Adventure, baby!

Sydney

The Owl’s Apprentice: Spot On Children’s Festival at the Riverside Theatre

The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me

There is a fantastic arts festival for kids running over the current school holidays at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta. Called the “Spot On Children’s Festival”, it’s the fifth year that the Riverside Theatre has played host to a program of award-winning shows, relaxed performances and free activities.

The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me

It was our first time at Spot On, and we highly enjoyed the performance we came to see: The Owl’s Apprentice.

The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me

The show is a gorgeous mix of shadow and hand puppetry with physical comedy by the Little Wings Puppets company.

The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me

The recommended age for the show is 4-8 which I think is spot on. The kids laughed hard at jokes that included the word “bottom”, or related to wombats pooping squares, but I’m also sure that they absorbed the message at the heart of the show – that wisdom isn’t something that can be taught, but is the culmination of many life experiences.

The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me

Outside the theatre, in the courtyard of the theatre, a large variety of free activities have been set up for the duration of the festival, including Kinderling Radio, balloon-twisting, face painting, craft activities, a play gym, a photo booth, a chalk wall and more.

The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a day during the school holidays, I highly recommend checking out a show at the festival that is running until Oct 2 (so get in quick!).

The Owl's Apprentice at the Spot On Children's Festival, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney via christineknight.me

More information:

The 2016 Spot On Children’s Festival program is available via the Riverside Theatres website at: riversideparramatta.com.au/spoton16

What: Spot On Children’s Festival
Dates: 27 September to 2 October 2016
Tickets: Free to $20. From the Box Office (02) 8839 3399 or http://www.riversideparramatta.com.au
Venue: Riverside Theatres – Corner of Church and Market Streets, Parramatta
Ages: Children aged 1-12 years

Full Program:
· The Listies 6D – 10.30am on 27 and 28 Sept; 1pm on 28 Sept

· The Owl’s Apprentice – 10am and 12.30pm on 27 and 28 Sept. Relaxed performance at 12.30pm on 27 Sept

· Curious Jac – 10am and 12.30pm on 29 and 30 Sept. Relaxed performance 12.30pm on 29 Sept

· Play Along with Sam – 11am and 2pm on 29 Sept

· The Young King – 10.30 am and 1pm on 29 Sept to 1 Oct

· Maya the Bee Movie – 2.15pm on 29 Sept

· In a Deep Dark Forest –12pm and 3pm on 30 Sept, 9:30am, 12pm and 3pm on 1 and 2 Oct

· Blinky Bill the Movie – 2.15pm on 30 Sept

· The Iron Giant: Signature Edition – 2.15pm on 1 Oct

· Kubo and the Two Strings – 2.15pm on 2 Oct

Thank you to the Spot On Children’s Festival for inviting us to check out The Owl’s Apprentice. We absolutely loved the show.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Grumpy Donuts Store Opening

Grumpy Donuts Store Opening, Camperdown, via christineknight.me

Do you love donuts? Then get thee to the brand new Grumpy Donut store in Camperdown, opening 9am Saturday September 24th.

Grumpy Donuts Store Opening, Camperdown, via christineknight.me
Owner Elise

Grumpy’s began when husband wife, Scott and Elise Honeybrook, decided to launch a business together to bring quality, hand made donuts to Australia. The result has been a smash hit, with Sydney-siders clamoring for their massive yeast-raised donuts with fancy toppings.

Grumpy Donuts Store Opening, Camperdown, via christineknight.me

I was invited to the grand opening of the store to check out the new place and try the donuts. While the Buttered Toast and Smores are favourites with Grumpy’s fans, I really loved the Pink Lemonade and whatever the pink one with sprinkles is called.

Grumpy Donuts Store Opening, Camperdown, via christineknight.me Grumpy Donuts Store Opening, Camperdown, via christineknight.me Grumpy Donuts Store Opening, Camperdown, via christineknight.me Grumpy Donuts Store Opening, Camperdown, via christineknight.me Grumpy Donuts Store Opening, Camperdown, via christineknight.me

Light and fluffy with the perfect amount of sweet glaze, these donuts are just delicious.

