Every Winter season, Sydney comes alive with the spectacular lights of Vivid Sydney, and in 2019 it claims to outshine all the others and be a bigger and more family-friendly event than ever before.
Returning for it’s 11th year from 25th May until 15th June, light installations and projections will illuminate iconic buildings and locations all around Sydney as part of the festival. But going with a family of small people, despite being extremely engaging and exciting, can definitely be a challenge.
So here is the OFFICIAL MUMOKI guide to the Vivid Sydney with Kids including all the top spots for the smallest ones in your family aged 0 to 6 years old. And keep reading below for our 12 tips on making it through the night.
VIVID SYDNEY WITH KIDS 0 – 6 YEARS: Bubs to Pre-schoolers
The best part of Vivid as an adult is seeing the faces of your kids while watching the light and colour dance and the animations come to life. They will enjoy interactive installations featuring giant friendly flowers, favourite animals and a fantastical fairytale world, where colours, sounds and forms change, simply by moving, touching or walking past something. Highlights and locations include:
Taronga Zoo – Probably the easiest spot to see the lights if you have kids, particularly under the age of about 6 or 7. Popular favourites from last years sculptures are back (the tigers and elephants being my personal favourites), along with a whole lot of exciting newbies. Taronga zoo turns into an illuminated trail of scientific discovery; featuring a giant rhino, lots of bees and bugs in the trees overhead, a big Bilby, Sumatran tiger, as well as a great little movie in the Taronga Centenary Theatre (my 2 & 1/2 year old son loved the short film). My tip would be to book an early session, but go grab a an early dinner somewhere else nearby first – it’s definitely much easier than trying to eat when you are there.
Darling Harbour – When it comes to family-friendly precincts at Vivid Sydney, Darling Harbour is one of the areas that seems to fit the bill each year. Whilst the restaurants and cafes always tend to need a booking to guarantee a seat during the festival, with a little planning it is a great place to head with lots of child-friendly installations.
One of the highlights of Vivid Sydney at Darling Harbour with kids each year is the fireworks on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8.00 pm. This year, Cockle Bay will come to life with bio-luminescent creatures appearing in the water.
Tumbalong Park (the area just in front of Fratelli Fresh Darling Harbour and the new ICC) again will feature a totally inclusive playground designed in honour of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing.
Its a big space and they only let in 30 people at a time, which means it doesn’t get as chaotic as some of the other areas. If you have a child with special needs you can purchase tickets in advance to save queueing.
Chatswood – At the Chatswood Interchange you will find the giant Cascading Harp installation – a grand yet delicate curtain of light, colour and music where eastern culture meets western technology in a celebration of peace, love and harmony.
Likened to a colossal wind chime, the installation features soft cotton lengths of rope hand dyed in pastel colours inspired by Tibetan prayer flags. Clusters of traditional bells, LED lights and music chime in time to the movement of the ropes.
The Royal Botanic Gardens – Since its inclusion in 2016, weaving through the Royal Botanic Gardens at Vivid Sydney with kids each year has always seemed a little magical. It’s no surprise then that this year is no different with bright lights illuminating the Royal Botanic Garden to create a pathway through its nocturnal environment.
In particular, the Firefly Field is a mesmerising installation of 500 flying light points that simulate the movements these nocturnal lampyridae. Glowing. Darting. Hovering above the ground. The ever-changing bioluminescence of each one is reflected in the grassy slope. Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates. On mass, they create a dynamic light scene that triggers visitors’ curiosity and awe.
Luna Park – Luna Park is again celebrating its colourful history via the ‘spirit of fun’ installation. The feature promises to bring the park’s artworks, characters and soul to life with brilliant shapes, patterns and colours that light the Midway promenade and enhance high-octane rides such as the new family thrill ride – Volaré. Also down the Midway will be Street Performers roving throughout the night, complete with LED-lit costumes exclusive to the festival.
EATING OUT WITH KIDS DURING VIVID
With a little planning and armed with this definitive guide to eating out with kids, visiting Vivid Sydney with the family can actually be fun!
Check out some of these MUMOKI favourites and pre-book a table to do an early sitting:
Close to Darling Harbour
- Fratelli Fresh Darling Harbour: The new kid on the block from the Fratelli Fresh Restaurant Empire. It’s very new and shiny (it opened the same day as Vivid) so might be hard to get in. We decided to go for an early dinner here on the opening weekend and found the early dinner slot at 4.30/5pm was perfect. Then you just roll out and you are right at the Tumbalong Lights exhibition. If you are in the mood for Italian still and can’t get in there, it’s also not too far to walk up to the Westfield Sydney Fratelli Fresh location.
