to bring Australian history to life on a fascinating family day out!

The Australian War Memorial – useful info:
The Canberra War Memorial is located at the top of Anzac Parade in Campbell ACT.  It’s just a short bus ride or drive from either the city centre (Civic) or airport, and around a 3 and a half hour drive from Sydney. The War Memorial is well sign-posted and easy to find, with free car parking. Entry is free (gold coin donation).

You’ll find the Australian War Memorial website here for further information

 


One Response so far.

  1. Hello, great to read this. We’re coming down to Canberra tomorrow, I’ll have to check to see if Discovery Zone is open all day, otherwise we will go on Saturday. Nice photos!


About LetsGoMum

Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at barbara@letsgomum.com.au!
Shares