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Hot pink and gold fireworks going off over Darling Harbour.
Photograph: Supplied/ Destination NSW

Your essential guide to Sydney Solstice in Darling Harbour and surrounds

From fireworks to ice skating, the waterside neighbourhood will explode with winter fun over two weeks

By Time Out in association with Destination NSW
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If the thought of another winter at home was giving you the blues, never fear. Sydney Solstice is a new two-week event that sees our city's best chefs, musicians, hospitality legends and artists inject a bit of much-needed out-of-the-house magic into our lives. Push the dread of seasonal boredom out of your mind with the promise of a packed Sydney Solstice program to look forward to on the horizon.

Four key Sydney precincts will come alive from June 8 to 20 with over 200 different events falling under the Sydney Solstice umbrella. To celebrate, we've teamed up with the masterminds behind the whole shebang, Destination NSW, to bring you neighbourhood by neighbourhood guides to all the fabulous happenings to look out for.

In this guide we're tackling Darling Harbour and surrounds, including Barangaroo, Glebe, Ultimo and Pyrmont. Here's your go-to run down of all the Sydney Solstice events happening in this glitzy waterside precinct, with a little sprinkle of bonus things to see, do, and euphorically consume while you're in the area. Kick those winter blues to the curb.

Where to experience Sydney Solstice around Darling Harbour

Go ice skating at a glittery winter fair
Photograph: Supplied/Destination NSW

Go ice skating at a glittery winter fair

Embrace the full seasonal experience with a chilly wonderland popping up by the water. The Darling Harbour Winter Festival will cast an Elsa-style spell over the area with a family-friendly hub of icy activity.

Head down to Darling Harbour for a themed ice skating rink, dancers and daily music performances. There's also the beautifully lit ferris wheel to behold, adding more than a touch of wintery pizzazz to the waterside experience.Most of the Winter Fair experiences are free so you can grab a camera roll of memories for the whole family on the cheap. 

While you're here: If you're keen for a bit of adult time after exploring the Winter Fair, pop in to the excellent Japanese izakaya and bar Nakano Darling. Warm your bones with some top notch karaage chicken, Japanese whisky and a splash of karaoke.

Marvel at giant sea creatures glowing in the dark
Photograph: Supplied

Marvel at giant sea creatures glowing in the dark

The looming spectre of Australian National Maritime Museum can be seen from many vantage points in Darling Harbour. The oceanic archive and its fun interactive vessels are a highlight of any trip to the area. For Sydney Solstice the museum will be giving you even more reason to pop in with a series of awe-inspiring inflatable sculptures called Harbour Garden.

Harbour Garden has been created by two of Sydney’s most dynamic studios, Goldberg Aberline Studio (who create joyous, large scale public art) and Studio A (who provide professional development to artists with intellectual disability). Capturing the spirit of sea creatures, the inflatables will add a sense of wonderment to the museum's giant architecture. Promised to be an eye-catching combination of pattern and colours these small and large sculptures will be something to behold.

While you're here: Make a day of it and book tickets to the Sydney production of Hamilton at the nearby Lyric Theatre. It's a long bow to try to connect viewing of sea-themed sculptures and an internationally-acclaimed musical but, hey, the founding fathers of America used ships... And ships go on water? Never mind, go see it!

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Explore the water at night aboard a kayak
Photograph: Supplied/ Destination NSW

Explore the water at night aboard a kayak

Ever gazed out at the star-flecked water at night and wished you could of been blissfully floating on it? Well you can! The Sydney Solstice Moonlight Sea Kayaking Experience lets you take a guided paddle out around Darling Harbour as the sun sets.

The kayaking tour takes you on a relaxing loop around Darling Harbour – an adventure that's never been formally done before. You'll get to watch the city skyline light up around you as you paddle around on the inky water at dusk. A truly magical way to see the sea and surrounds.

While you're here: Treat yourself to an ultra-special feast at LuMi right on the water at the tip of Pyrmont's wharf. Our food reviewer caled it the "finest of fine dining experiences" and you will have certainly earned it with all that kayaking upper body workout.

Experience Sea Life Sydney Aquarium as an after-dark adult playground
Photograph: Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

Experience Sea Life Sydney Aquarium as an after-dark adult playground

Pop-up bars, food stations, entertainment and an underwater world of glowing coral, bioluminescence and sea creatures will all feature when Sea Life Sydney Aquarium opens its doors for Sea Life Glow. Be greeted with a drink on arrival, see light dancers, roving performers, a tasty gourmet barbecue station and plenty of Insta-worthy photo opportunities. A dancefloor and DJ  stationed under a frozen ‘wave’ is where you can dance while you admiring the Great Barrier Reef section of the aquarium.

While you're here: Before heading to Sea Life Glow why not check out the famous faces and bodies at next door Madame Tussauds? The likenesses are truly eye-opening at Oceania’s only Madame Tussauds, and you can get a selfie with anyone from Julia Gillard to Wonder Woman, Shane Warne to Shah Rukh Khan.

 

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Say cheers to craft beers at this mini-festival
Photograph: Supplied

Say cheers to craft beers at this mini-festival

If you like your beers bold and beautiful then you'll be delighted to know Sydney Solstice is heralding a pop-up event just for you. The Terminus Hotel in Pyrmont will host Brew, Beats and Burgers, a craft beer festival to add to your beer lovin' itineraries.

The festival will gather exceptional and exciting brewers from around Sydney and NSW. Try all the quirky, funky and fun craft beers straight from the source and meet the legends who make them. If you're a craft beer fanatic this boundary-pushing brew fest is not one to miss.

While you're here: Line your tum before you embark on a craft beer-a-palooza at Vic's Meat Market in the Sydney Fish Markets around the corner. It might seem odd going to a seafood market to dine on land animals but you'll thank us later once you've tried their brisket and smokey BBQ sauce roll.

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