Lights on: Everything to see, do, and eat at Vivid Sydney this year

Every year in May, Vivid Sydney paints a rainbow of light, colour, and creativity across the harbour city. Here's your guide to the highlights of the 2018 festival.

Now in its tenth brilliant and colourful year, Vivid is undoubtedly one of the biggest events on Australia’s cultural calendar.

Already a bejeweled spectacle by night or day, each May since 2009 Sydney’s sparkling harbour has become a rainbow of colour as the Bridge, Opera House, museums, and surrounding skyscrapers are torched with patterned projections and neon light.

While it began as a sort of light show and sculpture walk—a modern, harbourside version of the centuries-old French Fête des lumières in Lyon—over the last few years, Vivid has drawn in creativity in all its forms as part of a huge 26-day program. There's now an exciting roster of music and light art, as well as presentations and talks designed to inspire and encourage creative ideas and thinking.   

From May 25 to June 16 this year, the festival will be splashed across Sydney Harbour and the Opera House, but  Vivid's colourful spirit doesn't stop there. There are about 300 events and happenings set in and around the city's great venues, restaurants, and bars. 

Here's our guide to what not to miss at Vivid Sydney 2018. 

All of the (high)lights

There are almost 100 light sculptures and spectacular projections featured in this year's festival. Customs House at Circular Quay will feature a special May Gibbs Snugglepot and Cuddlepie tribute, in honour of the iconic Australian book's 100-year anniversary. 

The Opera House sails will feature kinetic digital sculptures by award-winning Australian artist Jonathan Zawada. Titled Metamathemagical, it's inspired by the elemental Australian environment. 

An installation inspired by lighthouses in the Royal Botanic Garden

As well as Instagram opportunities aplenty dotted along the Quay and in the Royal Botanic Garden (a Cupcake ATM, for example), it'll be pretty impossible to miss lighting designer and artist Iain Reed's Skylark. For a Vivid Sydney first, the installation incorporates a new, fully interactive custom-built laser, double the strength of any laser ever seen before on Sydney Harbour. 

Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II will be projected onto the roof of the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour. 

In Barangaroo, a giant luminescent creature called Marri Dyin will wander the streets, guided by a team of performers. The name means 'Great Woman' in the indigenous Eora language. 

On the other side of the harbour, Taronga Zoo has joined in on the fun with a special animal-themed sculpture walk called Lights for the Wild, and the Luna Park Ferris Wheel will be reimagined as a giant dream catcher illuminated by over 3,000 LED bulbs.

Further afield—Chatswood is a Vivid Sydney precinct of its own, with a family-friendly celebration of light, planets, outer space, and the cosmos lit up every evening from 5.30pm. 

Be illuminated by these ideas and events

Once you've witnessed Vivid's bright lights, there's plenty more happening in Sydney to keep the inspiration and awe running high. Vivid’s expansive and eclectic music program features intimate performances from the Alaska Orchestra and Neil Finn, as well as big shows by great songstresses Cat Power, St. Vincent, and Solange.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet, there will be a nostalgic 90s-style masquerade ball at The Enmore Theatre in Newtown, featuring the original choir boy from the film (who sung those heart wrenching covers of 'Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)' and 'When Doves Cry').

On Vivid’s Ideas program, art and science will collide when NASA visual strategist and Museum of Awe director Dan Goods joins ABC’s Bernie Hobbs for a special discussion on creating meaningful experiences, and the power in creative science communication. 

Dine and drink in the light

As for what’s to eat and drink when you’ve been thoroughly inspired and worked up an appetite, Chatswood’s Light Market will feature a diverse mix of delicious food (think Mary’s Burgers, Black Star Pastry, and Cow and the Moon's award-winning gelato).

Rainbow sliders at Untied

Barangaroo’s smorgasbord of incredible new restaurants will feature Vivid-themed cocktails and snacks. On Saturdays and Sundays there’ll be glow-in-the-dark fairy floss at Banksii, rainbow sliders and a Dame Edna Ink Gin lychee martini at Untied, and a colourful ‘Garden of Sweet Delights’ dessert at 12-micron. Love.fish will be keeping things toasty with a flaming hot toddy, made with old river rum, orange jam, and winter spices. 

Dame Edna lychee martini

For drinks with a view, the Museum of Contemporary Art has a rooftop Bombay Sapphire Gin pop up bar with prime views across to the Opera House, and O Bar and Dining will be pouring fluorescent cocktails from servers wearing glow-in-the-dark shoes. 

Hosted by food and philosophy collective, Hard Things to Talk About, two immersive 'enlightenment' dinners will take place during the festival at The Calyx in the Royal Botanic Garden. As you wine and dine, you'll be able to converse with a neural and systems complexity specialist, a philosopher and writer, a memory specialist, and aforementioned NASA creative, Dan Goods. 

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