If someone picked me up and dropped me in the Southern Hemisphere, I could definitely live in Melbourne. The city feels very much like Chicago in the spring and fall - oriented around a river, lots of buzz/activity, substantial urban center, a plethora of restaurants and coffee shops, etc. Granted, it never gets as cold as Chicago in the dead of their winter, but the vibe and the friendliness are incredibly comparable to what you might experience in that particular mid-western city. Only drawback if I had to have one (and this is more for anyone looking to travel here) is that nothing gets going before 10 am - as such, stay up late, sleep in and plan to start your day mid-morning.
I also realized how much appreciation I have for multi-national corporations and their ability to deliver a consistent product/experience irrespective of locale - whether it is McDonald's, Marriott or in this case, Uber, it truly is amazing how familiar the experience can feel despite being 6,000 miles away from home. While Uber may be catching a ton of heat lately, our experience with Uber in Australia and the drivers' affinity for their employer could not have been better.
As for the day, it was action packed from start to finish. Day started with a great run along the Yarra River - always a good way to see a city and this morning proved to be no exception. If you find yourself here, stay at the Crown Hotel and Casino - incredibly nice, tons of high end shops and restaurants and well situated for the Aquarium and other sites. After that, we headed to a relatively new area of the city (last 10-12 years) called the Docklands to ride the Star (massive ferris wheel owned by the same company that owns the London Eye) - touristy, yes, but great views and a fun experience nonetheless. The Docklands area is interesting as well as it has tons of new construction but according to the locals, feels soul-less; they attribute this to the fact that it is a lot of absentee Chinese $$$ looking to get their money out of China and into somewhere else.
After the Star, we split up - Shea headed to do some shopping at the Bourke Street Mall and I took the kids for a tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. While the tour lasted 15 minutes longer than it probably should have (1 hr 45 min in total) and I barely understand the rules of cricket, it was incredibly well done. From walking onto the field to visiting the players' locker room to sitting in the sky box where the cricket players watch matches, we were afforded a true "behind the scenes" experience. The stadium itself holds 100,000 and is used for a variety of activities including Australian Rules Football, Cricket, Soccer and countless concerts - apparently Guns n' Roses played there in February and true to form, Axel Rose showed up 1.5 hours late. MCG is also home to the Melbourne Cricket Club - a club with 150,000 members and 250,000 on the waiting list (they are just now accepting members from applications sent in in 1997). Once accepted, your dues are a mere $661 per year and you get access to ALL events at MCG and several other properties as part of those dues - not bad and I can see why the wait list is so long.
On our way back, we hit the free City Circle tram (think New Orleans cable car) and headed to the old Melbourne Gaol (jail) to see where Ned Kelley, the notorious cop killer lived. Unfortunately, they shut down at 5pm and the tour takes 2 hours - we arrived at 4:15 and took it as a sign that we should head back instead.
Wrapped up the evening with some Greek food (Stalactite if you are curious) and then let the kids hit the pool at the hotel