Sydney’s Lavender Bay is the perfect spot to enjoy the spectacular Sydney scenery and let time pass by. If you turn your back to the gorgeous view and walk a up a stealthy flight of stairs, you’ll find yourself somewhere a bit magical – Wendy’s Secret Garden.
The garden was created in 1992 by Wendy Whiteley, wife and muse to artist Brett Whiteley, following her by then ex-husband’s death. Before Wendy turned the patch of land into the whimsical retreat it is today, it was a dumping ground, overgrown with weeds. The lot is officially owned by NSW State Railways, but after Wendy’s incredible efforts to turn it into a treasure to be enjoyed by the general public, the government has agreed lease the land to North Sydney Council on a 30-year renewable lease, securing it for hopefully generations to come.
The garden lies beneath the home Wendy shared with her husband and their daughter, Arkie. What started as a therapeutic way for Wendy to channel her grief following Brett’s death turned into a creative outlet for her, and a sanctuary for locals and visitors.
Wendy invested millions of her own money into the project, with the resulting garden filled with tall Moreton Bay figs, flowers and shrubs.
We took Cheese to visit the secret garden recently, and she, like the many other children we encountered along it’s winding pathways and steep climbs, was enchanted by the hidden trails, secret sculptures and beautiful plants. Many families we encountered had brought a picnic and whiled away the afternoon at the various tables, chairs and benches set up for general use, while their kids enjoyed discovering the secrets contained in the special garden.
I first saw We Will Rock You, the brilliant show blending Queen’s legendary songs with Ben Elton’s comic genius, in London 10 years ago. When I saw the show, I thought it was groundbreaking, hilarious, uplifting and wildly entertaining. In short, everything a good theatre show should be.
Lucky, lucky us, We Will Rock You is touring Australia right now. It’s an updated version of the production that retains the brilliance of the original, with a bit of a modern facelift and location-relevant references.
The show is set in the year 2350, where live music is banned on Earth. A rebellious few fight against their force-fed diet of synthesized pop and controlling government, choosing individualism, real-life interactions and creativity over lives lead on the internet and assimilating into assigned groups, leading pre-arranged lives.
We Will Rock You has been a smash hit show since it debuted in London in 2002. Since then it has won the Olivier Audience Award for Most Popular Show in 2011 (British theatre’s
answer to the oscars), played over 3600 performances in the UK (with over 3600 standing ovations), selling over 6 million tickets in the UK alone, and over 16 million tickets in 28 countries worldwide.
Walking into the theatre it’s impossible not to notice the wide variety of people who are there to see the show. A large group of high school students, posing for pics with their tongues sticking out, couples on dates, senior citizens. The appeal of Queen reaches all generations, with their hit songs all showcased in this lively show: We are the Champions, Radio Ga Ga, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Somebody to Love, Killer Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now, Under Pressure, Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust and of course We Will Rock You.
A lot has changed in the world since We Will Rock You premiered, and the show has kept up. New cultural references pepper the witty dialogue: Twitter, Facebook, hashtags, Miley Cyrus and gangnam style all get a mention, as does Prince in the most moving moment of the show, a tribute to music stars lost too soon.
Several nods to their Australian audience also garnered plenty of laughs – Australian Idol (especially entertaining as Casey Donovan, playing the key role of Killer Queen was discovered on the show), Molly Meldrum, the Wiggles, John Farnham’s anthem “You’re The Voice” and even Canberra as a place no one wants to go.
The cast of We Will Rock You is superb and does an excellent job of performing iconic songs that had the audience cheering, clapping and waving their arms throughout the show. Gareth Keegan, in the lead role of “Gallileo Figaro” and Erin Clare as “Scaramouche” were particular scene stealers, with their exquisite vocals, dynamic stage presence, and genuine chemistry.
We Will Rock You is a show that endures because it’s not only entertaining, it’s also relevant – even more so today perhaps, than when it debuted in 2002. Yes, kids, get off social media, make a real friend instead of a Facebook one, and create real joy in your lives that makes your soul soar.
We Will Rock You is currently playing at the Lyric Theatre, Pyrmont.
Suitable from the age for 13 years and above
Thank you to We Will Rock You and Nuffnang for providing me with tickets for reviewing purposes.
