Vivid Sydney 2018: 12 tips to get the most out of visiting with kids

Every Winter season, Sydney comes alive with the spectacular lights of Vivid Sydney, and in 2018 it claims to outshine all the others and be a bigger and more family-friendly event than ever before.

Running for 23 nights from Friday 25th May until Saturday 16th June, light installations and projections will illuminate iconic buildings and locations all around Sydney as part of the festival. But going with a family of small people, despite being extremely engaging and exciting, can definitely be a challenge.

So here is the OFFICIAL Out & About Baby guide to the Vivid Sydney with Kids including all the top spots for the smallest ones in your family aged 0 to 6 years old. And keep reading below for our 12 tips on making it through the night.

VIVID SYDNEY WITH KIDS 0 – 6 YEARS: Bubs to Pre-schoolers

The best part of Vivid as an adult is seeing the faces of your kids while watching the light and colour dance and the animations come to life. They will enjoy interactive installations featuring giant friendly flowers, favourite animals and a fantastical fairytale world, where colours, sounds and forms change, simply by moving, touching or walking past something. Highlights and locations include:

Taronga ZooProbably the easiest spot to see the lights if you have kids, particularly under the age of about 6 or 7. Popular favourites from last years sculptures are back (the tigers and elephants being my personal favourites), along with a whole lot of exciting newbies. Taronga zoo turns into an illuminated trail of scientific discovery; featuring a giant rhino, lots of bees and bugs in the trees overhead, a big Bilby, Sumatran tiger, as well as a great little movie in the Taronga Centenary Theatre (my 2 & 1/2 year old son loved the short film). My tip would be to book an early session, but go grab a an early dinner somewhere else nearby first. I’ve added a few of my favourite local spots below but it is definitely much easier than trying to eat when you are there.

taronga zoo Vivid Sydney with kids

Tumbalong Lights (Darling Harbour) – Tumbalong Lights is a collection of four interactive-play installations that form an inclusive and accessible Vivid Lights experience for both children and the young at heart. The four under-the-sea-themed installations allow children and their families to interact with creative, awe-inspiring light experiences that help produce a sense of empowerment, a sense of control and a sense of community, while at the same time inspiring fun and playfulness.  Its a big space and they only let in 30 people at a time, which means it doesn’t get as chaotic as some of the other areas. If you have a child with special needs you can purchase tickets in advance to save queueing. But to be honest, if you have a toddler who doesn’t want to wait, you really don’t need to worry about going in and you can just see it all from the outside.

The Octopoda (Westfield Chatswood) – Hanging above Hawker Lane at the entrance to Westfield Chatswood, the Octopoda invites you to become part of his tentacle percussion ensemble.  Featuring eight tentacle drums, each activates a unique display of colour and light animating the Octopoda’s musical mind. Inspired by steampunk themes, when all eight drums are playing together Octopoda will dazzle audiences with his mechanical moves and rhythmic light display.

Aqueous (The Royal Botanic Gardens) – Aqueous is an interactive landscape of meandering pathways of light. Reflecting and shifting colour and light will react as you run, step, jump and walk along the pathway.

Luna Park – Luna Park is new to the Vivid Sydney experience this year, celebrating its colourful history via the ‘spirit of fun’ installation. The feature promises to bring the park’s artworks, characters and soul to life as well as providing an insight into the future of the park. Watch this space when more info comes to light… (ha! get it?!?!)


With a little planning and armed with this definitive guide to eating out with kids, visiting Vivid Sydney with the family can actually be fun!

Check out some of these Out & About Baby favourites and pre-book a table to do an early sitting:

Close to Darling Harbour

  • Fratelli Fresh Darling Harbour: The new kid on the block from the Fratelli Fresh Restaurant Empire. It’s very new and shiny (it opened the same day as Vivid) so might be hard to get in. We decided to go for an early dinner here on the opening weekend and found the early dinner slot at 4.30/5pm was perfect. Then you just roll out and you are right at the Tumbalong Lights exhibition.  If you are in the mood for Italian still and can’t get in there, it’s also not too far to walk up to the Westfield Sydney Fratelli Fresh location. 

Close to the Botanic Gardens/Customs House

  • Gateway Sydney: Located just near McDonald’s the newest precinct in Circular Quay has some fabulous affordable, kid friendly restaurants (think Chat Thai, Burger Project and Gelato Messina just to name a few) as well as pimped out change/parents rooms.

