After a two-year hiatus, Vivid Sydney returns this May to flood the city’s glorious harbour with seemingly infinite shades of colour and light over 23 nights from May 28 to June 18. There’s a huge amount to see and do, so it pays to plan in advance, particularly if you’re keen to secure a ticket, seat or table for a one-off or limited-capacity viewing event.
To make things easier, we’ve shortlisted the locations, venues and occasions that offer a Vivid Sydney experience above-and-beyond the standard Light Walk.
CRUISE THE HARBOUR IN STYLE
While many Vivid visitors remain on dry land, insiders know that some of the best views can be gleaned from aboard a boat. And there’s no better way to get out on the water than
by joining one of Cruise Sydney’s nightly cruises. The three-hour Vivid experience takes place on a revamped whale-watching vessel with an epic roof deck and full views from the comfy indoor main cabin. Following a light-up cocktail on arrival, you can expect a lavish three-course dinner including fresh local seafood, contemporary mains, exciting vegetarian options and a classic pavlova to finish, plus premium Champagne and sparkling wines.
EXPLORE THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN
If you’re looking for blockbuster views of the Opera House, the foreshore bordering the Royal Botanic Garden is hard to beat. But it’s also worth venturing into the gardens themselves: each Vivid, they are lit up with all manner of decorative and interactive displays. To beat the crowds, arrive at dusk and find a bench to perch on while you wait for the gardens to glow.
GO WILD AT TARONGA ZOO
Visiting the zoo during Vivid is a real adventure. In the grounds, you’ll discover giant light sculptures depicting wildlife and catch glimpses of the illuminated harbour through the trees. Keen to amplify the excitement? Stay overnight at the zoo in one of two immersive lodging options: a luxe Wildlife Retreat chalet offering panoramic harbour views or a safari style Roar and Snore glamping tent.
GIVE LUNA PARK A WHIRL
Visiting the ‘other side’ of the harbour can be a smart move during Vivid, not only because the crowds are generally smaller but also because the North Shore offers an all-in-one vista of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and CBD from a comfortable distance. After a foreshore stroll, visit one of Sydney’s most iconic spots, Luna Park, for all the fun of the fair and enjoy
knockout views from atop several rides. Or nab a table at the park’s Amphora Wine Bar and indulge in tapas and top drops with the harbour gleaming in front of you.
CHECK OUT A SATELLITE FESTIVAL IN CHATSWOOD
Vivid Sydney isn’t just about lights on the Harbour Bridge and projections on the Opera House: there’s also a full program of cultural events, including music and discussion, taking place at venues across the city. In recent years, a second festival of sorts has popped up at Chatswood on the north side of the harbour. Spend an evening in this multicultural quarter for light sculptures and projections that are every bit as enchanting as their innercity counterparts, plus excellent street food and live entertainment.
FEAST YOUR EYES AT A FINE RESTAURANT
Sydney is full of stunning restaurants with equally stunning views. You might be able to get into O Bar and Dining, the revolving restaurant on the 47th floor of a skyscraper in Australia Square, for sophisticated fare with a healthy slant. Alternatively, there’s Blu Bar on Level 36 of the Shangri-La Hotel, where expertly mixed cocktails accompany extravagant tapas. Or head down to the harbour for an illuminating dining experience at Sydney’s most lauded fine diner, Quay.
GRAB A DRINK IN THE THICK OF IT
The Overseas Passenger Terminal beside Circular Quay is hardly tucked away, but its flagship Cruise Bar is an oasis of calm during Vivid for one very important reason: it’s the rare Sydney drinking venue that accepts bookings. In previous years, Cruise Bar has offered special Vivid packages, which unlock access to tables with superlative views. But wherever you’re perched, you’ll have a fantastic outlook over the water. It’s an ideal pit-stop for those who are venturing on the 3km Light Walk around the Quay.
MAKE A PROPER NIGHT OF IT WITH A HOTEL STAY
Nothing beats checking into a comfy hotel for all-night views of the light show. Beautiful properties dot the harbour, with options to suit all tastes and budgets. For the ultimate in luxury, stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney, positioned a short walk from the bustle of Circular Quay and boasting multiple uninterrupted vantage points. Or keep walking for a minute to the under-theradar Pier One Sydney Harbour, which offers gorgeous rooms and views to rival its higher profile neighbour at a surprisingly reasonable price point. You could also try the Pullman Quay Grand Circular Quay or the Sir Stamford at Circular Quay.
UNFURL A PICNIC BLANKET AT HICKSON ROAD RESERVE
Sometimes, the simplest options can be the most satisfying. If you’re not fussed about seeing every single display or grazing at the street-food stalls, why not pack a hamper with homemade goodies, don your warmest coat and spend the evening on the grass? Hickson Road Reserve is a short stroll from Circular Quay and is the ideal place to take in the spectacle of lights and festival-going passers-by.
EXPERIENCE THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
Sydney Opera House is the beating heart of Vivid, serving both as a meeting point and a thoroughfare – not to mention a fully operational music venue (for the festival-withina- festival, Vivid LIVE) and a hugely popular place for drinks and nibbles. If you’re lucky, you may be able to secure a spot at Opera Bar, which is blessed with dead-on views of the Harbour Bridge. Otherwise, give your legs a stretch and climb the Opera House steps for a beautiful view of the city.
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