EKKA Guide 2021 | Things to Do at the EKKA for Families!
It is just the third time in the Ekka’s 143-year history that the show has been cancelled. It was previously cancelled in 1919 due to the Spanish Flu epidemic and in 1942 when the grounds were used as a World War II staging depot. The Ekka looks forward to bringing the community together once again as planning is underway on the 2021 Show.
Missing your showbags? Find out where to buy showbags online here.
Get the most out of the Ekka this year by following our guide to the areas families love best! We’ve zoned the 2019 Ekka map and given you the lowdown on what’s in each area, so no matter which gate you enter by, you can save time and get it all done without a foot full of blisters and a pram full of frustrated children. Pick the zones you want to visit in the map below and scroll down to see what’s there. Keep this web page open on your phone – you’ll want to keep referring to it!
So here it is, nothing but practical information, specifically for families with all of the family friendly events and hidden free fun activities for children!
Ekka Map & Navigation
Collect the full Ekka map at the entrance – or even better, head to the App Store and download the free Ekka app, which has an interactive map that allows you to zoom into each area to see what’s there – zoom in enough and it even lifts the roofs off some buildings, like the Woolworths Pavilion, to show you who is inside! The app can also help you navigate to the areas you want to get to, and contains useful information about show and event times.
Looking at the map above, we’ve broken up the Ekka grounds into handy “chunks” or sections i.e. these are sections of the Ekka that you’ll want to do together (to minimise walking!)
We’ll explain the sections below, but here they are:
A – Showbag Pavilion
B – Rides (Areas 1, 2 & 3)
C – The Old Museum
D – Agricultural Hall & Channel 7 Pavilion
E – Woolworths Pavilion
F – John Reid Pavilion & Ekka Emporium
G – RACQ Animal Nursery
H – Main Arena
A – Showbag Pavilion
We’ve spent hours poring over every Ekka Showbag and have put together a guide to help you determine how to get the biggest bang for your EKKA buck, regardless of your child’s individual interests. Read our Detailed Showbag Review.
B – Rides
There are 3 main areas that contain rides, looking at our map you’ll see them indicated as B1, B2 and B3. They are all outlined below.
When you’re looking at rides, there are a few things to consider (in regards to cost):
- Look for the rides that offer bulk tickets to save money
- If you have kids under 8 years old, head to Zone B3, this area has cheaper rides and quite a few bulk deals
- Go to the Ekka on Super Ride Tuesday (14th August) and receive 2 for 1 rides between 10am and 5pm (only on participating rides)
(In previous years, a lot of showbags have had ride vouchers in them – we haven’t found any showbags with vouchers this year! Comment below if you happen to find any… I’m not convinced they exist!)
B1 – Sideshow Alley
This area has changed a little this year, the Euroslide (i.e. giant slide is still there, and has bulk discount tickets).
The “Pirates Revenge” log ride is a great choice (yes, you get wet) and there’s also a separate (fantastic) walk through pirate themed fun house that has a great ticket deal.
They now have water balls (right near exit 5 – just near the red cross symbol on the map).
If you’re looking for the bungy trampolines, they’ve moved to zone 2C.
The operator of the Pokemon game was fantastic, they were very generous and knocked down the characters by hand when the kids couldn’t knock them down themselves. Every kid won a prize – I’m not sure if that’s their normal policy, but they weren’t as strict as the other games we tried.
In regards to the Side Show Alley games, check out the prices and ask the question “do all participants win a prize?”. There are quite a few which are similar and we’ve discovered that the pricing is quite different… AND a lot of them actually do guarantee a prize. I know, I know… our kids shouldn’t ALWAYS have to win, however, it’s the Ekka, it’s a long day, avoid a disappointed kid at any cost (that’s my philosophy!).
B2 – Sideshow Alley
This is the “main” ride section and has a lot of the thrill seeker rides, mainly for the older kids.
It does have a few rides for younger kids, so it’s worth a look.
One of the best rides for younger kids is the dodgem cars. Note that the big dodgem car ride is just outside the Ekka Showbag Pavilion. Kids from around age 7 should be able to drive them on their own i.e. reach the pedals (and they’ll also fit a passenger… and that passenger may be left slightly traumatised and wondering whether they have the stomach to teach their child to drive at some stage in the future). For the younger kids, head to location 2C and you’ll find a smaller version.
