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A Guide to Vivid Sydney


I was quite excited to learn we would be in Sydney around the time of the annual Vivid festival. It was something I often saw and awed at on Australia's Instagram account and on Pinterest. If you are unfamiliar with Vivid it is an 18-day light, music and idea festival during May and June, and it draws out very large crowds. Each year it seems to grow and this year we were able to enjoy the lights from Darling Harbour, Sydney Harbour (Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art, etc.), The Rocks and Walsh Bay.

Night One: Darling Harbour - Arrive Late! 

Now, I would not recommend arrive just in time for the show. Usually, the lights are on from 6 pm to Midnight. The first night we enjoyed the lights was from Darling Harbour and while we arrived around 5:30 pm and walked around to find a good spot (it is crowded!), we found the first light show to be quite dull and not up to the par of what we had seen online. After the first show, we went for ice cream and found a place to sit and watch the rest of the shows. As the shows progressed they became much livelier and something to really marvel at. 




Therefore, my first piece of advice don't worry about getting to the lights when they are turned on. Often the shows repeat like at the Sydney Opera House or Customs House. And usually, the later shows (like the case with Darling Harbour) are better the later in the performance they are.

Now, this may not surprise you to know that there will be crowds. Oh yes, a ton of other individuals who are trying to get the perfect photo, enjoy the lights, and navigate through a packed displays. So, how do you avoid the crowds and enjoy the lights? From our experience, you have to get away from the iconic parts of Sydney. We found Circular Quay to be quite busy. The crowds around the Museum of Contemporary Art, Customs House and Opera House were the largest. Granted, if you can find a good vantage point (which you can if you walk far enough and do not try to get center with the building), it is worth seeing the show at the locations.

Night Two: Circular Quay - The Most Crowded!

For night two we took our prior night's experience and did not arrive at the lights in Circular Quay until 7:30 pm. Granted, there were still crowds and as I alluded to earlier, they are the most congested in this area. I do not recommend avoiding Circular Quay just because of the crowds, just be mindful of it and prepare to weave in and out of cameras. Also, we never went right up to the Opera House. We found the best point of view to be right across the harbour. Many individuals seemed to place themselves too close to the Opera House or not go far enough down to get away from the masses. The following video was shot just across the way and I recall having enough space to do a few cartwheels if I dared.


Night Two: Walsh Bay - The Least Crowded! 

A large majority of the photos I saw online of Vivid Sydney were like this:

Credit: http://onthreelegs.com/2014/05/26/vivid-sydney-2014/
Having not been to Sydney before, I thought the bridge was lit up on both sides and you would be able to see the bridge lights from the Opera House and Circular Quay. No, you don't. The Bridge is lit up from the other side. So in order to enjoy the bridge lights we ventured off down towards Walsh Bay. It's important to know that the lights are not entirely for spectacle. They unite music and ideas and have placemarks near them with details of the artist and conception. As we made our way down Walsh Bay there were numerous other light displays to enjoy, that were far less crowded! In this area I could have cartwheeled where I pleased, mindfully of course to not fall in the harbour. Not too many ventured off down this way, and they missed out! The light displays here were more enjoyable as there was not a line to get up close or manipulate the image (yes, some displays allowed you to control the lights). It was here I found to be the best part of the Vivid Festival. Little to no crowds and art that I could interact with. The first image in this post was actually taken from Walsh Bay.

My second piece of advice: Venture off to the displays farther from the Sydney Harbour. It will be less crowded and more interactive.

Night Two: The Rocks - My Favorite Display! 

As we ventured back from Walsh Bay we walked through The Rocks. A little more crowded than Walsh Bay, but not as crowded as Circular Quay. It was here I found my favorite and most memorable display, "The Dresses". It was down a narrow alleyway and there were more people walking around it, but I had to see it. It was haunting, beautiful and alluring. "The Dresses", designed by Tae Gon Kim was made from hundreds of fiber-optic strands with the goal of appearing as apparitions. Each dress slowly change color, and this change was meant to represent the changing story of each dress and how we "become the people we love."


My third piece of advice: If there's a display you really want to see, see it!


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