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Ballarat Winter Wonderlights Festival
Photograph: Anthony Evans

The top five winter experiences to have in Ballarat

Pack your bags and get away to Victoria’s golden city this winter

By Time Out in association with Made of Ballarat

We’re just going to say it: Ballarat is made for winter. The city seems to welcome the cold with a big open-armed hug, offering new kinds of experiences, exciting adventures and even after dark festivals filled with awe-inspiring light projections. If you’re planning a weekend away to Ballarat this winter, be sure to plan it around one of these great experiences.

Head to a magical Christmas in July festival

Throughout winter, Sovereign Hill is hosting Winter Wonderlights (Jun 29-Jul 21) a Christmas in July festival where punters can taste limited edition treats, frolic in faux snow showers and gaze starry-eyed at more than 15 kilometres of fairy light displays. The dark midwinter nights at Sovereign Hill will also be lit up by large-scale light projections that will be shown on 25 different buildings. There will even be a new “light tunnel” to walk through and a European-style street market.

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Have an adventure in Ballarat’s city centre

The City of Ballarat is presenting a bunch of fun experiences over winter including the Ballarat Activated ArtWalk that lets you bring artworks across the city to life using your smartphone. Speaking of tech, the Ballarat Mining Exchange will be hosting the Winteractive Arcade (Jun 29-30 & Jul 13-14), where you’ll be able to take part in a multiplayer game of Snake and try augmented reality (AR). Plus, get your skates on for a pop-up ice skating rink, which lands next to Ballarat Town Hall from June 29 to July 21.

See Sumatran tigers at the Ballarat Wildlife Park

Did you know the Ballarat Wildlife Park is home to two Sumatran tigers? These beautiful Sumatran tigers (named Maneki and Satu) are actually ambassador tigers and are at the Ballarat Wildlife Park to raise awareness for their dwindling population numbers. Give them a little wave while you're visiting the park, which is also home to a family of meerkats, lots of roaming kangaroos, a colony of little penguins and lots more native animals.

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Pick up something at these bustling winter markets

Head along to Ballarat Mining Exchange for the two-day Design Exchange (Jul 6-7) where a host of independent artists and designers will be showcasing their wares. You’ll also be able to partake in some mulled wine, craft beers, gin bars and woodfired pizzas. Wine lovers will be in vino heaven at the Red Series (Jul 27), a one-day showcase of premium wine from the Grampian and Pyrenees regions. There’s also local produce and live music to keep the festive spirit up.

Warm up at Kryal Castle’s Knights of Fire

After all these years, Kryal Castle still manages to impress with its collection of roving knights, wizards and all sorts of magical dust for kids of all ages. This winter, the castle is putting on a festival of flames, fittingly titled Knights of Fire (Jun 29-Jul 14). You’ll be able to see a spectacular flaming joust, delight in storytelling and puppetry as well as warm up beside the roaring fire with a hearty tavern meal.

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Start planning your next Ballarat getaway with this guide to winter festivities.


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