WHEN planning a weekend escape with the family, Brisbane had never been an option on my radar.
The usual appeals of the city for a couple are mostly incompatible with young children, but we recently discovered a package tailored for families.
Located in the heart of the CBD, Novotel Brisbane has just had a $12 million refurbishment.
With my partner and our 12 and 10-year-old boys in tow, we felt like movie stars as we strolled into the swish new lobby to check in for our two-night getaway.
The Novotel group embraces families and our package was a preview of a new initiative offered on the June-July school break.
The big drawcard for the children was a train ride from nearby Central station to Dreamworld at Coomera.
For us it was the chance to enjoy some luxury while our weekend was organised for us.
The facelift to the 4.5 star hotel was extensive, including upgrades to all 296 guest rooms.
With the Dreamworld package, children up to age 16 stay for free if they share a twin family room.
Or if you’d like to spread out, there is the option of booking a connecting room for the kids at half the price of the first room.
Probably the most impressive renovation has been to the restaurant, which features a fancy new buffet breakfast area.
Food is high on my priority list, and our first dining experience at Novotel was an invitation to sample its new family-friendly winter dinner menu.
When I hit the sack that night I was convinced the Tower of Terror could not compare with the lamb shank or the pear and pistachio crumble I had just eaten.
Saturday was all about the boys.
Recognising our need for sustenance given the big day ahead of us, I led the team to the buffet.
The incredible range of healthy and hearty foods on offer literally made my jaw drop.
I was in heaven, yet torn, as I imagined how a full stomach might react to the rides my boys would soon force me on.
I took solace in the knowledge there was always Sunday morning, and settled for a moderate feast while the boys slurped down bowls of Coco Pops … kids, huh.
The boys experienced Dreamworld just last year without me, and apparently I had to prove my worthiness as a father by taking on the Giant Drop and the Tower of Terror with them as witness.
The Giant Drop was seriously terrifying. Who thinks up these insane contraptions?
But the Tower of Terror is even better now. You start the ride backwards and are throttled skyward in reverse before plunging face-first back to the beginning.
With my baptism of fire out of the way we sampled a few of the less intense rides before heading off to the Australian wildlife experience, also inside the theme park.
We let a koala pose for a photo with us and then let the nerves settle as we checked out the incredible array of animals.
I could have spent the rest of the day there, but dad was in high demand and Whitewater World was calling.
Our pass gave us entry to both worlds and the adjoining water park was unchartered territory.
The water was a little chilly, but this meant crowd numbers were down and we rarely had to wait in line.
The Wedgie, with a trapdoor which releases you into a 17m free-fall, is a must.
On Sunday, we took advantage of the 5pm late check-out at no extra cost, which gave us a chance to see a bit of the city.
We opted for a relaxing tour on the river with River City Cruises, which was all the more interesting given recent flooding events.
After lunch and a walk through South Bank and the mall, we were ready to call it a weekend.
DREAM AWAY (fact box)
Total cost of Dreamworld family package – available any day over the June-July school holidays – is $625. Includes $199 a night in a twin share room (two double beds) for two adults and two children including breakfast and car parking.
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