Make your winter memorable this year with a visit to Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlights Christmas in July. The annual event is from Saturday 24 June until Sunday 24 July in 2016.
Sovereign Hill is an outdoor museum with replica Victorian-era buildings and structures evoking gold-rush 1850s Ballarat. There is lots to do there – must-dos include panning for gold, the underground mine tour and the lolly shop! (Full review).
During Winter Wonderlights the whole site is adorned with Christmas decorations, with wreaths at every shop front and lots of Christmas trees.
In addition to regular attractions and programming there are regular snow falls, Christmas goodies to buy, Christmas carolling and a Christmas-themed theatrical program.
If you’re in Sovereign Hill for just the day the it’s a good idea to plan your schedule so you don’t miss out on any of the special activities. My tip is to give the Shadow Puppets a miss (only goes for about 5 minutes, not particularly engaging, though you do get a skinny Santa at the end) and grab a seat early for the Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime. It is a popular show because it is getting cold by then and it’s the last event to happen before the light projections.
The kids would have been quite happy with just the Christmas cheer – but the best comes when the sky darkens! At approximately 5:45pm every night Sovereign Hill’s Main Street is lit up by large-scale moving light projections under a flurry of fake snowfall.
On Speedwell Street the cottages and gardens overlooking Main Street sparkle with fairy lights.
Lady AB exclaims ‘Wow it’s so beautiful’ and the light projections, combined with the rainbow snow confetti, really is a dazzling sight.
We stroll up and down main street admiring the animation work of Electric Canvas, the team behind some of the stunning projections at White Night Melbourne. We stay until 6:15pm once it gets too cold and wet from the rain and the fake snow.
Winter Wonderlights is a magical experience for young and old and well worth a road trip to Ballarat. We were there from 2:30pm-6:15pm but you can easily stay for longer. Winter Wonderlights is included in the standard Sovereign Hill entry fee (ie you can’t pay a separate fee just to see the Winter Wonderlights). As museum entry allows visitors to enter on two consecutive days, you can stay overnight and spread out your visit to Sovereign Hill or just make one big a day of it.
Sovereign Hill’s ‘Winter Wonderlights’ Christmas in July is part of Ballarat’s Winterlude Festival which runs from 25 June to 24 July. The festival includes ice skating, music, cinema and pie contest!
- Peak times are school holidays and weekends;
- Parking is free on site;
- Bring lots of snacks as eateries can get crowded, especially from 5pm when the last show finishes (Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime) and the projections start at 5:45pm;
- Book a sit-down dinner in advance at Charlie Napier Hotel for 5:15pm;
- We ate at the Sovereign Hill cafe which is pretty run-of-the-mill but is dry and warm.
- We also bought food from Hope Bakery, which does not have a real seating area. Their sausage rolls are apparently award-winning but I like their pies more;
- Most of Sovereign Hill’s attractions are outdoors so wear lots of warm gear (waterproof coat, layers, gloves, scarf, hat). Ballarat experiences harsh winters and once the sun goes down it is really cold;
- Gumboots are a good idea as the pathways can get muddy;
- Bring a torch/glow sticks for added fun;
- Projections start at 5:45pm though the fairy lights switch on a bit earlier;
- All the shops take EFTPOS (even for small amounts). There is an ATM at the entrance, Sovereign Hill cafe and the post office;
- Sovereign Hill is a comfortable 90-minute drive from Melbourne along the Western Highway;
- train and tour coach services which operate daily from Melbourne; and
- If you buy an Entertainment Book you can get 25% off entry for 4 people, which almost makes up the cost of the book at $65 ($13 of which goes to charity incidentally).