Darling Harbor Area

This is Nemo's place, but also a lot more. With a little curiosity, and a desire to take it easy, Darling harbor makes for a pleasant full day's family fun, but can also be enjoyed in a few hours if you prefer to move things along.

The area is walkable from the central downtown zone, and also on the monorail and bus lines. You can also walk to or from Darling Harbor from Chinatown.

One of the nicest things about the harbor is the harbor itself. The area has broad boardwalks designed for strolling and sunning, and is clean enough for a picnic lunch and some down time. There are sea gulls to chase and plenty of people watching. Take away food is available, and the whole scene is quite mellow and pleasant.

Kid's Play at Darling

When that wears off, head inland a bit for some activity. Just behind the IMAX theatre and the Starbucks is a park with a small lake, a nice playground and a McDonald's with a huge play land of its own. In warm weather you can rent little paddle boats, and there are fountains the kids can get soaked in. Some shops complete the package.

At the far end of the park is the Outback Center, which is sort of like a museum where everything is for sale. It is really a store, but for our purposes features a free 30 minute live show ‘Sounds of the Outback' featuring the didgeridoo. Currently the shows are only at 1pm, 3pm and 5pm, so it is best to check their web site at www.outbackcentre.com.au. The place is interesting to look around in even if you are not buying anything, so that even on a short trip to Australia you can get some sense of the greater countryside. Inside you'll find Aboriginal arts and crafts, clothing, music, books, maps, didgeridoos, boomerangs and other gifts.

Shopping at Harbourside

Yes, there is a lot of shopping available in the harbor area, anchored (get it?) by the Harbourside Mall. This is upscale souveniers, a lot of the same items available elsewhere but seemingly of a higher quality and at a higher price. That said, we got there at the tail end of the Aussie winter and picked up some very nice sweatshirts cheap. The clerk even gave us a discount when we bought three. Deal.

You also get some of the nicer views of the cityscape from Harbourside, especially towards evening. There are some cafes where for the price of a coffee you can sit and watch the sunset's reflection off Sydney's office towers as we did.

The National Maritime Museum

Not tired enough yet to call it a day? Continue on then past the mall to the Australian National Maritime Museum. You can't miss the destroyer HMAS Vampire and the submarine HMAS Onslow anchored in the harbor outside the museum's doors. There is a fee, but you can then board both vessels for a tour. Looking from dock side is free and cool. Entry into the museum itself was free as of mid-2004. Inside the museum there are free guided tours, a cafÃÆ'© and restaurant and, of course, a gift shop. The only hassle is that everything closes early, at 5:00 pm. Learn more on their web site at www.anmm.gov.au.

The Sydney Aquarium

Across Darling Harbor is the Sydney Aquarium, about the most Nemo-ed place on earth. By the time you read this we either as a species have moved on from Nemo, or Disney will have released NEMO IV and we'll be right back into the deep water (Nemo IV, aka “The Wrath of Nemo”—angered at the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and dismayed at declining action toy sales, Nemo enlists the aid of several cute friends (all voiced by former “Friends” cast members needing money) to have adventures that serve as the background for Christmas toys).

I am serious. While the Aquarium describes what to the rest of us is a big tropical fish tank as if the darn characters will swim up to the glass and greet your child by name, the idea is a valid one: take the interest the movie created in kids and try and tie it into the real world of real fish. Australia is a big island, and has always been tied to the sea. Fittingly, Sydney Aquarium is one of the world's great wet places, with the whole spread of Australian aquatic life. View massive grey nurse sharks, uniquely Australian platypus and fairy penguins, seals, crocodiles, tropical fish and more. Worth a visit, but check their web site if you prefer more hyperbole before you decide to go.

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