Summer School Holidays: What’s On in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie & Hunter

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There’s no reason to hear an “I’m bored” complaint from your kids with a range of offerings this summer. Whether your kids are interested in art, books, science, movies, or the great outdoors, there’s something for everyone. And it’s not just for school-aged kids, there’s plenty of holiday activities planned for under 5s.

City of Newcastle

NEWCASTLE LIBRARIES

There is a raft of workshop experiences to be had across the Library branches.

  • Go Animating Mad with Toonworld Workshop – Discover the wonderful world of Myths, Fairytales and Legends through Stop Motion Animation. In this exciting workshop, you will learn simple hints and tips on how to animate effectively. Suitable for ages 8-12.
  • Harry Potter Science Workshop – Prepare to unleash the magic within you. Make crystals disappear, cast spells as you mix up bubbling, colour-changing potions. Move things with your magic wand and make powders magically dance. Presented by Mad About Science. Suitable for ages 8-12.
  • Strange and Ugly Animals Workshop – Join  illustrator and author Sami Bayly to explore some of the seemingly mythical creatures from her two books, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly Animals and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dangerous Animals.
  • Drum Beats Workshop – Get in the rhythm and enjoy the fun of drumming and a taste of West African stories with Earthen Rhythms African Drum and Dance.
  • Enjoy fun and interactive storytimes at library branches and local parks across Newcastle, including Fairy Tales with a Twist, Fantastic Myths and Legends, The Magic Box Story Stomp and Fantastic Journey Story Stomp. Suitable for a range of ages.

Bookings are required for all workshops and costs vary. See more on the Newcastle Libraries website. Branches will close from noon on Christmas Eve and reopen on Monday 4 January 2021. Customer return chutes will be open at all branches and customers can renew borrowed items online via the Library website or mobile app.

Ever seen a robot dance? Visit the new Digital Library at 12 Stewart Avenue where you can meet Pepper the Robot, explore space on our interactive screen, or pick up the latest new release books. While you’re there why not get involved in one of our hands-on workshops? From digital displays to VR demonstrations, the Digital Library has lots to offer those inquisitive minds. Suitable for all ages.

NEWCASTLE MUSEUM

There will be plenty of entertainment for curious kids at Newcastle Museum this summer.

See the world in a new light through Colour – an exhibition developed by Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre. See colour as you’ve never seen it before and engage with more than 20 scientific experiences, ranging from coloured bubbles to iridescent insects to colour illusions. Explore how light influences colour and compare your perception of colour with your family and friends. Suitable for ages 4+. Bookings essential.

Learn about the world’s first photographic process in the hands-on workshop The Art and Science of Cyanotype. Come along to learn about light and explore where art meets science as you create your very own unique cyanotype artworks. Suitable for children aged 5+. Cost $12. Bookings essential.

While you’re at the Muesum don’t miss our Super Sneaky Science pop-up! No bookings required, just come and find us roaming around in the Museum – They will be loud and colourful and having lots of fun with hands-on science.  There’ll be slime, eyeballs, rockets, prisms, squid and more!

Entry to the museum is via QR code registration upon arrival. See more on the Newcastle Museum website. Newcastle Museum is closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Sunday 27 December 2020 and New Year’s Day. Open as normal all other days: Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm, and every day during the NSW school holidays.

NEWCASTLE ART GALLERY

Kids and teens will enjoy fun and dynamic opportunities to explore their creativity in response to works of art on display in the summer exhibition WE CAN BE HEROES: A backstage pass and DOMESTIC BLISS: functional works from the collection.

  • Make a Musical Instrument workshop – Kids can channel their inner Rockstar and decorate their own musical instruments and shakers using a mixture of materials. Suitable for ages 5-12 years.
  • Porcelain Plate Patterns workshop – Kids will use porcelain markers to apply your own pattern designs to a range of ceramic cups and plates. Suitable for ages 5-12 years.
  • Teen Masterclass – Teens can learn how to create their own iconic rock music symbols with local artist Rosie Turner. They can unleash their inner creative and delve into the amazing world of ink on paper in this special masterclass just for teens. Suitable for ages 13-17 years.

Music fans will love the Hour of Power held from 4-5pm on Friday to Sunday of each week. Rock on while you browse our summer exhibition WE CAN BE HEROES: a backstage pass. A specially curated Spotify playlist will be playing throughout the exhibition to amp up your gallery experience.

