A visit to The Christmas Lights Spectacular is an annual tradition for our Playing in Puddles family, and we were so excited to be able to get there for their opening weekend. Given the year that 2020 has been, we enjoyed our visit more than ever this year. We appreciated not just the beauty and magic of this event, but also the time spent with family, the fun of sharing such a special space with others, and the simple fact that we were there after what’s been a very strange and isolating year.

We were also blown away to see that the Christmas Lights Spectacular has (somehow) gone bigger and better this year, with a huge number of new sculptural lights on display.

A visit here is, without a doubt, our favourite way to celebrate the festive season. It’s calming and beautiful and romantic, and a truly special way to celebrate Christmas with your family. Scroll down to read more about this event and to plan your own trip here this year.

Photo supplied by Hunter Valley Gardens

This is the biggest Christmas Lights Display in the southern hemisphere!

For those who haven’t been before, we should start by saying that this display is no ordinary Bunnings-bought lights-adorning-hedges-type affair. No, no, this is far bigger and better and way more impressive than that. The Hunter Valley Gardens’ Christmas Lights Spectacular is the BIGGEST Christmas lights display in the southern hemisphere! And this year they’ve completely upped the ante – hanging more than 3 million lights!

Interact with 20 immersive displays!

Multiple immersive walk-through installations were displayed for the first time last year, and those special fixtures have returned for 2020. A walk through the magic castle – which stands five metres tall and 15 metres wide – is a little like entering Star Wars’ hyperspace, while the tunnel of hearts is more whimsical and a favourite of Insta feeds. You can also walk through the belly of Snowy the giant snowman and through the centre of a giant gold and red Christmas bauble.

Photo ©Playing in Puddles – Christmas Lights Spectacular

Candyland is a pinata of fun

Their Candyland has been bumped up this year from a scattering of sugar to a pinata of fun – with towers of liquorice allsorts, giant jelly jubes, chick-topped cupcakes, ice-cream sundaes, wrapped sweets, jellybeans, gingerbread men and lollypops aplenty.

Go around the world!

The Around the World display has been added to over the past 18 months with a new Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Centre Point Tower, plus the UK’s  Edinburgh Castle and London Big Ben. 

Photo supplied by Hunter Valley Gardens

Fairyland – a place of whimsy and magic

And for those who love their festive season sprinkled with whimsy and magic (who doesn’t?), Fairyland is the place to head. It’s home to Tinkerbell, My Little Ponies, a giant rocking horse, and myriad fairies, dragonflies and toadstools that look to have jumped straight from the pages of children’s tales.

You’ll also find Cinderella castles, Ice Age squirrels and scooter-riding penguins. A pirate ship sails the lake and dinosaurs roam the hill.

Witness the First Story

There’s a nativity scene that tells the story of Christmas and lights up an angel, baby Jesus, three wise men and more as the First Story is narrated. The “12 Days of Christmas” section encourages you to get your carol on, as the appropriate lights turn on with each verse of song.

Don’t miss Santa’s Workshop and the new Christmas Village display!

The lights are, of course, the pièce de résistance of this event, but there’s so much more. One of our favourite areas is Santa’s Workshop – a fantastical display of animatronic elves and reindeer that will turn even the grinchiest of grinches into believers.

Inside Santa’s Workshop you’ll find an entire city of Christmas villages that are animated and illuminated. Children skate across frozen ice rinks, ride horse-led sleighs, and enjoy spins on ferris wheels and carousels. It’s magical, and the more you look the more magic you find.

Have your photo taken with Santa!

Every evening until Christmas, Santa himself will be waiting to meet with children, to hear about gift lists and to pose for Santa photos (6.30pm-10pm; prices start at $37.50) and on New Year’s Eve the sky, too, will be lit with a fireworks display (9pm).

Enjoy the carnival atmosphere with an unlimited rides pass

The Gardens’ also have three beautiful permanent rides open this festive season too. Their brand new tea cup ride invites you to enjoy a gentle twirl or crazy spin. The ferris wheel lifts you 25m into the air and grants you a view over the gardens, nearby vineyards and wineries and the surrounding mountain ranges. But it’s the traditional Venetian carousel, made in Italy to the Gardens’ design specifications, that is a favourite of ours with its giraffes, lions, horses and elephants.

Photo supplied by Hunter Valley Gardens

You won’t go hungry. There are food stalls serving stuffed spuds, burritos, fish ‘n’ chips and nuggets. Plus, there are plenty of “special treat” desserts, such as gelato, popcorn and donuts.

We’re so lucky to have the Christmas Lights Spectacular just a hop, skip, jump from the Central Coast. This event is so special – we really can’t recommend it enough. The size and scope and beauty of it can really only be appreciated once you’ve experienced it.

We recommend you add a visit this year to your Christmas list. 

Photo supplied by Hunter Valley Gardens

Plan your visit to the Hunter Valley Gardens’ Christmas Lights Spectacular

When: 5 November 2020 until 26 January 2021 (closed 25 December 2020). Gardens open daily 9am-5pm; The Christmas Lights Spectacular is open 6.30pm-10.30pm. All visitors must vacate the Gardens between 5pm and 6.30pm.

Weather: If thunderstorms hit, the event may be called off until the storm passes. Weather updates will be posted on the Hunter Valley Gardens Facebook page.

Access: All of the paths within the Hunter Valley Gardens are stroller and wheelchair friendly.

Tips: Bring jackets as it gets surprisingly chilly of an evening. We normally take beanies too.

Location: The Hunter Valley Gardens, 2090 Broke Road, Pokolbin.

Phone: 02 4998 4000

Website: www.huntervalleygardens.com.au

Book your tickets to the Christmas Lights Spectacular!

Price and Entry: Entry is quite different this year, due to restrictions, so please read below for further details.  

Purchase your tickets in advance as numbers are capped, and expected to sell out in advance. Entry passes can be purchased online. Passes may be available from the entry on the day if there are spaces available, but we wouldn’t be risking this.

Christmas Lights Spectacular Entry | Adult $30; Child (4-15 yrs) $25; Child Under 4 Free; Family Pass (2 Adults + 1 Child) $79; Family Pass (2 Adults + 2 Children) $99; Extra Child on Family Pass (4-15 yrs) $22.

Day/Night Entry | The Gardens are open during the day (9am – 5pm).Separate tickets can be purchased to enter the Gardens during the day. See the Hunter Valley Gardens website for details.

Rides Prices | The unlimited rides wristband is $15/person or rides can be purchased singly for $6/person. Ride passes cannot be pre-purchased. They are available at the ticket booth at the rides area in the Hunter Valley Gardens.

Annual Passes | Planning on coming to the Gardens again and again? Their Annual Passes offer unlimited entry to the Hunter Valley Gardens and all of their events for 12 months, including their Snow Time in the Gardens, Mega Creatures, and Giant Easter Egg Hunt events. It makes a great Christmas gift! Adult $99; Child (4-15 yrs) $65; Child Under 4 Free; Family (2 adults + 2 Children) $249. See website for more details.

Photo ©Playing in Puddles – Christmas Lights Spectacular

♥ This event makes for such a special outing for your little ones in the lead up to Christmas. Organise a group of friends or family to share in the magic with you. Click below to share this feature with them, and invite them along. ↓