Close to The Rocks

  • The Glenmore: Don’t try to attempt getting a spot on the terrace with a view but you might get lucky and be able to grab a table inside in one of the smaller rooms on the second floor. Staff are super helpful and food is great.
  • Pancakes on the Rocks: It’s been around for a long time and for good reason. Definitely book ahead though because you will be right in the thick of it.

Close to Taronga Zoo

  • The Buena: Grab a pizza and beers in the recently opened Vista Bar (the upstairs area). Think relaxed Balmoral Beach meets Mosman mod and packed with families for Vivid. It was where we went before heading to Taronga Zoo.
  • Bathers Pavilion: Choose between either the Café of the Restaurant at The Bathers’ Pavilion and you will be greeted with impeccable food and service to match the stunning view.
  • Fratelli Fresh Crows Nest: An ever-changing blackboard menu full of seasonal dishes, where the flavours are simple and the portions generous. Try the banoffee pie. It’s one of my all time favourites.

In and around Chatswood

  • Din Thai Fung: Arguably some of the best dumplings in Sydney you can find this little gem inside Westfield Chatswood. The award winning restaurant specialises in Taiwanese cuisine including soup, rice, noodles and wok fried dishes. A sure hit with the toddler crowd.
  • Nahm Jimm: Styled to look like an elegantly lit traditional wooden shack, this restaurant serves home cooked Thai dishes to families in Chatswood Westfield.

Vivid Sydney Taronga Zoo


1. Visit early in the week:
Monday to Wednesday are quieter compared to Friday and Saturday. We have this on good authority from the team behind Vivid Sydney and also previous experience.

2. Visit early in the evening:
Lights come on at 5.30pm at Chatswood and Taronga Zoo – ideal for grabbing an early dinner, taking in the lights, and getting the family home for a slightly later bedtime. The rest lights up at 6pm and could almost work like a friendly nightlight.

3. Go on State of Origin Night – Wednesday 6th June:
Maybe run this one past your partner first but my guess is it will be one of the quieter nights because a lot of potential Vivid Sydney visitors will either be at their favourite local, or on the couch at home watching the game.

4. Visit more times for more fun:
Don’t try to tackle it all in one go. Split your visits up by different locations on different days. The light show is mostly free after all so it is even easier on your hip pocket.  It’s impossible to see everything in one night. Not with kids and not if you plan to maintain some form of relationship with your partner afterwards.

5. Visit by public transport and leave the car at home:
Extensive road closures will be in place so take advantage of extra bus and train services during the festival instead. Also consider taking a ferry around to Darling Harbour or Circular Quay – you get to view the Opera House and a nice view back from Milson’s Point.  Just be ready to carry tired bubba’s home from your nearest stop.

6. Pre-Purchase tickets:
If you are heading to the Zoo to see the giant animal multimedia light sculptures pre-purchase your tickets in advance here.   Ticket details for this year are yet to be confirmed, but last year they could be purchased for two session times and for the following prices:

Tickets are $21.95 Adult, $16.95 Child (4-15 years) & Concession. Children under 4 years of age are free.

7. Visit a Vivid Information Booth and get an ID wristband for children:
Wristbands are available at Darling Harbour, Customs House & West Circular Quay. Add your contact number and put them on your children’s wrists to make it easy to be reunited should you be separated at any time. Be sure to keep an eye out for Vivid Sydney’s friendly army of volunteers in their bright pink jackets and point them out to the older kids too, they can answer any questions or point you in the right direction.

8. On ground transport:
There are inevitably going to be A LOT of people. If you have really small ones who are willing, wear them in your ErgoBaby, Baby Bjorn or sling. Pram’s are hard, no matter how great the access is.

9. Pack water and snacks:
Incase it’s too hard to stop to buy something. Always best to be prepared and it’s a cost-saver too.

10. Dress warm:
Ok so if you are from the northern hemisphere you might think us Sydney-siders over react to the cold and you can disregard this comment. But it does get cold and little ones feel cold differently to us, so think about scarves and beenies for yourself and your babies as well as layers that can go on or come off easily.

11. Wear your PJ’s:
Ok so not you, as in mummy and daddy, but definitely do bath time and dress your kids in their pyjamas before you leave the house. No one will care, or probably even notice, and they will be so tired by the time you get home that they can just go straight to sleep afterwards.

12. Visit prepared:
Planning your visit beforehand is simple with precinct and accessibility maps, transport options and activities available at or through the festival smartphone app.

taronga zoo Vivid Sydney with kids


Laura Ruston

Mum to Harvey. Wife to Dave. Founder of Out & About Baby. Art lover, design obsessed, lipstick hoarder.