NSM Review: Making the most of Vivid at Chatswood

Heading to Vivid Sydney at Chatswood? Here’s how one North Shore mum tackled the experience and what she recommends about your visit.

It’s one thing to see the bright, illuminated images from Vivid Sydney at Chatswood in your Facebook newsfeed, but quite another to stand in the centre of the dark Chatswood Concourse as evening comes on, staring up at glowing images of the creation of Earth as they float across enormous screens, backed with the booming sounds of asteroids in space . In other words, like most Vivid installations, the spectacular pictures you’ve seen don’t do justice to the real-life experience of seeing the colourful light displays in person.

I visited Vivid Sydney at Chatswood in its first week, having never been in person before. I have a toddler daughter, who is two, and it was the first time for her, too. Here’s what I recommend:

Where to start

It’s best to get to the area before the sun sets, if you can (we checked Google for the sunset time). It’s easy for young kids to get overwhelmed in the dark (even in the relatively less intense Chatswood precinct), but if you arrive on site while it’s still light your kids have time to adjust to the crowds and the vibe. As well, you get to see the lights come on and the installations come to life, making for a much more dramatic “reveal” moment!

The best starting point is The Concourse at Chatswood for Futurescape

Food and drink

It’s easier on everyone if the kids (and adults!) see the exhibits on a full tummy. If you don’t want to spring for a full restaurant meal, make sure you eat before you arrive (the weather is a little chilly for an outdoor picnic, and unless you eat early, it’s also dark and potentially crowded in any potential picnic spots).

If you want to experience everything Vivid has to offer, try dinner at a restaurant on The Concourse with a full view of the festivities. We opted to eat at Chao Ba at The Concourse. The restaurant is front and centre on The Concourse and if you get there before sunset, the full-length glass windowfront offers an unbeatable view of the Concourse screens as they come to life after dark. Plus, the menu has lots of kid-friendly finger foods and wines for mums or dads (if that’s your thing).

If you’re not keen on a sit-down meal, or you want to snack on some sweet treats during your visit, make a stop at the Light Market. There’s an extensive list of dishes on offer, but we can personally recommend the Mary’s Burger, a soft, cheesy burger on a soft brioche bun, Black Star Pastry’s famous watermelon cake (made with squares of watermleon and cream) and Pimp My Chimney ice cream, which is served in a sugar-crusted pastry cone.

Carmel Baby ice cream at Vivid

Watermelon (and cream) cake by Black Star Pastry

Best Installations

Future Scape, The Concourse

  • Where: The Concourse, Chatswood
  • What: Large scale projections of NASA imagery will cover the sails of The Concourse and also the Grand Stairs, Reflection Pool and grassed area to create a truly immersive experience. Visitors to Future Scape will feel as though they’re on a journey through space.

Visitors to Future Scape will feel as though they’re on a journey through space

Crank Zappa Jellyfish

  • Where: Cnr Victoria Ave and Spring St (opposite The Concourse and down a little)
  • What: Crank Zappa is a hot tempered electric Jellyfish who will zazzle and zap you with his sting bites when you get too close. Crank has come to Chatswood to tell the public what he really thinks about plastic pollution. He’s made of plastic bottles and you can weave in and out of his tentacles and get inside the exhibit

Crank Zappa is a hot tempered electric Jellyfish who will zazzle and zap you

Liquid Lies

  • Where: An installation within the Light Market in Chatswood Mall
  • What: Take a spot at the lab desk in the hope of a delicious drink from a crazy professor! When hooked up to a lie detector, you will be asked three easy questions. Upon answering the lie detector will determine if it’s truth or a lie and deliver a flavoured drink accordingly. Will you end up with a sweet treat or sour sludge?

Take a spot at the lab desk for drink from a crazy professor


  • Where: Near the Westfield entrance in Chatswood Mall
  • What: Featuring eight tentacle drums, each activates a unique display of colour and light animating the Octopoda’s musical mind. Inspired by steampunk themes, when all eight drums are playing together Octopoda will dazzle audiences with his mechanical moves and rhythmic light display

When all eight drums are playing together Octopoda will dazzle audiences

Making the most of Vivid Sydney at Chatswood

1. Before sunset, head to a dinner with a view of the lights as the sun goes down. We tried Chao Ba, Chatswood.

2. Stand on The Concourse and watch the Future Scape installation come to life.

3. Cross the street and see the Crank Zappa Jellyfish, where you can touch and feel the plastic bottle tentacles.

4. Walk up toward the station to find the Light Market for a snack of watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry. You can also try Liquid Lies and listen to Junkyard Beats here

5. Visit the Octopoda near the Westfield entrance in Chatswood Mall, and play on his tentacle percussion ensemble.

6. If you have energy and time, head to Chatswood Interchange for Magic Carpet (an interactive image on the bridge next to The District on Level Three of the Interchange) and SkyPortal (a giant screen that hangs 10 metres overhead that mirrors you and transports you through space and time).

Head to Chatswood Interchange for Magic Carpet and SkyPortal

For more ideas of things to do on and around the North Shore, browse our Out & About section.

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