High life but low cost
OKAY, so you need a holiday but with a family, travelling can end up costing a small fortune.
Also, you don't have much time available for a big trip, but you want to do something that takes your breath away and creates memories your family will cherish forever.
If this sounds like you, then read on.
I have discovered how to have a fantastic holiday, enjoy world-class entertainment, stay in five-star luxury and still have money left over in the bank balance.
It's called Brisbane.
For too long Sunshine Coasters have overlooked the special treat on their own doorstep in favour for other bigger cities.
Brisbane is considered for day-trips, not serious holidaying - at least that's what I thought.
But Brisbane, particularly at this time of the year, is a city that's hard to beat.
In only two short days I was able to see more of Brisbane than I did in the two years I lived in one of its suburbs.
With only a short timeframe, I was able to cram in the highlights and splurge.
To experience the best of Brisbane, you really need to stay close to its pulse. And the newly renovated Hilton on Elizabeth St doesn't come much closer to its heartbeat.
I've never stayed in a Hilton before, but it's going to be hard to persuade me to stay anywhere else.
The rooms are lush and comfortable, the service is better than five star and it has also the niceties - gym, swimming pool, tennis court, fantastic restaurants and bars - if you have time to relax.
We even had edible gold served with our meal.
As a mum with three young kids, a trip to the city has to offer more than shops.
And Brisbane has so much to offer families. It even has its own group of volunteers "greeters" to provide the inside secrets.
These fabulous people will meet you at the Visitor Centre location and act as tour guides.
My trip to Brisbane started with a visit to the Queensland Art Gallery and its Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado exhibition.
This gave us the opportunity to see how the royalty lived hundreds of years ago.
I've written about the exhibition before, but all I can say is - go. It is an experience your whole family will cherish and it sure beats flying to Spain to view it.
While at the gallery, take a stroll to the Queensland Museum and see the Mummy exhibition.
It's a chance to view ancient Egypt artifacts close-up, watch a 3-D film on how people were mummified, and then examine a genuine mummy. It sure beats watching a Brendan Fraser movie.
Go from the Mummy exhibition downstairs to the Science Centre, but prepare several hours to get the maximum benefit.
My family spent four hours there and I had to drag them out. It is a fun, interactive, mind-boggling place worth going more than once.
There is always live entertainment on in Brisbane with world-class shows and events.
I had the opportunity to see Cirque de Soleil's Ovo and it's one show I will never forget.
From beginning to end, it's a combination of remarkable skill, dazzling props and pure entertainment.
Unfortunately Ovo has finished this weekend, but undoubtedly Cirque de Soleil will back.
We're early risers in the Sundstrom household and there is no better way to see Brisbane than on the city bikes.
It took me a while to work out how to use the bikes but once I'd mastered it I was able to traverse across the city at my own leisure.
I was amazed at how many mums, dads, couples are out and about before 7am in Brisbane on a Sunday.
There is so much more I could write about, the CityCats, the Botanical Gardens… and you don't have to fly to get there.
I was in Brisbane for two days, but I was able to experience a week's worth of memories.
1. Queensland Art Gallery's Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado
An exclusive survey of the history of painting in Spain over three-and-a-half centuries. Exhibition runs until November 4. Family entrance $55.
2. Brisbane Science Centre at the Queensland Museum
Family entrance fee - $40.
3. Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb at Queensland Museum South Bank
Online tickets at $21.45 for adults and $12.65 for children (including booking fee). Concession and family tickets are also available. Advance booking is advisable as it is extremely popular. Extended until October 24.
4. South Bank
A fabulous way for a family to spend a day browsing through markets on the weekend, having a swim in the pools and enjoying the outdoors.
5. Brisbane Botanic Gardens
The gardens provide a lovely place to stroll and enjoy nature. Entrance is free.
6. Brisbane City Cycles
Pick up a bicycle at any of the outlets dotted around the city and enjoy a cycle across the highlights. Registration is easiest on-line and while there is an online registration free, it's possible to keep costs to a minimum by docking at a station every 30 minutes.
7. Brisbane City-Cat
Brisbane is a river city and viewing the city from the river is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
WHERE TO STAY
- Brisbane's Hilton offers a combination of inner-city convenience with five-star luxury.
- To learn more what Brisbane has to offer this spring, go to visitbrisbane.com.au.
- To take advantage of Brisbane's free tour guides, go to brisbanegreeters.com.au.
* The writer was a guest of Brisbane Marketing and Hilton Hotel.