Grumpy Donuts Store Opening, Camperdown, via christineknight.me

Please note that the store is quite small and has very little seating. Your best bet is to get the donuts to go and eat them nearby.

Grumpy Donuts
72 Pyrmont Bridge Rd, Camperdown
grumpydonuts.com
Get Directions

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Sydney Kids: The Art Gallery of NSW for Families

The Art Gallery of NSW for Families via christineknight.me

Sydney’s Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) was established in 1871, a home to international and Australian permanent art collections, temporary exhibitions, programs and research. The gallery has a particularly beautiful collection of colonial and 19th-century Australian works and European old masters, as well as galleries dedicated to the arts of Asia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The Art Gallery of NSW for Families via christineknight.me

I’ve been visiting the art gallery since I was a teenager. First on school excursions, and then later with friends and my now husband. I’ve loved art all my life and introduced my daughter to art as a baby, hoping that she will grow up to similarly appreciate the arts.

We love visiting the gallery during their family programs as they makes art so much more accessible to young people. The AGNSW has a busy schedule for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens, and, best of all, the majority of them are free!

The Art Gallery of NSW for Families via christineknight.me

Our favourite program is the twice-monthly “drop in and make” art activity. Held in the entrance court of the gallery, the activity is free and suitable for kids of all ages plus their carers/families. The activities are always designed so that little kids can enjoy scribbling if they like, and older kids can create something really beautiful that is themed to a current exhibition.

The Art Gallery of NSW for Families via christineknight.me

This month the art-making activity was crafty kimono cards, taking inspiration from the Japanese art of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. We were provided with materials and instructions on how to make a kimono card with a special hidden pocket to store secrets.

The Art Gallery of NSW for Families via christineknight.me

There is no time limit on making the activities, which was lucky for us as we sat there making our card for over an hour. The drop in activities are very popular, particularly on rainy days. We were told we should come back a few hours later (not sure what we were meant do with a kid until then?) but decided to wait until a table freed up, which was only about 5 minutes luckily. About half an hour later the majority of tables were empty, so I advise waiting for a table rather than taking the staff’s advice to leave.

The Art Gallery of NSW for Families via christineknight.me

On the lower level of the gallery we discovered another free family activity area free with a different activity: “make your own zine”.

This space is also home to rotating activities for kids or adults to enjoy. At the moment, you can create your own self-published booklet filled with ideas, words and images. The activity is inspired by Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho whose exhibition is currently on display in the gallery.

This area of the gallery is open Monday to Friday from 11am to 4pm during the school holidays (26-30 September, 2-7 October), as well as every weekend. During the school holidays, gallery staff will be on-hand to provide instruction, inspiration and additional collage materials.

The AGNSW also has age-specific programs running throughout the year. “Kids Club” for ages 5-8 and”Art Club” for ages 9-13 both run on weekends with “tour for tots”, ages 2-5, on week days. For kids with special needs and their carers, “children’s access workshops” runs once a month on week days, and during the school holidays there are special workshops for kids and teens such as calligraphy and “clay club”.

The Art Gallery of NSW for Families via christineknight.me

Get more information on family programs at the AGNSW.

Art Gallery of NSW
Art Gallery Rd, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Daily 10am-5pm (Wednesdays open until 10pm)
Prices: FREE
Online: artgallery.nsw.gov.au
Get Directions
Getting there: get the train to Circular Quay and walk, or park at the Domain parking station which is right next door to the art gallery. Weekend parking is $10 all day.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Four Frogs Creperie and Gateway Sydney

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Circular Quay finally has a reasonably-priced place to get a delicious bite to eat – the brand new Gateway Sydney complex has opened, with the first of the 25 planned eateries open for business.

Gateway Sydney is kind of like a fancy food court – think upmarket chain restaurants and takeout joints. It’s located directly behind Circular Quay train station, making it the perfect place to eat for tourists as well as local workers.

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

We ate at Four Frogs Creperie, the first of the restaurants to offer an eating area that is more cafe-like than food court, including full table service.

