The Canberra Visitors' Centre, 330 Northbourne Ave., Dickson (tel. 1300/554 114), dispenses information and books accommodations. The office is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 4pm. The official government website, www.visitcanberra.com.au, is worth checking out.
Special Events -- A host of free events -- from concerts to competitions -- is part of the annual Canberra National Multicultural Festival held over 10 days each February. The city also celebrates its founding with the month-long Canberra Festival throughout March, including lots of free events on Canberra Day, which is a local public holiday, on the second Monday in March and Enlighten: See Canberra in a Whole New Light, when famous buildings are illuminated on various nights in March. There are many other major events scattered throughout the year, the biggest of which is the annual free spring flower show Floriade, when Commonwealth Park erupts in a blaze of color with more than 1.5 million bulbs and annuals in bloom. The Summernats street machine car festival in January, the Easter National Folk Festival, and the Australian Science Festival in August also draw big crowds. Check dates at www.visitcanberra.com.au.
Canberra's focal point is the pondlike Lake Burley Griffin, an artificial lake with the Captain Cook Memorial Jet (a spire of water that reaches 147m/482 ft. into the air) at its center. Most of the country's more culturally and politically significant buildings -- Australia's most expensive building, Parliament House, the much smaller (in comparison) Old Parliament House, the National Archives, the National Library, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, the High Court of Australia, and Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre -- are clustered around it, making it easy for visitors to go from one attraction to the next. Officially, the area is called Parkes (after Sir Henry Parkes, the "father of Federation"), but it is more commonly referred to as the Parliamentary Triangle, which is bounded by Commonwealth, Kings, and Constitution avenues. Capital Hill is at the apex of the triangle, while City Hall, in the city center, and the headquarters of the Australian Defense Force, in the suburb of Russell, are at the other two points.
Most of the embassies and consulates are in the suburb of Yarralumla, east of Capital Hill; Canberra's main shopping district, Civic, is on the other side of the lake, centered on Northbourne Avenue, one of the city's main thoroughfares. Compared to other capital cities, the Central Business District (CBD) there is quite small. The inner suburbs of Manuka and Kingston are the places to go for boutique shopping and the best restaurants and cafes. On the outskirts of the city you'll find the National Zoo and Aquarium, and just a few minutes drive away is Black Mountain, crowned with its 195m-high (640-ft.) communications tower with a viewing platform, revolving restaurant, and exhibition hall.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.