Vivid Sydney Festival 2024: A Quick Guide

Vivid Sydney, the iconic festival of light, music and ideas, where artworks turn the city into a magical wonderland, is one of our most popular events. After attending all but one Vivid Festival since they began in 2009, I have put together my tips for surviving the crowds and getting the best views of the amazing light installations of one of the most popular festivals in Australia. 

Stroll the light works, see the show from a harbour cruise and check out some of the music, food and ideas events. This is a festival you don’t want to miss.

This post contains affiliate links. Our full disclosure policy is here.

The Vivid Sydney Festival will run from Friday 24th May to Saturday 15th June 2024

Vivid has evolved into one of Sydney’s most popular events, second only to the city’s NYE celebrations. It’s easy to see why, with something for everyone from families to art lovers and creators of all types.

The theme this year is Humanity.

“Humanity is at the core of everything we do, and this year Vivid Sydney is diving deep into what makes us uniquely human,” 

Vivid Sydney Festival Director Gill Minervini

In 2024, Vivid Lights will again offer a mix of free and paid events. There is a stronger focus on accessibility, making it easier for everyone to get involved.

The Light Walk is back, with a trail that goes from Central Station to Sydney Tower via Barangaroo and Walsh Bay. Along the way, enjoy 18 unique installations, 10 projections, and 4 immersive experiences will transform the urban landscape.

Reg Mombassa’s work will feature on Customs House Credit: Vivid Sydney

Highlights of the lights program include:

  • Global Rainbow – beams of rainbow lasers – Sydney Tower (Free)
  • Gumscape with Road and Creatures – A trippy road trip by Reg Mombassa on Customs House (free)
  • Chairwave – Take a seat, meet a stranger, change your perspective. Barangaroo (free)
  • Lightscape returns to the Royal Botanic Gardens with brand new installations. (Paid)
  • Shifting Perspectives – Walsh Bay Arts Precinct (Paid)
  • Dark Spectrum: A New Journey – Wynyard tunnels
  • The Techno Train –  ride the train to an original techno soundtrack composed by Paul Mac
The Techno Train

Vivid Drone Show 2024 – Love is in the AIr

The very popular drone show returns in 2024. For three nights only, 700 drones will do their best to turn up the romance with their celebration “Love is in the air”

The drone show is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday 8-9 June and Saturday 15 June

If last year is anything to go by, these nights will be very crowded and not for the fainthearted. If you are dead set on enjoying the experience, I highly recommend that you book a cruise asap as these nights are going to sell out very quickly.

Powered by GetYourGuide

More than lights!

While almost everyone knows about the fabulous Vivid Lights, a lot less of us take advantage of the music, ideas and food events that run alongside the lights. Why not add a music or ideas experience to your Vivid hit list this year?

There are 69 music events and 18 Ideas sessions, with a number of free offerings to help balance the budget. There are also 20 official food events although restaurants and bars across the city run special Vivid dining experiences alongside the official program.

Check out our guide to the best Vivid eats and cocktails

Top Free things to see & do at Vivid 2024

While the festival is best known for its spectacular light show, it is worth checking out some of the program’s talks, films, and performances.

For the free music program, much of the action we be centred on Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour. Surrounded by light installations and fantastic food, this will be one of the festivals epicentres.

Highlights of the free Tumbalong Nights program in Darling Harbour include:

  • Club Broadway – guaranteed to make even the hardest heart smile.
  • Vivid Kids – from 5pm each Saturday will feature fun acts to get kids up and moving
  • K-Indie acts – Korean stars sunwoojunga and Silica Gel bring their jazz and pop styles
  • Sounds of Afrobeats – a celebration of African sound, dance and storytelling

The ideas program will include nightly free sessions at the MCA:

  • After The Fact, a nightly deep-dive into current affairs and the daily news cycle featuring a rotating panel of high-profile change-makers, analysts and experts, offering fresh perspectives on the world’s pressing issues.

Where are the best spots to see the Vivid Light show?

Vivid Light is the largest festival of light in the Southern Hemisphere, and while it’s hard to go past the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, adding to that this year is Sydney Tower.

