Canberra can best be described in two words: endearingly mediocre. Like us, our mates have lived in Canberra for their whole lives. When we asked them what the best thing about Canberra was, their immediate response was “the airport.” A second response was “its close proximity to the coast and the snow if you are looking for a place to flee via car.” It sounds harsh, but part of Canberra’s charm is the collective agreement that it is a little bit subpar. It is well known that people who live here are drawn to trusty APS jobs, the good Universities and the welcoming environment to raise kids. The unremarkable activities and places to eat in Canberra are typically further down the list.
It took us some time to come to terms with the fact that Canberra can be summed up as the ‘dorky but loveable cousin.’ When we were kids, we tried to convince ourselves that Canberra was the place to be, since it had lots of buildings of national importance. But school trips to ‘treasures’ such as the Canberra Railway Museum and the National Archives did not actually impress us. In our early teens, we tried to assure ourselves that Canberra was the place to be because of all the ‘cool’ events it hosted. Unfortunately, getting a questionable spray on tattoo at Floriade and paying $15 for a tornado potato at GTM was not enough to get us over the line. In our late teens, we despaired. Intent on moving away as we succumbed to the belief that Canberra could never live up to the glitz and glam of Sydney. Or Melbourne. Or Adelaide. Or even Wagga.
However, moving into our early 20s, with a combined age of 43 years old, we have started to appreciate the charms of Canberra. Forget exorbitant Ubers and club entry fees, in the nation’s capital you can experience the whole three nightclubs it has to offer in a single night!
Perhaps this new appreciation is a hangover from our collective ‘mid-life crisis,’ but we now see Canberra for what she really is: fun without being stressful, calm without being bland and smart without being a know-it-all. Most importantly, she doesn’t try to be anyone else. She embraces her flaws and like any good Australian, appropriately takes the piss out of them. In the spirit of this, we have compiled a list of 15 very Canberra things to do, ranging from ironically shit to actually fun. Your adventure into the ‘Crapital’ awaits.
- Goodberries Frozen Custard – specifically, the Belconnen one, because Erindale doesn’t have flavour of the week (criminal). Similar to Kingsley’s Chicken (another Canberra institution) – your stomach might hurt afterwards, but that’s all part of the experience.
- Griffith Vietnamese – it’s definitely worth driving over the bridge for, even just to chat with Mr Tan.
- The Cheese Aisle at the Ainslie IGA – the unsung hero of a Canberra picnic.
- The hot chips from Hudson’s Café in Dickson – best enjoyed after a dip at Dickson pool.
- An Egg and Bacon roll from Intra in Campbell – the classy spin on an Aussie classic is very Canberra and very good.
Iconic One-off Activities
- Catch a big bash game or a game of AFLW (YTG) at Manuka Oval.
- Watch a movie at Sunset Cinema at the Botanic Gardens – even if you have hay fever, it’s worth it for the ambience.
- The flying fox swing at John Knight Park – a bit of nostalgic fun in the heart of Belcrompton.
- Armada Outdoor Bar – we haven’t even been there yet but the vibes by the lake are on.
- Play a La-De-Da game of tennis in the rose gardens at Old Parliament House.
Things To Do When You Need Something To Do
- The driving range at Narrabundah – ever frustrated about an assignment mark? Take your anger out on some golf balls here. Bonus points if you hit the buggy collecting them.
- Cross over the border and visit a winery, try Contentious Character or Lark Hill. Mt Majura Vineyard is good too if you’re looking for something closer to home.
- Mt Ainslie Lookout – whether you want to trek for an hour on foot, or test the horsepower in your 2009 Ford Fiesta, the view from the top is stunning.
- Have lunch at the Cotter – utilise the free BBQs and bring your swimmers for a post-lunch dip!
- Attend a Monday trivia night at Edgar’s Inn in Ainslie and have a Mama Dough pizza while you’re there.
If you manage to complete this list, congratulations. We hope that if you are new here, these activities will fast-track you beyond the ‘I hate Canberra’ stage and make you proud to call yourself a ‘Ken Behren.’