It's New Year Eve and you're in bed by 9.30pm. You can hear the sound of banging in the distance - it must be the community fireworks at your local beach, or the park. For a minute you think, 'we could have gone to that' and then you sigh. 'Who are we kidding? We never would have made it up that late!'
Does this sound familiar? If so, you must be the parent of a baby or a toddler. Celebrating New Year's Eve is just a distant memory that belongs to your pre-child past. These days, you are up five times a night, awake at dawn and then asleep by the time the sun goes down. You couldn't possibly plan a night out this New Year's Eve....
But, you will be up with the larks on New Year's Day and you'll be bouncing around for something to do on a day when everyone else seems to be sleeping off a late night and a hangover.
So what are you and your little ones going to do? Make the most of it! There'll be no traffic on the roads and most people will be staying in nursing sore heads and watching the cricket on TV. A perfect time to get out for a morning jaunt and explore Sydney. Here are five suggestions for your New Year's Day.
1. Dip Your Toes in The Water
Avoid the surf beaches full of blue bottles, and visit your closest child-friendly swimming spot. You might even get a car space on this one, sleepy day of the year. Inlets with calm waters like Balmoral Beach and Clifton Gardens, are perfect for taking babies and toddlers for an early morning dip. So are Narrabeen Lake, Shelley Beach (Manly), Neilsen Park Beach (Vaucluse) and Hordens Beach (Bundeena). And though you can't rely on cafes being open (or not charging public holiday surcharges), it's a perfect chance to pack your beach shade and a picnic. Or, cook your own snags on the BBQ facilities that most beachside parks provide.
Often people stay indoors on New Year's Day, thinking everything will be closed but that's not always the case. The harbour foreshore always stays open, even if it's in clean-up mode, after the NYE festivities. Catch the ferry into Circular Quay and stroll around the Opera House, The Rocks, Barangaroo or Darling Harbour. Getting littlies out in the fresh air is a great way to tire them out, even if they are just watching the world go by from their prams. Parents will appreciate clearing their sleep-deprived heads too. And if you venture out early, you can still be home for bub's afternoon nap but you'll feel like you haven't wasted the day.
You might not be the only ones with this idea but what about Taronga Zoo at Bradley's Head? Unlike the often cloudy skies of Christmas Day, New Year's Day in Sydney is traditionally hot and sunny. If you can't be on a yacht in the harbour (ha!), you can still enjoy beautiful views of the water from the giraffe enclosure and the cable car. The great thing about the zoo, when you have little kids, is that you can start your day early (9.30am), pick and choose your attractions, and if you buy your tickets online in advance, you won't have to wait in big entry queues. You can never guarantee that the zoo won't be busy but with a lot of families away for the holidays, the 1st of January is possibly one of the more relaxed days to visit. Also, entry for children under 4 is FREE, so whether you stay an hour or all day, you'll be sure to get your money's worth.
4. Picnic at a National Park
Sydney is very fortunate to have a mix of beautiful beaches and glorious National Parks. Most people in this big city live within striking distance of either, or both. How spoiled are we? Christmas Day is the only day of the year that National Parks close their gates and this means that a picnic in bush parklands is a great option for New Years Day. Take the little ones out early and nab your spot at the picnic and BBQ facilities, many of which have playgrounds too. You generally have to pay a park entry fee, per car, but if you take your own food, this is a small price to pay for a relaxing activity and wide open spaces for the kids to toddle around.
Check the National Parks and Wildlife Service website for the park closest to you but to start you off, here are a few of the most popular bush picnic grounds in Sydney: Bobbin Head in Ku-ring-gai Chase, entry via Turramurra, Royal National Park on the city's southern fringe and Lane Cove National Park.
5. An Hour at the Local Playground
I admire you very much if you can carry on your New Year celebrations as usual, with babies and toddlers but if you have a challenging or fussy tot, you're likely to want to keep your day as low key as possible. Factor in the heat also, and you'll be looking for a morning activity within short walking or driving distance. You could do a lot worse than visit your neighbourhood playground. If you're a working parent, you might not often get to do this with your little ones. You'll be amazed by the level of sophistication offered in these 'play meccas' for children. The best of these community facilities often have sprawling parklands with bike tracks too, so if you've got a toddler seat attached to your bike, this is the day to use it. Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush has tremendous play facilities and cycle paths and at Sydney Mums Group, we've also compiled a super-helpful list of the 21 best playgrounds in Sydney, to start you off.