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Four Frogs Creperie has an extensive menu of both savoury and sweet crepes, including a cute little kids’ menu that is very reasonably priced – on the menu are a ham & cheese galette (crepe) $7.50, ham, cheese & egg $8.50, bacon, cheese & egg $8.50.

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

We ordered a plain egg and cheese crepe and were charged an extremely reasonable $5.

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

For the adults, we enjoyed a Spinach, Feta, Mushroom and Avocado galette ($15) which came with a side salad, and a summer special with Feta Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes, Toasted Pine Nuts, French Dressing & Salad ($15) with added Avocado ($3).

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

The galettes arrived very quickly, cooked to perfection. The crepe base is made from home-milled Australian buckwheat flour and is naturally gluten-free.

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

If crepes don’t strike your fancy, you have plenty of other options to choose from:

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Bekya (Egyptian street food)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Bread & Fill (roasts and sandwiches-style of food)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Burger Project (to come)

Chat Thai (to come)

Din Tai Fung (to come)

Espresso Room (speciality coffee)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Gelato Messina (best gelato ever?)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Hero Sushi Express & Train (amazing-looking sushi to stay or go)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Mad Mex (Baja-Mexican food)

McDonalds (located outside the main entrance)

Neptune Palace (Chinese and Malaysian dishes, located on level 1)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Oporto (Portuguese flame-grilled chicken)

Paragon Hotel (pub food from noon)

Quay & Co (to come)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Rolld (Vietnamese cuisine)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Schnitz (specialising in schnitzels)

Ship Inn (an informal restaurant and bar outside the entrance to the Gateway)

Spiced by Bilus (Coming soon)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

The Golzeme Co. (Turkish golzeme)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Top Juice (fresh juice, salads and yoghurts)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Urban Orchard (wholesome, healthy food made from natural ingredients)

Workshop Espresso (Italian-style espresso bar)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Zumbo (delicious sweet treats)

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

There is a large area in the middle of the centre with general seating, as well as seating attached to each eatery.

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

Entrance is on ground level and the entire centre is wheelchair and stroller-accessible.

Gateway Sydney: Circular Quay Eateries via christineknight.me

A note on bathrooms – while there was a sign leading to a parents’ room, we looked and couldn’t find it, so it’s unknown if the gateway has babychanging facilities/family room. I did however find the disabled bathroom which was completely accessible.

Gateway Sydney
Alfred St, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-12am, Sat & Sun 10am-12am
Online: gatewaysydney.com.au
Get Directions

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

XS Espresso: Milkshakes & Munchies in Wetherill Park, Sydney

XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me

A gem of a cafe in Sydney’s South-West, XS Espresso is situated in a busy outdoor shopping complex that looks more industrial than hip, but thankfully does have a lot of parking, unlike most inner city cafes.

XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me

We arrive at 12:30pm on a Tuesday and the cafe is quiet for the first half hour, when streams of people pop in, a mix of mums with little kids to a pair of 20 something men who both order the biggest milkshakes I’ve ever seen and polish them off completely.

XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me

We’re at the cafe for lunch, and order Free-Range Eggs on Sourdough Toast ($12), Avocado Crush (Avocado on sourdough with marinated feta and cherry tomatoes, $14) with extra poached eggs, $4, and the XS Stack (avocado, grilled halloumi, grilled tomato and poached eggs on sourdough, $17).

XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me

The food is cooked quickly, and arrives looking bright and perky with all those fresh ingredients piled on top. The stacks are a bit difficult to eat but are absolutely delicious.

XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me

The star of the meal, however, is the Monster Shake ($14), which is an Oreo shake topped with whipped cream, Oreos, Tim Tam and waffles in a tall glass.

XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me

The tall glass is important to note as the extra thick straws the staff give us to drink the shake with are not-so-tall – in fact, they don’t reach the bottom, leaving me in the unusual predicament of being unable to finish my shake (the horror!). I think they look fancy and very Instagrammable, for sure, but I would prefer the mason jar-style of glass that is easier to drink out of.

I really enjoy the creamy Oreo shake, but the toppings are too much, even for me, and it’s just too hard to get to the milkshake underneath with the narrow opening on the glass.

