Tips for Visiting Vivid – Circular Quay and Royal Botanical Gardens with kids

Tips to visit Vivid

The Vivid installations are extraordinary

Vivid is Sydney’s premier free street festival. This year it runs from Friday 24 May to Saturday 15 June 2019.

My tribe and I finally managed to get to Vivid and it was great. I had three kids with me (age 2, 4 and 8) and hubby in tow, so this article is written somewhat with that in mind, but I think the tips apply to everyone.

I will confess that I am not a Vivid expert, but I love sharing real life tips. So read on to find out my top tips on the Circular Quay and Royal Botanical Gardens areas of vivid.

Top tip for visiting Vivid – Go during the week if you can

My top tip would be to go on a weeknight if you can.

Yes it’s a bit of a pain getting there after work, school or studies, but we came on a Thursday night and the crowd was really manageable. We could push a double stroller through without many problems. Also, there are lots of interactive displays so by going on a weeknight we had the opportunity to try them all.

Arrive before the lights turn on for some wow

The lights for most areas of Vivid come on at 6.00pm and conclude at 11.00pm. If you are able to come before lights on, it’s apparently pretty exciting waiting for them and watching as everything flickers to life!

Disappointingly we didn’t make it in time for the light switching, but we arrived around 6.15pm and the atmosphere was excellent. It is quite carnival like with everyone in a good mood, there are people of all ages around which I think is a testament to how amazing this festival is.

Take some time to enjoy the lights at Customs House

Customs House Vivid Sydney

The Customs House projection is a highlight

We headed to the Customs House and retail side of Circular Quay first, and in retrospect we could have stayed here longer.

The projection at Customs House is AMAZING and I wish I had seen more of it. There is also some simple interactive installations here that are great for the kids.

Enjoy the vibe of Circular Quay

Vivid Sydney Circular Quay

Lights with the Harbour Bridge peeking through

The Circular Quay area was busy, but even with a pram because we were here on a Thursday night we could easily make our way through the crowds.

Everyone was very polite and I didn’t see any crowd issues. The views across to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are great.

Don’t miss the Museum of Contemporary Art and Samsung Electric Playground

Vivid Samsung Electric Playground

Enjoy the vibe and tunes at the Electric Playground

Try to resist the temptation to go straight to the Royal Botanical Gardens and head over instead to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Samsung Electric Playground.

The Samsung Electric Playground is a neat little spot with some great interactive stations for kids including a slide and electric hula hoops. Climb to the top of the bridge there for some great views of the harbour.

Also, make sure to head around to the MCA. It has a great light projection and some fab views of the Opera House.

Head up onto the Cahill Walkway for great views

Tips for visiting Vivid

The Cahill Walk way provides an amazing photo spot

You may have read my article on The Harbour Bridge and The Cahill Walk. If not, now is your time to find this platform for great views across the harbour.

The Cahill Walk is on the Cahill Expressway which is the road you will see above Circular Quay train station. To access it, walk all the way to the eastern end of Circular Quay, and before the turn to go to the Opera House you will see a lift. This lift will take you up to the Cahill Expressway and the Cahill Walk.

Up here you will get great views across to The Harbour Bridge. You will notice that all the ‘photographers’ are up here trying to get that perfect shot!

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tips for visiting vivid

The interactive Dancing Grass installation was a hit

The Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens are the obvious next spot to visit after Circular Quay. The Opera House projection is beautiful and you will also get great views across to the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park from here.

To access the Royal Botanical Gardens you must enter from the enter via the Queen Elizabeth II Gates (which is next to the Opera House). You will then exit via the Macquarie Street Gate.

The Royal Botanical Gardens was different to what I expected. You are pushed along a pathway with the crowd along a series of 15 light installations. The installations are somewhat separate seemingly without much cohesion. Please don’t get me wrong they are beautiful and really very amazing, but I am not sure it was the best spot for kids.

The walk through the gardens took us about half an hour but was a fairly easy walk.

There is a great food and drink area along the walk which was really pretty and would be a great spot to come for dinner or a drink.

I think the Royal Botanic Gardens are a great spot for those looking for an awesome place for dinner and a drink. Or perhaps families with older kids. But I think next year we will try The Rocks or Darling Harbour. The installations are really amazing but with the length of the walk and the spaced out installations, the kids lost focus a bit.

Take a good camera if you have one

As you can probably tell by my pictures I didn’t do this and wish I had! A good camera will make all the difference to getting the best shots! The best photos are taken with an ultra wide camera and super low light.

Take water and food

Make sure to bring some water with you. There are public bathrooms around but I didn’t see any water stations unfortunately.

There are lots of restaurants also and a food court at The Gateway building, but food is expensive. So just bring some sandwiches and snacks to eat on the go.

Go later if you can

The lights are on till 11.00pm so if you don’t have young kids you could head there later on. We left around 8.30pm and the crowds were definitely starting to thin by then.


I was really pleased to see a few people around in wheelchairs. The organisers have definitely made it possible for everyone to get around so don’t be too put off if you have a pram or wheelchair, but I would recommend a mid week visit if possible.

Most of all enjoy

Vivid is a pretty special festival and we are lucky to have it right here in Sydney. Enjoy the night, prepare for some crowds, bring some food and water and you will have a great one.

More information and other tips for visiting Vivid

You’ll find all you need to know at


Do you have any tips for visiting Vivid?


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