Music lovers can also snap a picture in front of the original NEON BALLROOM sign from local legends Silverchair, plus view a selection of posters from epic Newy gigs sent in from the public featured in the Gallery’s interactive Smart space.

Did you know Art Cart is also on every Saturday during the holidays? Art Cart engages children with the exhibitions on display through discussion and art making. Led by Gallery educators, every weekend we interact with a different work of art on display. Activities are suitable for children of all ages, with supervision required by a parent or carer. Limited spots available.

Bookings are required for all workshops and costs vary, see more on the Newcastle Art Gallery website. The gallery is closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Open as normal all other days: Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm, and every day during the NSW school holidays.

CIVIC THEATRE

The iconic ‘picture palace’ returns with Civic Cinema, with the good old days of seeing a movie at the Civic Theatre once again possible with the installation of a new digital projection widescreen. Enjoy the free time of school holidays and settle into air-conditioned comfort with bucket of popcorn in hand to enjoy screenings that kids of all ages will love, including The Polar express, Elliot the Littlest reindeer and more.

Check out the Civic Theatre website to see a full list of what’s on during December and January.

Settle into the regal seats for these special school holiday screenings:

Visit civictheatrenewcastle.com.au for ticket details.

BLACKBUTT RESERVE

Playgrounds, walking trails, open spaces, shelters and barbecues at Blackbutt Reserve are open. Visit Blackbutt and see family favourites like koalas, wallabies and wombats. You can also see emus, wallabies and kangaroos in a separate paddock behind the playground. The kiosk has reopened for snacks, coffee and animal food. Purchase a feeding cone from the kiosk and feed the emus. However, public programs, including animal feedings and reptile show, remain suspended until further notice. But you can book a private reptile or critter encounter with the Blackbutt rangers.

There’s also 10km of walking trails and plentiful picnic and playground facilities to enjoy. Drop into Richley Reserve and experience the adventure playground with rope courses, bridges, swings and slides, and an adventure tower, or swing by the playground at the Carnley Avenue entrance ideal for children aged 6-10 years with interactive musical instruments and activities.

Blackbutt Reserve is open every day during the school holidays, except for Christmas Day. Wildlife exhibits are open 10am – 5pm, picnic facilities 7am – 7pm and the kiosk 10am – 3pm. Visit the Blackbutt Reserve website to find out more.

FORT SCRATCHLEY

Boasting one of the best panoramic views of Newcastle and with space for the kids to run wild and free, this historic landmark is a must do for all school holiday itineraries. Pack a picnic and enjoy the rolling grass hills overlooking the ocean, or book in for a tunnel tour where you will learn about this history of this amazing site. Stick around for the daily gun firing at 1pm (weather permitting)! For more details visit the Fort Scratchley website.

Fort Scratchley will be closed from Thursday 24 December to Saturday 26 December 2020, and Friday 1 January 2021. Open as normal all other days from 10am – 4pm. The Fort is closed on Tuesdays.

POOLS & BEACHES

Lambton Pool Aquatic Playground
Lambton Pool

Enjoy the summer weather at local pool or beaches. Local swimming centres are open longer hours during summer, and our beaches are patrolled by Lifeguards seven days a week. Lambton Pool is open from 5.30am – 8pm while Beresfield, Mayfield, Stockton and Wallsend are open 6am – 7pm seven days a week,

Prefer the beach? Head to one of the beaches or ocean baths. Lifeguard patrol Newcastle, Bar, Dixon Park, Nobbys, and Merewether beaches from 7am – 5.30pm all days except Sunday (9am – 5.30pm). They patrol Stockton beach, and Merewether and Newcastle Ocean Baths from 9am – 5.30pm.


Lake Macquarie City Council

LAKE MACQUARIE CITY LIBRARY

Lake Macquarie City Library has organised loads of fun school holiday activities in their libraries and also at parks and local pools.

  • Creative Cardboard Creations – learn tips and tricks how to use cardboard and other available materials for home craft projects.
  • Meet the illustrator Jenni Goodman: Have you seen a tree for me? Enjoy a storytime and draw along with Jenni.
  • The Lost Thing: collage workshop -create your own artwork inspired by the book The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan with creative Bastian-Fox Phelan.
  • Let’s Find Out Science Show – an interactive show with demonstrations in physics, chemistry and biology. Discover giant stick insects, water wheels, film canister rockets and much more. Presented by Scienza Viva.
  • Insights into snakes sessions – would you know what to do if you found a snake? Reptile rescuer, Teresa Purnell, will answer that question and more during this insightful discussion on snakes.

