ellaslist gets 'Santa-fied' at Santa Fest, Darling Harbour 2015

  • Family

By: Lisa Wolff, ellaslist

There is something about visiting Darling Harbour that makes me feel like I’m on holiday. There’s an excitable buzz in the air and there is always something fun happening nearby. It’s one of those places that you could go every weekend and you would never run out of things to do. I especially love Darling Harbour during the run-up to Christmas, when Santa Fest comes to town. So we took our mini-troop to join in the festive fun and let me tell you, it was a gigantosaurus success (for both kids and grown-ups). Whatever you do these holidays, make sure you include Darling Harbour’s Santa Fest in your list. Here’s why…

1. Santa…Santa…Santa

Inflatable santas
I reckon Darling Harbour has the coolest Santa’s in Sydney. Don’t miss the jovial Santa’s in inflatable signature Santa suits. These marshmallow Santa’s pick a spot around Darling Harbour, set up their boom box and entertain the crowd with their hip-hop meets Christmas carols mix. It’s the biggest laugh and the kids loved joining in with a dance. After the show, the balloon Santa’s go around giving the kids High-five’s and posing for selfies. Don’t leave without staking out these Santa’s!

These bulgy Santa’s are part of Santa’s Crew, which also features the giant singing and dancing Candy Canes (which are so much fun too!).
Santa’s Crew Roam around Darling Harbour at the following times:
Thursday: 7pm – 9pm
Saturday: 3.30 – 5.45pm
Sunday: 3.30pm – 5.45pm and 7pm – 9pm

Crate Santa
Most Kids adore Santa…even if they may be petrified of him at first. So many photos with Santa end in tears (both mums and kids). So take the stress out of the Santa snap and take your family photo with Crate Santa instead. You’ll find this giant sculpture in the centre of Darling Quarter – you certainly can’t miss out. The kids didn’t have to be coaxed for a second to pose in front of this unusual Santa. All smiles, for a change.

And here’s a tip – you can even get your photo printed for FREE! Near the Santa Maze (at Palm Grove) there’s a snap ‘n print station where friendly Santa Fest elves will print out your photo for free. (all you need to do upload your photo to a public Instagram account, include #DarlingHarbour #SantaFest and select Darling Harbour, Sydney as your location.)

Hidden Santas
There are a handful of fun Santas hidden throughout Darling Harbour. The kids had so much fun spotting them all. Find the upside down santa, the giant inflatable one, the one climbing the roof and many more…. Little tip, you get the best vantage point for Spot the Santa game from the Star of the Show Ferris Wheel.

2. Mini-thrills

Santa Express
Darling Harbour offers some grown-up adrenaline activities (like jet boating and 9D cinema) but there are also mini-thrills for the little ones. Our kids couldn’t get enough of Santa Express, the junior train, choo-chooing around Palm Grove. The train follows a circular track so it’s the perfect level of excitement for toddlers.
$5 per ride, Suitable for ages 13 and under

Star of the show
The Star of the Show Ferris Wheel at Harbourside, gives you the best view of all the Santa action. It’s a great family activity and the perfect chance to take a breather and just enjoy the scenery. The kids were pretty excited about being top of the world in a glass chamber. Dad was a little nervous about the heights. Mum was just glad to have her brood in one spot for a few minutes.
$8 per ticket ; $30 for four tickets ; Each ride lasts 10 minutes

3. Get Lost

Santa Maze
Our kids had a ball whizzing around Santa’s Maze, resplendent in candy cane red and white. The older kids were rushing through the life-size puzzle with glee, while we strained to keep hold of our energetic trio as they explored the different routes. There are some fun surprises along the way and a really cute photo opportunity where kids can sanctify themselves on the Ho Ho Ho wall.

4. Stories and Movies

Story-telling at Monkey Baa
For a bit of chill-time, take a break at the story time sessions at Monkey Baa theatre in the very centre of Darling Quarter. The theatre foyer was an air-conditioned haven from the buzzy outside and the kids plopped down on the colourful cushions and enjoyed a book.
Saturday and Sunday – 1pm, 2pm and 3pm (30-minute sessions)

Santa Fest Open Air Cinema
We ended our visit to Santa Fest with a movie. The kids had never been to an open-air cinema before so this was a real treat! The Santa Fest Open Air Cinema screens a fun and festive line-up of Santa movies for FREE! The movies are family-friendly and start at 6:30pm. The cinema is situated at the Village Green at Darling Quarter. Remember to bring a picnic blanket or low chairs to sit on.

5. After-Dark Activities

If you’re visiting with older kids, who don’t need to be in bed early, then stay out a bit later and enjoy the after-dark entertainment.

There’s Merry Music Mix – Listen to the brightest stars of music perform free, in Christmas-inspired shows at Palm Grove, Friday and Saturday nights from 7pm. From indie to gospel, symphonic to soul, the whole family will be singing along.

End off a magical night at Santa Fest with a free, spectacular fireworks show over Cockle Bay every Saturday night and Christmas Eve, from 9pm. In the spirit of Christmas, these fireworks are specially-themed and set to a festive soundtrack.

6. WIN

There are a number of special Santa Fest post boxes dotted around Darling Harbour. Make sure you Pick up a Santa Fest Kids’ Competition card (which you’ll find at a marked postbox or you can download and print here), complete the maze on the back and post it in one of the Santa post boxes and you could be the lucky winner of a major prize during Santa Fest!

You’ll find a Santa post box at these spots:


  • Harbourside food court, next to the Christmas tree
  • Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre foyer
  • SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium foyer
  • Australian National Maritime Museum entrance
  • Cockle Bay Wharf Town Square next to Lindt Cafe

What You Need to Know About Santa Fest

When: Runs until Thursday 24 December 2015, 10am to 10pm
Where: Darling Harbour
Cost: Free (small fee for Santa Express and Star of the Show)