Vivid with Kids: The Essential Guide 2024

If you are starting to plan a visit to Vivid with kids, this post is for you. It is long, so grab a cuppa and ask the kids to give you a bit of peace and quiet. Grab a biccy and off we go.

Picture this: a kaleidoscope of lights and colours illuminating the night sky, accompanied by the sound of music and laughter. It’s Vivid Festival time again! But with kids, the picture becomes a little different. Vivid Festival with kids is like trying to control a pack of sugar-fueled puppies through a sea of people and neon lights.

Vivid Sydney 2024 Dates: 24th May – 15th June

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Ephemeral Oceanic at Walsh Bay – one of the highlights of 2022’s Vivid Festival

Vivid with kids… it’s not easy!

With light shows, music and a festival of ideas running over four weeks…… where to start? Well, this article looks mainly at the light shows as these are the hardest to manage with children. The other shows are similar to any other performance or talk you may attend. But the light exhibits are very different.

So, how can we make Vivid kid-friendly?

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Vivid Family Cruises

A Vivid family cruise is the safest and easiest way to enjoy this amazing Sydney light festival. There are dozens of Vivid Cruises to choose from at many different price points. You can even go mad and charter a boat for your family. You can charter a boat for six people for an hour for less than $100 per person, click here to read more about private charters.

A very popular with families is a Tall Ship Vivid Dinner Cruise. Priced from $89 per person, and lasting for 1.5 hour, these are ideal for families with children older than three years as you have the thrill of the tall ship and sails, as well as the magic of the lights. Book your Tall Ship Cruise here.

For younger children, a 1-hour cruise leaving at 6pm might work best. Older children will enjoy a 2-hour cruise with standing buffet.

A cheap and cheerful option is this 1.5 hour cruise at only $49 per person which includes light refreshments, and you can BYO drinks with no corkage.

Click the widget below to see all the best options for a Vivid cruise with kids on Sydney Harbour.

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The Opera House looking magnificent during Vivid

Vivid Lights Sydney – What Can Go Wrong?

Now, I have to admit that I’ve had some not-so-great experiences of the Vivid with my younger children. I was going to call this post ‘Surviving Vivid With Kids’ then told myself to get a grip and be positive.

Having lived and learned from my rookie mistakes, I’m hoping this post will help other parents avoid them.  I enlisted the support of my lovely Facebook page followers and have lots of advice from them too.

First of all… let’s look at the problems.

For me, it’s being stuck in crowds and feeling hemmed in and, at worst, in danger of being crushed. That’s just scary.

PaulaHonestly the area around Circular Quay is a nightmare every year but particularly in the last week.

Belinda: Don’t drive at all. A couple of years ago we stayed in the city overnight, but my sister’s family drove and they got stuck in traffic trying to leave. Took them three hours to get home

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Vivid kids having a ball, keeping away from huge crowds!

Emma: I went last year with a siz year old and a three year old. The best advice I can give is – don’t go early in the early days and take food with you or eat before you go. It was like New Years Eve without the booze. It was totally CRAZY!!  We couldn’t get our stroller out of the train station.

Make sure you eat dinner before you go because the only cafes open are at Circular Quay and you won’t even get in the door. That or you pay premium at Martin Place at a five star restaurant in the Post Office building. The only budget options open at night time were Mc Donalds and Hungry Jacks and the lines were out the door.

There were people sitting in the gutters eating as there was no seating in the street. There was garbage everywhere and it was like we were having a food shortage and the only place open was Macca’s!!!!  It was quite distressing for the kids.

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Gorilla light sculptures at Taronga Zoo

Wild Lights at Taronga Zoo

Wild Lights at Taronga Zoo in Mosman. This is a very special light show which kids will love. Their favourite zoo animals are created in massive light sculptures. This is a ticketed event, with prices from $22.50. There are two sessions each evening: 5.30-7.30pm, and 7.30-9.30pm.

Click here to buy tickets for Wild Lights at Taronga Zoo.

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Crocodile at the Zoo, thanks Marianne for this cool photo

Best Family-Friendly Light Shows Vivid 2023

Get ready for an unforgettable adventure as Vivid Light transforms the city of Sydney into a magical wonderland with its awe-inspiring art installations and 3D light projections. But where should families start?

With 57 light attractions on display, including 26 international works and the festival’s largest installation yet – ‘The Last Ocean’ by the talented American artist Jen Lewin, you’ll be transported into a world of mesmerising lights and colours.

The MyVivid app is a terrific resource, you can download it and then check the maps and info and plan where you will visit.