We have been exploring a lot of southwest Sydney lately, looking for parks and playgrounds in particular. I was recently re-introduced to the Central Gardens Nature Reserve in Merrylands, where I spent a lot of my childhood while my parents played their weekly tennis game with friends. At the time, the gardens were closed so I never was past the tennis court. It was amazing to see the park in daylight, and open! I remember in my errant youth scaling the tennis court bathroom walls in an attempt to see the closed off garden at night – so to see it during the day brought back memories of our night time stealth mission that ultimately failed and left us somewhat in trouble as a result.
The Central Gardens Nature Reserve, also called the Central Gardens, is a nature reserve in the southwest Sydney suburb of Merrylands. The 12 hectare park features two playgrounds, animal enclosures, BBQ areas, a flat path perfect for scooters and bikes, plus a small waterfall feature.
The playground we found was fantastic, with the biggest shade cloth I’ve ever seen over a playground. It was so wonderful to visit in the middle of the day and not worry about sunburn.
Behind the playground lies the animal enclosures. It’s free to wander through them and see the very well cared for animals, including birds, particularly scary emus, wallabies with babies in their pouches, and kangaroos.
We didn’t find the waterfall this visit, but will be back to find it next time.
Do you know of any more great southwest Sydney parks for us to discover?
Southwest Sydney really has some fantastic places for families to enjoy the great outdoors. One of our faves is the Plough and Harrow Park in Abbotsbury. The park is part of the massive Western Sydney Parklands that spans across the suburbs of Abbotsbury, Eastern Creek, Prospect and Horsley Park. The entire parklands covers 5,280 hectares, and includes several playgrounds, events centres and sporting venues.
We end up at the Plough and Harrow in Western Sydney Parklands East a fair bit. It has a fantastic playground, 22 electric BBQs, parking for over 200 cars, 24 picnic shelters, a pond with ducks and other water birds, public bathrooms and a cafe/restaurant: Amoretti’s.
The big draw for us is the playground. It’s spread out across a large area, interspersed with trees and other Australian bush pants. The play features include a hamster wheel, flying fox, sand pit, little kid play area, large climbing spiderweb, basket swing, big kid swings and a water pump feature. The park has play equipment for all different ages, so it’s a suitable venue for families with kids of all ages.
The only downside to this playground is the lack of shade. It could do with some shade cloth!
Make a day of your visit to the park by booking into Treetop Adventure Park too, which is located in this part of Western Sydney Parklands, too.
Plough and Harrow Park
Western Sydney Parklands,
Elizabeth Drive, Abbotsbury Bathrooms: Yes Picnic tables: Yes Shade cover: No Cafe: Yes Skatepark: No Off-street parking: Yes Children’s playground: Yes Water features: Yes Get Directions
Parramatta Park is one of Sydney’s most historic places. In the centre of the park is Old Government House, which, along with the surrounding pack, is one of 11 sites that form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage property. The park is also notable for its Aboriginal heritage: Evidence of Aboriginal occupation from over 200,000 years ago has been found there.
Sydney-siders have been enjoying Parramatta Park for recreation for a long time – it became a public park in 1858 – making it one of the earliest designated public parks in the world.
We particularly love the recently renovated Domain Creek Playground in Parramatta Park – it’s located on the Westmead side of the park, opposite the Queens Road Gatehouse.
The playground features activities for all ages and abilities, including flying foxes, swings, slides, trampolines, water pumps, sand pits, small trampolines built into the ground and spinning carousels.
Each section is connected by ramps and walkways, making it easy for strollers and wheelchairs to get between each area.
The double flying fox is a particularly popular feature of the new park, with one of the flying foxes adapted to be used by people with disabilities. The seatbelt feature makes it popular with young children too, who are a bit scared to use the regular one.
Adventurous kids will also enjoy the slide, which requires thrill-seekers to climb up a rope ladder to the top, and then scoot along to the top of the slide. Getting up was a bit scary for little Cheese due to the lack of handholds to pull herself up at the top of the rope ladder, but she had no problem climbing it, or going down the slide, either.
Other sections of the playground worth noting include water pumps that flow into a sand pit, a climbing net that looks like a spider’s web, a second sand pit with equipment for bigger kids like sand diggers, swings, and one last sandpit in the shade that was ideal for small kids.
The playground is beautifully designed to blend into the bush surrounding it, with plenty of fun surprise activities to discover. In the bush section in the middle of the playground few discovered a bush xylophone and cubby house, and there are also small metal sculptures of native Australian animals and a few roses dotted around the park.
