EKKA Guide 2018 | Things to Do at the EKKA for Families!
Need a no clutter, easy to follow, printable guide to the Ekka? The time has come to ditch the detail and make it practical and there’s a good reason. There’s too much to do at the Ekka for just a single day, BUT, if you have a plan… you can get it done, without a foot full of blisters and a pram full of frustrated children.
So here it is, nothing but practical information, specifically for families! Download our 2018 Ekka Guide with all of the opening and closing times, family friendly events and hidden free fun activities for children!
Ekka Map & Navigation
If you’re location-ally challenged, remember one thing: to navigate the Ekka (and minimise walking) break up the showgrounds into 2 parts:
ZONE A – Area to the LEFT of the train tracks
ZONE B – Area to the RIGHT of the train tracks
You’ll know if you’ve changed areas, as you’ll be crossing under “the tunnel”, you’ll go under the train tracks.
The aim of the game, to avoid excess walking, try to cover off each area in it’s entirety, before crossing under.
Collect the full Ekka map at the entrance – or even better, head to the App. store and download the brand new app. which now uses Google maps, so it helps you to navigate, AND DOWNLOAD our guide now and have it in front of you as you continue reading this article… plan as you read! The guide has little tick boxes, so you can mark off the items that look appealing… so you don’t miss a thing!
FYI – the app. contains the map and all of the event details, our guide gives you the detail to the map, along with what’s in each location (specifically for families)… so ideally, you’ll want both!
Looking at the map above, we’ve broken up the Ekka grounds into 8 handy “chunks” or sections i.e. these are sections of the Ekka that you’ll want to do together (to minimise walking!)
Our downloadable guide contains the above map, along with key information about each of these sections.
We’ll explain the sections below, but here they are:
- Showbag Pavilion
- The Old Museum
- Agricultural Education Hall / The (NEW) Technology Precinct
- RACQ Animal Nursery
- Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion
- John Reid Pavilion / Ekka Emporium
- Main Arena
We’ve spent hours pouring 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.
There are 3 main areas that contain rides, looking at our map you’ll see them indicated as 2A, 2B and 2C. 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 2C, 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!)
2A – Sideshow Alley in Zone A
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 also 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!).
2B – Sideshow Alley in Zone A
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.
2C – The Sunday Mail Kids Carnival Area
This is a hidden gem, but has shrunk a little over the years due to development. But 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. There’s a deal “10 tickets for $50” that allows kids to go on around 6 – 8 different rides (all appropriate for kids around 3 to 8 years old… some have height restrictions though). Just be aware that these are specific rides, the bulk deal doesn’t cover ALL rides in this section.
As mentioned earlier, this is where you’ll now find the bungy trampolines at $12 a pop.
FINALLY – When you’re budgeting for rides, take the new Technology Precinct into account. These are Augmented Reality type “rides / games” and cost a similar amount to the rides. You’ll find all of the information on this in the “Agricultural Educational Hall / Technology Precinct” section of this guide below.
The Old Museum
There’s quilting and gardening… 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.
Agricultural Educational Hall / Technology Precinct
Firstly, this place is A-MAZ-ING… and not to be missed. It provides hours and 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.
The very first thing you need to do here is pickup your EKKA LEARNING TRAIL Guide, this is a fun “treasure hunt / competition” throughout the Ekka (all free). The reason you want to do it upfront is to avoid re-visiting areas you’ve already been to.
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.
… as you tour around this area your kids can play with robots…
… do some craft and use interactive devices… all while collecting fun freebies, learning and playing!
Technology Precinct (NEW!)
Be aware that this section ISN’T free, treat it like a “ride” area. However, it is well worth the visit!
Throughout this area you’ll find a lot of virtual reality technology, including:
Holoverse is actually the world’s first holographic entertainment centre (it’s amazing), and it is located on the Gold Coast. We’ve done a review of them, if you’d like to know more read it here >> Holoverse Review.
Back to the EKKA though, they’ve bought along a brand new gaming table that is suitable for 2 players and costs $8 per game. Players have the choice between two different games.
Lightweave Virtual Reality Games
Prices are $7 for 1 game, $18 for 3 games, $30 for 6 games or $48 for 12 games. They have 3 different experiences and you really need to give this a go!
If there are two players, I really have to recommend the snowball fight, it’s hilarious and suitable for kids and grownups (give it a go grownups!).
They also have a dinosaur experience which is apparently quite realistic, the ground even vibrates as the dinosaurs walk.
I think under the goggles in the picture below he has a look of excitement, with a side of fear…
… as a giant T-Rex comes along and roars at him.
There are several other fun rides and games, including these virtual reality egg pods. There are quite a few games to choose from and the pods even move to make it more realistic. In the photo below my children are skiing.
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
I would have taken more photos… we spent 11 hours investigating the Ekka, but we ran out of time, there’s just way too much to do!
In summary, you could easily spend a whole day in this pavilion… and the whole thing is free, fun and educational. It’s amazing.
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 go inside for free, and buy a cup full of feed for $2, or 3 for $5 (which will guarantee your child will be delightfully stalked by the animals… in a nice way).
Now… 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 / feeding, there are a few events that you can attend (all free):
- The Legendairy Milking Barn
- Sheep shearing
While you’re in the pavilion, the kids can have their photo taken by RACQ and it will be emailed to them.
We’ve included all of the times in our downloadable guide!
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.
Firstly, the $2 cheese toastie is now a $3 toastie, still a great price!
Head to the Gotzinger stall for a $2 mini hotdog.
For desert or a random snack, the $3 cup of donut puff balls is also a bargain.
Secondly, I’ve said it before, but the Gourmet Pizza down the back left side of the Pavilion is:
- very yummy,
- packaged in a way (pizza boxes), that a Mama can easily balance enough food to take to the fireworks and feed her entire family. i.e. a great idea for EkkaNITES dinner,
- it’s open until late.
Inside the pavilion you’ll find a heap of things, but there are 3 more things I have to mention…..
(1) the free Woolworths food… join the line, the food is amazing and it will effectively satisfy you for morning or afternoon tea.
As far as “free” entertainment goes, the channel 7 pavilion (kids zone) is a lot of fun (and free).
There are a few activities just outside…
There’s the live 7 news experience….
You can have your photo taken on various sets, such as Home and Away.
The kids can “gear up” and pretend they are cricket stars.
… and they have several other photo opportunities.
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 are hats for sale (caps), there’s a shop 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.
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 cosplay worthy costumes (think about book week people!)
EkkaNITES (in the Main Arena)
The EkkaNITES entertainment is fantastic, and don’t forget they now have the 6.05pm 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:
6pm – National Anthem
6:05pm – Children’s Fireworks
6:15pm – Queensland Harness Racing
6:25pm – Farmyard Friends Ride and Drive
6:35pm – Lone Ranger and Tonto Time Trial
6:50pm – Wild Colonial Wagon Chase
7:05pm – Coca-Cola Dance Off with Adam Brand
7:10pm – v8 Utes Super Challenge
7:20pm – Monster Trucks
7:30pm – Showtime FMX Battle
7:45pm – Fireworks Spectacular
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 7:45pm, 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.
Download our Ekka Guide to take the scheduled entertainment with you.
If you’ve never been to the Ekka, watch our video from last year for a preview, of the type of things you’ll find there!
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.