For more information and to book holiday sessions, visit Lake Macquarie City Council website.

Dinosaurs at Lake Macquarie Library – Dinos are back this summer but not where you would expect them. Check out two mini dino displays at Belmont and Toronto Libraries (Collection on loan from Michael Dawson). At Belmont Library, you can see the raptors while at Toronto, the baby and teenage T-rex will be on show. They are on display from Tuesday 15 December 2020 until Sunday 7 February 2021. Open during normal library hours with free entry.

Never be Late for a Parade: exhibition of illustrations by Shaun Tan at SEEN@Swansea – This exhibition features a collection of illustrations from Shaun Tan`s best-known picture books including The Arrival, The Red Tree, The Lost Thing and the Singing Bones, and celebrates his unique approach to storytelling through this selection of brilliant images, as varied and fascinating as their narratives. The exhibition runs from Saturday 19 December until Sunday 31 January. Open Monday – Sunday, 10am-2pm. Gold Coin Entry.

MAC (MUSEUM OF ART AND CULTURE)

MAC is offering a range of activities and shows had been tailored to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, with smaller group sizes creating a more intimate atmosphere for participants.

Visit the gallery for in-person workshops. Kids aged 7+ can be inspired by artworks on display at MAC. Enjoy a tour of the exhibitions with themes of water and the lake, followed by a fun workshop in watercolour painting with a professional artist on January 13 or 14. Ages 7+ All sessions limited to 10 participants to ensure social distancing. They can also enjoy the exhibition Body Language followed by a fun workshop where they can make figurative sculptures using a range of materials. Bookings essential. All programs and events are run with COVID Safe Plans including social distancing, limited numbers and additional hygiene numbers.

LAKE MAC SWIM CENTRES

In Lake Macquarie, pools are open in Charlestown, Speers Point, Swansea, Morisset and Toronto. Lake Mac Swim Centres will be hosting intensive learn to swim programs at Charlestown, Speers Point, Swansea and West Wallsend Swim Centres throughout the holiday period.


Maitland City Council

MAITLAND CITY LIBRARY

Maitland City Library have a range of exciting activities available in-branch these school holidays relating to the theme “Tales of Wonder”. Explore the magic of fairy tales, the adventure of legends and the truth behind myths with the library this summer.

  • Mixed Media Story Art Workshop – Unleash the inner artist and storyteller as you use a variety of material to create and illustrate your own story.
  • Super Hero Training Workshop – Learn the tricks you’ll need to be in the Superhero team.. Suitable for all ages.
  • Super Hero Show – Be prepared to be amazed as Superheroes stop by to demonstrate their incredible skills.
  • Film Fight Choreography Workshop – Fight choreography makes a story look dangerous and daring. Bring along your friends and learn the secrets. Ages 12+.
  • Dreamcatchers Workshop – Create your own dreamcatcher as you learn the history, the stories and the reason why each piece is added. Ages 5+.
  • Forensic Flying Squad Workshop – Gather the evidence and use the forensic stations to get to the truth of Professor Henry Sluggs murder. Ages 11+.
  • The Water Cycle Show – There are many myths and legends about water, find out how the water cycle works and make your own terrarium. Ages 5+.
  • Sketch Attack Workshop – Join Graham Davidson for a fast paced, fun look at the art of sketching. All ages.

For more information and to book holiday sessions, visit Maitland City Library website.

MAITLAND REGIONAL ART GALLERY

Maitland Regional Art Gallery is hosting Free Art January which includes 26 days of fun art activities, 6 exhibitions and an inflatable installation. You are invited to be part of the fun – visiting the gallery is free, just register on arrival and follow all the Covid-safe procedures while enjoying self-directed activities, workshops and exhibitions. It is essential that you book through Eventbrite for all workshops.

There is something for everyone throughout the month-long extravaganza with activities for kids, family groups, teens and adults. Available Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm except Public Holidays. It’s all free so come SEE-MAKE-DO at the Art Gallery this summer! For more information, visit the Maitland Regional Art Gallery website.

MAITLAND EVENTS

Enjoy Make it Maitland this summer with plenty of activities and events for you and the whole family to enjoy including outdoor cinemas, SUP and kayak rental at Morpeth, Tigermoth flyovers, Neon Nights, Street Eats, school holiday programs and more. 

MAITLAND GAOL

Maitland Gaol has reopened for self guided audio tours on your own device only. As they are not a typical museum this is the only way to learn about the site and its history as there will be no guided tours. Pre-booking is recommended and there is a maximum of 50 people on site at one time.

