Enlighten is one thing I look forward to every year in Canberra and while the same buildings are lit up every year, beautifully I might add, the event has grown to be much more than this over the many years it has now been taking place. Leaving aside the fact that I live in Canberra, I think Enlighten is streets ahead of the much newer equivalent event in Sydney, Vivid. Don’t get me wrong I love Sydney’s offering too, particularly the way the Opera House is lit up (see my Sydney Vivid review for more detail on that event) but the compactness of the Canberra show makes it a winner for me.
For two weeks in early March each year, the public buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle (and beyond) become canvases and turn into illuminated public artworks. The National Library, Questacon (Science Museum), the National Portrait Gallery, the National Art Gallery, Old Parliament House and Parliament House are all lit up via projected images – a mix of static (changing every couple of minutes) and moving images.
You can easily walk between all these venues within the Parliamentary Triangle, south of the lake.
In addition to the buildings being lit up, there is also a great selection of free music, street theatre and non-building light displays. This coupled with late opening hours in the galleries (entrance free with fee for special exhibitions as during normal hours) ensures there is ample here to keep you amused for a full evening, indeed more if you have the opportunity.
One of my major gripes in past years has been the lack of food stalls and the resultant queues for those wishing to eat. 2015 saw the introduction of the ‘Night Noodle Market’ which was again a feature of the 2016 event, on an even bigger scale. While there were still queues they were nothing like what they used to be – so finally they have eating sorted out and with great views across to the War Memorial and Mount Ainslie from the large open air dining area, to boot. Lest you wonder, yes there were a couple of open air bars so I did not get dehydrated.
In addition to the wonderful free offering, an additional program of paid events is also timed to coincide with Enlighten. As this varies from year to year I suggest you check the program on the website below for details. I didn’t get to attend any of these in 2016.
Enlighten, as in the lights, runs from 8pm (dark) to 10pm (11pm on Friday and Saturdays). The galleries/museums, food vendors, music, etc are open at 6pm so do get there well before 8pm to make the most of you evening and also avail of easier parking if you are driving.
I should mention that various other buildings and venues around the city form part of Enlighten and if you have a vehicle these are worthy a look too. The website for 2016 listed the Electric Garden as one such place. I have never heard of it but on the promise that at this location “the air will be filled with deliciously intellectual lyrics, inspiring rhythms and tantalising beats” I will make an attempt to locate it for 2017!
A great evening out and not to be missed if you are in Canberra.
Address: Parliamentary Triangle – various
Directions: Various venues – check website for specific locations as they change a little year on year.