XS Espresso also serve more regular-looking milkshakes such as Nutella, and make kiddie-sized versions of the shakes on request. We ordered a kid-size Nutella shake to go and it was $4. Shakes all come with whipped cream on top (even the kids’ ones), so ask to skip the cream if it’s not your thing.

XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me

XS Espresso: Crazy Milkshakes in Wetherill Park, Sydney via christineknight.me

The cafe doesn’t have a bathroom inside – it’s a stroll of about 100m to the nearby Spotlight store which has the public restroom facilities next to it. It’s not far to walk but it is across a busy car park and, if you’re a toddler who needs to go, it can feel like it’s 10 times further than it actually is.

XS Espresso is the deliciously cool cafe the South-West suburbs badly needed. I love knowing it’s an excellent choice I can always fall back on when visiting that area.

Highchairs: Yes.
Stroller storage: No.
Easy access: Yes.
Change tables: No.
Kids’ menu: No.

XS Espresso
9a/1183-1187 The Horsley Dr,
Wetherill Park NSW 2164
Phone: (02) 9557 8656
Prices: $$
Hours: Mon-Fri 6am-10pm, Sat & Sun 7am-10pm
Get Directions

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

The little inner west suburb of Summer Hill is often left out when one thinks of upmarket family cafe options. A lot of families, however, live in the area so it came of no surprise to hear about Envy Deli Cafe, an extremely kid-friendly cafe in the neighbourhood.

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

From the front, Envy looks like a regular cafe, but a closer look in the window reveals adorable teddy race car treats and tea cups made out of marshmallows. It’s a dead give away that they get a lot of local kids in here!

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

While there is seating in the front of the cafe, it’s the courtyard out the back with the massive jacaranda tree giving diners shade that is the prime seating area. While the courtyard can be accessed through the front of the cafe, it does have a very narrow door that might prevent strollers from entering. A few metres around the side there is a door leading directly into the courtyard.

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

While kids clearly rule at Envy, there are plenty of diners of all ages enjoying the gorgeous spring weather on the day we visit. A toy box, colouring books and tins of pencils are stashed near the bathroom for kids to grab and play with at the tables while awaiting their meal.

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

The kids meals are a bit light on the menu – just the one “kids breakfast” and a kid-sized version of the pancakes, but the three kiddos we are dining with are happy with the choices: The Kiddie Breakfast (1 scrambled egg, chipolata sausages and toast, $8.50) and Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes (with cinnamon ricotta and maple, and the blueberry swapped for strawberry, $10).

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

The adults order light lunches: The Roast Beetroot Salad (pear, fetta, crushed pistachios and cherry tomatoes, $16) and Smashed Avocado and Fetta on Toast ($9.50) with added roast tomato $4.

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

Our meals arrive quickly thanks to the friendly staff, who weave in and out of the tables, tree trunk and tiny guests darting to and from the toy box. It’s chaotic but in a contented way. There’s very little in the way of children wailing or whining thanks to so much entertainment to be had.

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

The food is delicious and quickly polished off, and we grab the kids, order kid-sized milkshakes to go in chocolate and strawberry, and head to the nearby playground on the far side of the shopping complex across the road.

Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney Envy Deli Cafe: Kid-Friendly Restaurants, Summer Hill, Sydney

With the playground gate safely locked behind us, we let the kids run off their milkshakes while we relax in the sun.

Highchairs: Yes.
Stroller storage: Minimal – bring a folding stroller and enter through the rear.
Easy access: No – a step and narrow door in the front.
Change tables: Yes.
Kids’ menu: Yes.

Envy Deli Cafe
109 Smith St,
Summer Hill NSW 2130
Phone: (02) 9286 6000
Prices: $$
Hours:Mon-Sat 6am-5pm, Sun 6:30am-5pm
Get Directions

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Sheraton On The Park High Tea: Sydney’s Best High Teas

Sheraton on the Park high tea via christineknight.me

Sydney’s Sheraton On The Park has given their Gallery dining area a major refurbishment, and with it, their high tea offerings too.

Sheraton on the Park high tea via christineknight.me

Recently reopened to the public, the new Gallery dining area is modern and cool, with a silver backdrop representative of the adjacent Hyde Park. When ordering a classic High Tea stand at the Sheraton On The Park, you’ll notice an elegant twist on their traditional stands of old.

