ellaslist Got A Sneak Peak of the Royal Botanic Garden's Spectacular Display for Vivid 2017

  • All Ages

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By: explorer team, ellaslist

We were welcomed by Sandra Chipchase, CEO of Destination NSW, who reminded us just how big Vivid is now – 2.3 million people visited 700 precincts across Sydney during Vivid in 2016!

As we were reminded by CP/RBGS CEO Kim Ellis in his welcome, as an Aboriginal landmark, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney has been the site of celebration, culture, and food for over ten thousand years, so it seems fitting that it’s now one of the ‘jewels in the crown’ of the Vivid festival.

2017 is the second year of RBGS’s participation in Vivid, and only the second time in history the gates have been open for public access at night. With an expanded program of installations, the Garden is gearing up for more than 500,000 visitors over the next fortnight.

ellaslist was lucky enough to take a sneak peak. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Enter via the gates near the Sydney Opera House forecourt, where you will be greeted by what was my personal highlight of the route, the LED The Sunflowers, which are lined up in a row facing the harbour. They are solar powered and gradually turn eastwards during the night. Utterly gorgeous to admire! 


  • The whole harbour stonewall around the gardens is lit up with fairy lights – it's visually stunning and spectacular. 
  • As you weave your way around the harbour path you are drawn to the pop-up dining precinct called the Enchanted Bar and Eatery complete with tree stump stools in abundance, and also a massive timber deck furnished with bean bags and fairy lights. They boast a specially crafted menu from the team at nel restaurant, we sampled the pork hotdog and the chicken and porcini croquettes which even my mushroom-hating children loved them! There's also a bar, so the #VIVIDGARDEN truly is the place to be! If you need a toilet break this would be the place to do it.



  • After refuelling, we continued along the route, and next up was the ‘Big Red Button’ where visitors are encouraged to press the button which triggers some ‘explosion’ audio and an accompanying light spectacular on a nearby tree. This was my son's favourite.
  • A little further along was The Birds of Lumos, a mesmerising kiwi bird and her chick, their bulbous little bodies resembling light bulbs.


  • Trees slung with a dozen or so illuminated cocoons on the hill was reminiscent of the 80s flick Cocoon, brilliantly eerie!


  • Next, we came across The Dipping Birds in the little pond, who were slowly, slowly dipping up and down like those twee little vintage toys,  beyond which were some intricate projections on a giant tree but which wasn’t open last night so we couldn’t get close – one of them was a giant caterpillar wriggling up one of the boughs… very clever.


  • As you wind your way up the hill there’s a forecourt called Reflections consisting of 3 x huge mirrored installations of words where the words are divided down the middle and the other half is reflected in the mirror.


  • Some gorgeous illuminations onto another tree on the hill here but the kids were punishing me by this stage so we were already ‘rushing’
  • The final installation was the You Lookin' At Me?– a series of illuminated domes eyeballs containing scarily life-like iris and veins that follow you around as you go past.


  • By this time you are approaching the illuminated pink arches called Immersion which signify the end of the route….


We exited at the Conservatorium (Macquarie Street gates) and then we simply walked back down Macquarie Street to the car which we’d parked at Sydney Opera House. Otherwise, you can make your way back down the route in the Garden to the Opera House, although beware, the crowds will be big.

Jude's Highlights

  • I thought it was great. The lights were all different colours. There were staff everywhere to help you when you needed it.
  • My favourite installation was The Big Red Button
  • My least favourite was the hanging cocoons as they weren’t moving or changing


Layla's Highlights

  • It was great, was really interactive, with lots of movement
  • Thought the accessibility- the route was made really clear with the fenced off pathways
  • I loved the food, especially the ‘soil’ underneath the croquette


Top Tips

  • Wear comfortable shoes as you cover quite a lot of ground over the route, which is a slow uphill gradient from the Opera House up to the Conservatorium.
  • If you are driving you get huge discounts online by pre-booking parking in SOH carpark 
  • If you have runaway toddlers, while the route through the park is fenced, don’t forget it gets dark very quickly at this time of year. Keep them close.
  • RBGS is pram friendly.
  • Go as early as possible - before dark – and pack a picnic dinner for the kids.








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