Sydney Tower Global Rainbow from US artist Yvette Mattern
Global Rainbow from US artist Yvette Mattern

Then the trail spreads south and some of the best installations will be found in Barangaroo, Darling Harbour and around Central Station.

The key installation areas in 2024 are:

  • The Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens (ticketed)
  • Circular Quay and Customs House
  • The MCA and Cadman’s Cottage
  • Sydney Tower
  • The Rocks
  • Walsh Bay (part ticketed)
  • Barangaroo
  • King Street Wharf
  • Darling Harbour
  • Central Station & the Goods Line
  • Wynyard Station – (Ticketed)

Watermans Cove Barangaroo Credit: Destination NSW

Tips for Enjoying Vivid Sydney

The biggest challenge for enjoying Vivid is how well you manage with crowds. There is no getting around it. Vivid turns into a zoo on the most popular nights. But you can have a fun experience if you are prepared.

  • Try to visit on one of the first few days. The last weekend is pure hell.
  • If you have to go on the weekend, go later in the night and choose Sunday over Friday.
  • Avoid Saturday at Circular Quay unless you are getting on a boat! It’s usually mayhem.
  • If you can eat dinner and hit the lights at about 9 pm when most families have headed home, the lights stay on until 11 pm this year.
  • Don’t forget the areas outside the harbour – as the crowds grew, so did the locations, and there are now several areas outside the Quay to explore.
  • Don’t try to see too much in one night – you have three weeks, so a few visits are entirely feasible for locals. If time is limited, check the festival website for highlights and pick a few areas.
  • If you are attending with kids, consider heading to the Taronga Zoo sessions instead of the city.
  • If you hate crowds, consider a cruise – we have covered the ones we think are best below.
  • Do not bring your car to the harbour zone of Vivid. Road closures and crowds make it less than enjoyable. If you must, check out Gateway at Circular Quay, who offers great parking prices during the festival.

This bring your own drinks cruise is a good way to save some money

Powered by GetYourGuide

Choosing a Vivid Sydney Cruise

If crowds aren’t your thing or you have mobility challenges, then a Vivid cruise is a great way to see many of the lights in comfort. There are so many packages on offer, it’s hard to know which one to choose. 

Over the last decade, I have tried quite a few, and I think there are two key differences, the quality of the food and the route the boat travels.

I have added both types of cruises below so you can see all your options and decide what works best for you. Prices for Vivid Harbour cruises range from $25-$130+.

Our Pick for Vivid Sydney Cruises

Major companies offer the benefit of a known product and a reputation that they will not want to risk by providing a substandard experience. I have booked both premium and discount cruises in the past, and while the discount boats can be great, it is a bit hit and miss, so if you are on a one time visit to Sydney, I think it is worth paying a little more for one of the well-known products. 

Captain Cook Vivid Cruises – Best Dinner Cruise option

Captain Cook is the best-known and best quality cruise operator in Sydney. They offer a variety of Vivid Cruises.

All captain Cook cruises off access to an outdoor open deck which gives you a 360-degree Vivid Lights view.

Captain Cook Cruise
The Captain Cook boats look great with their Vivid Lighting.

Gold Vivid Dinner Cruise

The Gold Vivid Dinner Cruise offers a 6-course degustation dinner, along with Penfolds private bin and vintage wines. It will be an experience to remember because of the gold class personalized service and live music.

You can stay on board for 3 hours or hop off after 2.5 hours to explore the lights on foot and walk off your dinner!

Location: King St. Wharf No. 1
Date: 24 May to 15 June 2024, Friday – Sunday (some Wed-Thurs)
Book and get the cruise’s full details here.