You can also learn about Maitland Gaol from home with Snitch’s Spot. While the historic site was closed, Maitland Gaol created some fun online resources guided by the ghostly character ‘Snitch the Rat’ to entertain kids at home these school holidays. For those familiar with the Gaol site, Snitch the Rat is the voice of the children’s self-guided audio tours, and he comes to life in the newly launched ‘Snitch’s Spot’ on the Maitland Gaol website, where his picture can be seen for the first time. There are also activities for kids to try including making their own butter and liquid soap.


Central Coast Council

Central Coast School Holidays

Enjoy some school holiday fun on the Central Coast! It’s the region next door and the perfect place to enjoy some fun with your kids. From the 11 – 22 January 2021, there will be 13 fun activities on offer at four different event locations (Woy Woy, Toukley, Gosford & The Entrance) for kids of all ages. Registrations are essential as there are limited spots in each session. For more information, visit the Central Coast Council website.

This school holiday lineup includes:

  • 9 hole mini-golf – Come along to play on a 9-hole Mini Golf course! You have 40 minutes with your friends and family so see who can score the lowest score to be the best in your group!
  • Drumming sessions – Want to learn to drum? Come along for a 40-minute drum session with Drumbala to connect with your rhythm to make music!
  • Carnival mask making session – Come be creative and make your own carnival mask! Make it bright and colourful. In the 40-minute session, you will be able to make a bright and colourful mask with your friends and family!
  • Painting sea life session – Come be creative and paint your favourite sea life on a canvas! Show your artistic skills in the 40-minute session with your friends and family for some school holiday fun!
  • Lantern making session – Come be creative and make your own Lantern! Make it bright and colourful to shine in your bedroom. In the 40-minute session, you will be able to make a lantern with your friends and family!
  • Laser tag sessions – Using inflatable walls and bunkers, Memorial Park will become a fully immersive Laser Tag adventure! It will be a fun 15 minutes of high tech hide and seek!

INDOOR FAMILY FUN

JESMOND CENTRAL

Visit the school holidays Beach Craft Shack at Jesmond Central from Tuesday 12 January to Thursday 14 January and from Tuesday 19 January to Thursday 21 January. Dive into waves of fun at the Beach Craft Shack, with different craft activities every day!. Bookings essential. Free 30-minute sessions run from 10am to 1pm.

WALLSEND VILLAGE

Visit the school holidays Imagination Zone at Wallsend Village from Wednesday 13 January to Friday 15 January. Fuel your creativity at the School Holiday Imagination Zone where the sky is the limit! Different craft activities each day. Bookings essential. Free 30-minute sessions run from 10am to 1:30pm.

OUTDOOR FAMILY FUN

HUNTER WETLANDS CENTRE

Spend a day at Hunter Wetlands Centre in Shortland. There is pond bird feeding every day at 10.30am – how many bird species can you see? Or pick up a net and go dipnetting. With lots of water in BHP Pond, there will be plenty of waterbugs in the pond for you to catch and identify. Become a Wetland Explorer – collect your map and question sheet at reception and learn more about our wonderful wetlands as you explore. Other attractions include seeing the reptiles on display, exploring the Discovery playground, egret tower, walking and cycling tracks. Be inspired by the Wetlands and the fabulous teachers from Art Mania Studio to create wonderful works of art. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 21 January there will be a creative session for kids 5 – 12 years. Cafe open from 10am to 2pm. Entry Fees: Children (4 to 15 years) $5 (under 4 free), adults (16years+) $7.50.

FAMILY WALKS & HIKES

Go for a hike this summer. Hike the Hickson Street Track down to Burwood Beach or the Yuerlarbah Walk at Glenrock Lagoon. Do the Awabakal walk from Dudley to Redhead Walk and enjoy panoramic views of the coast. Enjoy the Redhead Coast on the Ken and Audrey Owens Walk. Explore Shipwreck Walk, a walk along the Stockton Breakwater which incorporates the wrecks and hulks of several iron and steel ships within the structure. Or go a bit further and explore Gap Creek Falls in the Watagans. For more walks, check out our roundup of local family walks.


WATERWORLD CENTRAL

Waterworld Central returns to Newcastle starting Monday 21 December. Join in for some summer school holiday fun with giant inflatable pools and slides to splash and play around in plus a massive dino slide. Enjoy activities like paddling around in the paddle boat pool, spinning yourself silly on the Tea Cups, or seeing what it’s like to walk on water in the zorb cylinder! It runs until 26 January 2021 at The Station Newcastle. For more information, visit the Waterworld website.

