Things to Do in Canberra | In the Area | Rydges Capital Hill Canberra
04 Dec - 28 Mar 2016

Tom Roberts Exhibition

25 Nov - 28 Feb 2016

Encounters

26 - 28 Feb 2016

Royal Canberra Show

04 - 12 Mar 2016

Enlighten 2016

Fri, 11 Mar 2016

Lights! Canberra! Action!

12 - 20 Mar 2016

Canberra Balloon Spectacular

Sat, 19 Mar 2016

Skyfire 28 - FM 104.7

24 - 28 Mar 2016

National Folk Festival

21 Jun - 16 Aug 2016

The Truffle Festival Canberra Region

17 Sep - 16 Oct 2016

Floriade 2016

28 Sep - 01 Oct 2016

Floriade NightFest

Things to Do

Enjoy access to endless things to do in Canberra when you stay at our luxury hotel

Rydges Capital Hill Canberra is walking distance to popular area attractions and can’t-miss historic sites. Guests never run out of things to do in Canberra when they stay in our accommodation. Here are just a few entertainment options less than a 20-minute walk from our luxury Canberra hotel:

  • Parliament House
  • Old Parliament House
  • Questacon
  • National Gallery of Australia
  • National Portrait Gallery of Australia
  • High Court of Australia
  • National Library of Australia
  • National Archives of Australia
  • Manuka Oval

A little further down the road, guests can find things to do in Canberra a short 15-minute drive away. Have a look at these nearby options which also boast free parking:

  • National Museum of Australia
  • National Film & Sound Archives of Australia
  • Royal Australian Mint
  • Telstra Tower
  • Cockington Green Gardens
  • Mount Stromlo Observatory
  • Australian War Memorial

While visiting, make sure to check out our city’s impressive dining scene. Kingston and Manuka are two well-known neighborhoods in Canberra featuring fine restaurants frequented by Australian politicians. Popular dining hot spots can also be found in the quaint suburbs of Griffith, Dickson and Reid.

Still have questions about things to do in Canberra? Our team will be more than happy to point out their favourite restaurants and local attractions – just ask!

Things to do in Canberra

There are so many things to do in Canberra. Individually they could each be sufficient reason to visit the national capital and if you put them all on the list of things to do, it can be a very rewarding two or three days. Many of the major attractions are free (but there may be a charge for special temporary exhibitions at the galleries and museums). There are excellent festivals and events like Floriade, the Canberra International Film Festival, Enlighten and Summernats, there is excellent shopping, there’s plenty to do outdoors (e.g. hot-air ballooning, bushwalks, wineries) and the restaurants offer a wide range of excellent cuisine.

Attractions worthy of a visit include the National Carillon, the Australian Institute of Sport and the National Dinosaur Museum. There’s the National Archives of Australia (from Australia’s constitution to your family history), the Royal Australian Mint (press your own coin or watch the country’s coinage being made), the High Court of Australia (stunning building with courtroom action), the Canberra Glassworks (Australia’s only cultural centre dedicated to contemporary glass art), the National Film and Sound Archive (living archive with more than a century of film, radio and television history) and the National Library of Australia (get up close with rare and beautiful literary gems).

The Australian War Memorial ranks as Australia’s number one tourist attraction and for good reason. It is a deeply moving and rewarding experience. You can see a lot in an hour if you focus on just one area but best to allocate three to four hours.

Parliament House is well worth a visit – it is stunning piece of architecture, there are guided tours and it is great to see our democracy working if parliament is sitting. The café has good food and good views. Old Parliament House (The Museum of Australian Democracy) is also terrific – wander the old chambers and check out the PM’s office and bathrooms to feel the history.

The National Museum of Australia is a wonderful museum. It’s not at all ‘stuffy’ and features three themes – Australian society and history, Aboriginal Australia and people’s interaction with the environment. You can admire Phar Lap’s huge heart or a horse-drawn milk cart.

Questacon is the largest hands-on science centre in Australia and has daily shows and workshops for all ages. The Australian National Botanic Gardens has the world’s most comprehensive display of Australian native plants. There are walking trails, picnic spots and animals, birds and water dragons. The National Arboretum is home to some 48,000 trees.

It is hard to decide which art gallery is more rewarding, so suggest a visit to both (they are near each other). The National Gallery of Australia is always interesting with the permanent collection including the Heidelberg School to Nolan’s Ned Kelly to Pollack’s Blue Poles… The National Portrait Gallery has a fascinating permanent collection from bushrangers to pioneers, from politicians to pop stars, from the past to the present. Both galleries have excellent permanent exhibitions and both have good cafés as well as friendly, welcoming staff/volunteers.

