Vivid Sydney – Tips and Tricks and Taronga Zoo Exhibit
The Vivid festival of light, music and ideas has quickly become Sydney’s biggest festival, attracting nearly 1.7 million people. Running over four weekends for 23 days (26th May to 17th June), and with loads to see and do it’s definitely worth the trip up to the big city to see her sparkle and dazzle.

South Coast Kids has been attending Vivid with our kids nearly every year since its inception and every year it has been both an amazing and challenging experience. Let’s face it crowds, cold and loads of walking isn’t always a great combination with kids of any ages. So here are a few tips we’ve picked up over the years that have enhanced our experience:

  • Go earlier in the week – Mon or Tues night – especially if taking a stroller. This of course can be difficult with work and school commitments but if you really want to have an engaging and enjoyable experience without massive crowds then you have to avoid the weekend – full stop. We make it an annual treat for our family and the kids love to get to skip school for a couple of days for a life education experience.
  • Go on a state of origin night if you can – you are guaranteed fewer crowds.
  • Go earlier or later in the evening. When the kids were younger we would get there for lights on at 6pm and try to be out by 7.30pm when the crowds really start to build. Now that the kids are a little older (and night owls) we have found that the family crowds start thinning out after 8pm and there’s more room to explore the installations later at night.
  • Go back again and again – spread your visits out, it’s just way too big to do it all in one night. We also found 2 hours has been the limit for keeping our kids interested and engaged. Allow time to truly immerse yourself.
  • Get an ID wrist band for the kids. They are free at Darling Harbour, Customs House and West Circular Quay. Write your phone number on the band and tell your children to look out for one of the Vivid volunteers if they get lost (they are easy to spot in their hot pink vest).
  • Take public transport – don’t even think about driving if you want to stay sane!
  • Eat before you go and pack snacks and drinks – the last thing you want is to spend the night in a line waiting for refreshments.

Whilst there truly are plenty of free installations to see and explore all over the city, this year we decided to splurge on tickets to Lights for the Wild, at the Taronga Zoo precinct, as it had such great reviews the year before. Tickets were reasonably priced at $21.95 per adult and $16.50 per child with children under 4 being free and all ticket proceeds go directly back to Taronga Zoo’s work in conservation and wildlife care. There are two sessions available 5.30 to 7.30 pm and 7.30pm to 9.30pm. We opted for the later session as we thought it would be quieter and we were spot on.

I have to disclose from the start that our family adore Taronga Zoo and the Sydney Harbour so we pretty much were won over before we even left home. But it’s worth noting that seeing the real animals in the zoo is not part of the event. The animals are safely tucked away in their enclosures so you will not see any live animals, except for maybe a giraffe or two.

Travelling by ferry to the zoo was going to be the only option for our family (we love it!) but you can drive and there is apparently plenty of parking available for a flat evening fee rate.  We can definitely recommend taking the ferry for a fun Vivid experience. As soon as you arrive at Circular Quay you are surrounded by lights and activity. The lights on the Opera House, MCA and Harbour Bridge can all be viewed whilst waiting for the ferry. Then once on the water you get an amazing view of them some close up and from afar. Definitely bring a beanie and scarf and sit on the outside deck for the best views.

Once off the ferry at Taronga Zoo Wharf you shuffle onto the bus to get to the main entrance where you are immediately captivated by an amazing projection on the zoo’s heritage listed entrance. It makes the most amazing backdrop and is a fabulous start and a great way to keep the kids entertained if you have to wait for your session or for friends to arrive.

When you go through the gates there are a number of the sculptures in the general area with toilets, café and the ticketing area. There are plenty of volunteer helpers directing where to go and handing our maps. We arrived at 7pm for our 7.30pm session and were able to walk straight through with no lining up or fuss at all (it was a Monday night).

Along with a glow in the dark map you also receive a snazzy light up wrist band which changes colour and matches the lights around you as you walk around. The kids loved them so much they wanted to take them home until they found out they wouldn’t light up once you left the precinct so they reluctantly put them in the recycle box at the exit.

The Light Walk itself was very straight forward and easy to navigate. Just follow the path and the lights and immerse yourself in the fun. The glow in the dark map was handy and there are loads of volunteer staff to guide you and provide information as well. All up it took us the whole 2 hours allocated to see all of the installations, so we suggest you eat before or after to get the most out of your time there.

The giant animal lantern light sculptures representing the 10 endangered species that Taronga Zoo is playing a role in protecting were the features of the walk again this year but they were joined by a number of other installations as well. Picking a favourite was near impossible for all of the family. They were all amazing in their detail and colour. The kids especially loved the interactive ones like the Port Jackson Shark you could walk through and the chameleon who changed colour when you touched it with the special wands or the saltwater crocodile snapping its jaws.

Each of installations and light sculptures tells a fascinating tale about these beautiful animals and about the work the zoo is doing to help save their species from extinction.

The sky safari blue pass entry was definitely worth it with a chance to see the zoo and the installations from a different angle. It was also an amazing experience travelling through the sky at night and the whole family had lots of laugh even if they were at the expense of one of the big kids who is a little frightened in the dark.

The trip home felt just as easy and even though it was a little late at night (we didn’t leave the zoo until 9.45pm) there were loads of families still out and about so it felt very safe…..and they were still serving gelato at Circular Quay which the kids loved!

Getting there: This walk is closest to Waterfall train station, along Sir Bertram Stevens Drive

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