Vivid Sydney With Kids: yTravel’s Top Tips

10 June 2016

Caz & Craig Makepeace are the founders of ytravelblog.com, one of the world’s biggest travel blogs and have been featured by notable brands such as Virgin Australia, Expedia, and Lonely Planet. When not traveling and writing about it, you can find them swinging in a beach hammock at sunset to the tunes of Jack Johnson, or screaming in the stands of their favourite sporting match. Connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. 


Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House, yTravel

The annual Vivid Sydney festival is on again for 2016 and runs from 27 May – 18 June. This festival is about lights, music and ideas and is the largest event of its kind in the world.

With over 80 light installations and projections around the city, plus a world-class line-up of concert and music performances, public ideas programs, creative industry workshops and conferences, Vivid Sydney is one of our favourite festivals in Australia!

Sydney is a fantastic destination at any time of year but visiting during Vivid Sydney is something special. The city comes alive in a rainbow of colours and spectacular displays, including our personal favourite, the Sydney Opera House.

We attended Vivid Sydney on opening night and over the three week period more than 1.7 million visitors will flock to see one of the world’s most beautiful harbour cities during Lights On at 6pm each evening!

Below are our top tips for getting the most out of Vivid Sydney 2016 and our favourite displays we suggest you don’t miss!

Vivid Light Walk

If you only have time to visit one precinct during Vivid Sydney, we suggest doing the Vivid Light Walk around Sydney Harbour, Circular Quay and the Royal Botanical Garden Sydney, which has more than 60 light art installations, large scale illuminations and 3D-mapped building projections lighting up the waterfront.

Explore this precinct slowly and give yourself time to enjoy the interactive displays.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House, yTravel

In our opinion, the Sydney Opera House is the star of the show. For the first time at Vivid Sydney, the sails on the iconic landmark celebrate Indigenous art with its Songlines projections. Six artists were selected from different clans and territories whose work illustrates the connections between indigenous astronomy and the natural world.

You can view the Sydney Opera House from various points around Circular Quay – we grabbed a front row seat and enjoyed a drink at the Opera Bar. Other great viewing places for the Sydney Opera House are in front of Campbell’s Cove on the other side of Circular Quay, or from a ferry.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney-Harbour-Bridge-Vivid-Sydney (1)

Sydney Harbour Bridge, yTravel

Whilst you’re on the Sydney Opera House side of Circular Quay, admire the illuminated steel arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which blend in beautifully with the rest of the city lights. Check out the Dress Circle installation at East Circular Quay and let the kids colour and pattern the skyline at this interactive installation. Cast your eye towards the southern pylon of the bridge and watch Eora – The Land, a dance performance by the Bangarra Dance Theatre which illuminates the rich history of the Eora Nation who are the traditional owners of a territory that encompasses most of Sydney.

Customs House

Customs House, credit: Destination NSW

Customs House, credit: Destination NSW

Sydney’s Hidden Stories on the walls of Customs House includes animations like flying blue tongued lizards, the underwater reef world, grumpy gnomes, and dancing witches. The incredible graphics and bright colours will keep your kids engaged and was a highlight of our families time at Vivid Sydney.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Contemporary Art, yTravel

Museum of Contemporary Art, yTravel

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) building is another installation we suggest you don’t miss around Circular Quay. Peaceful music accompanies the Matter of Painting projection light show which starts with paint dripping down the front of the building, followed by the walls stripping like pieces of paper, then turning to marble painting and multi-colours of plasticine. It seems so real, you can almost feel the texture.

I Love You

'I Love You' at First Fleet Park, y Travel

‘I Love You’ at First Fleet Park, y Travel

A fun installation for all the family is the huge 3D love heart in First Fleet Park in Circular Quay which says I Love You on one side, and on the other is the Love-O-Metre. Stand in front of the white heart and shout into the microphone I love you. The louder you say it the funkier things the heart will do, like change colours, turn into a collage of flowers and have bubbling love hearts within it.

Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo, yTravel

Taronga Zoo, yTravel

For the first time, Taronga Zoo is a new precinct at Vivid Sydney and every evening from 5:30-9pm the Be the Light for the Wild experience comes alive via an illuminated trail that lights up giant animal multimedia sculptures featuring one of ten critical species Taronga Zoo is committed to protecting, including the Sumatran tiger, Asian elephant, and platypus.