High Court of Australia

The High Court of Australia is one of Canberra’s major tourist attractions. It is stunning architecturally and located in the Parliamentary Zone on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin (between Questacon and the National Gallery of Australia). The High Court-National Gallery precinct was added to the National Heritage List in 2007.  The Court building is a unique structure. Forty metres tall and constructed mainly of concrete and glass, it has four main elements: a large public hall, the courtrooms, an administrative wing, and Justices' chambers.

The High Court is the highest court in the Australian judicial system. It was established in 1901 by Section 71 of the Constitution. The functions of the High Court are to interpret and apply the law of Australia; to decide cases of special federal significance including challenges to the constitutional validity of laws and to hear appeals, by special leave, from Federal, State and Territory courts.

The Court is open to the public and visitors may view the Great Hall where there is an educational display and video area. The Hall also often features exhibitions or performances by cultural organisations. The three courtrooms, the focus of the building’s activities, are also open to the public. Admission is free. Court Guides are on hand to introduce visitors to the history, role and operation of the High Court and its building.

The High Court is open to the public Monday to Friday from 9:45am to 4:30pm and Sunday from midday to 4:00pm. Normal court sitting hours are from 10:15am to 12:45pm and 2:15pm to 4:15pm. The building is closed on public holidays. It is accessible by ACTION buses (routes 2 or 3 weekdays and 934 or 935 on weekends) and is also close to the lakeside cycle path.

It can be a good idea to check the Court calendar before planning your visit. If the Court is sitting, you are welcome to watch proceedings. The same way libraries like restraint when it comes to noise, the Court requests cooperation in respecting Court etiquette when watching proceedings. The building is surrounded by parkland which provides an ideal venue for lunch on fine days. Many school groups take their lunch and enjoy it on the shores of the lake.

Portraits of all the former Chief Justices of the High Court of Australia are on public display in the High Court building. The portraits of the first bench, comprising Chief Justice Sir Samuel Griffith, Justice Sir Edmund Barton, and Justice Richard O'Connor, hang in Court 1. The portraits of Chief Justices Sir Adrian Knox, Sir Isaac Isaacs, Frank Gavan Duffy, Sir JG Latham and Sir Owen Dixon hang in Court 2. The portraits of Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick and Chief Justices Sir Harry Gibbs, Sir Anthony Mason, Sir Gerard Brennan and the Hon Murray Gleeson hang in Court 3. Many of the artworks in the High Court's collection that are on display in the Public Hall but are not part of the fabric of the building address legal themes.

Parliament House Canberra

Parliament House belongs to every Australian. The taxpayers paid for the construction and they will always continue to cover the running costs. It is the meeting place of our nation and it is well worth a visit. In fact, it should be a ‘must do’ for all Australians. The building itself offers a dynamic experience with its impressive architecture, stunning art collection and beautiful landscaping. It also offers the chance to be a part of democracy in action. Parliament House is open to the public throughout the year, with the exception of Christmas Day.

Visitors are welcome to wander the public areas in Parliament House at their leisure or take a guided tour. On sitting days it opens from 9:00am on Monday and Tuesday and from 8:30am on Wednesday and Thursday. It closes at 6.00pm and non-sitting days hours are from 9:00am till 5:00pm. Visitors can view proceedings in the House of Representatives and the Senate from the Public Galleries in the Chambers whenever the Houses are in session. At other times when Parliament House is open visitors may visit the public galleries.

Question time tickets for the House of Representatives can be booked during office hours by telephoning the Sergeant-at-Arm’s Office on (02) 6277 4889 up until 12.30pm on the day required. Tickets can be collected between 12.50 pm and 1.30 pm from the Cloak Room on the first floor near the House of Representatives Chamber. Bookings are not required for Question Time in the Senate.

A guided tour is a great way to explore this iconic building and learn about the Australian Parliament. There are several different tours available to visitors, for more information click here.

The Queen’s Terrace Cafe provides meals and snacks and is an excellent resting point for those taking their time to explore. The Queen’s Terrace offers great views of Canberra and, exploring aside, is a delightful spot for lunch or a leisurely Sunday brunch. The Parliament Shop has gifts including politically themed books, coffee mugs featuring your favourite Prime Minister, local wines, and samples of the building’s timber marquetry.

