We may have found a new favorite city! The six days we spent in Melbourne were so much fun and we feel like we barely scratched the surface of things to see and do. We found the city to be beautiful, easy to navigate, and filled with family-friendly activities. Add to this the fact that it is teeming with affable Aussies and boasts the most fresh, sleek architecture we’ve seen since Copenhagen…we all just loved the short time that we had to explore here.
It had been quite a while since we spent an afternoon at a museum, and the Melbourne Museum proved to be the perfect re-introduction to some structured, educational sight seeing. We took the City-Tram to get there, which is a free trolley car that runs a big circuit around Melbourne for tourists to hop on and off, explaining the various parts of the city and famous landmarks along the way.
The day was hot and humid, so we began our visit to the museum by cooling off in the IMAX theater and enjoying a film about the annual migration of the Monarch butterfly. If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s a MUST – spectacular and fascinating!
Then, inside the museum, each adult paired off with a child to explore the exhibits that most interested her. Schuyler and Mumsy headed straight for the Aboriginal Peoples exhibit. Zoe and Jeff went toward Science and Nature, learning about some of Australia’s creepiest insects and ancient beasts, and Thayer and Blair wandered through the History of Melbourne exhibit where we could see how the earliest settlers lived.
All of us took time to wander through the incredible Hall of Mammals, a veritable Noah’s Ark of the mammals of the world. There were small video cameras attached to computer screens that you could use to focus on any animal, tap the screen with your finger, and find out all about that particular creature. It was amazingly interactive, as was the entire museum for that matter.
ZOE: I loved the insect section where we saw 3 to 5-inch beetles and got to smell the stick bug’s poop which smelled like Eucalyptus! I also loved seeing the fossils and watching the video clips about how they were discovered and removed. The Hall of Mammals was amazing because I got to learn about which animals were endangered, extinct, or in good shape. Also, the 3D butterfly movie was so fun. All the butterflies seemed like they were going to hit your face! All of the little kids in school groups throughout the audience were reaching their hands up trying to catch them during the movie. It was an amazing story about a scientist who finally solved the mystery of the Monarch butterflies — they go all the way to Mexico to a remote mountain top each winter to wait for warmer temperatures back in North America. It’s an incredible migration!
SCHUYLER: I learned a lot about the Native Australians, or Aborigines with Mumsy. We saw some of their shields and canoes, and there was a display of children’s toys and games from a long time ago. One thing that stood out to me were some possum robes made by Aboriginal children. They had sewn patches on the robes, each patch representing a memory. They were really beautiful!
THAYER: I loved the museum! It was so fun, I even learned about a famous horse back years ago named Phar Lap from Melbourne. He was a race horse and he won a race in America which no Australian horse had ever done. I got to see a video of how he lived and raced and then the video said he died but they didn’t tell us how he died. I have been asking mom to get me a book about it so I can learn how he died. It was a sad story to me, but Australians think he was the best horse ever. Mumsy bought me a stuffed animal of Phar Lap at the gift shop that takes up my entire suitcase. I love it!
When not exploring the sights of Melbourne, we spent quite a lot of time planning and prepping for Thayer’s 6th birthday celebration on December 4th. In the days preceding the big event, Blair puttered around the city picking up some presents that qualified as both packable and happy-making for Thayer. This translates directly as small items that are pink, plastic, and involving lip gloss, fake cell phones, or the word “Barbie” which we finally gave in to after 10 years of strict avoidance — traversing the globe has opened our eyes to the realization that Barbie is indeed an international sensation, gracing the shelves of pharmacies and supermarkets in just about every country and city we’ve been to. We just couldn’t escape her intoxicating (toxic) charm! While Blair and Mumsy fretted over where to buy party plates and streamers (this took multiple excursions to sort out), Schuyler and Zoe embarked on a 2-day project designing a fairytale themed scavenger hunt for the birthday girl. Details below. When not working away on this, they found time to join Jeff and Thayer at the ice arena for some winterish recreation in the midst of summer!
Thayer’s birthday request was to go to the Melbourne Aquarium, so we spent the morning of her big day roaming through yet another impressive city-based attraction. We hand-fed sea horses and gaped at the largest crocodile we had ever seen, walked beneath Manta Rays and cozied up near sea turtles and penguins. It was an awesome way to begin our day!
Naturally, like all exhausted parents, we made the classic mistake of exiting through the gift shop. The birthday girl made out like a bandit.
After the aquarium it was back to the hotel for the big party. Mumsy’s room was decorated with balloons and streamers, and we set up a “make-your-own-cookie” station at the birthday girl’s request — she’s over the whole cake thing apparently. Schuyler and Zoe handed out name tags for each of us bearing names like Old King Cole and the Fairy Godmother.
After cookies we played pin the tail on the donkey for a little old-school entertainment.
Time for the long-awaited, much fretted over Scavenger Hunt!
SCHUYLER: For Thayer’s birthday we needed to come up with something really special, so Zoe and I decided to set up a scavenger hunt around the hotel. The theme was “fairy tales” and it involved goblins, tooth fairies, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and a few others. It was so fun to get the concierge staff in on it and to hide the presents between our three rooms, the pool, gym, and lobby! Each of us had to wear a name tag with a character on it: Dad was Old King Cole, Mumsy was Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, Mom was the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella, Zoe was Alice in Wonderland, and I was Wendy Darling from Peter Pan. The birthday girl was Thumbelina, Princess of the Fairies of course! Each clue had a particular theme depending on the location of the gift, and we illustrated them with characters from the fairy tales. It took a LONG TIME to organize, but it was worth it when we saw Thayer’s reaction at finding each gift. I think she felt really special on her birthday.
It was a birthday to remember, for so many reasons. We were especially grateful that Mumsy could stay long enough to make the celebration so special. We said goodbye to her on December 5th with heavy hearts and teary eyes. After one more night in Melbourne, we headed off as well, this time for a road trip along the famous Great Ocean Road toward Adelaide. Post to come soooon – G’Day!