Floriade is a celebration of spring held annually at Commonwealth Park, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The park is taken over each year with raised garden beds full of tulips and springtime flowers for as far as the eye can see. All year, gardeners and horticulturists prepare the beds around the park and plant over one million bulbs, timed to bloom throughout the month of Floriade.
As well as the spectacular floral designs to wander around and look at, there are also market stalls, food trucks, cooking demonstrations, children's activities, rides, sculptural displays and exhibitions. This free event has gardening enthusiasts from all around the country hopping on coach trips to Floriade to witness it for themselves. For lucky Canberra locals, it is a festival they can return to time and time again during the month-long extravaganza. This event is a highlight for Canberra's tourism industry, with over 400,000 people attending the event annually.
To get a bird's eye view of the floral displays, take a ride on the large scale ferris wheel that returns every year. If you are afraid of heights (like I am), it can be a white knuckle ride for the first loop until the spectacular views take your breath away. For most visitors, especially kids, it is a fun and scenic way to experience Floriade as well as looking over parts of the city that you don't often see. In particular, the designs in the floral displays come alive and you notice aspects of the designs that you just can't see down at ground level.
Whilst in the children's ride area, the kids are sure to enjoy the jumping castle, sideshow alley games and rides held each year. On the other side of the Floriade, Kids Corner also has a petting zoo and various kids' activities held each day. Another highlight of Floriade is the creative children's cubby houses that are built locally and auctioned off for charity. Kids can play in them during Floriade and test them out for the new owners. There is also a little train that drives around Floriade (costs apply) to get visitors from one area to another, however it is especially enjoyed by children, big and small.
As you enter Floriade you are given a brochure explaining the events held throughout the day. With cooking demonstrations, talks, displays and exhibitions to explore, there is enough to keep you entertained - if you have time between admiring the floral displays or shopping at the markets. See the Floriade website for all the details closer to the date, as well as the Floriade Facebook for updates.
If you enjoy photography, there is also a workshop where you gain access to the floral displays at Floriade before opening time, to set up your tripods and take photos before the crowds. Attend a photographic workshop by photographers Geoff Comfort and Ben Kopilow, or just start snapping on your own. See details here for 2016 dates.
If you wish to drive to Floriade, it is paid parking during the week at the large carparks surrounding the area (weekends are free). If you are visiting Canberra and staying in the city or Parliamentary Triangle, it is a short walk (if you are feeling energetic) to Floriade and there are also free shuttles organised to take you to Floriade and back. See the Floriade website for more details.
Whilst at Commonwealth Park, why not stay for awhile and appreciate the rest of this scenic location and parkland. With children's playgrounds, sculptures, lakeside walks, cafes, views and birdlife, Commonwealth Park has a lot to offer after Floriade. See here for more details.
Free shuttles for Floriade. Source: Floriade Facebook
Between Wednesday 28th September and 2nd October visitors can enter Floriade by night at a week-long event called Nightfest. Gates open at 6:30pm and the ticket price includes viewing the displays by night under lights as well as enjoying a comedy act, show, workshop or artistic display. With food stalls, bars and samples to try, Nightfest is always a popular event each year. Gates open at 6:30pm and close at 10:30pm, so dress up warm and enjoy a night at Floriade. See the Nightfest website for more details closer to the date.
Floriade is an event that Canberrans and visitors look forward to each year. The event began in 1988 and has grown each year since, drawing coachloads of visitors into the Capital. Gardening enthusiasts come to witness the variety of cold climate bulbs and flowers as well as get ideas for their own gardens. Each year there are surprises around every bed - whether it is large colourful snail sculptures poised in a pond; an abandoned car full of flowers; a walkway of fairy lights; an array of inflatable flowers in the trees; garden gnomes en masse to paint; or new markets with exciting products. With all this above and live entertainment on Stage 88 in the centre of the park, it is hard to know where to explore first. Take your time and enjoy every aspect of what Floriade has to offer.
So set aside a full day, wear your comfiest shoes and enjoy a visit to Floriade - on a clear spring day there is no better place to be.