A Very Vivid Week

annual events, art, Sydney

The Vivid Festival is one of those annual events in Sydney that you just do every year. You have to. I must admit to becoming something of a Vivid grump in the years since our first magical experience in 2011. It’s so crowded. Sometimes the displays are kind of a bust. Did I mention the crowds? I”m not a crowd person. You’re not supposed to say this, but Vivid is a hit or miss proposition for me. However, hope springs eternal and we keep going because, in theory, a city full of light displays – particularly the iconic Harbour and Opera House – is an event that lifts this city from quite nice to mythichal. We dedicated three whole nights to Vivid this week, and didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all there is to see. But, from my vantage this year, it was once again a mixed bag with the very best of intentions and a lot to like.

Here’s the rundown of our Very Vivid Week:

On Sunday, we took advantage of the “Sunday Funday” $2.50 public transport fares and rode the ferry to and from Circular Quay. This is the perfect way to see Vivid, as you can get a close up of all the displays, particularly the light show on the Opera House, and you arrive at the ferry terminal in the midst of the action.

We had about an hour and a half to play with, including a frenetic stop at McDonald’s, taking into account Hushpuppy’s bedtime and my patience with dragging her through crushing masses of human bodies (minimal). The first place we stopped was the Customs House, which every year has a moving light display projected onto it. This one, more than anything else we saw, was the winner with the toddler. It really was beautifully done, and four days later, unprompted by me, she was still reciting parts of the display that she remembered like it was in front of her – “House breaking! Dinosaur! Garden! Snail – ride it! Lift! Fish!” I’m actually considering taking her back just to watch this one again. 

From there, we went for a wander around The Rocks side of Circular Quay, just as far as Cadmans Cottage. There were a few interactive displays, though long lines for most of them. The Museum of Contemporary Art never fails to impress, and the lawn in front of it was open for kids to run around on, which was very much appreciated by my entire little family.

FullSizeRender (6)

There are quite a few more displays beyond where we stopped and further up into The Rocks, but we’d reached the limit of our patience with toddler crowd surfing, so we left some unseen, to be enjoyed by those with later bedtimes. It’s always a special view on the ferry out:

On Thursday, we boarded a Vivid cruise to get a different perspective of the display. We’d booked this family-friendly cruise arranged by a local “mum’s” group several months earlier, and were excited about it. It’s always nice to be in a safe place where Hushpuppy and her two year old antics will be understood, and we were going on a hunch that she’d really like being on a boat and seeing the lights. We were blessed with a nice night, and the experience was pleasant enough, but our tactical error was not getting in line early enough to secure a spot on the upper deck where the good viewing was. From the bottom of the boat, we couldn’t see much, so we took turns walking up and down stairs with Hushpuppy and trying to squeeze into a spot to see the sights. The cruise’s course was actually just a short swath from the Opera House to just under the Bridge and then back again, probably six or seven times over an hour and a half. We didn’t enter Circular Quay, so it was more of a view from the distance, aside from the great close up we got of the Bridge from right underneath it.

vivid 2015 1 vivid 2015 2 vivid 2015 3

I think next year, we’d skip the cruise and just stick with a trip or two on the regular ferry. It’s a better view, shorter, and much less expensive!

Hands down, our best Vivid night out was to Chatswood, which was hosting its first display this year. We drove in and parked easily at Chatswood Chase mall (free parking if you enter after 6). The first display was inside the mall, and set up the funky underwater theme.We then went out and wandered up and down Victoria Avenue, finally stopping at one of the food trucks and eating our Yum Cha picnic style on the Councourse yard, where there was plenty of room for Hushpuppy to run around with other kids in the shadow of the large projection display.

Display at the Councourse

There’s not nearly as much going on at Chatswood as in the city, in terms of the number of displays, but it was just my pace – bustling, but not overwhelming, and easy to enjoy.

It truly is exciting to have this event grace Sydney every year, even if I don’t love everything about the experience. For our busy Vivid week, my “misses” were the crazy crowds at Circular Quay and the Vivid Cruise. The definite “hits” were the ferry ride, the Customs House display, and a great night out in the underwater world of Chatswood.

Vivid Sydney runs through 8 June in various locations across Sydney.

6 thoughts on “A Very Vivid Week

  1. Yvette

    I like how they keep extending it to other parts of the city each year. It spreads out the crowds a bit (even though the Circular Quay area will ALWAYS be crowded). Not to mention more room for more lights! I’m with you on the crowds. Unbelievable all the people. And the things that are interactive are almost impossible to enjoy unless you just stand back and watch everyone else do it. Again, impossible when you have kids because, of course, they want to do everything themselves! And finally … my fave part was always the ferry ride. 🙂

    1. Cristin Post author

      Ferry ride is definitely the best part. I love seeing the MCA and Opera House lit up. I think if that’s all I saw, I’d be happy.

  2. Samantha

    Wow! What a valiant effort from a self confessed “Vivid grump” – 3 nights of Vivid! I’m a bit of a Vivid grump myself, but I didn’t really like the Customs House – except for the cockroaches – yuck! PS What an impressive memory Hushpuppy has to recite the show!!

  3. Fairlie

    Wow – the Chatswood Vivid bits look great! I’ll have to see if I can squeeze in a trip out there on my weekend next year! Having suffered the Melbourne White Night crowds, I actually found the Vivid crowds quite bearable!

    1. Cristin Post author

      I’ve heard about White Nights – I don’t know if I could deal! Yes, Chatswood is lovely, but much less going on than the city. Best for families or a quiet night, I think.

Comments are closed.