Accessible parking is available to visitors in the underground public car park close to public lifts. Courtesy wheelchairs and strollers are available for loan, at no charge, from the information desk in the Marble Foyer. Visitors should contact Visitor Services on (02) 6277 5399 before arriving at Parliament House to ensure that equipment is available for loan.

If you’re interested in a picturesque walk to the building through central Canberra, the Parliament House Walk (3.4km) runs from the Jolimont Centre in the City’s centre and features 13 interpretive signs, which provide information about cultural institutions and the history of the Parliamentary Triangle.

Old Parliament House is also worth a visit.  It is now home to the Museum of Australian Democracy.  The chambers (House of Representatives and the Senate) still see lively debates from visiting school students and there are some good interactive exhibitions.  Time and place have been preserved very well. Here is a link to the official site.

Australian National Botanic Gardens

The Australian National Botanic Gardens are home to the world’s most comprehensive display of living Australian plants. There are also many birds, animals and water dragons. It is a place for recreation, inspiration, science and learning. Or it can be just a delightful setting for a stroll, a sit or a picnic. There are walking trails, expansive lawns for running/playing, picnic tables and a café and bookshop.

The Gardens are located at the foot of Black Mountain with entry from Clunies Ross Street in Acton. It is a 30 minute walk from the CBD or parking is available onsite. Entry to the Gardens is free but there is a charge for parking ($3 an hour or $12 a day). Customers visiting the Botanic Bookshop receive 30 minutes free parking (there are four spaces near the Visitor’s Centre). There are four disabled access car spaces in the top northern end of the main carpark, near the Visitor Centre and café, and there are three spaces at the rear of the Crosbie Morrison Building.

The Gardens are open daily from 8.30am to 5.00pm, except Christmas Day. During January the closing time is extended to 8.00pm on weekends. The gates are locked when the Gardens are closed. The Visitor Centre and the Botanical Bookshop open from 9:30am to 4:30pm. The Gardens’ Café opens from 8:30am to 4:30pm. You can discover the Gardens in relaxing style on a forty-five minute guided tour aboard a 12-seater electric bus. It runs Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays at 10.30 am and 1.30 pm from outside the Visitor Centre. Cost is $6.00 for adults, $3.00 for children under 16 and concession and children under 3 ride free. 

The Australian National Botanic Gardens maintains a scientific collection of native plants from all parts of Australia. The plants are displayed for the enjoyment and education of visitors and are used for research into plant classification and biology. A herbarium of preserved plant specimens is closely associated with the living collection. The Gardens also cultivate plants threatened in the wild. This helps protect them against extinction and provides information which might assist reintroduction to their natural habitat. As well as the flora, on the fauna front visitors may see birds, bats, frogs, reptiles, moths and butterflies. You may also be fortunate enough to come across marsupials like kangaroos, wallabies and possums but, unfortunately, a few introduced species like to call the Gardens home so you may also see feral cats, European rabbits, hares and foxes.

There is a visitor code for the Gardens, based on common sense. Visitors are asked to leave the gardens as they found them and are encouraged to draw or photograph favourite plants to take as a souvenir, to walk on the paths, picnic, smell the flowers and talk to the animals, but don’t feed them as they have a natural, healthy diet. To protect the collection, no ball games, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, rollerblades, Frisbees, fires, BBQs, domestic pets or horses.

Here is a link to the official website for the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

Australian War Memorial

National Museum of Australia

The National Museum of Australia is a fabulous museum – it’s not at all ‘stuffy’ or ‘formal’ – it is welcoming, informative and entertaining. The building itself is an architectural landmark and was opened in 2001. The architecture was inspired by the idea of a jigsaw puzzle, reflecting the many intertwined, connecting stories that make up Australia’s history. And, inside, there is a wonderful, rich and dynamic and collection of Australian historical material. The Museum researches, collects and represents three inter-related fields – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories, Australian history and society since 1788 and people’s interaction with the Australian environment. Naturally, many of the Museum’s collections relate to more than one of these fields.

