School Holidays

Dive in this summer

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Reset for 2021 these school holidays and start the New Year right with fun activities for all ages.

Whether it’s cooling off at one of our local pools or beaches, or escaping the heat to join in fun events and activities at our cultural facilities, you’ll be spoilt for choice for ways to enjoy summer in our beautiful city!

Kids and teens will relish the opportunity to channel their inner Rockstar at Newcastle Art Gallery in response to works of art on display in the summer exhibition WE CAN BE HEROES: A backstage pass. Over at Newcastle Museum, discover where art meets science in a unique Cyanotype workshop exploring the world’s first photographic process.

Get hands on with Newcastle Libraries and enjoy the vast range of activities and workshops on offer, from digital displays to VR demonstrations and beyond, or escape the heat at Civic Cinema in air-conditioned comfort while enjoying movies for all ages on the big screen.

There are also plenty of outdoor options to keep your holidays action packed! Explore Blackbutt Reserve and feed the friendly critters or enjoy a picnic with a view and a bit of history at Fort Scratchley.

There’s no limit to the amount of fun you can have this summer, so grab your family and friends and dive in to make your own itinerary. You can start planning your holidays now with a range of free and bookable options from our cultural facilities.

Read on for more ways to RESET for 2021!

Imagine life as a Rockstar at Newcastle Art Gallery

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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.

Channel your inner Rockstar and decorate your own musical instruments and shakers using a mixture of materials in the Make a Musical Instrument workshop, suitable for ages 5-12 years.

There's something for the teenagers too! Learn how to create your own iconic rock music symbols in the Teen Masterclass with local artist Rosie Turner. Unleash your 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. Our 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.

Opening hours

Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Open as normal all other days: Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm, and every day during the NSW school holidays.

Discover where art meets science at Newcastle Museum

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

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.

While you’re at the Museum don’t miss our Super Sneaky Science pop-up! No bookings required, just come and find us roaming around in the Museum – we’ll 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.

Opening hours

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.

Experience a Summer of Wonder at Newcastle Libraries

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Ever seen a robot dance? Visit our 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.

Beyond our Digital Library there is a raft of workshop experiences to be had across our Library branches. Go Animating Mad with Toonworld who invite you to 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.

Prepare to unleash the magic within you at the Harry potter Science workshop. 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.

The hands-on fun will continue in the activity filled workshop Strange and Ugly Animals. 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. Or if you prefer music to animals, get in the rhythm and enjoy the fun of drumming and a taste of West African stories with Earthen Rhythms African Drum and Dance who will be hosting Drum Beats.

If story time is more your thing then you’re in luck. Join us for fun and interactive story time events 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 – see individual event listings for more detail.

Bookings are required for all workshops and costs vary, see more on the Newcastle Libraries website.

Don’t forget your library is always open and available via your fingertips on the Newcastle Libraries app. Visit www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Library to find out more.

Opening hours

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.

Cool off in comfort at Civic Cinema

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With all that holiday time up your sleeve, there’s no better time to bring your family and friends to the newest (and oldest) inner-city cinema! 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, Cats and Dogs and more.

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

Opening hours

Civic Theatre will be open for scheduled performances only over the Summer School Holidays.

Enjoy nature close to home at Blackbutt Reserve

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Make the most of warm summer days by dropping into Blackbutt Reserve and getting to know the local residents!

Get up close and personal feeding the emus with cones available from the kiosk, or grab an activity pack and follow the trail around the boardwalk to explore the animal exhibits. There are wombats, koalas, reptiles and so much more. You can also book a private reptile or critter encounter with our 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.

Opening hours

Open every day during the school holidays, except for Christmas Day.

  • Wildlife exhibits 10am – 5pm
  • Picnic facilities 7am – 7pm
  • Kiosk 10am – 3pm

Visit the Blackbutt Reserve website to find out more.

Picnic in the Park

  • 26 January, 10am - 4pm

Richley Reserve

Enjoy food trucks, produce stalls and entertainment for the whole family. See more here.

Get your historical fix at Fort Scratchley

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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.

Opening hours

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:

  • 10am – 4pm
  • The Fort is closed on Tuesdays.

Fort Scratchley gun firing event

  • 26 January from 11am

Join us for the time-honoured tradition of the firing of the guns at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

Tunnel tours will not be available on the day however all exhibition rooms will be open and guests can enjoy Morse code demonstrations.

Be a tourist in your own city at the Newcastle Visitor Information Centre

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Discover something new about Newy by dropping into the Visitor Information Centre these summer school holidays. From its new home in the former Civic Railway Station, the Visitor Information Centre is the place to source information about the latest offerings and sights to see around our great city. Pop in and say hi to the team who are passionate about sharing local stories and showcasing product from local makers.

Opening hours

The Visitor Information Centre will be closed from Friday 25 December– Sunday 27 December, and Friday 1 January 2021.

Open as normal other days:

  • Monday to Friday - 9.30am to 4.30pm
  • Saturday and Sundays in December - 10am to 2pm
  • Saturday and Sundays in January - 10am to 3pm

Explore Newcastle with a scavenger hunt!

Keen to explore our city a little further? Join Newy with Kids for the launch of the family scavenger hunts around Newcastle. Meet us at the Visitor Information Centre on 13 January to collect all five scavenger hunt maps, and stick around for free kids activities and entertainment. The scavenger hunt maps will take you to five locations across Newcastle - find the answer to each question on the maps and then use those answers to solve the mystery phrase!

  • When: Wednesday 13 January, 10am - 1pm
  • Where: Visitor Information Centre, 430 Hunter Street Newcastle

Dive into swimming season at our pools and beaches

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If the balmy weather has you keen to make a splash at one of our local pools or beaches, then you’re in luck. Local swimming centres are open longer hours during summer, and our beaches are patrolled by Lifeguards seven days a week.

Swimming Centre opening hours

  • Lambton: 5.30am - 8pm seven days a week
  • Beresfield, Mayfield, Stockton and Wallsend: 6am – 7pm seven days a week

Find out more about our swimming centres.

Lifeguard patrol hours

  • Newcastle, Bar, Dixon Park, Nobbys, and Merewether beaches: 7am – 5.30pm all days except Sunday (9am – 5.30pm)
  • Stockton beach, and Merewether and Newcastle Ocean Baths: 9am – 5.30pm

See more on our beaches and baths.

Pool Parties

  • Beresfield, Mayfield, Stockton and Wallsend Pools
  • 26 January 10am - 4pm

Splash into summer with inflatables and fun activities (standard pool fees apply). See more here.

Find out What's On

What else is on during the school holidays and beyond in our city? There’s so much to see and do - stay in the know at newcastle.nsw.gov.au/whatson