The playground doesn’t have a shade cloth over it and there are very few sections with tree coverage, making it a bit of a scorcher on a hot day – particularly the metal play equipment. I would suggest this playground for milder to cold weather!
Bathrooms are also scarce – the nearest ones are a good 10 mins walk away at the Parramatta park Cafes, near the Queen Gate Entrance.
Near the playground is the river and lake, which is home to many birds such as ducks and ibis. Watching the birds is also an excellent way to entertain the little ones.
Domain Creek Playground, Parramatta Park
Pitt St & Macquarie St, Parramatta
Bathrooms: No – nearest one is a few mins walk away at nearby Parramatta Park Cafe.
Picnic tables: Yes
Shade cover: No
Off-street parking: Yes
Children’s playground: Yes
Water features: Yes (but minimal) Get Directions
Do you have a kid who loves climbing, heights and physical challenges? Then TreeTop Adventure Park is a must-do for your family. TreeTop Adventure Park operates three parks, in Wyong, Newcastle and Sydney – we visited the Sydney one which is located inside the Plough & Harrow Park in South-West Sydney.
TreeTop Adventure Park has courses for kids and adults, with the children’s course suitable for little ones aged 3 – 9. The next group, “Juniors”, consists of three courses for kids aged 10 – 17 who are at least 1.4m tall.
The children’s course is made up of four courses with different degrees of difficulty, and four flying foxes.
While booking isn’t mandatory, the sessions are so popular that I highly advise booking a few days in advance to ensure you can take part in the timed session of your choice on the day. One the website TreeTop advises you arrive half an hour before your timed session, and if the weather is nice you may as well arrive early to make a day of it. The Adventure Park is right next to a massive playground in Plough & Harrow Park so kids can play there until they need to put on their helmets and harnesses.
We were incredibly unlucky with the weather on our day. The skies opened and it poured just when we arrived. The session before ours climbed in the rain, but thankfully it eased up when our session was beginning to a slight drizzle. The sessions go ahead unless there is lightning or heavy winds, in which case the courses are suspended until they can begin again. I advise bringing a rain coat if there is a chance of rain, or investing in a $2 rain poncho from TreeTop like we did on the day.
Each group is restricted with numbers for safety reasons. The kids are strapped into the harnesses and helmets by TreeTop staff, and then given a very detailed talk on safety. The instructors drill the kids on the number of kids allowed on each platform, challenge and flying fox at a time, and ask the kids repeatedly to make sure the kids understand all the information.
Each child’s harness has it’s own metal pulley that is used to hook onto the wire that runs above each course for safety. They are large and heavy, making them quite dangerous for little kids to be trusted with, but the instructors had an excellent way of teaching the kids about how to use the pulleys, calling them a “froggy”, and using terms that kids would understand – like the “froggy” had to be put onto the wire “frog to the log” so he could “eat his food” (AKA the wire). The rope dangling down was called the “tail”, so we were calling out repeatedly “hold onto the tail!” and so on to describe how to get across the challenges.
The first course, “white”, was the easiest, and designed low to the ground so parents could hold their child’s hand if needs be. It also allows parents to assist kids with getting the pulley over the connectors at each platform – this, for the little kids, proved to be the hardest element of the courses. It was really difficult to swing the rope hard enough to get enough momentum to push it over the edge of the connectors at each platform. Once the kids are up on the higher courses, they must to every element on their own, as adults are on the ground and can’t reach to help.
For my four-year-old, the courses were exceptional for not just physical enjoyment, but also to help her self-confidence and resilience. Quite a few times she struggled to get her pulley over connectors, but had to work it out herself – and while she got frustrated, she managed to do it, every time. She also lost a shoe at one stage, while she was several metres over our heads. Even though she couldn’t reach her feet with her hands, and she was balancing high up on a tiny platform, she managed to use her foot to place the shoe in the right position and jam her toes inside so it was on well-enough to get to the next platform where an instructor could fasten it for her.
As an only child, Cheese is used to us doing a lot of things for her that she could probably work out herself, so this ropes course was just what she needed to realise that she was more than able to conquer many difficult things on her own. As the courses got harder, they involved more problem solving skills as well as balance, agility and also confidence! The last two courses involved a lot of moving logs and sections that were quite far apart – pretty hard and scary for little kids whose arms and legs couldn’t reach them. I was so incredibly proud of how Cheese conquered all of the four courses.
