The Australian Open is about so much more than just tennis. For a day out in Melbourne with kids that involves sun, fun and one of the most family friendly sporting events in the world, it’s hard to beat the Australian Open with kids. The tickets are relatively accessible versus other grand slams (such as Wimbledon), the crowds are friendly and Australia with kids is, of course, one of the easiest and most pleasant family holiday destinations anywhere. To teach your kids about the value of exercise, healthy competition or just the joys of a large scale international event, this is absolutely worthwhile and you've still got until February 1 2015 to check it out.
The Australian Open with kids has more of a festival feel than just a tennis tournament. There are plenty of stalls set up by sponsors where kids can simulate the experience of winning a match and signing the camera, pose with the giant tennis ball characters, play mini tennis for kids or purchase their own tennis gear to dress up like their favourite players.
Inside the arenas and the larger show courts there are dedicated commentators encouraging the crowd to cheer, participate in the Mexican wave and playing music between games. Large television screen flash highlights and scores from the other courts and there are plenty of active hashtags and social media interactive experiences to encourage you to try to get your face on the big screen too. This makes the vibe very cheerful and keeps the spectators engaged and excited.
Outside, there are people everywhere taking advantage of the face painting on offer, wearing costumes, country flags and all revved up to have a good time. There are many people who attend for the atmosphere and not for the tennis – live acts are there to entertain adults and children alike – think a party vibe such as Sneaky Sound System and then, conversely, family friendly series of interactive experiences called Disney at the Australian Open. Check the schedule on the official website to see what is planned for the days you want to visit.
Alcohol plays a large part in the day – people are constantly queuing for beers and other drinks and while the atmosphere doesn’t feel rowdy, it is certainly lively (and can be a little messy in the late evenings).
And then there is the tennis. As there are only four tennis grand slams in the world per year, this is a fantastic opportunity for you to get to see the best players in the world playing professional tennis with your kids. If your kids have never played tennis, sit down and watch a couple of matches from other grand slams before you attend so they can recognise some of the names and understand the rules and expected etiquette and behaviour.
[For more travel tips on getting your kids into tennis, see the suitcases&strollers story Exercise While Travelling: Tennis Camps For Kids]
Take the time to explore the practice courts as it’s quite common to get up close to some of the seeded players and you have a chance to see them in a more relaxed and personal environment. Doubles matches are also great to watch with kids as they are less popular (so you are likely to get better seats) as it’s another possible place you might see some big names who will only be playing singles matches inside the big, paid arenas.
If you want to encourage your kids to play tennis, the juniors matches and the legends matches also play throughout the period of the tournament.
[Check out the suitcases&strollers interview about travel with kids with tennis legend and former number 1 Pat Rafter.]
If the kids just need a rest but you still want to watch the tennis there are plenty of live sites around with tables, chairs and plain old grass where everyone can watch the big matches on the screens provided and the kids don’t have to keep quiet during points.
The Practicalities of the Australian Open With Kids
While you have to pay for entry into Rod Laver (the main arena) and Margaret Court, all the other courts (including Hi-Sense Arena) are included free of charge in the ground pass ticket and operate on a first-come-best-dressed seating policy. If there is a particular match you want to see on any of these other courts, it makes sense to get there early to get the seats that are best for you.
visibility and access to the players is obviously better the closer you are to
court, for most of the show courts the only shade and breeze is actually along
the back rows. If you choose the tempting front row seats, think about how long
you and your kids will realistically be able to sit in the direct sun as you
might find the kids will last longer courtside if they are more protected from
Kids under two do have free entry but they must sit on your lap. (On the last two days of the Open kids under 16 enter free so if cost is a consideration, it’s worth considering bringing the children then.) However, you should think carefully about whether you want to bring kids under six into the tennis if you want to do anything more than just wander the outside grounds. Despite all the hoopla and party atmosphere outside, inside the courts there are serious matches going on and children who are crying or who cannot sit quietly won’t be tolerated for long. If you are a serious tennis fan, it’s better to only bring older children with you so that they will last courtside more than just a few games.
Because the Australian Open is an outdoor sporting event, you will need to bring appropriate clothing for all weather. On a warm day the courts can be exceptionally hot; outside Rod Laver and Margaret Court there is not much shade or relief from the sun. Melbourne has notoriously changeable and unreliable weather. Pack for extreme heat (this include wide brimmed hats, sunscreen and sunglasses) as well as cool weather no matter what the forecast.
[For more travel tips on how to be sun smart, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Food is available throughout the premises but it is expensive and you can expect to queue. It makes sense to bring your own snacks and water bottles which can be easily refilled throughout the grounds (glass bottles are not admitted for security purposes).
You can wheel strollers around the grounds quite easily but they are not allowed inside the stadiums. If you want to go in and watch a match, there is limited free stroller parking in the public cloak rooms. There are baby change tables in some of the public toilets.
It is very crowded inside the grounds. If you have older kids talk to them about where you meet if you get separated. For toddlers and preschooler you will either need to keep a very tight hold of them or otherwise consider using a travel harness. If your kids do get lost and you haven’t pre-agreed on a meeting point, there are designated areas where you can go and find them.
[For more travel tips on why you should use a safety harness for kids, see our interview with a suitcases&strollers mum here.]
There is no carparking around the venue. Public transport is the cheapest and easiest way to access the Australian Open with kids and all ticket holders get free rides to the Open on the number 70 tram that runs from the Docklands through the city to the stadiums.
For more travel tips on things to do in Melbourne with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.