With hundreds of stunning beaches running up and down the NSW coast, it’s hard to choose which one to visit.
On a sparkling Sunday we chose Palm beach, the northernmost suburb of Sydney, for a day trip. It’s an hour’s drive from the Sydney CBD, making it the perfect spot to get away from the hustle of the city without an epic drive to get there.
Palm Beach is often called the “jewel” of the Northern Beaches. Situated on a peninsula it has a gorgeous combination of lush evergreen bushland, beaches with soft golden sand and surrounded by the bright blue Pacific Ocean on one side, and calm Pittwater waterway on the other.
The beach might look very familiar if you watch a lot of soap TV – in particular Home & Away. The show has been filmed on location here since its beginnings in 1988. As a result the beach has been a popular tourist attraction, particular for Brits.
There’s plenty to do at Palm Beach to spend a gorgeous day outside. The main beach is soft and inviting – be sure to swim between the flags, or take kids to the south end to paddle where the water is most shallow.
If swimming in the waves isn’t your cup of tea, try a dip in the 35m ocean pool. It’s perfectly designed for both lap swimmers and also paddling with children in the shallow end.
For more exploring, follow the path around the pool where there are rock pools to be found. Be careful with the timing of your rock pool walk, however, as it can be unsafe when the tide comes back in.
When it’s time for lunch there are a few cafes to try. We enjoyed a late breakfast at 2108 Espresso, with an Aussie standard dish of toasted sourdough, avocado, fresh tomato and feta for $14 (eggs an additional $3). For the kids there is a grilled cheese toastie and babyccino with a cute blue marshmallow.
For dessert, we decided to give the cafe next door that serves scooped ice cream a miss and go old school with Gaytimes.
To walk off the ice cream there are a few options for the afternoon. Nearby is a large grassy park with a sprawling playground. While there were picnic tables in the park we didn’t spot any bathroom amenities, and the playground equipment didn’t have much shade.
The more athletic option for the whole family is to take the scenic 1.2km walk from the beach to Barrenjoey Head to visit the historic lighthouse that sits on Sydney’s most northerly point. It’s a 25 minute walk each way so take water and go to the bathroom before hand (no bathrooms at the top!). From the top you’ll have a great view of Broken Bay, the Central Coast and the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Have you ever wondered where the famous caldron from the 2000 Sydney Olympics ended up once the games were over? The answer is it didn’t go very far at all.
After the magical opening and closing ceremonies (who can forget Cathy Freeman lighting the cauldron and it rising through the air simultaneously dripping with fire and water?) the cauldron was taken down and moved just a few hundred metres to its permanent home – in the appropriately named Cathy Freeman Park.
Located very conveniently next to the Allphones Arena, Cathy Freeman Park has 2 playgrounds – one for young kids and one for older – huge shady trees and easy access to bathrooms and cafes.
We often end up in the park when attending a show at the Allphones Arena – it’s great to burn off energy after a long drive before needing to sit still for a long time while watching a show.
The cauldron is a popular feature for tourists and kids, who particularly love running underneath it in the puddles, and trying to judge when the fountain is about to turn on. There’s always one kid who times it poorly and gets absolutely soaked. Bring extra clothes in case this is your kid!
We were very fortunate to receive tickets to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar at the Sydney Opera House.
We arrived with time to spare and given that the Opera House is such a special venue, my kids had a little treat before the show. Some Very Hungry Caterpillar Cupcakes. A little steep at $5 each however both kids devoured the whole cupcake (they normally just eat the top!) and sadly, I did not get a chance for a pic or a taste. For the sugar conscious there was not too much icing on the top.
I really had no expectations for the show and did not get a chance to watch the promo video. The book by Eric Carle is a favourite at home and we have read it many times over the years. I was also a bit apprehensive to attend the show on my own with Miss 5 and Mr 2.8 year old. However, the moment the show started my kids along with everyone else were captivated. They enjoyed every part, interacting and participating with the actors and the charming puppets.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was an amazing production where everything was created with kids in mind. The stories were beautifully presented through the stage, the music and the puppets. It exceeded my expectations as I had no idea that the production would cover three more of Eric Carles’ books: ‘The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse’, ‘Mister Seahorse’ and ‘The Very Lonely Firefly’. The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse and Mister Seahorse were my little man’s favourite in terms of the puppets and stage props. He kept pointing out and repeating the names of all the animals and the fish. Clapping with excitement after each one left the stage.
