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Vivid Sydney and…The Horror of it All

Vivid Sydney is where the significant landmarks of Sydney including the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are transformed into a spectacular canvas of light and this event is on every night from May 24 until June 10.

Coming into the city on the ferry

Coming into the city on the ferry on a perfect winter’s night

As you would be aware, my Alfie is a Sea Scout and as luck would have it, the scout leaders organised for Friday night’s scout meeting to be an excursion to see Vivid.  Carl was asked to come along for moral support and he thought I might like to join in on all the excitement.

The light show begins at 6pm

The light show begins at 6pm

The good news is that the temperature on Friday was extremely mild and I only needed to head out of the house with a top and a thin jumper.  We had to meet at Taronga Wharf just before 6pm and the air temperature was so pleasant I didn’t even need the jacket I had brought with me.  We met up with the 15 other cub scouts, a few parents and the scout leaders.  For some reason, the cubs were just absolutely out of control.  They were over-the-top excited and corralling then into a herd was near impossible.

Trying to get the cubs to focus on the event instead of rumbling each other

Trying to get the cubs to focus on the event instead of rumbling each other

The ferry trip wasn’t too bad and we didn’t lose anyone overboard and all cubs were accounted for as we arrived at Circular Quay so that part of the night was a success.  But having arrived at the centre of this event we realised we were not the only Sydney-siders in attendance.  In fact, because the weather was so mild, and because it was a Friday night and because it was a long weekend, it seemed the entire population of Sydney had decided to join us.  Lucky!

'Look this way, boys.'

‘Look this way, boys.’

It became quite stressful as we tried to navigate ourselves from the Opera House to The Rocks where we hoped to show the cubs the visual extravagance that is Vivid.

The Opera House as a sea of colour

The Opera House as a sea of colour

I was so concerned about losing Alfie and losing a cub that I barely had the opportunity to see the event.  My eyes were everywhere trying to make sure all 15 cubs (who should have been on a leash) were accounted for.  We wormed our way through the crowds from the Opera House to The Rocks where the plan was to have dinner at Pancakes at the Rocks however they don’t take bookings and when we arrived there was already an hour’s wait for a table so we had to engage Plan B.

'Hanging basket' type lights

‘Hanging basket’ type lights

There wasn’t a Plan B but we had to tell the cubs there was one because they were so disappointed they weren’t going to be having pancakes for dinner.  Could there be any greater disappointment for a little boy!  We drifted around trying to find an alternative and ended up in a plaza where there were wandering minstrels, market stalls, clowns on stilts and every visual stimulus kids don’t need like flashing, pulsating lights and music.

Customs House

Customs House

We had to choose between a few stalls as to what we’d have for dinner and I chose an Asian wok type of tent structure where Alfie had some fish cakes and curry puffs and Carl and I had a noodle dish that was fairly ho-hum and lack-lustre but made palatable by the fact we could wash it down with an alcoholic beverage and the fact that I had stalked the plaza and pounced on the only available table.  (There was nearly a brawl for that table).

Beware the hoards of people

Beware the hoards of people

After the ho-hum dinner we had to navigate the children through the throng of people that was so thick it was almost not moving.  We managed to lose one cub so we stopped beside a cupcake stall to look amongst the sea of people to try and find him and 10 minutes later he popped into our vision looking extremely anxious and ashen white.

Walking through the tunnel of lights - beware the prams, strollers and scooters

Walking through the tunnel of lights – beware the prams, strollers and scooters

We hurried back to Circular Quay where we took a ferry straight back to where we had come from and I have never felt more relieved.

Found him!

Found him!

Vivid is a wonderful event however it can become extremely over-crowded.  I spoke with someone today who went about a week ago on a night when there was sheet rain and it was exceptionally cold.  He loved it because he said no one was there.  He had the event to himself and was able to wander around soaking up the sights with not a pram, stroller or scooter to trip over.

We found a deserted spot on top of the International Terminal

The Carnival Spirit leaves the International Terminal

As we caught the ferry home the scout leader said we adults should all go home for a glass of wine.  I replied, ‘Just the one?’

The Rocks

The Rocks

Vivid is worth a visit however, if you can’t handle crowds or have to supervise hyped-up over-excited boys, this is probably something to avoid.

