The Sovereign Hill’s Christmas in July: Winter Wonderlights is back for another year from Friday 28 June until Sunday 21 July 2024 as part of the Ballarat Winter Festival.
Expect a magical day out in Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights, where you get to experience an olden-day Ballarat winter wonderland with snowfalls, Christmas decorations and stunning light projections!
Over the winter school holidays, you can experience a Sovereign Hill Christmas in July, where Victorian buildings are lit up with festive yuletide animations, faux snowfalls happen throughout the day, and over 15km of fairy lights make sure the Sovereign Hill light show give the entire township a golden glow.
sovereign hill ballarat
Wondering what is Sovereign Hill? It’s one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations and a place to immerse yourself in the history of gold-rush era Ballarat of the 1850s.
There’s so much to do there that we’ve never been able to see it all in over 3 visits!
Must-dos include panning for gold, the underground mine tour (the 40 minute Secret Chamber tour is excellent) and of course the famous raspberry drops from the old-fashioned lolly shop. (Full review).
winter wonderlights ballarat
During Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill the whole outdoor museum is festooned with Christmas decorations, with wreaths at every shop front, Christmas trees and the sounds of carolling along the main streets.
It is a really magical atmosphere, especially when the snow falls (look at the timetable and plan to get your cameras out).
In addition to regular attractions and programming, there is a Christmas in July at Sovereign Hill-themed theatrical program and festive stalls selling Christmas themed arts and crafts.
Stock up on traditional Christmas decorations, treat yourself to a toffee apple or gather around the Diggings for a mulled wine.
If you’re visiting Sovereign Hill for just a Ballarat day trip, and for the first time, then it’s a good idea to plan your schedule so you don’t miss out on any of the special activities.
As we have been to Sovereign Hill several times and it is VERY busy on our visit (school holidays weekend) we opt not to bother with any of the Sovereign Hill Wonderlights scheduled activities and just to wander where the crowds, kids and fairy lights take us.
We also BYO marshmallows for roasting. I’m not sure why they haven’t cottoned on to marshmallow toasting as an activity but every second person asked us where we got our marshmallows from. I buy a giant box of marshmallows made by Ballarat company Grounded Pleasures at a local cafe Higher Society Eatery and they are perfect because they’re larger than normal (good for skewering) and very delicious.
The unmissable highlight during Sovereign Hill Xmas in July is when the Main Street lights up with a rainbow of moving projections by Electric Canvas, the team behind some of the stunning projections at White Night Melbourne.
We take up a position at 5:30pm at the top of the hill, which is less crowded than the rest of Main Street. It also means that you avoid most of the crowding (generally near New York Bakery) and you can walk down Main Street towards, rather than away from, the exit.
At 5:45pm the Sovereign Hill Christmas large-scale moving light projections start under a flurry of fake snowfall and music.
We admire the Ballarat light show at various locations on Main Street, with projections appearing to run on a loop. Note that the Gingerbread Man doesn’t feature this year (much to my kids’ disappointment), but it’s still a wonderful show.
We leave by about 6:30pm, with the projections finishing at 7pm.
Winter Wonderlights is a magical experience for young and old and well worth a day trip or even a mini-break to Ballarat. We are there from 2:30pm-6:30pm but you can easily stay for longer, especially if you’ve never been to Sovereign Hill before and want to see all the sights.
Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights is part of Ballarat’s Winter Festival which is also running in July 2024. The festival program generally includes ice skating, music, family-friendly shows and more!
winter wonderlights 2024 Ticket prices
With large crowds expected this year I recommend you pre-book your Sovereign Hill Entry Ticket to avoid missing out.
Ticket prices for Winter Wonderlights operate differently from standard Sovereign Hill tickets.
- Winter Wonderlights 10am – 7pm tickets are available every day from the evening of Friday 28 June through to Sunday 21 July 2024. These tickets give you the full day at Sovereign Hill with all your favourites plus the spectacular Winter Wonderlights display which starts once the sun goes down at 5.45pm.
- Winter Wonderlights 5pm – 7pm tickets are available only for Saturday 6 July, Saturday 13 July and Saturday 20 July 2024. These tickets give you access to the spectacular Winter Wonderlights night time display which starts once the sun goes down at 5.45pm.
|Winter Wonderlights tickets
|Standard admission (10am – 7pm)
|Evening only admission (5pm – 7pm)
|Child (5-15 years) – only available when purchased with an Adult, Family or Single-Family Ticket/Pass. Children under 5 years are free.
|Family of 4 (2 Adults and 2 Children)
|*Australian cards only. Cards must be presented. Valid concession cards: Australian Pension, Disability/Carer, Health Care, Sole Parent, Unemployed, Veterans’ Affairs, Australian Student, Companion Card (FOC), ISIC International Student, Australian Seniors Card.
Tips for Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights:
- Peak times are school holidays and weekends;
- Parking is free on-site, though on busy days you may have to park in the Gold Museum or down the hill;
- BYO snacks and water so you don’t have to wait in line when hunger and thirst strike. Eateries get crowded, especially around lunch and dinner time. I actually like to bring a thermos of hot food;
- If having a period photograph, riding in a horse-drawn carriage, watching a gold pour or going on a mine tour is high on your to-do list then get there early and put your name down/buy a ticket as soon as you arrive. Everything except the mine tour was sold out by the time we arrive at 3pm;
- The mine tour has 90 seconds of complete darkness as you descend, which can be really scary for little kids;
- Some of the popular experiences such as candle-making are actually open until 7pm this year, so you can wait to do them after other experiences/shops have closed at 5pm;
- Instead of waiting in line at the Lolly Shop you can buy Raspberry Drops at various locations and get the award-winning pies and sausages rolls from the Hope Bakery within the Sovereign Hill cafe, although without the Victorian-era atmosphere;
- If you want a sit-down dinner you’ll need to book in advance;
- You can get a pass out if you need. For instance, if you arrive at opening time 10am then you may want to have a rest in the afternoon before returning to see the Winter Wonderlights.
- You can also get a pass out in order to have an early dinner elsewhere – The Forge Pizzeria is in town and recommended (you’ll need to drive) and a reader also suggests the Japanese restaurant across the road from Sovereign Hill;
- Most of Sovereign Hill’s attractions are outdoors so wear lots of warm gear. Ballarat experiences harsh winters and once the sun goes down it is really cold (although Sovereign Hill snow is generally not real). We dress in merino underlayers top and bottom, a jumper and a waterproof jacket, plus beanies, scarves and gloves. ;
- Gumboots are a good idea as the pathways get muddy, even on a dry day (plus if you have kids who love gold panning they WILL walk into the water). Do NOT wear white sneakers! I highly recommend the super comfortable, waterproof Merry People boots for women and kids;
- Bring a torch/glow sticks for added fun;
- Projections start at 5:45pm though the fairy lights switch on a bit earlier at 5:30pm;
- Sovereign Hill hours during Winter Wonderlights are 10am – 7pm;
- The best position for when the projections start is to start at the top of Main Street and then head down the hill, towards the exit. The momentum of the crowd means that you’ll be unable to push your way up the hill;
- All the shops take EFTPOS (even for small amounts). There is an ATM at the entrance, Sovereign Hill cafe and the post office;
- Melbourne to Sovereign Hill is a comfortable 90-minute drive along the Western Highway;
- train and tour coach services operate daily from Melbourne; and
- pre-book your Sovereign Hill Entry Ticket to avoid missing out.
Click here to find out what Sovereign Hill is like the rest of the year, including a review of the evening light show AURA
Click here for more things to do in Ballarat with kids
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