Vivid Cruises on Bundeena from AnyBoat
- 1-hour cruise
- Includes one free drink
- Price per person: $29
We've sourced the best spots (and installations) for you to 'do' Vivid right.
Every year Vivid Sydney seems to get bigger and bigger. There are more lights, more walks, more crowds (erm...), and more days to explore and experience this festival of light.
The 2019 festival is Vivid Sydney's 11th year anniversary and with it comes three weeks of spectacular light displays. It'll run from 24 May - 15 June 2019 and includes displays on icons such as the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Customs House.
Pro tip: Plan to visit early in the week and avoid weekends. Seems logical, seeing as they're the working days, but we do tend to forget these things so here's your hint hint and your nudge nudge. You'll avoid the worst of the crowds, and there's a greater chance you'll have that installation all to yourself.
Vivid Cruises also tend to be cheaper on weekday evenings and depart after the workday is done.
See Vivid from a whole different perspective by hitting the harbour. Cruises start at under $20 per person and usually include a drink or food.
Most leave from King Street Wharf in Darling Harbour and pass under the Harbour Bridge toward the Opera House, letting you see some of the event's best illuminations up close.
Here are some of the cruises that you can book as early as now.
Last year Luna Park made its Vivid debut and this year the precinct makes a stunning return with its light-laced ferris wheel and unique views of the bridge and its lights.
Of the standard locations, the Sydney Opera House's Lighting of the Sails remains a perennial favourite and is a must-see on any journey through this festival of light. This year it's designed by Chinese-America artist Andrew Thomas Huang and animation design team Bemo.
Here are the 2019 highlights we're especially excited about:
Image: Vivid Sydney 2019
Custom House gets a watery makeover Under the Harbour where neon sea creatures swim through botanical wonderlands in a spectacular feast for the eyes.
The Museum of Contemporary Art pays tribute to its artist's (Claudia Nicholson) home country of Colombia. It's gritty, emotional and romantic all at once.
A real highlight this year can be found in The Rocks at the Argyle Cut. A Pixar debut, it's a childhood dream that details the history of the technical evolution of animation and is projected onto the tunnel rooftop. The road will be closed throughout Vivid so you can lie on the floor to see it all.
The Royal Botanic Gardens will tower over the rest with its slew of larger-than-life displays. This includes an engineering feat of 500 fireflies, a satellite that responds to the lights and sounds of space and dancing blades of grass that reach up to 4.5 metres tall and is bound to be an Instagram success according to Vivid Lights curator Lucy Keeler.
If you're bringing the kids, Keeler suggests heading to Darling Harbour to meet Robot SPACELand. It's a five-storey high eco-bot made of found objects that is destined to mesmerise and delight.
Our Vivid precinct guide can help you plan a journey through the festival.
Under the Harbour @ Customs House
Firefly Field @ The Royal Botanic Gardens
Argyle Cut by Pixar Animation Studios @ The Rocks
Image © Disney/Pixar
KA3323 @ The Royal Botanic Gardens
Robot SPACELand @ Barangaroo
Dancing Grass @ The Royal Botanic Gardens
Images from Vivid Sydney
Artists from around the world join the Vivid LIVE line-up each and every year with performances being held at the Sydney Opera House, City Recital Hall, Carriageworks and smaller venues around the city and inner city.
Confirmed to be on the 2019 line-up at the Sydney Opera House is The Cure for its 30th anniversary of Disintegration, Maggie Rogers, Underworld and Herbie Hancock.
Carriageworks is set to welcome FKA twigs, Rūfüs Du Sol and Curve Ball while the City Recital Hall will host performances by Kate Miller-Heidke and Paul Kelly.
Tickets are on sale now.
Image: Vivid Sydney
If you're looking for a more unique way to experience the Vivid light displays than walking around or taking on a cruise, you're in luck.
Each year more and more options open up, and last year went all out. From dance parties atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge to motorcycle side car tours of the city, there was a host of Vivid-themed activities to do during the festival. Stay tuned for this year's activities as they are confirmed.