Check availability

Powered by GetYourGuide

Starlight Vivid Dinner Cruise

The Starlight Vivid Dinner Cruise includes a premium upper-deck seating with up to 3 hours of relaxed cruising, along with a 4-course premium menu, which is perfect while enjoying the 360-degree harbour views and the full canvas of Vivid Lights from the water.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: 24 May – 15 June 2024, not available on Mondays and Tuesdays
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

Captain Cook’s MV Sydney 2000 Credit: Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney Dinner Cruise

Offering amazing value-for-money, Vivid Sydney Dinner Cruise will let you enjoy the one-of-a-kind backdrop of Vivid Sydney lights while enjoying a contemporary Australian 3-course dining and live entertainment.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: 24 May – 15 June 2024, Wed-Sun, 7pm
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

5pm Vivid Special Dinner

Experience 1.5 hours of relaxed cruising perfectly timed sunset while dining on a 2-course menu on this 5pm Vivid Special Dinner. Complete the experience by immersing yourself in Vivid’s new ‘Sydney Infinity’– the largest liquid and light show ever seen in Australian history.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: Wed-Sun & Mon 10 June 2024, 5pm
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

Sydney Vivid Tallship Cruise – Most unique option

If you have never boarded one of the two Sydney Harbour tall ships now is the perfect time. These ships are not just for tourists. I have been on several cruises and it’s a fun experience.

Vivid is even more special from the deck of a tall ship.

Your cruise includes:

  • 1.5-hour Sydney Harbour Tall Ship cruise past the Vivid sites
  • A tasty meal served on board
  • Drinks included (excluding premium beers)
Powered by GetYourGuide

Departure Location: Campbells Cove The Rocks
Date: Every day between 24 May to 10 June – 2 departures per night 6pm, 7:45pm
Price: $89 Get the cruise’s full details here.

Journey Beyond – 3 Course Fine Dining Vivid Dinner Cruise

Cruise the harbour during Sydney’s Vivid Lights Festival watching the sunset with its stunning pink glow over Sydney Harbour while indulging in a three hour, luxurious and intimate 3-course dinner cruise.

Your dining experience is a regionally focussed menu highlighting the multicultural influences that make Sydney cuisine so special by using an array of fresh and high quality NSW ingredients.

Your cruise includes:

  • Free cocktail on arrival
  • Luxurious and intimate 3-course dinner cruise
  • A selection of beers, wines, soft drinks and tea or coffee hand selected by sommeliers from some of the finest wine regions in NSW
  • Wheelchair and Stroller accessible
Fine dining on Journey Beyond

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the cruise’s full details here.

Budget Vivid Cruises

Sea Sydney Harbour – Catamaran Cruise with Canapes and Drink

Experience the Vivid Sydney Festival from a prime location on a boat cruising Sydney Harbour. See the spectacular sights and enjoy the picturesque views of Sydney’s cityscape and landmarks from an intimate catamaran with roaming canapes.

Your cruise includes:

  • A 1.5 hour cruise with an experienced skipper and deckhand/host
  • A selection of canapes
  • One complimentary beverage per person (beer, wine, soft drink, or juice) and the option to purchase more drinks onboard

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the cruise’s full details and book here.

Powered by GetYourGuide

Sea Sydney Harbour – Vivid Sydney Small Group Catamaran Cruise

Experience the Vivid Sydney lights from a prime location on a boat cruising Sydney Harbour. See Sydney and the harbour’s famous landmarks lit up with colour from a luxury motor catamaran, with maximum passenger numbers of 20. Indoor and outdoor viewing areas on a small vessel.

  • A 1.5 hour cruise with an experienced skipper and deckhand/host
  • Light refreshments, including an Italian-inspired antipasto spread with bread rolls
  • One complimentary beverage per person (beer, wine, soft drink, or juice)

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 24 May to 14 Jun 2024, Thursday to Sunday.
Get the cruise’s full details here.

Choose a Unique Vivid Sydney Experience

Vivid Lights Secret Bar Crawl

Visit 3 of Sydney’s best secret & small bars while exploring the Vivid Lights artworks! This 3 hour Vivid bar tour is a great option for solo travellers. Your guide will showcase some of the best light installations, while weaving in stories of the area and insider knowledge of Sydney’s nightlife.

Over three hours, you’ll visit three bars including some well-hidden ones, with one drink included.

Vivid Bar Tour was loads of fun
I was a guest on this tour last year and had a great time

This is a great way to have a fun & unique night out during Vivid while discovering some amazing hidden bars.

On Tuesday nights during Vivid, the route will cover the Central and Darling Square area, while on Thursday nights you’ll explore Circular Quay and the Rocks.