Families with older children might like to attempt the full 8.5km Light Walk, covering iconic locations like Circular Quay, The Rocks, Barangaroo, and Central Station. This is also something that can be broken into sections. Check the map on the app.

  • The Lighting of the Opera House Sails at 6pm is something not to be missed. This year the artworks of the late artist John Olsen are being projected onto the Opera House.
  • Vivid Kids at Cadmans Cottage in the Rocks is a fantastic light installation by children aged 7 – 14 years with the theme being ‘endangered species.’
  • Vivid Kids at Tumbalong, Darling Harbour is a free concert series on every Saturday evening of Vivid from 5pm. Check out the program here.
  • Murmuration along the Goods Line Walk in Ultimo is a celebration of the swooping movement of starlings, created in light.

Head over to the Vivid website to check out all the exciting details and plan your adventure now on the MyVivid app.

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Vivid For Kids: Best Times To Visit 

Go early in the week

Especially if you need to take a stroller or a wheelchair, Monday Tuesday and Wednesday are your best friends.  Avoid Friday and Saturday like the plague.

Go early in the day

The sun sets before 5pm in Sydney at the moment.  Most of the Vivid lights come on at 6pm however at Taronga Zoo they start at 5.30pm. So pack up the kids and get onto public transport in the afternoon and be there for the moment the lights pop on. Avoid the queues!

Grab an umbrella and go in the rain

The twins and I once hopped on a ferry and went to see the Vivid lights on an evening of pelting rain. I was really worried that the umbrellas would be a liability but in fact we were fine as there were few brave souls out. But the lights looked amazing, reflected in the wet pavements, all glistening and glorious.

Go and go again

There are so many different installations and venues that it’s madness to try to pack too much in.  Better to go a couple of times. The transport costs might add up but the lights are free, after all.

Little and often is my motto… for Vivid… for chocolate and … for other things too.

Vivid Sydney 2015, Mirador, The University of Sydney. 25/5/2015. Photo Credit - James Horan/Destination NSW
Vivid Sydney Photo Credit – James Horan/Destination NSW

Planning Tips For Vivid For Kids 

Plan where to eat and drink

There are some great food trucks around but you can’t always rely on being able to buy food.  We would have died of starvation waiting in the long queues last year.  As ever with kids, take snacks and drinks!

Take Public Transport

Always the best way to do it and there are lots of extra buses, trains and ferries on offer.  The Tripview app is your best friend.

Or Walk Over The Bridge To The City

Last year my wee girl and I joined some friends who were dropped off at Milsons Point. We walked over the Bridge which was just magical in itself. Then we walked down to the Rocks. We came unstuck there as it was SO busy and crowded, we didn’t stay long really before walking back. That was tiring for Ms9-at-the-time but the views from up there were fabulous.

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Tips From Other Families

Four Pairs of Itchy Feet: Concentrate on one area. VIVID is massive but is in pockets across the city. Check days that specific events are on, just in case.

If travelling in by car, book a car space early near the areas you want to see so the kids are not walking to much. Every night is busy. Family friendly times are early. I recommend going on a Tuesday or Wednesday night.  

Yes, we hate crowds. Its a massive night and the kids love it however. They usually have a day off school to recuperate.

Emma:  Go after 9pm after some of the crowds have dispersed. It is much more civilized then. We will make sure we arrive after 9pm this year. It’s kind of the opposite thing to do when you have young kids but it will be better for our sanity this year!!

Belinda: If you can use a backpack or pouch for little ones it is much better. Strollers are a nightmare. Don’t leave it till the last weekend, as everyone rushes in that weekend (especially if a couple of weekends have been rainy).

Oh and we have booked a table at a Chinese restaurant for dinner the night we are going this year. There are plenty of places to eat up towards Town Hall/Chinatown. We just eat up there, then head to the light after.

Jane: If you have the funds, perhaps buy a ticket to the Zoo. I would imagine numbers will be limited (slightly)

Paula – Sydney Expert: I would suggest taking the glass elevator up to the Cahill expressway and viewing the MCA from there. Great view and usually almost no people. The road is fenced so that helps too.

Also the viewing platform from the Overseas Passenger Terminal (there is a lift by Quay restaurant) is a good spot to watch the Opera House from. You can also go around to Walsh Bay – there were not many people around there and the western side of the bridge looked great reflected into the harbour.

Shabnam:  I don’t recommend coming early,as 6pm lights turn on.  That is the time where all the big herd of crowds come in.  I recommend coming next week Mon-Wednesday, these usually are the quieter nights.