Influences from all walks of life, including filmmakers and artists, discuss ideas with other industry leaders. The big name and talk on everyone's list is with Hollywood's Spike Lee. As part of the Game Changer series, he'll be discussing issues of race in the media, and movie making. Other key speakers are Esther Perel, Sebastian Smee and Jocelyn Brewer.
All along the Vivid walks, restaurants offered specials to lure in visitors. While heaps of places offered specials and remained open later than usual, only a select few were offering something vividly spectacular for your eyes and your tastebuds.
This year's offerings have yet to be revealed. But to get you salivating, here's what we loved last year.
We reckon it's pretty fair to say that Opera Bar had the best seats in the house. It sits right below the lit up sails, and looks out toward the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park. The bar always showcases something fun, neon and bright to coincide with Vivid Festival.
For more info: Visit the Opera Bar website
Expert tip: For those looking to maximise the experience, but keep the cost down, there are often food trucks galore hanging in the Opera House forecourt. Grab something cheap and on-the-go, to make the most of your evening out.
Now in its third year at the festival, American Express holders will again nab a VIP pass to one of the most relaxing spaces in the heart of the action. All you need to do is flash your card at the Cruise Bar rooftop on level 3 of the Overseas Passenger Terminal and you'll be ushered into a world of panoramic harbour views and complimentary nibbles. It is open every night of Vivid from 5.30-10.30pm.
For more info: Visit the American Express Invites Lounge
On a date? Looking to romance it up? The place to be is The Royal Botanic Gardens. Last year it offered a culinary world inspired by the botanics that surround. That is, plant-based meals, cocktails in lightbulbs and a cupcake ATM awaited hungry stomachs. We're expecting this and so-much more in 2019.
For more info: Vivid Sydney
The Barangaroo precinct was already a magnet for foodies with its array of high-end restaurants and crowd favourites. Add Vivid into the mix and you never know what to expect. Colourful cocktails? Neon desserts? The sky's the limit.
For more info: The Streets of Barangaroo
Are you visiting Sydney just to see the Vivid lights? (We don’t blame you). Or, perhaps you want to avoid the madness that is Sydney transport by making the CBD your home base for the evening? Whatever your reasons, there are some beautiful hotels in the city you can check into to make seeing the Vivid lights that much more enjoyable.
They also have some kickass views of the lights, too. #winning
Yes, Vivid Sydney's displays are completely free to access. However, if you'd like to join a cruise or bridge climb, then you'll need to pay for admission to those attractions.
The Vivid Sydney light displays will be turned on at 6pm each night during the festival.
Being a free event throughout Circular Quay, The Rocks, Barangaroo and Darling Harbour (with smaller displays in other parts of the city), Vivid is like a giant open-air gallery. It's a free event where you can walk around and check out light-based displays and illuminations created by a range of artists. There are guides available and each attraction is signposted and explains what it is you're looking at and who created it.
Many roads leading toward Circular Quay and The Rocks will be closed or restricted during the event. Given those limitations, and the road closures throughout the city, it's recommended to take public transport to Vivid. There will be increased public transport services available during the event, and the ferries will be illuminated each night from 6pm.
The festival runs for 23 days from late-May until mid-June.
Vivid Sydney has been lighting up the Sydney foreshore since 2008. It began as a light festival promoting energy efficiency with light paintings displayed on the sails of the Sydney Opera House.
Yes! The twilight and night-time Bridge Climbs are available during Vivid and offer panoramic views of the harbour displays.
If night photography isn't your forte, consider joining a night photography class prior to the festival, or even during the festival to try and capture the best images.
Perfect your nighttime photography skills and use the brilliantly coloured Vivid displays as your inspiration.This three-hour lesson meets in The Rocks at 5:30pm each Friday and will help you master composition, shoot in manual mode, control ISO, aperture and shutter speed.View details
Stephanie Yip is the travel editor at Finder and has been writing about travel and lifestyle for over a decade. She has written for Travel Weekly, Escape, Thomas Cook Magazine, Showpo, The Nibbler and Hostelworld. She was also the editor of kids magazine DMAG. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Technology Sydney and has visited over 50 countries (and counting). She has a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge of travel and helping readers stretch their dollars while on holiday.
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