YOU may have heard Canberra called many things over the years but you have probably never heard it being compared to a theme park. Well, now you have.
The theme of our master-planned, park-like national capital is culture and there are countless museums, galleries, memorials and exhibits - many of them free - which celebrate all the things that make up Australian culture.
With two children, 15 and 12, in tow, we decided to explore this cultural theme park and, despite the kids' early protestations over why we couldn't visit a real theme park instead, they thought that Canberra was "pretty cool" after all.
It may not be a Mecca that we all have to visit once in our lifetime but Canberra is a fascinating destination for all Australians, especially for families, with a plethora of attractions certain to exercise the minds and bodies of young ones.
Spread out, with wide roads, free or cheap parking and, yes, plenty of roundabouts, Canberra is easy to get around.
And it's a very pretty city, with national monuments and handsome public buildings, including Australia's largest building, Parliament House, sprinkled around the grassy, treed shores of Lake Burley Griffin, with tower-topped Black Mountain providing a bold backdrop.
Our taxes paid for it all so why not enjoy it?
Our first stop was the historic homestead of Lanyon on the southern outskirts of Canberra's suburbs near Tharwa.
This beautiful and well-preserved heritage-listed building, built in 1859 along the meandering Murrumbidgee River, is nestled on a huge working cattle farm.
We then headed to one of Canberra's biggest, yet smallest attractions: Cockington Green.
A hit with kids young and old, Cockington Green makes everyone feel like Gulliver - a giant in the land of Lilliput, with garden-lined walkways snaking around dozens of detailed and ever-so-cute miniature buildings based on real scenes from England and around the world.
As a special treat for the kids, we organised a stay at the capital's most prestigious hotel, the 5-star Hyatt Hotel Canberra in the shadow of Parliament House.
Surprisingly popular with families during our weekend visit, the stylish, retro-themed Hyatt provides plush accommodation with enticing lake views.
It has well-appointed marble bathrooms which elicited a "wow" from my hard-to-please teenager, amazing buffet breakfasts, a fantastic fitness centre and bikes which you can hire for a ride around the lake along some of Australia's best bicycle tracks.
The kids loved this activity so much, they wanted an encore the next morning.
After our invigorating morning bike ride, we headed to the nearby Canberra Glassworks, Australia's only cultural centre dedicated to contemporary glass.
Here, in a huge restored power station, anyone over the age of 14 can blow and, with some expert guidance, make their own glass designs.
Before leaving the capital, we visited the award-winning Old Bus Depot markets with an array of handcrafted treasures and cuisine from around the world.
Of course, we just scratched the surface of Canberra on our two-day sojourn, with major drawcards such as Parliament House, Questacon, the National Museum, Australian War Memorial and the Australian Institute of Sport on our schedule for our next visit.
Just like any theme park, there's a lot to see and never enough time to see it all.
CANBERRA TRAVEL INFO
Hyatt Hotel Canberra - Until December 31, enjoy a two-night stay for a discounted $415 between Thursday and Sunday (maximum three guests per room): canberra.park.hyatt.com
Cockington Green - $18.50 adults, $10.50 kids, $52 families: cockingtongreen.com.au
Lanyon Homestead - adults $7, concessoins $5, families $15: museumsandgalleries.act.gov.au/lanyon
Canberra Glassworks - canberraglassworks.com
General Information - visitcanberra.com.au
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