I'm a children's book author, radio presenter of 'By the Book' for Radio Northern Beaches, and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about
When you think weekend escape to the Hunter, wine, cheese and vineyards might just come to mind before you think of the kids. From November to January though, the Christmas lights display makes wine country a must see in the family holiday calendar.
Smack bang in the middle of the Roche Group complex in the heart of Pokolbin, is the picture perfect Hunter Valley Gardens and shopping village, with family-friendly accommodation and dining at Mercure Resort and Harrigan's Pub on either side.
The elaborately manicured gardens, while open all year with an array of seasonal festivals, come alive more than ever with the Christmas Lights Spectacular.
With the ante upping year on year for local neighbourhood festive lights competitions, you may think you've seen it all without leaving home but quite simply, you ain't seen nothing until you see the phenomenal show waiting for you at the Hunter Valley Gardens. It is the best, most magical and enchanting lights display my husband and I have ever seen and as for my three year old, I've never seen him so excited.
OK, so there is a reasonable cost attached for family entry and you might wish to factor in food, photos with Santa or tickets for the Fun Zone rides (all of which are optional) but you can spend all evening in the glow of the fairy lights and I think even the biggest Scrooge would walk away feeling they had experienced value for money.
Highlights for us were the stroll through Candyland, the awe-inspiring waterfall and lake scene, Storybook Gardens and the homage to classic fairytales like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Think the parade at Disneyland meets the lights of Las Vegas and you'll get a sense of how this masterful display has something to delight everyone, both adults and children of all ages.
For the first time, in a very long time, I'm feeling festive and appreciating the wonder of Christmas.