Christmas in Sydney isn’t the traditional “White Christmas” we are used to seeing in movies, but that doesn’t mean Sydney-siders don’t know how to get into the Christmas spirit! The traditions are adapted to the hot summer weather, but they stay cheery all the same. Christmas Down Under comes with seafood and salads on the deck because it’s too hot for a roast, Carols by Candlelight at 10PM when it finally goes dark, and cards showing Santa in board shorts surfing Bondi waves!
Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy our hot Summer Christmases in Sydney:
Santa at Luna Park
Nothing screams Christmas in Sydney more than getting your family photo with Santa, with the gorgeous backdrop of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
North Pole in Chatswood
While the Northern Hemisphere craves more sun, Australians all wish for a White Christmas. Chatswood North Pole brings you the experience without the chill…
Many neighborhoods go all out with spectacular displays and kids love seeing these. Some of the best lights are at Davidson, The Avenues Willoughby, Prince Albert Avenue Mosman, Avoca Street Bondi and Matraville. Borgnis Street boasts one of the most lavish light displays not to be missed.
Keep in mind, they don’t really take effect till 8PM or later (did we mention it’s summer!) so better for older kids, or great if jet lag has hit.
Lights at the Prince Albert Avenue, Mosman. Video by Nadirah Boyle.
For a full list of where you can catch the lights, check here.
Various carols by candlelight are held in the lead up to Christmas Day. Sydney sure loves Christmas and Carols in the Domain is a special event in the heart of all Sydney-siders. Take your little ones to the pre-show entertainment (starting at 3PM) to enjoy Christmas celebrations with rides, face painting, festive fun, and more. Later, find yourself a spot on the grass and let some of Australia’s greatest stars dazzle you during the main event.
When? Dec. 22 at 7:45PM Where? The Domain, Sydney. How much? Free.
Carols Under the Bridge in Kirribilli is also a family favorite. Hundreds of local families picnic and gather in Bradfield Park under the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a free carol concert at dusk with a kid-friendly section too of Christmas songs, some Wise Men riding on camels, the nativity scene, and the story of Christmas. You don’t have to be religious to attend. It’s open to all and turns into a beautiful evening with candles flickering and the Opera House as a backdrop. The event starts at 5PM with some jazz and activities for the kids, followed by carol singing at 7PM.
When? Dec. 15 at 5PM Where? Bradfield Park, Kirribilli (under the Harbour Bridge) How much? Free.
Free Family Christmas Movies
You can throw yourself into more Christmas Spirit by taking your family to one of the free Christmas outdoor film screenings in the heart of the city in Darling Quarter. Grab a picnic and a blanket and head down to Darling Park (next to the kids’ playground) each evening December 20th-24th for two Christmas movies per night. There is an early one for little kids and a slightly later film for older kids. It’s always warm, exciting, and great fun. You can find the full program here.
Christmas Decorations in the Central Business District
Wherever you’re based, it’s worth taking the kids into the city for a day to see some of the annual traditions they have going on there. If you’re taking the train, get off at Town Hall and make your way to the Queen Victoria Building, a historic shopping center with old world charm. In the center, you can see a giant Christmas tree that stretches up through the different levels and is covered in crystals. Checking out the window displays at David Jones department store is also a must. They always feature elaborate sets that adults can appreciate too.
St. Mary’s Church and the Lights
In the outdoor mall at Martin Place, you can see a life-sized LEGO Santa sleigh and not far from all the shopping is St. Mary’s Cathedral, which sits at the heart of the city where Christmas cheer is plentiful. There’s a nightly choir at 7.30PM and then a beautiful illumination display from 8.30PM on. Enjoy!
***If you’re back at Town Hall on December 18th in the evening you can catch a mass choir, children’s choir, and Navy Band.
The Grounds of Alexandria in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs
The Grounds of Alexandria is always a favorite place for families to play and eat. During the holiday period, they have a special Nutcracker-themed installation and Christmas activities on just about every day – get there early!
The Beach on Christmas Day
The best thing about having Christmas in summer is being able to get outdoors and enjoy the warmth and sun. Christmas day itself is a public holiday and almost all stores and attractions will be closed while families feast together.
It’s the perfect day to head to the beach. Kids love to see Santa arrive via jet ski at Bondi Beach with a bag full of goodies. Don’t forget to take your own Santa hats along.
Balmoral Beach and Clontarf Beach are also a favorite as these beaches are particularly family-friendly with calm waters away from the big ocean waves, a shark net, a big playground and plenty of picnic space.
Enjoy a Christmas lunch on the beach of prawns, mangoes, and pavlova eaten al fresco.
If you’re at the beach and you see a game of cricket, ask to join in! And if the game takes your fancy, you can watch the Test Match in Sydney which starts on New Year’s Day.
The Start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race on Boxing Day
Boxing Day (December 26th) is also a public holiday and the start of the post-Christmas sales. With everyone still on holiday, it marks the start of a week of fun for Sydney-siders. Pack a picnic and head to Watson’s Bay to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. The sight of all the yachts sailing in the harbor is truly worth it.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
One of the world’s most spectacular fireworks are across Sydney’s beautiful harbor and, of course, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Opera House. There are smaller fireworks at 9PM for kids and the midnight show goes on for at least 10 minutes. The fun starts in the morning where family and friends start their picnic as early as 10AM to secure their best view of the fireworks. Not to worry, there are plenty of spaces along the harbor. Mostly free of charge.
BONUS: Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Lights Spectacular
Do you have time to explore outside of Sydney city center and make the most out of what the countryside has to offer? About a two-hour drive from Sydney are the beautiful Hunter Valley Gardens. From November through to January, the gardens put on a show with their dazzling Christmas Lights Spectacular. With over 2 million lights and animatronic displays, this event is sure to please the young and the not-so-young alike!
When? From 2-Nov to 26-Jan. Where? Pokolbin, NSW. How much? From AUD25 per child over 4yrs, AUD30 per adult
Well, there you have it. If you travel to Sydney during the holiday season, you will have more than enough to do and although it will be full-on summer, the Christmas spirit is alive and well!
This article was co-written by Club Bebe Voyage members and local Sydney mums Nadirah Boyle, Anne Benoit, Sandrine Critchley, Tracey Campbell, and Sameera Daykin