Winter Wonderlights at Sovereign Hill opened on 1 July. We journeyed to Ballarat to check out Regional Victoria's highly regarded winter attraction on Monday.
This was our second visit the historic open-air museu, the first being in the summer time, many years prior.
While the drive from Melbourne to Ballarat is a longish one, it isn't difficult, so long as you travel out of peak traffic hours. Interestingly, when I told my friends I'd be visiting Sovereign Hill for Winter Wonderlights, they asked where we'd be staying. I figured we'd travel to Sovereign Hill on a day trip, and while that was doable, I can see now that an overnight stay might be a good option, particularly as you get 2 days for the price of 1 to enjoy the Winter Wonderlights extravaganza.
The main difference between Winter Wonderlights vs regular visits to Sovereign Hill, is the opportunity to enjoy the attraction's festival projections, which illuminate Main Street's buildings just before 6pm. That said, there are many other Christmas in July themed activities to enjoy before it gets dark.
Flurries of snowfall (not real snow) sprinkle Sovereign Hill's Main Street at set times throughout the day. My kids loved the 'snow', if we were inside one of Sovereign Hill's many attractions, they would rush outside at the sight of the white stuff, and jump about with glee.
There is Christmas caroling to listen to, the opportunity to catch glimpses of Santa Claus & Mrs Claus dressed in traditional costume, and there are plenty of photograph opportunities to be had amongst the beautiful fairy lit gardens and giant Christmas Tree.
Other extras during the Winter Wonderlights event include mini wooden house painting, a magic show and mulled wine in the marquee. I must admit, we spent a fair amount of time here, mainly to warm up in the welcoming heat engulfing the marquee.
A visit to Sovereign Hill at any time of the year is an action packed day and July is no different. We arrived around midday and still didn't get to do all of the activities by nightfall.
What we did do however, the kids just loved; candle dipping, trying on 'old fashioned' hats in the Drapery Store, a visit to the lolly shop, bowling with wooden balls in the Bowling Alley, exploring the Tinsmith and Saddlery stores, catching a funny pantomime in the Victoria Theatre, watching the horse drawn carriages trot down Main Street and the big favourite; panning for gold.
The biggest highlight of the Winter Wonderlights event at Sovereign Hill, is to see the buildings along Main Street transform into a dazzling display of illuminations similar to those seen at White Night Melbourne - but on a condensed and much bigger scale.
Large projections fill Main Street's facades with a winter wonderland spectacular that is almost impossible to capture on camera. You have to see it for yourself to appreciate what a delight Winter Wonderlights really is.
Be warned though, Ballarat is very, very cold mid-winter. We wore thermals, gloves, hats and big coats and still felt cold. If you have snow gear - wear it!
You simply must visit Winter Wonderlights at Sovereign Hill at least once, so why not visit this year.
Winter Wonderlights at Sovereign Hill
When: Saturday 1 July – Sunday 30 July, 2017. Open daily from 10am. The ‘Winter Wonderlights’ show will start each evening after 5.45pm. Closes 7pm.
Where: Sovereign Hill, 3 Bradshaw Street, Ballarat
Costs:Adults $59.50, Children (5-15) $27.00. Concession ($47.60), Family ($150.00) and Single Family ($107.00) passes available