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Vivid Sydney 2018 – the ultimate family guide


Luna Park’s beautiful Ferris Wheel will be transformed into a sparkling display of more than a thousand twinkly lights as part of the 2018 Vivid Sydney festival. 

The annual festival, which will celebrate its 10th year in 2018, begins on May 25 and continues until June 16. 

As per tradition, there will be a huge projection on the Sydney Opera House, a sculpture in the Botanic Gardens and interactive multimedia at the Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Check out our family-friendly guide to make the most of Vivid Sydney 2018.

What to see

Most of Vivid’s installations are suited to families of all shapes and sizes. They are outside, large-scale and interactive. If you are visiting Vivid with a wheelchair user or someone who has special needs, pick up top tips from Julie Jones here.

At Circular Quay head to Customs House to see an animation of May Gibbs’ famous Snugglepot and Cuddlepie will be narrated by Playschool favourite Noni Hazlehurst in celebration of the centenary of their publication. 

In the Botanic Gardens, ‘Parrot Party’ brings you song and light pieces inspired by Kea parrots and rainbow lorikeets, whereas ‘Aqueous’ and ‘He’e nalu’ will plunge you into an underwater world.

The traditional projection on the Opera House sails will fly again this year. Jonathan Zawada is responsible for the ‘Metamathemagical’ design which incorporates symbols and representations of Australia. Using powerful laser beams, there will also be an interactive Skylark display allowing visitors to decorate the Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay buildings in light.

Young kids will like ‘Harmony Valley,’ with luminescent sculptures of trees and rainbows that light up in colour and sound when you link them by holding hands. ‘Fugu,’ a huge multi-coloured pufferfish, and ‘Garden of Sweeties’ full of giant lolly sculptures, will also be popular with littlies. At Cadman’s Cottage, try the virtual ball pit for a bit of fun. Smaller legs may find it difficult to cover the distance of the Light Walk especially given the volume of visitors. 

We recommend choosing one precinct and staying there to explore it inside out. If the city is just too hard and too noisy, there are plenty of other options. 

Chatswood will be home to ‘Lightscape’ installation, Light Market (a pop-up street market replicating those found in Brazil), and ‘Futurescape,’ an outer space projection at the Concourse.

Taronga Zoo will once again host a Vivid spectacular named ‘Lights for the Wild’with dozens of animal light sculptures. For a wheelchair accessible experience of Vivid at Taronga Zoo, read up on Julie’s tips here.

In Darling Harbour you can see water fountains with lights and lasers and David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II can be viewed on the roof of the National Maritime Museum. 

What to hear

Vivid Music has become an integral part of this festival that celebrates technology, multimedia and sensory experiences.

 The City Recital Hall will host an Innovators in Jazz series, and Vivid Live will operate from the Opera House, boasting a line-up that includes the likes of Solange, Cat Power, Ice Cube and some rising Australian stars. The Vivid Ideas seminars will be of interest to teenage fans of film-maker and marine conservationist James Cameron, of Titanic and Avatar fame.

What to eat

Getting peckish? Vivid will have a Masterchef experience called Mystery Gateau to treat your tastebuds, but it is probably best for older teens.

If you are in Chatswood, try street food-style pan-Asian delights at the Interchange. In The Rocks, Pancakes on the Rocks or Munich Brahaus offer family-friendly dining options. City Extra is your best bet for kids in Circular Quay – it is open 24/7 and has a huge menu full of classic favourites. 

A walk down Pitt Street offers a multitude of Korean barbeques and some small Vietnamese and Chinese eateries, as well as some great pizza and pasta at Macchiato. For convenient food-court-style eats, look to Westfield Food Court on Pitt Street, the Galleries on George, or to World Square, where you’ll find the Burger Project, Schnitz and Fratelli’s Famous Pizzeria.

How to get there

Use public transport to access Vivid Sydney. Extra trains are running on the weekends, and extra buses will be operating on altered schedules to suit the road closures. Numerous road closures and extensive parking restrictions will make driving difficult. The main event, the Light Walk, can be accessed by Wynyard, Town Hall and Central stations.

Avoiding crowds

In 2017 nearly 2.5 million visitors came to Sydney to see Vivid. The moral of the story? Expect big crowds, especially on weekends. 

Festival volunteers and staff are there to help with operations, and after 10 years the festival operates very smoothly.  But if you are concerned about the swarms, get there early or taste test Vivid from one of its other precincts – Chatswood or Taronga Zoo. 

If you require extra information about accessibility and inclusion, don’t forget to check out Julie’s article.

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