The minimum age for participation is three, with no height minimum, and, while there were three year olds on the course, there were a few who attempted the harder courses, got stuck or scared, and then couldn’t get down. The way the courses are created, you hook on at the start and unhook at the end. There is no way to unhook in the middle – AKA there’s no going back if you get scared or can’t physically finish the course. We had a moment during one of our courses where the kids all had to reverse backwards through the course to the beginning and unhook to allow a smaller child to leave the course.
On the website it’s advised that you buy or bring gloves, and while we didn’t this time, we will definitely buy a pair when we return. Shoes must be closed toe like sneakers, and I would suggest long tights for girls so their legs don’t rub on the harness.
Looking around the courses I was pleased to see that they were set up in a way so as to not harm the trees – there was no drilling used to attach the platforms, and the structures were designed to allow trees to grow free of restrictions.
The children’s course costs $28 per child. While initially I thought it sounded pricey, the you have two hours to spend on the courses. Time absolutely flies by and I really thought that it was money well spent.
Cheese finished the day feeling strong, brave and incredibly happy! She told us she had the best day ever and can’t wait to go back.
TreeTop Adventure Park
Plough & Harrow, Western Sydney Parklands,
Elizabeth Drive, Abbotsbury Online
Hubby and I have been big fans of the Ice Age movies for a long time, so when I saw Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure was coming to town, I was pretty excited at the chance to see characters I love come to life on ice.
It was also an opportunity to introduce young Cheese to the show as she has been too young thus far to watch the movies (mainly because she is a very sensitive soul).
Ice Age Live: A Mammoth Adventure tells the story of the latest batch of Ice Age characters from the movie, including Manny (Cheese’s favourite), and Peaches, the new baby. Without giving the story away too much, I really enjoyed how simple the storyline was. Peaches gets kidnapped by a scary bird, Shadow (Cheese kept calling him “The Boss”), and the rest of the gang need to bring Peaches home.
The simple storyline meant that little kids could easily follow what was happening, leaving them enraptured in the spectacular costumes, puppets and areal acrobatics.
I was incredibly impressed with how well the movies translated to a show on ice, which I think was mostly due to the superb designs by co-director Michael Curry, who has worked on Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney’s The Lion King. The puppetry was extremely well done, with the characters making very life-like movements, blinking, lip-syncing, as well as skating. It looked like hard work!
When I saw the large characters lumbering out onto the ice, I did wonder if the people inside them were going to do much skating, so I was thrilled when I saw them emerge from the suits, still in character, to engage in breathtaking acrobatics. It was a really clever way of ensuring the people inside the suits had a chance of showing their exceptional skills off as well as portraying these huge creatures in their amazing puppets.
I also enjoyed the set design. The ice stalactites on the roof glowed with various colours, and a video screen integrated into the back set really enhanced the feeling of moving over vast distances as the group travelled on their big adventure.
Cheese, who is 4.5, loved the show. She is extremely sensitive to anything “scary” and was a little bit worried when Peaches was stolen, but she very quickly relaxed when she began to understand that nothing bad was going to happen to any of the characters. There was so much light, joyful music and a celebratory tone to the show that she was swept up in the mood and when it ended, said “Is it over? That was fast!”. The show went for almost two hours including interval, so I think that’s incredibly good, for a show to be so long and leave a preschooler with a short attention span wanting more.
If you or your family enjoy Ice Age, or if you’re wanting to introduce your little ones to the characters, this is the show for you. We highly enjoyed Ice Age Live: A Mammoth Adventure.
There’s still time to see the amazing The Art of the Brick: DC Comics exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum before it closes on May 1.
This contemporary art exhibition by LEGO® artist Nathan Sawaya uses over a million bricks to create more than 120 large-scale sculptures of famous DC Comics superheroes and villains.
We enjoyed seeing interpretations of Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, The Joker and Super Girl made, astonishingly, out of LEGO bricks. The exhibition is spread over 10 galleries, and is the world’s largest collection of DC Comics-inspired LEGO ever created.
I visited with two almost five-year-olds who were mostly interested in finding Wonder Woman, and the LEGO video that filmed in one of the middle galleries.
The exhibition is hands-off until the last section, so keep your eye on little ones who might want to grab the LEGO for themselves.
If you visited during the first few months and are a hardcore fan, you might want to revisit before the exhibition closes to see the new sculpture that has been added to the collection to coincide with the Australian launch of Warner Bros. Pictures film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Called ‘Showdown’, the piece features a battle between Batman and Superman, made from over 30,000 bricks.