B3 – The Kids Carnival Area
This is a hidden gem, but has shrunk a little over the years due to development. It’s still a great place to visit with kids aged between 3 and 8!
The Fun House is a favourite in our house and offers a bulk ticket deal. Just go with the bulk deal, your kids are likely to ask you to go on it again.
In regards to pricing, you’ll find some of the cheapest ride tickets in this section. Some rides are teamed together to offer multi-buy deals, allowing you to go on more rides for less.
As mentioned earlier, this is where you’ll now find the Fungee Bungee trampolines at $12 a pop.
C – The Old Museum
There are craft and gardening activities here … and there are also some free activities for the kids.
If you have a child in school and they’ve entered some of their school work into the Ekka competition, you’ll find it here.
Generally, if you go inside the museum, you’ll find “stuff” for the grown ups to look at… but outside there are a few things for the kids, such as a mini maze treasure hunt. Whilst it’s not very tall, our 3 x 8 year old children all really enjoyed finding the clues.
Like last year, there’s a stall where you can make a free fresh flower headband.
D – Agricultural Hall & Channel 7 Pavilion
Firstly, this place is amazing… and not to be missed. It provides hours of free entertainment for kids of all ages and they have somehow managed to scale the entertainment for littlies, up to big kids. The littlies have things to play with, the bigger kids will enjoy the play, but also learn in the process. There are two levels in the Agricultural Education Hall, downstairs is the Agricultural Education area (with lots of fun activities) and you’ll find heaps of fun but different educational activities upstairs, along with the new Technology Precinct.
I’ll start with upstairs, and break this pavilion into categories:
Firstly, as you go up the escalator, you’ll see an ambulance (which the kids can investigate), and they can play a CPR game on dummies (all free).
Queensland Government precinct
Everything in here is free to play with, and there are lots of souvenirs for the kids to take home. I’d estimate that a curious child could spend an hour or two in this section alone.
Start by going to the Police display to pickup your passport – then start the police adventure (collecting stamps, freebies and having fun along the way!)
Whilst you’re collecting the passport stamps (after your child is finger printed… at which point you ask the police officer whether your child is being setup to be a cop or a criminal), kids can dress up as a police officer.
2019 is the Year of Outback Tourism, so there is a lot of focus of things to do and places to visit. Be aware in this area – you might get chased by a dinosaur. Sacrifice the child and save yourself!
Don’t worry, it’s just a green-screen, and you’ll be given a print out of a photograph to keep and emailed a gif to download, like this…
Channel 7 Pavilion
The Channel 7 Pavilion is where you’ll find a real helicopter (don’t ask me how they got it in there!), plus a television news station for children to put their reporting skills to the test, a virtual reality racing car game, technology (Fortnite is heavily featured!) and the Channel 7 Kids Zone.
Channel 7 Kids Zone
The Kids Zone has LOTS for kids to do. They can show off their talent to get a golden buzzer, pose with props, play games and do other activities. There is even the opportunity for them to win a few prizes or pick up some freebies.
Head downstairs and you’ll find the Agricultural Hall. This area has a heap of free activities for children that teach them about the food they eat, the clothes they wear, basically things like:
- growing and planting
- honey production
- fire ant prevention
There’s a virtual paddock where children can don virtual reality goggles to experience farming for themselves, and lots of craft and interactive activities.
The ground floor of the Agricultural Pavilion is also where you will find the marvellous arts and craft displays, including stunning cakes and photography. If you want to set your kids a challenge, ask them to find Thanos’ glove!
In summary, you could easily spend a whole day in this pavilion… and the whole thing is free, fun and educational. It’s amazing.
E – Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion
Firstly we’ll start with a tip… it’s near impossible to get a table at lunchtime, the food here is fantastic and reasonably priced (and not rubbish), just try to eat outside of peak times if you can. There are SO many things to see and do in this pavilion, but let’s start with the food.
For a super quick fill-em-up snack, grab a $3 cheese toastie.
The Gotzinger $2 mini hotdogs are now $2.50 (sorry, no new photograph), but kids love them.
And while you’re here, try the Woolworth’s fresh food samples. This year they’re sampling fresh fruit, green beans and banana smoothies.
There are lots of other food retailers here offering tasters and samples too, and a gourmet selection of dining options. You can even watch a live cooking demonstration while you eat.
