It’s fair to say that Vivid is quite the spectacle. Since 2008, every year for three weeks, Sydney has been turned into a canvas for what is now the largest festival of lights, music and ideas in the world. Both myself and Luke have visited VIVID in the past and to be honest on my first visit I thought it was okay and whilst Luke thought it was a good experience it was a real struggle to enjoy it with all the crowds and craziness.
Like moths to a candle, VIVID is expected to bring over 2 million people to the already congested city of Sydney for this mind-blowingly event. Vivid Sydney promises to make the City of Sydney come alive, but is it a truly illuminating event or perhaps not worth the rising power bill?
A single firework by itself isn’t all that impressive but combine multiple fireworks together and you’ve got yourself a spectacular. That is the best way I can describe VIVID. It is a bombardment of light and sound in the best sort of way. If you follow the official routes you’ll experience a wide variety of differing artworks and whilst not every piece of art is worth gawking at, the overall experience leaves you feeling satisfied.
The event as a whole is formed into clusters of exhibitions around particular landmarks. There may be times in your exploration where you don’t really come across anything and this is very obvious when travelling from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay via Barangaroo where at times it can honestly feel like you’re lost. We did need to reference our maps a couple of times because the event signage isn’t all that obvious or common. This lack of art between sections can be a dampener on the whole ‘City comes alive’ concept, but it does give your eyes a chance to recover.
As mentioned we started our night in Darling Harbour and found a nice place to view the fireworks show, which is on every Friday and Saturday over the event. Sydney is known for its impressive fireworks and whilst this doesn’t compare with the New Years events, it went just long enough to leave a smile on your face but was also just short enough to not leave you bored.
From there we ventured to Barangaroo, a new addition to VIVID, to explore the installation and giant puppet we had heard about. Unfortunately whilst we were there the puppet was having some technical difficulties and wasn’t out and about. This was disappointing but we had to keep moving so we ventured to the start of the Circular Quay circuit.
Circular Quay is the creme de la creme of VIVID. Everybody knows the sweeping views of the Harbour Bridge and the wonderful projections on the opera house. This year was extra special with a spotlight installation which added an amazing level of kinetics to the sky. This area is the area that feels most ‘VIVID’ but it is also the most crowded but we made an effort to keep heading through to the botanical gardens. This is where we experienced something rather disappointing. Because we started at Darling Harbour for the fireworks, we didn’t arrive at the botanical gardens until around 10:40. VIVID and the botanical gardens are advertised as being open until 11 PM but we arrived to a closed sign. I could understand this if there was a large line that needed to be capped but the gardens were empty. If you say something is open until a time, you need to leave it open until that time. After this, we head home for the night on a rather bitter note.
The next day we visited Luna Park for a review but stayed until the night to view their VIVID offerings. Make sure that you head over to Luna Park to experience their installations up close (except for the Luna Park head thing by Samsung. It’s a rather… unique idea, I’ll give them that.) The Ferris Wheel and Coney Island installations are some of the best throughout the entire event. Coney Island projection display provides insight into the troubled history of the park’s past, present and future and the Ferris Wheel’s ‘Phantasos’ is an awe-inspiring display of lights and is also the only Vivid installation you can ride!. Best of all, entry into Luna Park is free!
Keep in mind that there are many paid events around the city outside of the free content as well like Taronga Zoo’s nighttime offerings and many of the Harbour cruises. Luke has done one of these cruises in the past and thinks that being stuck on a boat isn’t the best way to experience the event and ultimately doesn’t give you much better of a vantage point than you get on the land.
VIVID is something that you can definitely enjoy in one night but if you’re looking to conquer it all you’ll definitely need to give yourself more time. Many parts of Sydney are involved in VIVID and it would be near impossible to see everything on a single weekend. Each year Vivid Sydney gets bigger spreading out to more areas such as this year’s newcomers Luna Park and Chatswood. Though the attempts to drag people away from Circular Quay and the like seem to be in vain as everyone just wants to see the Poster Children for Vivid, The Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the Botanic Gardens
I’ve heard a lot of complaints regarding the organisation of VIVID and I feel that from what we experienced, many of the criticisms are unfounded. We were there for opening night, what was meant to be one of the busiest and it was a breeze to get around. We were guided through paths and alleys that especially around circular quay took you off the beaten path, but as theme park enthusiasts we understand the need for crowd control.
If you’re not keen on crowds there are some great out of the way areas that provide a more personal experience for viewers. Many parts of the cruise terminal in circular quay are open to the public on the upper levels during the event. Due to many people believing the terminal to be inaccessible, you’ll be able to experience a personal VIVID with an amazing view of the Opera House and the CBD from the heights well above the crowds.
Some may question what the intention behind the event is. Why would Sydney go to such lengths for a mostly free event? I honestly believe it’s a battle in a war which Sydney has been losing in relevance compared to cities such as Brisbane and Melbourne. Sydney is the home of bad press. Poor infrastructure, extremely high living costs, housing and rent are what Sydney is known for. This event shows Sydney in a new light and I’ll be honest, it worked for me. I left the city with a feeling of sentiment compared to my usual ‘Dear lord I can’t wait to get out of this hellhole’ ideology.
Whilst VIVID in the past has failed to impress, I left the event this year feeling incredibly satisfied. Both myself and Luke experienced moments of awe similar to experiencing some of the best Theme Park nighttime spectaculars in the world. If you approach Vivid with an open mind and an acceptance of walking around in large crowds we feel you will have a spectacular night exploring the city of Sydney as it truly comes alive.