Hot tip – do the walk first at 5:30 (it’s dark enough to see everything), if you have the ANZ blue pass ticket, then jump on the Sky Safari cable cars after Lights On at 6pm in the city. Sky Safari takes you over the light display in the Zoo and looks out over the harbour to the Vivid Sydney lights in Circular Quay.

Luna Park

Luna Park, yTravel

Luna Park, yTravel

We got our vintage Vivid Sydney on at Luna Park, an amusement park on the northern side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Here we enjoyed a few hours of rides in the afternoon with our kids before the Vivid Sydney lights came on in the city. Step inside Coney Island and ride the giant slides, take on the wild mouse, and hop on the ferris wheel for spectacular views over the harbour and city and to watch the colourful boats cruising up and down.

Milsons Point

Sydney Harbour Bridge from Milsons Point, yTravel

Sydney Harbour Bridge from Milsons Point, yTravel

Even if you don’t visit Luna Park, it’s still worth heading over to the northern side of the harbour by either walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge or by jumping on the train and getting off at Milsons Point station. On this side you get a stunning view of Sydney Harbour and a different vantage point for the Vivid Sydney lights.

Darling Harbour

Laser-Dragon Water-Theatre at Darling Harbour, yTravel

Laser-Dragon Water-Theatre at Darling Harbour, yTravel

Your kids will enjoy the large playground in Darling Harbour or you can take in one of the attractions during the day such as Sydney Aquarium, Wild Life Sydney Zoo or the Chinese Gardens. During Lights On at 6pm for Vivid Sydney, Darling Harbour brings a sleeping dragon to life via the Laser-Dragon Water-Theatre – a water-screen mounted on a 13m robotic arm floating high above 56 fountains, arranged in snake-like coils, this moving water-screen assumes many forms, from ferocious dragons to the characters of commedia dell’arte.

Darling Harbour also makes for a nice place to enjoy dinner and drinks at either Cockle Bay, Harbourside and Darling Quarter. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch at Criniti’s, well known for their wood fired pizzas.

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Cathedral of Light at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Credit: Destination NSW

Cathedral of Light at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Credit: Destination NSW

Due to time constraints, we did not get a chance to experience the Royal Botanical Garden Sydney displays first hand but from what others are saying it should be a part of your Vivid Sydney experience. There’s a Cathedral of Light you can walk through, and projections on trees and will-o’-the-wisps’ lighting the ground. And the sandstone walls lit up are meant to be spectacular.

Attending Vivid Sydney with kids

Customs House, yTravel

Customs House, yTravel

Vivid Sydney’s light displays and animations will capture your children’s attention and curiosity and spark their own sense of imagination. Our kids are still talking about the Sydney’s Hidden Stories projection on the walls of Customs House and the giant animal multimedia sculptures at Taronga Zoo. As family travellers, we love that Vivid Sydney is family-friendly and cost effective, with most of the attractions being free.

10 Hot Tips for Vivid

  1. Visit mid-week when the crowds tend to be smaller
  2. Don’t drive. Make use of all the public transport options. There will be extra trains and buses running during the event.
  3. Get an Opal Card and top it up with money to make public transport travel easy. Just tap on and off with your card.
  4. Jump on a ferry to get you around Sydney Harbour so you can see it lit up from the water. You may even want to do a Vivid Sydney light cruise.
  5. Bring warm clothes and wear layers. June is winter time in Sydney.
  6. Spend more than one night at Vivid Sydney so you can experience all the precincts.
  7. If you have young kids keep them close to you. It’s night time and Vivid Sydney can get crowded. The information booths have handy bracelets to help prevent kids getting lost.
  8. Bring your own food and water as restaurants can be busy, especially on the weekend.
  9. To take your best photos you’ll need a tripod in the low light.
  10. Come early. Some of the lights start at 5:30pm, such as Taronga Zoo.

Don’t forget, Vivid Sydney runs until 18 June and lights come on every evening at 6pm. Check out the schedule of events to plan your trip to Vivid Sydney.