One of the trucks that contains the projection unit

One of the trucks that contains the projection unit

The Carnival Spirit leaves Sydney

Looking down from the International Terminal

Such a beautiful night

Such a beautiful night

The telescope the boys fought over at the top of the International Terminal

The telescope the boys fought over at the top of the International Terminal

Sandstone statues and Alfie in the mix

Sandstone statues and Alfie in the mix

We were there with a few of our friends

We were there with a few of our friends

The market stalls

The market stalls

We're on our way home

We’re on our way home

Ready for a glass of wine

Ready for a glass of wine













  1. Darling, thank you for going for me. I’m a little crowd-averse (as you know) and after hearing stories from friends, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to go. It sounds like it was wonderful (perhaps not with an entire scout troop though).. xx

  2. Is it just me or has Alfie grown? He looks very tall or perhaps it’s his pose! 😀

  3. How wonderful is Vivid? I wish I’d been there. I’m a great cub wrangler. 🙂

  4. Your a very brave women and a great detective finding the lost little soul. Either your camera or you are really good at catching those night photos. Wow awesome-great job! I have never been to Sydney but it is on my bucket list but I am going to try it without the stressful evening with the cub scout group, I would need more than just one glass of wine to calm my nerves!

  5. As beautiful as this is – stunning in fact – I would have been beside myself with stress having to supervise 15 boys in that chaos. I don’t mind crowds if it’s just Mike and I, but you add kids to that. The fear of losing one of them makes me crazy. Still, I would like to come see this someday. It looks gorgeous. Sydney is such a beautiful city. I hope you enjoyed a few glasses of wine! 🙂

  6. I’m amazed you didn’t lose more than one of the scouts in that madhouse of a throng. Looks like fun though.

  7. We loved vivid, but escaped to the quieter embrace of Surrey Hills after watching the pretty opera house for about 15mins amongst the massive crowds. I cannot believe you were brave enough to commandeer excited tiny people through those crowds, and how lucky you were to keep track of them all. I always feel sorry when I see little kids on leads or those “lets pretend I’m a backpack when really I am a fancy harness” things (its just so demoralising), but in situations like vivid I reckon I’d subject a child to one and spend the next 10 years apologising. The piece of mind would be just too hard to resist 🙂

  8. Yeah, I’d need a whole bottle of wine after that adventure! I had to help chaperone 75 8th graders in Washington DC…oh, the stress! Glad there were no casualties!

  9. Beautiful but just the kind of thing that puts me over the top. And not in a good way! Glad all arrived home safe and sound. Including you. Bet that glass of wine was relaxing.

  10. I’ve never seen photos of Vivid before–how beautiful! The Opera House seems to be a perfect structure no matter when it is photographed–night, day, lit up, unlit. Just a perfect building. I’m not sure I could have handled the crowds with 15 boys in tow–but the expressions on Alfie’s face made it worthwhile, I’m sure.

  11. Love his expression!

  12. I can see absolutely why this would be a difficult place to manage any group. A leash definitely would have helped. Beautiful, though. Glad you all made if back safely and that you rewarded yourself with wine.

  13. What a spectacular event! I am not great in crowds like that and get claustrophobic very quickly so don’t really go to them and therefore miss out on many events. Going with a group of hyper boys would be quite traumatic. Lucky you!

  14. Despite the the frazzled nature, I can’t help but love Vivid and it’s amazing atmosphere – one of the most beautiful events in Sydney!

    Choc Chip Uru

  15. What a view coming into the harbour with those lights and city-scape! So beautiful. That does look quite… er… busy though. Not sure if it would have been my thing. Give me an open field and a starlit night, but it certainly looks like a hoot!

  16. It looks like an amazing event, but I think with a group of cubs would be unbearably stressful, just soo many people. GG

  17. I went on Friday as well. There were a lot of people but it didn’t worry me because I didn’t have to look after 15 sea scouts!. It is one of the most incredible sights in Sydney to be sure. I have been twice now. I think you have to avoid the weekend. I love your account though Charlie. Entertaining as always.

  18. G’day! What a great experience and Sydney Opera House is ALWAYS magical, TRUE!
    I am NOT a crowds person, so am glad through your eyes, and photos I got to view! Thank you!
    Cheers! Joanne

  19. WOW, gorgeous photos!! I hope I get to see it someday 🙂

  20. Love the inventiveness of the show, love crowds abuzz [as long as sober!] but one child for each hand, holding on for dear life, would have been my max :D! Good ‘excuse’ to reach for the bottle opener afterwards tho’ 😉 !