Book this tour or find out more

Getting the Best Photos at Vivid Sydney

  • Go on Sunday – Monday and be prepared to stay all night.
  • Get up above the lights if you can – Cahill Walk, The Observation Deck at the Overseas Passenger’s terminal, are good choices. I have heard they may close this area to the public for security concerns, but I see lots of photos taken from this spot, so perhaps ask when you arrive. The footpath on the Harbour Bridge offers excellent vantage points.
  • If you are a keen photographer or someone who wants to learn more, look out for some of the photos walks – they usually have the best locations sorted and will give you useful tips. I did one with Canon a few years ago that was excellent.
  • Take a tripod and a manual camera.
  • Share your photos using the official hashtag #vividsydney
  • There are some significant technical tips here
West side Sydney Harbour Bridge Vivid
The Bridge from the western side at Vivid 2017

Vivid Photography Tour

A professional photographer leads this 3-hour walking tour from the National College of Photography, leading you to the best spots to shoot the Vivid installations. You will also get lots of tips to help you create the best photos in night conditions.

Vivid Sydney
One of my favourite Vivid shots from my Canon Vivid class

The tour is designed to visit the spots at the best times, so you can navigate the crowds and get amazing photos to take home. I did this tour two years ago and learned so much!

Departure Location: Harrington Street The Rocks
Date: 29 & 31 May & 1, 3, 5, 7-8, 10, & 14-15 Jun
Get the full details here.

Vivid Helicopter Flight over Sydney Harbour

If you’re looking to experience Vivid in style, why not choose this 25-minute scenic flight over Sydney Harbour at night for views of Vivid at every angle? For a unique experience, see Sydney after dark from above and be dazzled by the illuminated skyline aboard the exclusive twin engine Euro copter EC135 helicopter.

Vivid Chopper Flight
Vivid Chopper Flight Credit: Klook

This flight includes a photo opportunity with the pilot and aircraft, plus commentary with BOSE voice-activated headsets for the best experience possible.

Departure Location: 472 Ross Smith Ave, Mascot
Date: Mon to Sun
Get the full details here.

Vivid Accommodation

If you plan to visit Sydney for the Vivid Festival and want to book accommodation, it’s good to get in early if you can. A lot of the budget hotels are booked out by large tour groups. We have a list of our favourite budget hotels that we would be happy to stay at, so check there if you are having trouble.

Hotels with a view of the Harbour are a good option if you want to view the lights from above.

If it’s your first visit to the city, you might like to read our article on choosing the best part of town to stay in depending on your travel style.

If you are bringing the kids, we have also listed our favourite hotels for families.

Feature image credit: Destination NSW

Have questions about things to see and do in Sydney?
Head over and join our Facebook Group and we will be happy to help

12 thoughts on “Vivid Sydney Festival 2024: A Quick Guide”

  1. Wow! What a wonderful way to make a fabulous place even more interesting! Would love to see this festival! Sydney is high on the bucket list.

  2. These cities always look amazing when they light up great building with their colorful lights. Sydney is no exception and looks fantastic with its iconic major sites looking all pretty

  3. I’ve never been to Vivid, but it looks like an amazing event! I attended NYE in Sydney a couple of years ago and really did not enjoy the crowds – so your tips for avoiding them would come in really handy at this festival. But most of all, I think the 75-minute cruise would be perfect for me – limited people and great views – what more could you want?!

  4. This looks like such a fun festival. I love that the zoo is getting involved. I’m not great with large crowds so would definitely consider the cruise 🙂

  5. I think if you were trying to stay away from the crowds the Zoo would be a good option. Because it’s ticketed it will most definitely attract fewer people.

  6. This looks so nice. I have been to Sydney twice (though my last visit has been a while) but never heard of the festival before. Hope, to see it on my next trip (though I hope I visit OZ in summer)

  7. Vivid Sydney is one of our most favourite times of the year! Not only because it’s such an amazing time to get out and fall in love with the city all over again, but we also get to host amazing events for our clients at this time of year to the backdrop of the incredible light installations. Roll on Vivid 2019!

  8. Anybody into photography and wants to explore Vivid Sydney, 2020? Lets set dates and I’ll be there.

Leave a comment