Floriade is a much-anticipated major event in Canberra, with over 430,000 people attending the flower festival every year. It is held over a 4 week period to enable visitors to enjoy the tulips (with over a million bulbs planted!) in all stages of opening. If you visit at the start of the festival, many of the tulips are often closed - however by the end, they are all open and basking in the bright, spring sunshine.
One of the highlights of Floriade is that it has free entry. For families and the elderly in particular, it means that you can go for a leisurely morning of discovery and then go back another day to see all the things you missed. Although the organisers change things up each year to keep it fresh and innovative, every person who visits Floriade regularly has a "best part" that they look forward to. What is yours? Please leave a comment at the bottom of this article and share what you are looking forward to seeing this year. There are sure to be many!
Stop and appreciate the tulips unfurling at Floriade flower festival
1/ The Floral Displays are the obvious highlight, as each and every one is different in their composition, colour and design. Although it can be hard to decipher as you walk by, each flower bed is designed in a unique pattern and there is a small sign at the front of each one to tell you what the picture is. Another highlight is the surprising displays that make people smile - flowers inside old cars, displays made of vegetables and bulbs popping up in unusual places. If you're a gardener, it gives you some creative ideas for your own garden!
2/ The Ferris Wheel comes back every year, as it is the best way to view the designs in the floral displays. When you get up to the top you will be amazed at the view all the way down to Lake Burley Griffin and over the city, on the other side of Commonwealth Park. If you love heights, you won't want the ride to end as you admire every flower display from above and marvel at their creativity.
One of the highlights of Floriade - the Ferris Wheel!
3/ The Program is highly anticipated each year, as the theme of the floral displays are announced and the full list of events is released. The program can be found online and a printed version can also be found in the Canberra Weekly magazine, a few weeks before. It is then time to pour over what is happening each day and mark out which days you want to go. There will be gardening talks, cooking demonstrations, celebrity chefs, floristry demonstrations, children's performers and much more. See here for this year's theme and program, when it gets announced.
4/ Markets are situated all around the Floriade festival, with a wide range of products to buy for your garden, home and as gifts for friends - or yourself. Buy yourself a super-sharp peeler, hanging chair, garden ornament, goat's milk soap, a Floriade bag or anything else that may catch your eye, as you wander around.
5/ Food is also a big part of Floriade, with taste-testing, an outdoor food court with international flavours and cooking demonstrations on the program. Everywhere you walk you will be bombarded with delicious smells such as popcorn popping, coffee being brewed and Dutch Pancakes on the cooker. Take your appetite!
6/ Roving Entertainers are a surprise to come across, as they walk around on stilts or as a travelling performance through the garden beds. Kids, in particular, will be amazed by the colourful entertainers, as they blow bubbles and engage their audience, with stunning costumes and quick wit and humour.
7/ Kid's Corner is different each year, with a range of fun things to do to keep the little ones entertained. Previous years have seen a petting zoo, obstacle course, inflatable basketball game and more in the one area. There is also a little train ride around the zoo, kids workshops and classes, a jumping castle, teacup ride, long slide and sideshow clowns near the Ferris Wheel. Each year there is also a Gnome Gnoll, where kids have the opportunity to paint their own garden gnome and look at the ones painted by local schools.
8/ Sculptures are also a big part of Floriade each year, with a wide range of modern sculptures to surprise you as you walk around. The sculptures are there to be touched and appreciated, with each one creating another level of beauty and inspiration, in the landscaped surrounds. Who knows what you will discover around the next corner?
Jumping castle fun for kids, situated near the Ferris Wheel each year
9/ Dog's Day Out is a fun day out for all dog-lovers, which is held near the end of the festival each year. It is a day where all doggies are welcome (on a lead), so that your canine friends can enjoy the smells and sounds of Floriade with you. On the main stage, there are dog-themed shows, as well as products to buy and dog events held around the festival. Check out the Floriade Facebook page for details of this year's event.
10/ Night Fest is a popular event that usually runs over a week during Floriade, so that locals and visitors can appreciate the floral designs under a display of spectacular lights, with music and effects. There is also a huge line-up of entertainment and a range of dinner and bar options. Take a warm jacket though - the nights are still cold!
For the locals of Canberra who have shivered through winter, Floriade signals the colourful start of spring. It is a time of new beginnings - for the tulips which pop up through the dirt around the festival and for the people who visit, to look forward to the warmer months ahead. Although Floriade has all these highlights and more, also look out for the new additions and changes each year, as the festival grows and evolves.
What are you looking forward to seeing at Floriade this year?
Don't miss out on all the colour and magic of Night Fest! Image: Original photos from Floriade Facebook