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When Federation Square opened in 2002 to commemorate 100 years of federation, it divided Melburnians. There were those who loved it and those who hated it. Either way, it has become an integral part of the city and a great place for tourists to start their sightseeing. The ultra-modern design of open and closed spaces juxtaposes the surrounding Victorian architectural buildings. Hosting more than 2,000 events annually, tourists will always find entertainment in the central outdoor performance space and intimate indoor venues. Federation Square also houses the Ian Potter Gallery dedicated to Australian art and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. More commonly called "Fed Square", it is also the largest free Wi-Fi site in Australia.
Royal Botanic Gardens
One of the top tourist attractions in the heart of green parkland extending south of the Yarra River, a short distance from the CBD, is the Royal Botanic Gardens. Established in 1846, the Royal Botanic Gardens is rated as one of the finest of their kind in the world. Covering an area of 40 hectares and with more than 50,000 plants, including many rare species, the gardens are visited by 1.5 million people annually. The Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden is designed to encourage the next generation of gardeners and the Aboriginal Heritage Walk is a popular tour that looks into the rich heritage of indigenous Australians. In summer, live theater is a highlight of the gardens, and a moonlight cinema is set up under the stars.
National Gallery of Victoria
The oldest public art gallery in Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria holds more than 68,000 works of art in two city locations. The international collection is housed in the St. Kilda Road building, originally opened in 1968 and extensively renovated in 2003. The building is renowned for The Great Hall where visitors are encouraged to lay on the floor and gaze at the colorful stained glass ceiling. The extensive Australian collection is held in the Ian Potter Gallery in Federation Square, featuring the history of Australian art from Aboriginal through to the Heidelberg School, and contemporary mixed media. One of the highlights is the large triptych format, The Pioneer by Frederick McCubbin.
Although the 22 hectares of Melbourne Zoo dates back to 1862, the 320 species of animals have the best of modern facilities in state-of-the-art enclosures. The award-winning Trail of the Elephants is an insight into the lives of the resident Asian elephants in a traditional village-garden setting. Another highlight is the Orang-utan Sanctuary where the animals live in their treetop home. With many wild encounters including "roar and snore", twilight music concerts, and behind-the-scene tours of some enclosures, Melbourne Zoo offers visitors many innovative experiences.