  21. Vivid appears to be a combo of chaos and fun! You’re amazing to keep track of all those little guys! And I really adore the way Sydney just lights up at night. It’s gorgeous! Thanks for taking us on your adventure. Your photos also tell a wonderful story. ox

  22. OMG that looks awesome, but seeing as I am going to the Gold Coast next month, I will have to give it a mix, and I hate crowds 🙂

  23. Spectacular lighting effects, Charlie. Sounds hair-raising trying to keep track of those cubs!

  24. Definitely a leash was called for Charlie, and GPS trackers in each childs sneaker as well! I’m glad the boys had a nice time, but at least a whole bottle of wine was called for as a de-brief once you got home 🙂 x

  25. What an incredible event, it’s really too bad millions of other people thought so too! Thanks for sharing it with us, I’d really love to see it.
    Years ago we went to our Beeches Jazz Festival and it was so crowded that I swear I could have lifted my feet off the ground and have been carried by the crowds. Not pleasant at all; we haven’t been back.

  26. Ditto what Celia said Charlie, thanks for going for us all! You’re certainly one brave lady!! Shame Pancakes on the Rocks had such a long wait, you’ll have to brave another trip into the city for that one!

  27. Very little is more stressful and herding kids through a crowd of people like that — it’s a good thing it’s so amazing to see. Thanks for the tour, I’m sure to young children it is especially spectacular, even without the pancakes. 😉

  28. What a great event! Love the look of all the buildings. Sounds like a lot of fun, although having to keep track of all those scouts was really tough! Sorry about the pancakes, but it sounds like you had a really entertaining time.

  29. That’s quite an event and I sure would like to see it. BUT 15 scouts? Oh, Charlie! You parents could have outnumbered them by 5 to 1 and still had a tough time in those crowds. Leashes would not have been a bad idea. Even so, I always enjoy when a city has the sense to get come together and offer both citizens and tourist alike a great time. Be it Summer festivals, Winter carnivals, or whatever, they make the city more livable. Thanks for taking us along. 🙂

  30. WOW! Those lights are amazing!! All the people and the children and the chaos and the…oh my, I think I could live without that. But the wine, that sounds good!! 😉

  31. What a lovely & busy event! Thanks for sharing with us all! 🙂 Georgous pics too! All so lively! xxx

  32. Hi Charlie, I took the twins last year in pouring rain and that was good. Next year a dinner out at the Terminal would work for me, just looking at the Opera House and giving the crowds a body swerve. Glad all survived!

  33. Events like this are always quite exciting, but I am past the stage where I can be bothered struggling through crowds like that – it just takes the shine of things for me and makes me grumpy. And the idea of doing it with a handful of small boys makes my blood run cold.
    I’m happy to enjoy your images thanks.

  34. Oh, the boys were probably oblivious to the crowds and must have just loved it! This reminds me of when I was a kindergarten teacher.. it’s such a responsibility and a panic if anything, even slightly, goes wrong. Sounds like you did an outstanding job! If I’m ever there, I will have to see this!! xx

  35. I would have been more than ready for a glass of wine by the end of the night! Events like Vivid are fun…but the crowds can ruin it quickly! I’m glad I got to experience it through your pictures. I couldn’t have handled all the shuffle…especially being 9 months pregnant now! Thank you for sharing, my friend!

  36. I’m glad you survived the night!! haha. Sydney looks absolutely gorgeous! Love the nighttime photos…

  37. JO BABY says:

    We had a similar experience on Saturday night. It was, how shall we say, ‘tiff creating’ for us.

  38. Amazing photos Charlie. The one night i was in town to see vivid, my views were obstructed by the rain.. so we didn’t have such a great experience.. instead we got home wet and sick.. haha

  39. What great photos…..what a lot of people! I am amazed you survived. Character building to say the least, but a great event.

  40. It’s such a great event but as I cannot handle crowds I guess I shall only ever see it on film.

  41. I’ve seen so many photos on Instagram and on Facebook of my friends who live in Sydney and they’re visiting the event Vivid Sydney the photos are so amazing and i think it’s an awesome idea of them trying to jazz up the night scene and give the Opera house a different look with all the lights shining on it 🙂

    But gosh the crowds will definitely be an issue for me, as I don’t like them very much. I coming to Sydney in August…but don’t think I’ll have to chance to see Vivid Sydney which is a shame hope they’ll do it again some other time xox

  42. wow that looks incredible! what an amazing thing to go see!

  43. I’ve never heard of this event in Sydney before! What a fun and exciting night – love the colorful night!

  44. I’m sure it’s terrible to say so, but I do think leashes are under-rated for keeping children in sight and not lost, overboard, or otherwise in trouble! I’m glad you didn’t have any major lost children though and despite the crowds, this sounds like a fun night in terms of what was offered. It’s always tricky when half the city thinks so too though!

  45. Love all the different elements in the first image Charlie and I’m with you…one glass of wine wouldn’t have been enough. 🙂


  1. […] of you may remember my 2013 Vivid Sydney experience.  As I wandered home last year I vowed and declared that never again would I put myself through […]

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