Free fun family activities at the Gardens these summer school holidays

These school holidays, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV) will host a range of free and ticketed entertainment, play and educational programs for families at both Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and Cranbourne. 

There’s a range of new shows as well as sentimental favourites, from traditional theatre, to hands-on, interactive performances, self-guided adventures, minibus rides, and guided play. 

In January 2023, award-winning, physical theatre ensemble, ‘Born in a Taxi’, will deliver free entertainment called Butterfly House and Numinous Bloom, in the CUBE, their custom-made freestanding, transparent art space, at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Both performances encourage interaction with nature, from a different perspective. 

Butterfly House is a performance installation created for children and families drawing attention to the fascinating world of insects and pollinators. Merging puppetry, performance and visual art, audiences can meet a performer dressed as a giant praying mantis, make friends with a caterpillar puppet and create their own butterfly from recycled chip packets. Children will learn more about these incredible creepy crawlies and will be given a seedling to take home to plant in their own garden. 

Numinous Bloom, is an interactive mechanical garden that uses technology to mimic communication between plants and fungi. Featuring triggered animatronics, sounds and light, the flowers and habitat are 3D printed from recycled plastic, both complementing and contrasting their natural surroundings. Audiences of all ages can come and experience new ways to communicate with nature, through the paradox of technology. 

In January, there will also be free Summer Nature Play at both Melbourne and Cranbourne, where experienced learning facilitators will lead children to play and find joy connecting with the natural world, through a range of nature-inspired activities. These include barefoot paddling in the creek or exploring the bamboo forest, mud-inspired nature-play and learning about the plants and animals at the Gardens. 

Children can also ride free on the Explorer Bus at Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, and for $10 at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne during the school holidays. In this open-air minibus, families will explore the Gardens while listening to the commentary of an Explorer Bus driver/guide. 

Celebrating over 35 years at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, The Australian Shakespeare Company returns with their beloved outdoor theatre production, The Wind in the Willows. Audiences are invited to join their favourite characters Ratty, Mole, Badger, Otter, Portly, and Mr Toad, for music, laughs and fun. The Head Chief Rabbit will transform the audience into ‘bunnies’, and encourage them to sing, explore and interact with the performers. 

For a self-guided activity, Seek and Find Nature Cards encourage children to explore the Gardens’ scenery, plants and creatures at their own pace. These illustrated cards were developed by artists Claire Mosley and Casey Atkinson (Bangerang/Wiradjuri). Families can pick up the cards at the Visitor Centre. 

For further details, see the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria What’s On website page.