Lifestyle tips

Survival Tips For Enjoying the Ekka With Kids

Posted in 'Tips' on August 4, 2015

Ferris wheelYou are not a true Brisbanite if you don't have fond memories of strawberry sundaes and overpriced show bags from the Ekka. So how to do create these same fabulous memories for your children and not go crazy in the process?

Here are our top Ekka tips to help you not only survive, but actually enjoy your day at the Ekka.

Top Ten Things To Do With Younger Kids

1.    Wander through the animal pavilions to see cows and other animals up close and smelly.

2.    Eat at least one Strawberry Sundae (suitably photographed for posterity).

3.    Watch a woodchop event and then hide anything that looks like an axe at home.

4.    If your kid is dinosaur mad, take in the animatronic Dinosaur Adventures in the John Reid Pavilion.

5.    Younger kids get a kick out of the Hoot & Hootabelle show at the Entertainment and Fashion Stage at 10am, 11am and 12 noon daily. (You on the other hand may not be so thrilled and may take the chance to upload some photos to Facebook during the performance).

6.    Have your kids milked a cow before? The Milking Barn has hands-on presentations on the hour between 10.30am and 3.30pm daily.

7.    The RACQ Animal Nursery is always popular. Try to get in early to avoid the queues and fights over the fluffiest lamb to feed.

8.    Admire the fruit and vegetable district exhibits and wonder at the giant vegetables in the Royal International Convention Centre - Ground Floor.

9.    Appreciate the amazing cake displays at the QLD Cake Decorators exhibition in the Royal International Convention Centre - Ground Floor (and then remind your kids that lopsided birthday cakes made by mum taste twice as good).

10.  Enjoy the fireworks and evening ring performances (if your kids can stay awake that long and are not terrified of loud explosions).

Things To Do With Older Kids

1.    Check out the FMX Freestyle Kings - some of the best FMX riders will push themselves and the machines to the limits 12-45-1pm each day at the Energex Community Arena. Know that whatever you see will be replicated in your backyard, so think carefully about this one!

2.    X-Treme Action Monster Trucks featuring the Transformers are on at 7.10-7.30pm each night at the Energex Community Arena. More explosions, loud machinery and pyrotechnics to set off your headache.

3.    Stand holding the bags while they tackle all the Thrill Rides at Sideshow Alley.

4.    Watch things explode at the Big Bang Education science shows at the Education Stage upstairs at the Royal International Convention Centre. (Can you sense a theme here about explosions?)

Ekka Rides

Rides at the Ekka are split between Sideshow Alley (up near the RNA Showground) and the Children's Outdoor Carnival over at the other end of the show near St Paul's Terrace. Sideshow Alley is more designed for the older kids, while the Outdoor Carnival is perfect for the pre-school and early primary aged kid set.

Some showbags have discount ride coupons included, so if your goal is loads of rides, check out the showbag inclusions carefully.

Ekka Safety

Crowds plus kids over-awed with all the new sights is a recipe for challenge.

  • Start by dressing your kids in super bright colours to make them easier to spot in the crowd. Some mums dress their kids in matching rainbow or red t-shirts and neon bright hats so make a separated child easier to track down. We have even seen parents consider hi-vis vests (not that we would judge you if went that far!)
  • Remember to take a fun happy snap on your phone before you head out the door of your kids on their way to the Ekka. If you have a great day, it will be a nice memory, if your child gets lost, then it is easier to say, "Here is a photo of my child and what they were wearing." Measuring current heights and taking fingerprints are optional extras.
  • Pick up child identification wristbands from QLD Police. They are usually available just inside most gates or at the Gregory Terrace Police Station just inside Gate 1.
  • If you do lose your child or partner, there's a Lost Person's Station at the Gregory Terrace Police Station.

Parents' rooms at the Ekka

Having a toilet map is super handy for those "I have to go NOW" moments. Download and print the map and highlight the toilets (it was so much easier when they had an app!)