Close to the Botanic Gardens/Customs House
- Gateway Sydney: Located just near McDonald’s the newest precinct in Circular Quay has some fabulous affordable, kid friendly restaurants (think Chat Thai, Burger Project and Gelato Messina just to name a few) as well as pimped out change/parents rooms.
Close to The Rocks
- The Glenmore: Don’t try to attempt getting a spot on the terrace with a view but you might get lucky and be able to grab a table inside in one of the smaller rooms on the second floor. Staff are super helpful and food is great.
- Pancakes on the Rocks: It’s been around for a long time and for good reason. Definitely book ahead though because you will be right in the thick of it.
Close to Taronga Zoo
- The Buena: Grab a pizza and beers in the recently opened Vista Bar (the upstairs area). Think relaxed Balmoral Beach meets Mosman mod and packed with families for Vivid. It was where we went before heading to Taronga Zoo.
- Bathers Pavilion: Choose between either the Café of the Restaurant at The Bathers’ Pavilion and you will be greeted with impeccable food and service to match the stunning view.
- Fratelli Fresh Crows Nest: An ever-changing blackboard menu full of seasonal dishes, where the flavours are simple and the portions generous. Try the banoffee pie. It’s one of my all time favourites.
In and around Chatswood
- Din Thai Fung: Arguably some of the best dumplings in Sydney you can find this little gem inside Westfield Chatswood. The award winning restaurant specialises in Taiwanese cuisine including soup, rice, noodles and wok fried dishes. A sure hit with the toddler crowd.
- Nahm Jimm: Styled to look like an elegantly lit traditional wooden shack, this restaurant serves home cooked Thai dishes to families in Chatswood Westfield.
12 TIPS TO GET THE MOST OF VIVID SYDNEY WITH KIDS
1. Visit early in the week:
Monday to Wednesday are quieter compared to Friday and Saturday. We have this on good authority from the team behind Vivid Sydney and also previous experience.
2. Visit early in the evening:
Lights come on at 5.30pm at Chatswood and Taronga Zoo – ideal for grabbing an early dinner, taking in the lights, and getting the family home for a slightly later bedtime. The rest lights up at 6pm and could almost work like a friendly nightlight.
3. Go on State of Origin Night – Wednesday 5th June:
Maybe run this one past your partner first but my guess is it will be one of the quieter nights because a lot of potential Vivid Sydney visitors will either be at their favourite local, or on the couch at home watching the game.
4. Visit more times for more fun:
Don’t try to tackle it all in one go. Split your visits up by different locations on different days. The light show is mostly free after all so it is even easier on your hip pocket. It’s impossible to see everything in one night. Not with kids and not if you plan to maintain some form of relationship with your partner afterwards.
5. Visit by public transport and leave the car at home:
Extensive road closures will be in place so take advantage of extra bus and train services during the festival instead. Also consider taking a ferry around to Darling Harbour or Circular Quay – you get to view the Opera House and a nice view back from Milson’s Point. Just be ready to carry tired bubba’s home from your nearest stop.
6. Pre-Purchase tickets:
If you are heading to the Zoo to see the giant animal multimedia light sculptures pre-purchase your tickets in advance here. Ticket details for this year are yet to be confirmed, but last year they could be purchased for two session times and for the following prices:
Tickets are $21.95 Adult, $16.95 Child (4-15 years) & Concession. Children under 4 years of age are free.
7. Visit a Vivid Information Booth and get an ID wristband for children:
Wristbands are available at Darling Harbour, Customs House & West Circular Quay. Add your contact number and put them on your children’s wrists to make it easy to be reunited should you be separated at any time. Be sure to keep an eye out for Vivid Sydney’s friendly army of volunteers in their bright pink jackets and point them out to the older kids too, they can answer any questions or point you in the right direction.
8. On ground transport:
There are inevitably going to be A LOT of people. If you have really small ones who are willing, wear them in your ErgoBaby, Baby Bjorn or sling. Pram’s are hard, no matter how great the access is.
9. Pack water and snacks:
Incase it’s too hard to stop to buy something. Always best to be prepared and it’s a cost-saver too.
10. Dress warm:
Ok so if you are from the northern hemisphere you might think us Sydney-siders over react to the cold and you can disregard this comment. But it does get cold and little ones feel cold differently to us, so think about scarves and beenies for yourself and your babies as well as layers that can go on or come off easily.
11. Wear your PJ’s:
Ok so not you, as in mummy and daddy, but definitely do bath time and dress your kids in their pyjamas before you leave the house. No one will care, or probably even notice, and they will be so tired by the time you get home that they can just go straight to sleep afterwards.
12. Visit prepared:
Planning your visit beforehand is simple with precinct and accessibility maps, transport options and activities available at www.vividsydney.com or through the festival smartphone app.