They say there are two types of people at Christmas – those who love it and revel in all the sparkly gloriousness of the season – and those whose attitude is more Grinch-esque.
My family definitely falls into the former. I’ve always loved the spirit of Christmas – it’s the season of giving, and parties, and presents, and food…
But of course, most importantly, it’s a time for family.
We have family spread out all over Australia, and the world, so it’s meant that we haven’t always stayed locally for Christmas. But wherever we are, there’s something we always do – visit as many Christmas lights displays as we can.
It’s a tradition which began in my childhood, when we would spend one night of every weekend travelling to different locations in my hometown of Adelaide, finding lights. Each display was a way to celebrate that the Christmas season had arrived, and it never got old – it was always joyous and exciting. Lights, Christmas scenes, and fairy floss, all made for magic memories.
Which is why as an adult I’ve been determined to pass on that tradition to my son – wherever we are in the world. Sometimes, we’ve been with my sister in Melbourne. Once, we had Christmas in London, and another time, in Los Angeles.
Last year, we moved to Sydney the week before Christmas, and for the first time in decades, lights displays were the last thing on my mind. So this year, I have some making up to do.
My desk buddy at work has recommended me one place: the Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Lights Spectacular.
According to every parent I’ve asked in our time here, the Hunter Valley Christmas Lights Spectacular is the most amazing, most incredible, most-loved display in the state.
Located around just two-and-a-half hours drive out of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s most iconic regions, renowned for its breathtaking scenery and produce (oh, the wine and smelly cheese… yes please).
Making it well worth the drive, the Hunter Valley Gardens’ Christmas lights display features millions of sparkling lights in five hectares of gardens. By all accounts, the kids spend most of their time in awe of the imaginative ways lights are used to bring beloved scenes to life.
There are 16 individual light displays, including the ‘Around the World’ exhibit, which features global icons such as the Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower. There’s ‘Hunter’, the insta-famous, five-metre-tell giant teddy. There’s a giant Ferris Wheel, and a Venetian Carousel.
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