The Museum’s collection contains one of the world’s largest collections of bark paintings and the collection of the former Australian Institute of Anatomy that includes the champion racehorse Phar Lap’s unusually large heart. The collection also includes historical vehicles like a horse-drawn milk cart, items relating to politics and politicians, over 300 convict tokens, an extensive collection of Aboriginal breastplates and diverse bits and pieces like Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie letter, Governor King’s snuffbox, Azaria Chamberlain’s dress and a treasured toy pig won by a girl on the way to meeting her father after the Second World War. It is all about our land, our nation and our people – it is where our stories live.  You can experience the stories of Australia and Australians using the latest hands-on interactive technology from the rock art of Kakadu to the Hills Hoist and Vegemite. There are areas especially for children, a waterfront restaurant, two cafes and a shop with a huge range of souvenirs and gift ideas. The Museum Café is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm and lunch is available on weekdays until 2.30pm. Brunch and lunch are available on weekends and public holidays until 2.30pm. A wide selection of cakes, hot beverages and drinks are available all day.

If you want to make the most of your visit or you have limited time, guided tours are ideal. Each tour is personalised and run by a trained Visitor Services Host. Your host knows all about the Museum's exhibitions and can share engaging background information with you during your tour. There are a range of tours and tour times are 10:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm. Visitors can also enjoy a free ten-minute talk focusing on some of the highlights from the Museum's collections or the symbolism of the Garden of Australian Dreams. Ask at the information desk on arrival for the talk topics and times for that day.

The National Museum of Australia is in Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula and is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm every day except Christmas Day. It is very disabled-friendly with lifts, ramps, designated parking and free scooters. Here is a link to the Museum’s official website. The website is an excellent reflection of the actual museum, right down to advice to parents that includes – “Write your mobile phone number on your child if he/she may wander.”

National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia is a fabulous art gallery. It is located in Parkes Place, Parkes with free entry (special exhibitions may have an entry cost) and is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm (closed Christmas Day).

The Gallery has free scheduled guided tours that don’t require booking ahead, both of the permanent collection and major exhibitions (times vary for major exhibitions and entry ticket may be required). Gallery Highlight Tours are offered daily at 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm and 2:30pm and range from 30 minutes to an hour in duration. There are also talks and lectures covering many topics relating to the Gallery's collections and exhibitions including art and design history, architecture, literature and history.

While the Gallery has an impressive history of securing special temporary exhibitions, the permanent collection is always rewarding. Many visitors head straight to the controversial Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles purchased by Gough Whitlam when they arrive at the National Gallery but it is worth putting aside a few hours to browse the outstanding and diverse collection of Australian art. The artworks range from Aboriginal to abstract and colonial to contemporary and are worth discovering for both the art itself and to experience an important part of our history and culture.

One terrific ‘mini-exhibition’ is the Australian impressionist paintings that came out of the Heidelberg School – paintings by artists like Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Charles Conder and Arthur Streeton. The artists established painting camps on the outskirts of Melbourne and moved on to other places in Victoria and New South Wales including Sirius Cove on Sydney Harbour. The aim was to represent ‘truth to nature’ and worked in the open air, sketching and painting quickly to capture an instant impression.

If Australian art is of interest, there is a special Tom Roberts exhibition from December 4, 2015 to March 28, 2016. The exhibition will include some of Australia’s best known paintings like Shearing the rams (1888-1890) and A break away! (1891). This exhibition takes place during the time of a large-scale rehang of nearly every work of art in the gallery with Australian art taking pride of place in a new location.

The Sculpture Garden and the Australian Garden are open every day of the year. Visitors are advised that extreme caution should be exercised on the slate paving near these areas when wet, as it becomes slippery.

Overlooking the Sculpture Garden, the newly refurbished Gallery cafe offers breakfast, morning, afternoon tea and lunch options as well as children's meals plus a selection of wines by the glass, great coffee and sweets. It is open from 10:00am to 4:30pm daily. There is also the Street Café, which is open from 8:00am to 4:00pm, weather permitting. It is located at the main entrance to the Gallery and is a great place to meet for coffee and a snack. You can relax at a table or take away and enjoy in the Sculpture Garden.

Here is a link to the official website for the National Gallery of Australia.

Questacon Canberra

Questacon Canberra is the perfect place to start a holiday with kids in the nation's capital. It is the only hands-on science centre in the region and the largest in Australia with over 200 interactive exhibits.  All you need is curiosity, imagination and a sense of fun to explore the science behind the world we live in and, as they say, it's the smarter way to have fun!

There are sensational Science Shows daily (free with your paid admission) and lots of areas to explore for all ages and interests. Do you know why the pillar goes darker or brighter as it turns? Can you see any shapes ‘popping up’ in the darkness? Discover the answer to these questions when you visit the Questacon foyer.

Does your brain play tricks on you? Is your ‘reality’ the same as others? The answer to these questions and more in Perception Deception. This family-friendly exhibition reveals how our brains process information from our senses to form our perception of the world around us, and sometimes all is not as it seems!