The exhibition ends in a gift shop with large Duplo and LEGO areas for kids to build in, plus superhero video games to play. It was almost impossible to drag the kids out.
During the school holidays you’ll get even more value for the entry fee with the free activities run by the Powerhouse Museum. Our girls highly enjoyed colouring in the Giant Comic Strip and the Bird’s-eye Super Hero Photos, both open daily until April 25.
The Super Hero photo was a particular hit. The kids donned Wonder Woman capes and had their photo taken to make it look like they were soaring through the air.
Note: The exhibition is extremely popular right now, so I recommend buying tickets in advance and try to make it to the 10am session (the first session of the day).
After checking out the exhibition and activities, be sure to drop by the Wiggles Exhibition on the ground floor. It’s been updated with Emma Wiggle.
Powerhouse Museum 500 Harris St, Ultimo NSW 2007 Online
Sydney will be home to the world premiere of this entertaining show in September this year, for a limited three month engagement.
“Who is Bobby Darin?” I hear some of you ask. Well, let me tell you exactly who he is. Bobby Darin is a legendary American singer, songwriter and Academy Award-nominated actor whose songs are synonymous with the 1960s. You probably know the majority of his songs even if you didn’t know his name. Think Mack the Knife, Splish Splash, Beyond the Sea and of course, Dream Lover … ahhhh yes, that’s him! I have loved these songs all my life and knew nothing about the life of the man who sang them.
Bobby Darin led quite the extraordinary life, which became the basis for the new musical. As well as his musical and acting prowess (he played 9 instruments!), Bobby was married to the film star Sandra Dee (YES… LIKE IN GREASE!!), and, like many of our stars today, died before his time at age 37.
It seems Bobby had a feeling he wasn’t going to life as long as most people so was determined to cram an entire lifetime into the years he had. Bobby’s motto was to make every moment of every day count – something which I’m sure we can all relate to, even if we’re not destined for superstardom.
Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical will tell the extraordinary tale of this musician and feature his famous works, sung by the dreamy (and let’s not forget, extremely accomplished) David Campbell, with the lovely Hannah Fredericksen playing his wife, Sandra Dee. There will be 40 performers on stage, including a live 18-piece big band.
As the show is only going to be staged in Sydney, I highly recommend you get your tickets to see the musical when it premieres.
To celebrate the launch of this new musical, I’ve teamed up with Dream Lover to offer Adventure, Baby! readers a chance to win a double pass to see a preview showing of Dream Lover when it opens in September. All you need to do to be in the running to win is enter the question in the form below in 25 words or less, “What is your favourite song from the 1960s and why?”.
The giveaway is open to Australian residents only, from 6pm April 6 to 9pm 27th April, 2017. The winner must arrange their own transport to and from the Lyric Theatre to see the show. See full terms and conditions here.
Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star Season From 30 September 2016 Performance Times Wed & Thurs 7.30pm, Fri & Sat 8pm, Matinees Tues & Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm PRICES: From $69.90* BOOKINGS: ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 795 267
Once of the fun things about being new to being a parent in Sydney is discovering for the first time fun kid-related things, such as the Blaxland Riverside Playground. Even though I grew up in Sydney, so much has changed since I was a kid that a lot of the city feels brand new to me.
Blaxland Riverside Playground had been suggested to me by a few friends, so I checked it out on a hot Autumn day with Cheese and my parents. Turns out the playground is the biggest in Sydney, with new play equipment set among three hectares of rolling green hills and big open spaces.
The playground caters for kids of all ages and abilities with a fantastic water play area (the largest outdoor water play facility in NSW), moving play elements, high and steep landforms and hidden and confined spaces. There’s a double flying fox, mega-swing, tunnel slides, scramble wall, spinning play disk, Viking swing and a multi-level tree house to be discovered and enjoyed.
Since the play space is so spread out, it really forces – I mean, encourages – parents (or carers) to get actively involved with the play.
I was incredibly impressed with the playground, with the only improvement I’d have liked being shade cloths over the equipment where possible.
If you get hungry or thirsty, there’s a little cafe in the playground serving basic pastries and lunch food. In the same block are facilities such as a family room with changing tables.
Parking: Free parking is limited. You can also park in P5 car park, located off Hill Road, and make use of the pathways to cycle or walk to the play space. Parking at P5 carpark costs $4 per hour, maximum $20 (except on event days, when a flat fee of $25 may apply).