Sheraton on the Park high tea via christineknight.me

The indulgent High Tea is now served on a silver three-tiered stand that is elegantly designed to reflect a tree. It’s a thoroughly modern stand and quite a unique offering in the world of high teas.

The tree High Tea stand is served daily at Sheraton On The Park from 12pm. Included in the classic High Tea is a selection of savouries, scones and sweet treats, plus a choice of Vittoria espresso coffees, fragrant Dilmah teas or hot chocolate made with Lindt chocolate, milk, dark or white.

Sheraton on the Park high tea via christineknight.me

Sheraton On The Park have partnered closely with Dilmah to deliver a selection of quality teas. I chose the recommended Uda Watte from the Watte range – Sheraton On The Park are the first high tea establishment in Australia to offer this particular tea range to the public.

The Watte tea range is grown at different elevations in Ceylon’s central highlands. Strong, robust teas are supplied from the mid country, rich, rounded tea from the high country, with delicate, subtle tea found at the highest elevations.

My Uda Watte tea was classified as “high grown”, at 5000 feet above sea level, and described as “Rich and lively, with intense aroma and well-rounded flavour”.

The tea stand is served with the savoury and sweet treats first, the scones following after these are finished.

Sheraton on the Park high tea via christineknight.me

Quiche
Warm serrano ham, caramelized onion and ricotta dip (vegetarian substitute dried tomato)

Sandwiches
Red pepper hummus with pita – grilled zucchini, chickpeas & feta
Duck & currant pate brioche – cranberry, mache & orange (vegetables used instead of pate on vegetarian substitute)
Hot smocked salmon dark rye – avocado, fennel & chives (pumpkin used instead of salmon on vegetarian substitute)
Schinkenspeck schiacciata – bush tomato, fig & goat’s curd (zucchini used as substitute for vegetarian option).

Sheraton on the Park high tea via christineknight.me
Vegetarian savoury options.

The savoury food was delicious. Fresh, fluffy bread, a warm quiche and delicious ingredients. My favourite was the pumpkin sandwich, while my dining companion loved her quiche.

Sheraton on the Park high tea via christineknight.me

Sweet Treats
Green tea cake
Decadent passion fruit truffle
Pampa jelly tart
Hazelnut cream eclairs
Raspberry macaron
Carrot cheese cake

Sheraton on the Park high tea via christineknight.me

The sweet treats were the perfect size for sampling. I really enjoy the colour and variety of the treats, with a variety of ingredients highlighted, from creamy hazelnut to refreshing berry. Each treat was decadently good, with my favourites being the pampa jelly tart (I loved the bright fruit jelly in the centre) and the passion fruit truffle, with its layers of cream and jelly. Just delicious.

Sheraton on the Park high tea via christineknight.me

Scones
Fruit and plain
Strawberry jam and devonshire cream

The scones are served last, warm and fresh. They come with a variety of toppings – butter, jam and cream in plentiful amounts, but I find the scones to be a bit on the hard and dry side, more like biscuits than the big and fluffy scones I prefer.

The Sheraton on The Park is one of Sydney’s iconic high tea venues for a very good reason. Their consistently high quality of food and service make an afternoon in the Gallery a memorable affair.

The Gallery High Tea is served daily from 12pm and includes one coffee, tea or hot chocolate, $49 per person. The Sparkling Tea Stand includes one glass of sparkling house wine and is $59 per person. 

Sheraton On The Park High Tea
161 Elizabeth Street,
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9286 6000
Prices: $$$
Get Directions

Thank you to Sheraton On The Park for hosting us.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

I had the immense privilege of seeing the new Disney Aladdin musical comedy this week. While the show holds its own as a brilliant stand alone show, it is a reworking of the famous animated movie of the same name that the majority of the audience had seen, many times over, judging from the singing breaking out around the theatre.

