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I will be the first to admit that I don’t follow tennis, nor have I picked up a racket myself in 25 years, but I knew attending the Australian Open was something not to miss since we were living in Melbourne. Going to the Australian Open with kids was not quite as easy as I had anticipated, but it did make for a great day out. The Australian Open is held in Melbourne in January during Australian school holidays making it a great special event for the kids during the holidays. The tournament is a Grand Slam tournament and very important to the tennis world and the city of Melbourne. The City goes tennis crazy during January and you cannot help but get swept up in the action.
Here are my tips for doing the Australian Open with Kids:
Australian Open With Kids
Unless your kids are older or really into tennis, I would suggest buying Ground Passes. Ground Passes do not buy you a seat in the two main stadiums, Rod Laver or Margaret Court, but they do allow you to watch the action at Hisense, the show courts and all the outer courts. This gives you the opportunity to choose what matches you want to see and come and go as your please. The biggest benefit is that they are priced at $40/adult and only $5/child (ages 3-14). They can be purchased online or you can purchase them at the gate. I would recommend purchasing online ahead of time because the day we went, the queue to buy passes was quite long and kids and queue don’t go together. The serious ground pass fans will want to go on one of the first few days of the tournaments to ensure you can see some of the big names on the outer courts before the tournament advances. We attended on the 10th day since we were in Tasmania when the tournament started. The big names were not playing on the outer courts and it was mostly doubles, wheelchair games and juniors playing. You can still catch some of the big names at practice sessions on the outer courts. For us, being tennis newbies, this was perfectly fine.
We had just gotten home from holidays and going to the tennis was a spontaneous decision so I didn’t prepare the kids at all. I would suggest preparing the kids by going over tennis etiquette and the rules ahead of time. It would probably be a good idea to watch a match on TV or online before. Our kids have been to lots of live sports events, but tennis really is unique in being a gentleman’s sport. The spectators are very quiet and respectful and you can’t just get up and leave whenever you want. As a tennis newbie myself, I could pick up on these unknown rules. But kids don’t pick up on them as quickly. They tried to not talk too much and tried to talk quietly, but ultimately I spent much of the matches shushing them, which was stressful for me. I was worried the referee might have to call us out – “family in the corner, please maintain silence and stay in your seats”. A lot of my kids talking took the form of questions to me about the rules of the game. If I had prepared them ahead of time, they might have been able to watch the game quieter.
It can be really hot in Melbourne in January, so you want to make sure you come prepared for the heat and sun. A good sunhat is a must for you and the kids and regular sunscreen application. The show courts do have small covered sections of stands, but most of the seasts are out in the full sun. Bring a coverup to get yourself out of the sun. You will have to go through a bag check at the entrance, but you can bring in food and drink. It seemed perfectly acceptable to snack in your seats. We brought water (lots of areas to refill bottles) and a picnic lunch. My kids are 5-9 and they paid close attention to the matches in the beginning, but grew tired of watching after awhile. I don’t like to hand them a screen to get them occupied (and quiet!) but bringing a book or magazine might be helpful for kids if there attention wanes.
Kids Mini Theme Park
“The Ballpark”, the mini theme park they set up was the highlight of the Australian Open with my kids. The Ballpark provided all day, all ages entertainment for kids and was a good place to take them once they get tired of watching the matches. There are loads of things to keep the kids entertained – a nerf battlezone with obstacle course, a lego play area, a rock climbing and slack line area, the Hot Shots Fan Zone (where kids can get on small courts and play around) and a large stage with various performers and entertainment. When you entered the zone, the kids each received an activity pass on a lanyard for them to keep track of their activities. The Ballpark had plenty of shade so was a perfect way to get out of the heat. The only thing I wished they had was screens there showing the tennis so parents could stay in on the action. I had to bribe my kids to leave this area and go back and watch a bit more tennis.
Go crazy with the Social Media
The Australian Open really knows how to capitalize and leverage social media. Maybe I just don’t get out to a lot of major events, but I was blown away with all the opportunities they provide for you to engage on social media about the AO. The kids loved posing at the various hashtag signs and other photo opportunities setup throughout the venue.
As we entered, the first place we stopped was a station where for a gold coin donation, you received an official Australian Open ball used on the courts. This was a great take home souvenir for the kids. There is some great merchandise you can purchase throughout the venue at fairly reasonable rates.
Grand Slam Oval
We didn’t spent too much time here, but this is an interesting place to walk through at the Australian Open with kids. The oval is divided up into four Grand Slam regions (Melbourne, Paris, London, and New York) with food and beverage offerings and decorations that match that region. They even had a Canadian Club area!
Download the App
With the Australian Open you cannot see the schedule until the day before, making it hard to plan what matches you will see. The Australian Open app allows you to see the schedule and keep abreast on all the games going on. For grounds pass users, seein ght practice schedule allows you to try to see one of the superstars. The day we visited Federer was practicing on one of the outer courts and I thought we could can a peek at him. Well so did hundreds of true fans and all around the court was packed. We couldn’t get anywhere close. There is a bridge over the grounds, which did provide a decent vantage point to see him. If you really want to see someone in particular, make sure you get there early to claim your spot. Apparently you might even be able to swing an autograph on the outer courts.
There is a special Kids’ Tennis Day on the first Saturday with free entry for kids and lots of entertainment tailored to kids. This might be a good time to go to the Australian Open with kids, but I would assume it is also quite crowded. For adults, there is lots of great bands and entertainment playing throughout the grounds – check the AO app or website for details.
I would definitely recommend taking transit to the Australian Open. My kids love any opportunity to take the tram and you can get off right at Rod Laver Arena stop. If you hold a ticket, you can catch the tram for free to the AO on tram line 70 at Flinders Station.
Australian Open Festival
If you still want to catch some of the Australian Open with kids, but don’t want to buy a ticket, you can get a part of the action at the Australian Open Festival. Located behind Federation Square at Birrarung Park and running throughout the entire tournament, this is the place to absorb the action for free. A lot of the bars and restaurants are best enjoyed by adults, however kids can sit up on the hill in the upper terrace and watch the big screen. There are lots of activities from the AO sponsors to engage the kids and once again my kids loved posing for the various social media setups. There is face painting, which my kids love. It is fun to just wander through the area, along the Yarra River and take in the electric atmosphere.[easy-image-collage id=5881]
The Australian Open with kids is a great way to spend a day and introduce your kids to this sport. My kids are now eager to sign up for tennis lessons at their school and were interested in watching the finals and keeping up with their favorite player, Feta, as Miles call him (Federer). Buying grounds passes is an inexpensive way for a family to see this world renowned sporting event. We recommend it highly!