And of course the final story ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ had most of the kids and adults reciting the lines from the book with the actors. Naturally, the ending was Miss 5’s favourite part.
My only very minor negative was with my 2.8 year old getting restless in the last 10 minutes of the show. However, the puppets and I managed to contain him.
Overall, I highly recommend anyone with children aged 2 to 5 years to go and see this wonderful production. It is my favourite kids show so far and I would take my youngest to see it when it comes back again.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is playing at the Sydney Opera House until October 9, 2016.
Thank you so much to the Sydney Opera House for tickets for reviewing purposes. The show is absolutely magical and all opinions are the writer’s own. Additional show images courtesy of the Sydney Opera House.
Take a walk on the wild side with a show 65 million years in the making. Dinosaurs once again roam the world thanks to the magic that is Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo.
During this educational and entertaining show, kids have the opportunity to get up close to prehistoric creatures that have been discovered in Australia such as the Australovenator, AKA the cute baby dinos that make the crowd go “Awwwww” and the Meganeura, an insect from the Carboniferous period (approximately 300 million years ago), which looked like a mammoth dragonfly.
Scientific facts fly hard and fast during the show, and the audience has to think fast to keep up. Dinosaur devotees will be thrilled to learn about these lesser-known Aussie dinos, in the most entertaining way possible – through first-hand experience.
The real genius of Erth’s Dinosaur is creative way in which they blend fun and fact. Give a kid a lecture on dinosaur history and they’ll probably doze off. Give them a dinosaur to pat on the head, and they’ll be entranced for hours.
And it’s not just the kids who can’t take their eyes off the dinosaurs. Watching these incredibly realistic creatures walk around the stage is an entertaining experience for the adults, too.
With its mix of kid jokes and adult humour, audience participation and a deliciously scary moment or two, it’s hard to tell who enjoyed the show more – the kids or their parents. It’s easy to see why Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is a hit of sauropod proportions.
Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is recommend for ages 5 and up. I would heartily agree with this recommendation due to language (lots of big words that littlies won’t understand) and also a truly terrifying carnivore.
Stick around after the show to enjoy the free activities for kids offered by The Seymour Centre, including The Owls Apprentice by Little Wings Puppets, a beautiful show combining shadow puppetry, hand puppetry and storytelling, Polyglot Theatre’s Forest Feast, where children will create a feast of food from craft items, and Ants, an interactive roving performance where human-sized ants and children work together in a gentle and unusual landscaping project.
Catch Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo at the Seymour Centre Dates: 27, 28, 29, 30 Sept and 1 Oct, two shows a day: 10.30am and 12.30pm Prices: All tickets $22 available via Box Office (02) 9351 7940 or http://www.seymourcentre.com Address: The Seymour Centre – Corner of City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale
Full School Holidays Program: http://www.seymourcentre.com.au
I received tickets to Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo for reviewing purposes. I absolutely loved the show and all opinions written here are my honest feedback.
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.
It was our first time at Spot On, and we highly enjoyed the performance we came to see: The Owl’s Apprentice.
The show is a gorgeous mix of shadow and hand puppetry with physical comedy by the Little Wings Puppets company.
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.
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.
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!).
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
· 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?).
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
Pick up a booster seat from the cloak room.
Pack plenty of snacks like popcorn or whatever special treats they’re allowed.
Take them to the bathroom both before the show starts, and straight away at interval.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the first year Taronga has participated in Vivid, as part of the Zoo’s Centenary Celebrations. Quite simply, Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo is the perfect way to experience the excitement of the Vivid festival with young kids:
1. It’s ticketed
Yes that’s right, you have to pay to get in and I think that’s a huge positive. On the one hand, it’s nice to go to free events because costs do add up, but then crowds are usually out of control as a result. Vivid at Taronga is $17.95 Adult, $11.95 child entry fee, all of which goes towards conservation efforts.
