With the near completion of Melbourne Park, the Australian Open is bigger, better and wonderfully family friendly. It’s a huge day out though, so pace yourself!
When: 16 – 29 January 2017
Where: Melbourne Park – enter via Birarrung Marr flyover bridge, the light rail entrances or Olympic Boulevard entrance.
Cost: Adult ground pass weekday $45, child $5. More ticket info can be found here.
We turned up on Day 1, shortly before play was due to start and there were people everywhere! The entry points were busy (but moving) and inside and outside was pumping. If you’re coming from Flinders Street direction and down Birrarung Marr you will walk through the AO Festival – this area is FREE to visit and full of fun activities to do, as well as big screen viewing of centre court, food, drinks and ice creams. We stopped along here on our way home and enjoyed free massages, played some games and had a Haagen-Dazs ice cream (which was definitely worth the wait!!).
Once you’re inside the Park you are spoilt for things to do.
Obviously, there is tennis tennis everywhere! Especially in the first week if, like us, you are visiting on a ground pass ticket. Today, being the first day, meant that all the outside courts were busy – first round matches as far as the eye could see with a few celebrity players having a warm up session (we caught a glimpse of Tsonga).
With the new developments have come lots more landscaping and lots more shading – Melbourne Park is looking spectacular.
Two main areas not to miss inside are Grand Slam Oval which is filled with plenty of eating and drinking options (and a few screens dotted about so you don’t miss the main action while you’re taking a break). There are also some fun “activations” to visit including the Blackmores Wellbeing Oasis marquee where you can get free samples, the ANZ Break Point experience where you can play virtual reality tennis and collect a free handheld fan (the queue to play the tennis game was quite long and slow so after about 15 minutes we skipped the queue and just collected the fan). There is also the Woolworths Summer Sensorium – but this was a pre-booked activity where you can taste test food… the next available spot we could join was about 45 minutes away and it involved waiting in a queue so we gave that a miss.
This year the Australian Open introduces the AO Ballpark – a space dedicated to the kids. There is something for all ages here – from a simple sandpit and colouring in wall, through to Hot Shots activities, rock climbing, trampolines from Bounce, LEGO building and challenges, face painting, Nerf HQ (a series of Nerf gun challenges), Bob the Builder play area, regular live performances on the stage and more. We spent over an hour here – we also found a nice shady spot to have our lunch and refill the drink bottles. It was a great way to break up the day – and partly set under a building meant it was not only shady in spots, it was cooler.
Finally – if you aren’t exhausted and plan to rock on you can enjoy live bands on the AO Live Stage area – tonight it was Birds of Tokyo. The kids and I hit 5pm and turned into pumpkins… after a day out in the 30+ temps, the promise of a swim in the grandparent’s pool and some more tennis on the telly under the aircon was too big a pull for us, sorry Birds of Tokyo!
Please note: we were quite ambitious with making sure we tried to cover as much ground as possible today, I would not suggest that this approach is necessary for everyone. The Australian Open is huge – and it covers a huge amount of space = lots of walking! Also at certain times inside Rod Laver is can get very crowded – which can be overwhelming (we thought we’d pop in there for a toilet break and managed to coordinate it with the end of a match and it was slammed).
My tips – carry a drink bottle, hat and sunscreen on your person! We took along a cooler bag with ice packs and our drinks stayed chilled all day, it was a little heavier but a cool drink was awfully nice on such a hot day! And frozen drinks and ice-creams start at $6… so when it comes to snacks and lunch it’s more economical to come prepared and splash out on the slushie/ice cream.