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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!

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!

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!

12 Reasons Why Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo Is The Best Place To Take Kids

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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:

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

6. Family amenities
Simply: plenty of clean bathrooms with changing facilities!

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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!

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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 Zoo via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo via christineknight.me

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

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Secret Sydney: Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

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.

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

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.

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

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's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

Wendy invested millions of her own money into the project, with the resulting garden filled with tall Moreton Bay figs, flowers and shrubs.

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

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.

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

Wendy’s Secret Garden
Lavender Bay
Get Directions

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

We Will Rock You: Sydney’s Best Stage Shows

We Will Rock You the musical via christineknight.me

Brought to you by Nuffnang and We Will Rock You

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.

We Will Rock You the musical via christineknight.me

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.

We Will Rock You the musical via christineknight.me

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 the musical via christineknight.me

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.

We Will Rock You the musical via christineknight.me

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.

We Will Rock You the musical via christineknight.me

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.

We Will Rock You the musical via christineknight.me

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.

We Will Rock You the musical via christineknight.me

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 the musical via christineknight.me

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.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

The Central Gardens Nature Reserve Merrylands: Southwest Sydney with Kids

Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me
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.

Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me

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.

Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me

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.

Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me

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.

Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me

Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me Central Gardens, Merrylands: The best of southwest Sydney for families via christineknight.me

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?

The Central Gardens Nature Reserve
Cumberland Hwy, Merrylands West
Bathrooms: Yes
Picnic tables: Yes
Shade cover: Yes
Cafe: No
Skatepark: No
Off-street parking: Yes
Children’s playground: Yes
Water features: No
Get Directions

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Plough and Harrow Park: The Best of Southwest Sydney for Families

Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me

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.

Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me

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.

Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me

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.

Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me

The only downside to this playground is the lack of shade. It could do with some shade cloth!

Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me Plough and Harrow: Best of Southwest Sydney for Families via christineknight.me

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

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!