YWCA HUNTER

Are you working in the school holidays? Lucky for you, YWCA Hunter has lots of fun lined up for the kids during the January school holidays! They are taking enrolments now!   The YWCA Hunter offers an innovative, FUN packed vacation care program that ensures the children of working parents, have a thrilling and enriching school holiday experience. The program caters for parents working in the inner city and local children alike. Through excursions, incursions and in-house theme days the children create, use their imaginations and physically challenge themselves while learning new skills and having fun. All activities are delivered through much fun, community awareness and interesting themes set under the ‘My Time Our Place’ government guidelines.  The program runs from 5-28 January 2021 at YWCA Hunter, 24 Dawson Street, Cooks Hill. It’s suitable for children attending primary school (children commencing Kindy in 2021 are welcome) and activities Include: Theme Days, Craft, Art, Cooking, Games, Excursions, Lots of fun! The program costs from $55 per day with the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) available for eligible families. For more information and to enrol: www.ywcahunterregion.org.au/vacation-care

WHEELCHAIR SPORTS NSW / ACT

Junior Wheelies

The Junior Wheelies School Holiday Camp on Friday 15 January is for children aged 6-18 years with disabilities who want to have some fun and give wheelchair sports a try. Everyone who comes along will have the chance to try different wheelchair sports, learn some skills and meet new friends. All of the kids will be able to have a go at a number of different wheelchair sport. The event runs from 9am to 3pm at Broadmeadow Basketball Stadium. Register here.


NEW RELEASE FAMILY MOVIES

Want to take the kids to the movies during the holidays? As usual, there’s a few new-release family-friendly movies to choose from.

The Croods: A New Age

  • Rating: PG
  • Release Date: December 26, 2020
  • Duration: 95 minutes
  • Description: The Croods have survived their fair share of dangers and disasters, from fanged prehistoric beasts to surviving the end of the world, but now they will face their biggest challenge of all: another family. Just when all seems lost, a new threat will propel both families on an epic adventure outside the safety of the wall, one that will force them to embrace their differences, draw strength from each other and forge a future together.
  • Trailer:Click here to watch the trailer

Dragon Rider

  • Rating: PG
  • Release Date: January 1, 2021
  • Duration: 92 minutes
  • Description: Firedrake, the young silver dragon, has had enough of constantly having to hide in a wooded valley. He wants to show the older generation that he is a real dragon. When humans are about to destroy his family’s very last refuge, Firedrake secretly sets off on an adventurous journey with forest brownie Sorrel. He wants to find the “Rim of Heaven”, the dragons’ mysterious haven. On their quest, Firedrake and Sorrel encounter Ben, an orphan and stray, who claims to be a dragon rider.
  • Trailer: TBA

Lupin the Third: The First

  • Rating: TBA
  • Release Date: January 14, 2021
  • Duration: 93 minutes
  • Description:

The iconic “gentleman thief” Lupin III returns in an action-packed,continent-spanning adventure, as Lupin III and his colourful underworld companions race to uncover the secrets of the mysterious Bresson Diary before it falls into the hands of a dark faction. Lupin The Third: The First will enthral fans familiar with the franchise and captivate those new to the action-packed, family-friendly hijinx. Suitable for kids aged 9+ years of age – making it perfect for school holiday viewing!

Trailer: Click here to watch the trailer

The War with Grandpa

  • Rating: PG
  • Release Date: December 3, 2020
  • Duration: 98 minutes
  • Description: Peter is thrilled that Grandpa is coming to live with his family. That is, until Grandpa moves into Peter’s room, forcing him upstairs into the creepy attic. And though he loves his grandpa he wants his room back – so he has no choice but to declare war. With the help of his friends, Peter devises outrageous plans to make Grandpa surrender the room. But Grandpa is tougher than he looks. Rather than give in, Grandpa plans to get even.
  • Trailer: Click here to watch the trailer

The Witches

  • Rating: M
  • Release Date: December 10, 2020
  • Duration: 104 minutes
  • Description: Reimagining Roald Dahl’s beloved story for a modern audience, Zemeckis’s visually innovative film tells the darkly humorous and heart-warming tale of a young orphaned boy who, in late 1967, goes to live with his loving Grandma in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis. As the boy and his grandmother encounter some deceptively glamorous but thoroughly diabolical witches, she wisely whisks our young hero away to an opulent seaside resort.

Trailer: Click here to watch the trailer

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