Parents' rooms are located next to the Woodchop Bar; in Sideshow Alley; near the Beef Cattle Pavilion; across the road from the animal nursery and at the Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion.

Showbags at the Ekka

There are two very different approaches to buying showbags.

1) Get in early.As the pavilion gets extremely crowded as the day progresses, some people buy showbags as their first task for the day. This means they either have to carry them all day (yay - NOT!) or they may hire one of the lockers outside the Showbag Pavilion for $8 for the day. This works well as long as your showbags are not heavily chocolate based.

2) Scout early - Buy Late. The other school of thought is to do a wander through the showbag hall early so the kids know exactly where the bags they want are located. You then do a targeted attack run on your way out of the show. This means you have bargaining leverage during the day (not that any parent at the Ekka ever needs that!)

It also helps to give the kids a set budget for showbags, and then let them browse the showbag section of the Ekka website. They will do this for hours trying to work out what they want, and how to make their $ stretch the furthest possible. Showbag maths is the ultimate way to teach kids about money.

Food at the Ekka

Many parents on a budget bring their own snacks and sandwiches to enjoy. If you are looking for budget friendly kid food check out the $2 cheese toasties at the Woolworths Pavilion.

One other hidden gem tip: The CWA has an old-school eatery under the John McDonald stand near the Beef Cattle. That's where you pick up the best scones, jam and cream at the Ekka.

General Tips

  • Avoid People's Day and weekends if you are not a fan of crowds. Seriously. Don't do it! Take a day off work if you have to - You will have a much more enjoyable day!
  • If you want to see the animals and fruit exhibits, go early in the 10 days the Ekka is open, as many leave part of the way through the show.
  • If discounted showbags are your thing, go to the Ekka on the last day. Sure, the popular bags will be sold out, but you will pick up heaps of two or three for the price of one deals.
  • If you want to catch the night shows and fireworks, grab your spots by 5pm as the seats fill early. This can create problems for kids sitting nicely in one place from 5pm - 8pm without having to duck out for wee breaks. If you are doing to do the Ekkanites thing, have at least 2 adults to tag team with the kids and the seats.
  • Go to the earliest possible kids' shows each day and get to each show at least 15 minutes early to have a chance of getting seats.
  • Bring a stroller. It is an awfully long way to carry little people!
  • Pre-purchase your tickets online or at RACQ offices to avoid the queues.
  • If you are travelling by public transport, you can buy a combined travel and entry ticket from any attended Queensland railway stations.
  • Public transport is the easiest option but remember to avoid travelling home during peak hour if going midweek so your over-tired kids are not crushed up against business commuters.
  • Parking is limited in the area. Your best options are the old Royal Children's Hospital car park or the Royal Brisbane Hospital Car Park, Parking for the day will set you back between $25 - $32.
  • Wear comfortable shoes designed for walking and tops that cover the shoulders to minimise sunburn lines. Yes, I know this is mum type advice, but 3-inch heels and strapless tops still make their regular appearance at the showgrounds.
  • Go in with the right mindset. The younger your kids the less you will see - make peace with that! Some kids are happy with one ride, a cuddle of a lamb and an ice cream and then want to go home. Other kids only want to ride the one ride over and over and over and …. Forget trying to tick off the "must see everything" box and go for the" whatever your kids enjoy" box.
  • Take loads of photos. Photos of your kids patting animals, riding ponies, enjoying events and eating carnival food are some of the best you can get for the family album. Just don't be so much behind the camera that you miss fully experiencing the Ekka with them.

Things to Pack

Remember to pack

  • Panadol & bandaids
  • Hats
  • Water bottles to stay hydrated. There are water fountains across from the animal nursery at Expo Place One; near the dog pavilion; up near the Wood Chop bar as well as near the goat and cattle pavilion.
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitiser & baby wipes (for the inevitable spills)
  • Changes of undies for younger children (accidents happen)
  • Phone battery charger pack

To find out more

Go to the Ekka website to download maps, get timetables of events and to plan your day

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