While the 10th Vivid Sydney festival is bigger, better, and brighter than ever before, it runs the risk of being the victim of its own success. The opening weekend was so wildly popular that organisers are encouraging people to visit early in the week — when crowds will be down — rather than waiting until the last few days, as many are expected to do.

Paris has Nuit Blanche and Saint Petersburg has the White Nights, but the largest city lighting event anywhere in the world is Vivid Sydney. Extending beyond lighting the Opera House sails and other buildings across the city, the festival also includes a wide range of ideas events and musical performances.

Last year, Vivid Sydney 2017 attracted a record 2.33 million attendees and injected more than $143 million into the NSW economy. Indeed, Sydney restaurants and bars say that Vivid — not New Year’s Eve — is their busiest time of year.

Vivid 2018 runs for 23 nights from Friday, May 25 to Saturday, June 16. This year, as well as the city and surrounds, you’ll find installations and events in locations as diverse as Barangaroo, Chatswood, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Kings Cross, Luna Park, The Rocks, and Taronga Zoo.

The Royal Botanic Gardens has a much-expanded involvement this year in Midnight Sun, Impressions, Midnight Moon, Hyperweb, Aqueous, How Many Light Bulbs…?, and Light Houses, an installation by TAFE NSW students featuring a series of illuminated multi-shaped and coloured lighthouses on the lawns of the Gardens.

Vivid highlights
With almost 100 light events taking place across the city, we’ve selected some we deem “must-see”.

Of course, the sails of the Sydney Opera House remain the prime canvas between 6pm and 11pm each night. This year, Metamathemagical — a series of 23 kinetic designs inspired by the Australian environment — will be projected onto the sails. This is the work of award-winning designer, illustrator, and artist Jonathan Zawada.

“The Opera House is a completely unique piece of geometry so rather than simply thinking of it as a two-dimensional surface to project onto, I created Metamathemagical as a 3D work from the very start,” he said.

Customs House opposite Circular Quay lies at the heart of the action, and this year the projections on its classic façade take you on a journey through the Australian bush with Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

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The Harbour Bridge will be home to a variety of projections

Around Circular Quay, A Little Birdie Told Me places silhouettes of extinct and endangered birds in the trees — silent and invisible by day, but coming alive at night.

Skylark incorporates the interactive lighting of the Bridge and Circular Quay buildings — including 40 pillars of light above the Overseas Passenger Terminal and Bennelong Apartments — and, for the first time, a custom-built, full-colour laser called Bradfield’s Beacon. In a two-minute show every 30 minutes, six super powerful laser beams will traverse Sydney Harbour from the headlands to the inner harbour, resting on significant sites.

TAFE NSW students light up the colonial facade of Government House in Macquarie St with Photopic State, an homage to the country’s best contemporary artists and modern designers.

Closer at the Museum of Sydney is an installation of 30 interconnected translucent cubes that visitors can enter as a maze, with shadowy silhouettes seen through walls to give a sense of disorientation and isolation.

Anyone visiting with kids should make sure to see The Garden of Sweeties, a playful garden of lollipops and candy canes, which uses solar panels and mechanical energy to bring awareness to the environment. At Cadman House, Ballpit lets you play in thousands of virtual, responsive, coloured balls. Eora – Dark Emu projects Bangarra dancers onto the South Pylon of the Bridge.

The Liminal Hour transforms Barangaroo's Wulugul Walk into a magical bushland each night of the festival. A giant luminescent creature operated by a team of performers prowls along the waterfront. Marri Dyin, meaning “great woman” in Eora, is a six-metre puppet who summons the elements as a contemporary concept rather than a traditional spirit.

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A variety of gorgeous installations light up the harbourside

From either Barangaroo or Darling Harbour, you’ll see Fantastic Oceans, an art-meets-technology water fountain, light and laser experience floating on Cockle Bay. The International Convention Centre is also illuminated, and Tumbalong Lights is on nearby.

At the Australian National Maritime Museum, images from Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II are projected onto the roof to take you under the seas.

Building on last year’s success, Taronga Zoo hosts Light for the Wild, a spectacular display of new and old light sculptures, themed around conservation and wildlife. There are three two-hour sessions each night, and while a ticket is required, purchases will help support Taronga’s work in conservation and wildlife care.

Chatswood is the setting for Future Scape, where projections of NASA imagery will be projected on the sails of The Concourse, as well as the Grand Stairs, Reflection Pool, and grassed area. You’ll travel past the planets including the rings of Saturn and find yourself at the heart of the Big Bang. This is just one of the suburb’s ten festival installations, including the fabulously named Crank Zappa, a “hot tempered electric jellyfish” crafted out of single-use plastic items who electrifies and animates in response to human touch.

Vivid Climb
If you are after a unique vantage point for Vivid, this may be the time to do an evening Bridge Climb and watch Sydney Harbour’s light installations come alive from on high. In fact, you’ll be part of the show, as climbers wear a flashing Vivid Climb vest, and get the chance to dance under the stars on an illuminated, multi-coloured, ’70s-style flashing dance floor.

Each tour is three and a half hours long, with a maximum of 14 people per group. If you are interested, read the important Pre-Climb Checklist and get a taste of last year’s Vivid Climb.

Vivid Sydney is a magical event from the colourful sails of the Opera House to the interactive installations. For the latest information, to see the whole program, and to plan your trip, visit Vivid Sydney.

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