With such a cultural icon as the basis for the show, it’s inevitable that audience will walk in with expectations that it will be identical to the movie – which it isn’t. Many things that worked in a cartoon just don’t work on stage, and there were a lot of holes in the movie that have now been filled with additional songs and dialogue. I found the show to be full of unexpected surprises that added up to a spectacularly enjoyable experience for both fans of the movie, as well as newcomers to the story.

Thinking of going? Here are a few things you won’t expect:

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

Aladdin isn’t the star of the show
The name of the show is Aladdin, so you expect the star to be … Aladdin, right? This was the number one surprise of the show. Genie, the role which Robin Williams famously stole the show with in the 1992 animated movie, is again the attention grabbing character who has the funniest lines, the most dramatic exits and some very impressive vocal pipes. We were incredibly lucky to see the role of Genie being played by Michael James Scott, who starred in the original cast of Aladdin when it opened on Broadway in New York in 2014. His immense presence and incredible talent steal every scene he features in.

The genie isn’t blue
Expecting a painted blue man to play the genie? Guess again. The genie looks like a pretty regular fellow in the show, dressed in royal blue as a nod to the all-blue genie we are used to from the animated classic.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

You won’t know all the songs
You might remember the animated Aladdin as being full of songs, but more were clearly needed to turn a 90-minute movie into a 2-and-a-bit-hour stage show. You will hear all of your faves (and have to fight the urge to sing along), plus seven brand new songs written just for the show. The added songs give an extra depth to the show, letting us learn more about the characters of Aladdin and Jasmine in particular.

There are no talking animals
When translating the movie to the stage, a few tricky characters, namely Iago the parrot, Abu the monkey and the magic carpet all either underwent transformations or were axed completely. Iago came out of it the best off, with a larger role now as a human sidekick with a few witty parrot references to give a nod to his roots. Abu is gone, and carpet only features twice as an actual carpet rather than a character.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

Australia gets a few mentions
The audience laughed with appreciation to hear local references like Vegemite, Tim Tams and Wagga Wagga peppering the dialogue. I always think it’s a smart move to adapt shows to their destination, and it certainly warmed the audience in this case even more so towards the Genie, who was the Tim Tam addict among the cast.

There’s tap dancing
I bet you didn’t expect that! The show is full of spectacle – shooting lights, shiny materials and sparkles galore, bright props and dazzling costumes. Of course there is a tap dancing number to add to the show’s show-stopping scene in the Cave of Wonders, which also features a take on Dancing with the Stars – but now Scimitars (get it?).

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

There’s a new scene
The original movie has a tricky scene where Aladdin is briefly banished by Jafar to a desert, where he summons the genie and is quickly returned to Agrabah again. This scene was integral for Aladdin to use his second wish, but obviously a tricky one to bring to the stage. The producers have done an excellent job of getting the same result (the second wish being spent) but with a completely new scene that is far more entertaining than the one it replaces.

It’s less scary than the movie
I remember the movie being pretty scary when I was a kid, and my four-year-old finds parts of it terrifying. For some reason, when translated on stage, the scary bits don’t seem scary any more. The cave has a sense of humour this time around, and the scary snake scene at the end is now completely gone.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

It’s funnier than the movie
There are so many hilarious one-liners (“Welcome to Agrabah – land of one percent body fat!”) and cultural references peppering the dialogue that you need to focus hard to stop your head from spinning.

They’ve bought out every sequin store in Sydney
I mean really, where did all those sequins come from? The cast were glittering so much that it looked like they’d raided the Tower of London for their jewels, and then every Spotlight and Lincraft to dazzle the audience’s eyes with so much glitz it was almost blinding at times.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

The flying carpet will make you cry
The flying carpet scene is a highlight in the movie and again in the show. Thanks to brilliant staging and props, the scene with the carpet is breathtakingly beautiful, in an understated way that makes the emotion forefront and evokes the magic of the original movie. I wasn’t the only one with a tear in my eye during this song that sent the audience into a hushed state for the first time since the curtain rose.

Aladdin has mates
He actually has a trio of mates that form his entourage in the show; one of them deliciously camp, one obsessed with hummus, and the last your average Joe. The three get some excellent stage time with comedic song and dance routines. Having friends makes Aladdin seem more of a real-life character – how had I never wondered who he hung out with all day when I used to watch the original movie?