Experience the power and beauty of Awesome Earth! Feel the force of an earthquake, let lightning spark your imagination and wonder at the grandeur of the universe. Excite@Q is high energy, high impact and highly addictive. Feel the adrenalin pumping as you free fall down a six metre slide, battle a robot in a game of air hockey, test your reflexes against your friends or try to keep your balance as you move through the Rototron.

H2O—Soak Up the Science is Questacon's permanent exhibition about water and how it shapes our lives and landscapes. Get hands on and boil water, launch a hydrogen rocket, pump water towards the ceiling and find out how much water is used to manufacture food and clothing.

Mini Q—fun for 0-6 year olds is custom-built environment for little scientists. Each zone in Mini Q encourages carers and their young children to explore their environment through a process of observation, prediction, testing and refining. Since opening in 2011, Questacon’s Q Lab has evolved to become a dynamic and experimental environment that encourages enquiry and aims to keep up-to-date with the scientific world. Experience a wide range of scientific activities and demonstrations with Questacon’s science communicators and visiting scientists.

As you walk up and around the ramp to reach the galleries, enjoy photographic displays produced by researchers and scientific organisations as well as art-science sculptures and hands-on exhibits. The Science Garden features exhibits inspired by the natural elements of sun, wind, water and rock. Wonderworks explores colour, movement, light and sound. You can play music using light beams, meditate on the harmonic motion of a pendulum or try to escape the ever-watching gaze of an emu.

Questacon is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm every day except Christmas Day and there are always workshops in the school holidays.  Admission fees apply. Questacon is located on King Edward Terrace in Parkes on the southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin and here is a link to the official Questacon website.

National Arboretum Canberra

The National Arboretum Canberra is home to over 48,000 trees growing in 94 forests across a huge 250 hectare site. While many of the forests are still young, two are almost 100 years old – the Himalayan cedar and Cork oak forests. It is one of the largest tree conservation projects in the world with a focus on the conservation, display and study of rare, endangered and significant trees from Australia and around the world. The Arboretum is six kilometres from the CBD, at the western end of Lake Burley Griffin (Forest Drive, off Tuggeranong Parkway).

The Himalayan cedar forest is one of the oldest forests at the Arboretum, planted in 1917 to 1930 and 2010. These tall shady trees surround an attractive timber picnic and barbeque deck. The cedars are native to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, West Nepal and Tibet where they are highly valued for their timber and curative properties. Planted in 1917 and 1920, the Cork oak forest allows visitors to immerse themselves among the radiating cathedral-like avenues of trees. Many of the trees were grown from acorns provided by Walter Burley Griffin, the architect of Canberra.

The National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of living artworks is home to some of the finest miniature trees and forests in the world, produced by some of Australia's leading bonsai and penjing artists. The Bonsai Welcome Garden, or "Yokoso Niwa" is inspired by Japanese bonsai and moss gardens. The garden represents a landscape of mountains, symbolised by the large rocks, with a dry river bed flowing between them. The Canberra Discovery Garden shows visitors how to grow a beautiful, sustainable and water-efficient garden in any season. Inspiring visitors to learn about plant selection, growing requirements and water conservation, the Canberra Discovery Garden is located on the Events Terrace next to the Village Centre and National Bonsai Collection. It is open daily from 7:00am to 5:30 pm during Eastern Standard Time and daily from 6:00am to 8:30pm during Daylight Savings Time.

Sprout Café and The Conservatory Restaurant in the Village Centre offer contemporary Australian cuisine using fresh, high-quality, locally grown produce. Sprout Café is open from 9:00am to 4:00pm for coffee, snacks, casual lunches and picnics. Conservatory Restaurant opens for lunch from midday to 2:00pm and breakfast on weekends from 8:00am to 11:00am.

Entry to the Arboretum is free but pay parking applies from 9:00am until 5:00pm daily at $2 per hour with a maximum of $7.50 for one day. The parking meters accept coins or credit card and all parking fees are returned to the Arboretum. ACTION Buses leave from Platform 9 at the City Bus Station and stop at the Arboretum five times per day, seven days a week. Buses take 21 minutes to reach to Arboretum's Visitors Centre from the city. The whole top tier of the main car park next to the Village Centre is designated disabled car parking spaces (sealed surface). Cars displaying a valid disabled parking voucher park free. Here is a link to the official National Arboretum Canberra website.