As a result of the event being ticketed, not only are the crowds kept down because people rather do things that are free, but they are also kept smaller as there are only limited numbers of tickets available for sale. We went on opening night and while there was a decent amount of people, it never felt crowded. We had no problem getting up close to any of the exhibits, and were often the only people at that particular display.
Additionally, less people makes it safer to take little kids. We went with friends and their two kids, so we had three kids aged 6, 4 and 3, all running wild. At no point were we worried about losing the kids in a crowd.
2. There’s food
A huge complaint from families about Vivid elsewhere is the lack of easy and reasonably priced food to grab when you’re out with kids. The cafe remains open throughout the evening with a variety of basic food like hot chips, chicken tenders, sandwiches, yogurt and snacks to refuel small tummies halfway through the walk.
3. It’s educational
Taronga features 10 giant, multimedia light sculptures representing ten critical species from Australia and Sumatra that the foundation is committed to protecting, plus a bunch of cute critters speckled in trees and bushes and thousands of lanterns created by over 4000 local school kids.
Each exhibit has a large placard next to it with important info about the animal on it. Expect to see a Sumatran tiger, sun bear, pangolin plus crowd pleasers like the platypus, echidna and pygmy tarsiers.
4. It’s an interactive adventure
The trail itself is fun for kids, as it winds down through the bushy paths of the zoo with the exhibits popping up in the bushes along the way. Several of the displays are also interactive, such as the chameleon, where kids can move a light onto its spots to change its colour, or the cicadas who respond with noises when you yell at them.
5. It’s completely assessable
I would absolutely not take a stroller to most of the Vivid locations due to the sheer volume of people present, making it really difficult to maneuver with a stroller. By comparison, strollers and wheelchairs had no problems I could see at Taronga. Wide paths with lower amounts of people = an easy outing.
6. Family amenities
Simply: plenty of clean bathrooms with changing facilities!
7. Parking is easy
While you can get the ferry and then a shuttle bus up to the main entrance where the light trail begins, it’s super easy to just drive there and park for a flat fee of $7 after 4pm. We arrived at about 5:20pm and there was a lot of parking available.
8. It’s the perfect length
I find Vivid in the main city areas to be hugely overwhelming with it’s crazy number of locations, and wide distance to be covered. It’s pretty exhausting, even more so when you add young kids to the mix. Vivid at Taronga takes about an hour and a half to walk the trail, stop for a snack, ride the Sky Safari and even watch the light show out the front a few extra times before you leave. If you start at 5:30pm like we did it means you’ll finish up at 7pm, which is still on the early side, and not too tiring for anyone.
9. It starts early
Lights go on at 5:30pm! In the CBD lights go on at 6pm. That 30 minutes earlier made the difference to us between getting our daughter home around bed time vs half an hour after – it might seem like a lot, but it sure makes bedtime easier in our home!
10. Animal sneak peeks
While most of the Taronga residents are happily tucked up in bed during Vivid, a few curious creatures come out to say hi – in particular the giraffes. I was a bit concerned about the effect of the event on the animals, but the giraffes looked pretty chill, even curious about what was going on after bedtime.
11. You can ride the Sky Safari
When you buy a ticket you can select an ANZ Blue pass for no extra charge. These tickets include a round trip on Taronga’s Sky Safari cable car experience, which is a fab addition as you can take a break for a start and sit in an enclosed area where children can’t escape, and also get a stunning view of the harbour all lit up, as well as ride over Taronga’s Vivid light’s, too.
12. The light show will get them dancing
At the entrance to the Zoo a spectacular light display is projected onto the historic entry gates, telling the story of the Vivid theme: “Don’t Let Their Lights Go Out”. This important conservation message is told through a mesmerising show that entertains as well as driving home the importance of saving our endangered animals.
Kids possibly loved this display the most (ours thought it was the show we had come to see in its entirety and were content to just watch it over and over again!), and could be seen running through the lights on the ground, dancing to the music, and squealing with delight as animals they recognised swam, hopped and wriggled their way across the gates. Just magical.
Vivid Sydney at Taronga Dates: 27 May – June 16, 2016 Hours: 5:30pm – 9:30pm nightly Prices: $17.95 Adult, $11.95 Child (4-15 years)/Concession. Children under 4 years of age are free. Parking: Entry after 4pm flat rate $7