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

The Cave of Wonders scene is a show stopper
The cast also seemed shocked when the applause and cheering at the end of the “Friend Like Me” number went on for so long that the next scene was delayed in starting by a good minute or so. The cheering would likely have keep going, had it not been for the orchestra kicking off the next number and forcing the show to resume. The faces of the cast when the shouting and clapping just kept going and going was absolutely priceless.

11 Things You Won’t Expect From Disney’s Aladdin, The Musical Comedy via christineknight.me

Should I take my child to see Aladdin?
Disney recommends the show for kids aged six and up. With the long running time and also new songs that are a bit more “adult”, I would agree with this recommendation. I am, however, taking my just-turned-five-year-old to see the show because she’s been begging to see it. If you’re taking your little one to see it too, here are my tips for making the outing a success:

  1. Book a matinee. Kids are always better rested and behaved for matinees and less likely to irritate adults who want a kid-free evening out. No one likes to have a child kicking their seat for the entire show.
  2. Buy the Broadway cast album and play it repeatedly in the car for the weeks leading up to the show to prepare them for the new songs.
  3. Pick up a booster seat from the cloak room.
  4. Pack plenty of snacks like popcorn or whatever special treats they’re allowed.
  5. Take them to the bathroom both before the show starts, and straight away at interval.

Aladdin is playing at the Capitol Theatre until October 23, 2016
Tickets are on sale now.

Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Aladdin, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin at Capitol Theatre Sydney, starring: Ainsley Melham (Aladdin), Michael James Scott (Genie), Arielle Jacobs (Jasmine), Troy Sussman (Babkak), Adam Jon Fiorentino (Kassim), Robert Tripolino (Omar), Adam Murphy (Jafar), Aljin Abella (Iago) and George Henare (Sultan) directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

Thank you to Bridges PR for the tickets to see Aladdin. All opinions are my own. Show images by Deen van Meer. 

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

Vivid Sydney is an annual outdoor lighting festival featuring immersive installations and projections all around Sydney. The festival has grown over the years from humble beginnings to the largest light festival in the world. Each year Vivid grows a bit bigger: this year new additions include the Royal Botanic Gardens, who are celebrating 200 years in 2016, and Taronga Zoo, as part of their 100 year celebration this year.

Vivid installations can also be found in Darling Harbour and Chatswood – both smaller outposts of the festival that draw smaller crowds and hence are ideal for families wanting to experience a taste of Vivid without heading to the larger venues.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

We hit up Vivid at Taronga Zoo as a family on the first night it opened. Taronga has emerged as the perfect Vivid experience for families due to its crowd control (it’s tickets so there are limited numbers), large, interactive and kid-friendly animals lanterns, stroller-accessibility and family facilities, and it’s size – long enough to make a night of it but not too long to exhaust parents and kids alike. Lights turn on at 5:30pm at both Taronga and Chatswood, making the time just that bit more family-friendly.

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

Circular Quay has long been home to the bulk of the Vivid installations and is still the best place to visit for the full festival experience. I like to catch a bus or train to Town Hall station and walk down through Pitt st Mall and Martin Place to experience the dispersed installations long the way. These areas have a few lights to see, but aren’t big enough to go out of your way to discover if you’re pressed for time, or with kids in tow.

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

Down in Circular Quay, the light show projected onto the Sydney Customs House is an entrancing highlight. This year’s theme is “Sydney’s Hidden Stories”, and it’s worth having a seat and enjoying the entire show.

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

A walk around the foreshore to the Sydney Opera House reveals the stunning “Songlines” display on the sails of the Sydney Opera House. The light display showcases Australian indigenous art. I would recommend getting up close to a speaker so you can listen to the Indigenous music that is paired to the display.

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

Quite a few of the Vivid exhibits are interactive, making them super popular with kids. They’re dotted around the foreshore here and there, in a path that leads to the Sydney Opera House, and, this year, the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

The Royal Botanic Gardens has been a Instagram hit this year with its “Cathedral of Light” installation emerging as the most selfied exhibit of the festival. While the lights are indeed just gorgeous, I would suggest arriving before the lights turn on at 6pm and positioning oneself in the cathedral when the lights go on for an experience with minimal people (thanks Jayne at Girl Tweets World for the tip!). I arrived at about 7:30pm and it was the busiest exhibit we came across.