The time I recommend is around 8-10pm,because if your are in the city around 5-7pm,there will be far too many people.

Wear very warm clothing as it is extremely cold & windy in the city.  The Botanic Gardens, SOH & Circular Quay are good areas to see all the light displays..Martin Place & Darling Harbour should be done on another night, as too much walking might tire the kiddies.

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Circular Quay seen from the Cahill Expressway Walkway – great views
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Vivid Ideas + Vivid Food + Vivid Music

As well as the lights, there’s music and action and food at the Vivid Festival.  Each of these parts of Vivid have sessions for children and you don’t need any extra advice for these as they are exactly the same as taking a child to any other show or event… which Vivid Light certainly is not.

Get to know the entire festival program at the website here And do check out the myVivid app.

Do think about a Vivid cruise, these are honestly some of the easiest ways to enjoy the lights!

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A Vivid Sydney cruise sailing past the Sydney Opera House.

Last Idea: Vivid Bridgeclimb

But that’s not all! For those who want to take their Vivid experience to new heights, book a spot on the Vivid Sydney Climb and watch the Lights On moment from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is a pricey option, of course, but a fabulous way to celebrate a special event or to thrill a teenager.

Check out the Bridgeclimb Vivid experiences here.

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Last word: write your phone number on your child’s hand or wrist… just in case.  You can explain to your child that, if they get lost, they can talk to any of the Vivid volunteers, easily found as they wear bright pink shirts.

But here’s hoping you never lose your child – too scary.

Right, we’re all set.

What about you, will you take the kids to Vivid?

Might you treat yourself and do an adults-only trip too?

Happy planning – where’s that app?

Hope that you have found this Vivid with kids guide helpful!

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Crowds along East Circular Quay enjoying Vivid Sydney.

Image credits: Vivid Sydney kindly provided several images, others (the not-so-good-ones) were taken by me over the years.

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Vivid cruise boat sailing in Sydney Harbour.
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Crowds enjoying the Vivid Sydney festival along the Sydney Harbour foreshore... I have been in big crowds like this with kids… not fun!!

This post contains some affiliate links. If you make a booking using these links, Hello Sydney Kids receives a small commission, at no cost to you. This helps support this blog. Disclosure policy is here.

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  1. says: Rebecca (Little Munch)

    Oops – we are going in this Saturday night right at peak time! Oh well. Actually we are going on a Vivid Cruise on a tall ship (cheap tix via Cudo), which includes dinner, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Actually that sounds like a good way to do it in fact. What a cool plan. So long as you can get to the ship OK. Do pop back and say how it went and link a post if you are writing one. I’d love to do a boat trip as long as it left from the North Shore – Manly ferry maybe?

      Good luck!

  2. says: B ford

    Chech trip planner. We had trouble getting in on the ferry as the northern train line had track work and the ferries home stopped about 9.30 from memory. The transport was a nightmare, so crowded. Getting home they even handed out passes to get on the ferry even if you already had a ticket. One family missed two ferries because it was so chaotic they kept changing the side the ferry left from and they couldn’t get on. Not going this year.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      It’s scary to be down at the ferries with huge crowds, bad enough when just with adults but terrible with kids. I use the Tripview app a lot and find it helpful… but must say we will only be going on weekdays to the city.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      It’s great to start seeing photos appearing on facebook and Instagram, looking forward to seeing the lights in real life too.

  3. says: Meghan

    Planning a trip to Sydney and Cairns from overseas. I discovered it will be Vivid during our trip. I planned to be in Sydney June 9-18. Is that crazy with Vivid? I’m sure our 6 and 8 yo would love the lights cruise, but is it worth every night of the Sydney stay of our trip having crazy crowds? Am I being dramatic?

    1. says: Seana Smith

      The crowds are very busy at night but daytimes are normal. Where will you be staying – in the city??? That will be busy at night. If you are staying at Manly or Bondi then it will be normal there. And have you seen my new article about Cairns?

      I am working on a things to do with kids and with teens in Cairns and Port Douglas, will be up by Friday I hope but do ask any questions.

  4. says: Meghan Wallman

    Right now we’re booked in The Rocks. Seems like it will be in the middle of it all at night. Maybe we’ll head to Manly for the weekend.

    I’ve been reading through your posts and appreciate your thoughts on travel with kids. I’ll keep an eye out for your new one. Appreciate any recommendations. In Cairns we’re booked at Trinity Beach, but I’ll take a look at your recs too. We prefer to have a kitchen.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Manly for the weekend sounds divine. There are a few articles on the joys of Manly and where to stay for you to read here on Hello Sydney Kids.

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