Lighting up: The must-see Vivid Sydney shows


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Can you imagine a neon light display projected onto the world-famous Sydney Opera House? How about the Royal Botanic Garden coming alive under a canopy of millions of tiny lights?

Sydney’s most iconic landmarks, alongside waterfront mansions, office buildings, restaurant strips and even public transport, erupt into a spectacular visual tapestry of colour and wonder each year for the Vivid Festival. Trust us when we say that you’ve never seen anything quite like this before!

“Our city comes alive during Vivid,” raves radio journalist Keegan of the annual light extravaganza. “There are so many things to see across the CBD and the lights shows and interactive displays compliment the natural beauty of our stunning Harbour City.

Sydneysider Ursula is equally as impressed by the annual festival, which entertains visitors and also inspires locals to explore other parts of the city that they’re not as familiar with.

“I love taking my family out for Vivid,” says Ursula. “Strolling around with my loved ones, looking at beauty and technical brilliance is so great. And best of all, it’s free!”

In 2016, you can watch in wonder as all the stunning landmarks come to life between May 27 and June 18.

Here are some of the not-to-be-missed highlights!

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Round-the-clock: Events running the entire festival May 27-June 18

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What: Laser-Dragon Water-Theatre
An incredible production involving massive video projected water-screens, fountains, flame jets and lasers. The harbour explodes in a spectacle of colour to deliver ferocious dragons and the characters of commedia dell’arte.
Where: Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour
How Much: FREE

What: Tech Tonic
Imagine 150 litres of tonic water suspended above your head. Now add light. Little kids and big kids alike will be mesmerised by this stunning sustainable lighting installation that transforms a laneway at The Rocks.
Where: The Rocks
How Much: FREE

What: Fountain
As a child is born somewhere in the world (in real time), a ‘human water droplet’ will spring from the Fountain and float to the ground, before walking off into their future. A super-cool take on the human life cycle and our growing population, this thought-provoking installation is positioned in Sydney’s business epicentre, Martin Place.
Where: Martin Place
How Much: FREE

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Be part of the show: Interactive displays

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What: Wormhole Galaxy
Consider yourself something of a Pinball Whiz? This interactive installation allows you to enter the Wormhole Galaxy portal for a ‘pinball style contest’ where you need to work together to find hidden hot spots and collect bonus points. Whether you’re 12, 32 or 72, this is loads of fun!
Where: Walsh Bay, Circular Quay
When: May 27 - June 18
How Much: FREE

What: I Love You
There’s nothing more romantic than proving how much you love your partner by shouting it out in front of a crowd of strangers. The giant heart-shaped ‘Love-O-Metre’ will measure your devotion, as it invites couples to loudly declare their love, which will then literally light up the skies as their love is amplified in light!
Where: Circular Quay
When: May 27 - June 18
How Much: FREE

What: Sentiment Cocoon
This breathtaking interactive installation feeds off the energy of the crowd. The cocoon is designed to pick up on the collective mood of participants and then reflect those feelings through colour and movement.
Where: Royal Botanic Garden
When: May 27 - June 18
How Much: FREE

What: Harbour Lights
The Harbour’s ferries, cruise ships and other vessels get involved to light up the iconic body of water.
Where: Sydney Harbour
When: May 27 - June 18
How Much: You can witness the lights from the shore for FREE, or jump on board a cruise with varying prices.

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03 of 06

Landmarks: Like you’ve never seen them

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Where: Sydney Opera House
What: Lighting the Sails ‘Songlines’
Have your camera ready to see the Opera House like never before. This year indigenous art will transform the iconic building in a celebration of spirituality and culture. Six different artists from six different clans, national estates and territories have been chosen to create this piece exclusively for Vivid Sydney.
When: May 27 - June 18
How Much: FREE

Where: Royal Botanic Garden
What: Cathedral of Light
This 70-metre long tunnel is illuminated by thousands of tiny LED light globes to create the atmosphere of a church to draw “people out of the darkness and towards the metaphoric light”.
When: May 27 - June 18
How Much: FREE

Where: The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks
What: The Matter of Painting
A combination of 3D animation, motion design, stop motion and edited video footage ­­– along with music – creates the illusion the building’s façade is being carved, painted, cut and brushed.
When: May 27 - June 18
How Much: FREE

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In the ‘burbs: Events running outside the City

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What: Luminarium
This is a great one for the kids! They get to dress up in special suits to “encounter the wonders that exist at the bottom of the ocean”. With a uniquely historical bent, all installations and activities in the Vivid Chatswood experience are inspired by the animals of Gondwana, an ancient supercontinent more than 500 million years old!
Where: Level 1 Chatswood Chase
When: May 27 - June 13 (check daily session times)
How Much: FREE

What: X Factory
Will humans ever be replaced by machines? Spectacular colour and movement shines over the façade of the heritage-listed Carlton & United Brewery explores this very concept while taking you on a journey of the changing human workplace. It demonstrates what the factory once was and how computers and machines have now taken the place of many workers.
Where: 28 Broadway, Chippendale
When: May 27 - June 18
How Much: FREE

What: Be The Light For the Wild
Giant lanterns of an elephant, platypus, crocodile, echidna and more will be displayed throughout the Zoo along with thousands of smaller lanterns made by school students.
Where: Taronga Zoo, Mosman
When: May 27 - June 18
How Much: From $11.95

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05 of 06

Outside the Light: Other events in Sydney around Vivid

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What: Sydney Film Festival
More than 180 films from dozens of countries will screen across the city and as far as the Skyline Drive-In at Blacktown. You can also take part in Q&As, parties and other special events.
When: June 8 - 18
Where: Various
How Much: From $10

What: Inspiring the Next Generation of Creative, Entrepreneurial and Digital Women
A panel of experts, teachers, industry leaders and girls will chat about why females are underrepresented in the occupations of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.
When: 11 June 12 - 2pm
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, Circular Quay
How Much: From $6 (FREE for under 18s)

What: Live music
There are around 90 music events across the city during the festival, with an array of local and international acts to play live at the Newtown Social Club throughout the festival. Search online for your favourite musician for dates, times and tickets.
When: May 27 - June 18
Where: Newtown Social Club
How Much: From $15

What else?
As if there’s not enough already to entertain, inspire and delight, there are also hundreds of ideas-based discussions, movies, conferences and workshops planned as part of Vivid Sydney. Looking for accommodation? Trip Advisor has the best Sydney Hotel deals. 

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Getting there: Bus, train, car, foot and ferry

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Strolling on foot is a great way to see and explore many of the incredible displays of Vivid Sydney, particularly the interactive installations. Plenty are within walking distance of each other and you can then take public transport to other destinations when needed.

There will be extra public transport services operating during the entire run of the festival. The best train stops to see displays will be City Circle, Martin Place, Chatswood and Redfern.

Buses on major routes will also operate 24-hours a day.

If you want to jump on a ferry, remember to be organised and patient.

Also note that due to road closures and congestion, taking your car is not the best option. For great sydney hotel and accommodation deals, check out Trip Advisor. 

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