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

Other projected light displays in the Circular Quay area include the Museum of Contemporary Art and Cadman Cottage, both on the other side of Circular Quay.

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

A short stroll up this side of the harbour takes you to the perfect spot for watching the show on the Opera House sails, too, as well as past some other fun interactive exhibits, such as the heart that lights up when you scream “I love you” into the speaker.

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

If you’re taking the kids, my best suggestion for enjoying the main area of Vivid is to get there BEFORE the lights turn on, with the kids already well-fed. I also highly recommend going Mon-Thurs as the weekends get the most crowded. Parking and driving in the city can be difficult so take public transport if you can, or pre-book a parking spot at a larger car park if that’s not possible.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

Vivid is completely accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, and if visiting on a week night you’ll have no trouble navigating through people either. If you’re tackling any of the Vivid spots on a weekend, consider a carrier (we use the Ergo performance carrier for Cheese – it has a weight limit of 20kg). A carrier is also a great way of keeping you – and the kid! warm during the frosty nights.

Looking to dine out during Vivid? Check out Little Munch’s suggestions of where to dine in the City during Vivid.

Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney: The Highlights via christineknight.me

Vivid Sydney
27 May – 18 June, 2016

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day via christineknight.me

The Museum of Contemporary Art in the Rocks is a regular fixture on our outing agendas, particularly when their Sunday Family Fun Day series is on. Around once a month (usually the last Sunday of each month) the MCA hosts a special day for families on level three in the National Centre for Creative Learning.

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day via christineknight.me

We’ve been to three or four of these “fun days” now, and really enjoy the format that each one follows.

1. Sign in at the level three learning centre and hand over a $5 donation.

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day via christineknight.me

2. Collect a “sketch activity card” – each month a different card is created by the MCA Artist Educator to inspire kids to explore the permanent collection in the gallery downstairs. The theme of activity is mirrored in the activities set up back in the learning centre.

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day via christineknight.me

On our most recent visit, the theme was “signs and symbols”. We were sent to find symbols around the gallery, then report back upstairs for the next step.

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day via christineknight.me

3. Get hands messy with art and craft activities in the learning centre.

Friendly MCA staff set the room up with activities that are designed to be adult-led. Whole family participation is encouraged, making this activity session an enjoyable way for parents to connect with their kids.

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day via christineknight.me

The activities are always set up to enable kids of a wide range of ages and abilities to participate. The guide is ages 4-12: we have been attending since just before Cheese turned four, so have always been on the parent participation end – but I can see that with a child who is closer to 12 that parents wouldn’t need to be so hands on.

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day via christineknight.me

The learning centre is a fabulous space. Light and bright, with huge glass windows that look over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it’s a delightful way to spend a few hours with your child.

While a theme is encouraged, it’s not mandatory, so kids can really make whatever they want with the materials provided. On our most recent visit the theme was “signs and symbols” and there was an option to make your own encoded book, but Cheese preferred sticking tape on the window and creating a box that she covered in her own special symbols.

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day via christineknight.me

4. Outside the learning centre is an additional room for children that is always open as part of one of the museum’s main exhibitions. It often features activities for kids to create something like a drawing that is then projected onto a screen in the next room, which is set up with projectors.

MCA Sunday Family Fun Day via christineknight.me

On our recent visit, the room was set up like a movie set green screen, and kids could participate in a little movie magic, exploring how using various materials and signs would make them disappear on the large screen.

MCA Cafe via christineknight.me

5. Eat! For a bit of a fancy meal, try GRACEMCA down on ground level (read about our delicious meal at GRAZEMCA here), or grab a more casual meal or snack on the level four Sculpture Terrace & Cafe (check out our experience dining at the MCA Sculpture Terrace & Cafe here)

Check out the MCA’s website for details on their next Sunday Family Fun Day.


Museum of Contemporary Art
140 George St,
The Rocks NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9245 2400
Get Directions

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!