F – John Reid Pavilion / Ekka Emporium
These pavilions are mainly shops, however, some of them have activities for the kids… but they are a limited.
On the way to the pavilions (if you’re heading from the Woolworths Pavilion or Agricultural Hall), there’s a stall that sells amazing hats for $10! There are superhero themed hats, the traditional NY hat and so many to choose from, all $10 each. I thought it deserved a special mention, as it’s a great idea for cheap b’day / Christmas presents. There Queensland firefighters are also here selling their fundraising calendars. I just know my great auntie is going to love her Christmas present this year!
In the pavilion they have some really unique things that you don’t find in shops (for both kids and adults), it’s definitely worth a visit. Perhaps head to these shops before going to the Showbag Pavilion, so when your child wants to buy everything you can say “you can have this… or showbags!”.
They even have costumes (think about book week people!)
G – RACQ Animal Nursery
There are so many animal related exhibits to see, but obviously the stand out for young children is the RACQ Animal Nursery where you can enter for free and buy a cup of feed for $2, or 3 for $5 (which will guarantee your child will be delightfully stalked by the animals… in a nice way).
As a family of animal lovers, all I heard from the children in our group was “cuteness overload!, cuteness overload!”, and then we came outside and look – it even says it on the sign! This is a place where my children could remain ALL DAY and be quite content.
There are donkeys, sheep, lambs, goats, calves, llamas, pigs, ducklings, chicks – and check out this for “cuteness overload”…
While two of the rambunctious litter were still tussling and playing, these exhausted pups clambered into the trough for a snooze!
For safety reasons I write my phone number on my son’s hand, given it was in the picture I attempted to photoshop it out. I appear to have removed his whole hand (in the photo, not in real life… obviously).
In addition to the animal nursery and feeding there are a few events that you can attend (all free):
- The Norco Milking Barn
- Sheep shearing
- Racing/Diving pigs
And if the kids still want MORE animals, a visit to see all the show animals on display should see them right.
G – EkkaNITES (in the Main Arena)
The EkkaNITES entertainment is fantastic, and don’t forget they now have the 6.05pm Fairy Tale and Fantasy themed Children’s Fireworks display!
The Children’s fireworks are pretty simple, the kind of fireworks we remember as kids, but with a little extra entertainment, they do flow directly into the rest of the show. Here’s the EkkaNITES agenda:
5.35pm – EkkaNITES welcome
5.40pm – Harness Racing
6pm – National Anthem
6:05pm – Children’s Fireworks; 10-minute display
6:15pm – Little Pony Roller Race
6:25pm – Extreme Free Speed Climb with the Laughing Loggers
6:35pm – Mechanical Madness – Roll Over Cars and Quads
6:40pm – A Drovers Tale
6:55pm – Coca-Cola Dance Off with Chook Farmer Goldie the Clown
7:05pm – Movie Stunt Drivers Show
7:15pm – Monster Trucks – Tom Cat & Missy the Dog
7:25pm – Aussie FMX featuring superstar Brodie Carmichael
7:40pm – Fireworks Spectacular, featuring EkkaSaurus, the flame breathing dinosaur!
8pm – Meet the Stars (they ride up close and high 5 the kids)
For you…. yes, the grown ups, you won’t love the children’s fireworks, but you’ll be suitably impressed if you have littlies (and we thank the Ekka for doing this). But nothing compares to the main EkkaNITES Fireworks Spectacular even at 7:40pm. If you can make it, it’s worth the wait!
To give you a little clue about the theme… in the picture below, as I was taking the picture I got a big surprise and nearly fell off my chair.
If you’ve never been to the Ekka, watch our video from a previous year for a preview of the type of things you’ll find there!
What time does the Ekka close at night?
The Ekka opens at 9am each day. Different displays and areas close at different times. For example the Old Museum closes at 5pm. Ekka Nites second lot of fireworks finish at 8pm and then there is an opportunity to take photos afterwards…. but Sideshow Alley closes … late!
In summary – Ekka 2021
Yes, it might be expensive, yes, you might be able to go on unlimited rides at the theme parks… but the Ekka is more than that!
It’s the atmosphere.
It’s City meets Country.
It’s a family tradition in the making.
It can cost a fortune or you CAN actually be careful and do Ekka on a budget.
It’s the Ekka… and we love it to bits. It’s a part of our family.