Family Fun at Sovereign Hill's Winter Wonderlights + Ballarat Winter Festival


We have just returned home from a magical mini-break in Ballarat. I first heard about the Ballarat Winter Festival and the Winter Wonderlights from my friend Kylie @lovelittlebig. This special event sees Sovereign Hill - an open-air museum that depicts Ballarat's ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851 - into an enchanting winter wonderland celebrating 'Christmas in July'.

The Ballarat Winter Festival runs until the end of July and is a collaboration with Visit Ballarat, the City of Ballarat and the local attractions and businesses.

We arrived in Ballarat yesterday afternoon and checked into our gorgeous luxury accommodation - a 2 bedroom suite at Ballarat Premier Apartments. This stunning heritage property has been beautifully restored and our suite featured the most stunning chandelier and fireplace. It is a hop, skip and jump away from the heart of Ballarat Central.

We arrived at Sovereign Hill just as the faux snow flakes were starting to fall down Main Street. Ava and Alex couldnt’t believe their eyes as they explored the pretty village and spotted the Redcoat Soldiers marching by the shops and storefronts. Sovereign Hill’s famous Lollyshop was our first stop and the little ones were in awe of the rows of jars of sweets.

After we had explored Main Street we headed to the European Christmas Fare Marquee where the 'Amazing Barry' was performing some magic shows. Ava and Alex also got to paint some wooden Gingerbread Men, took a sleigh ride and sipped on hot chocolates.

It was then time to pan for gold and the kids were convinced some of the golden coloured stones they found were gold! We then went on an underground adventure at the Red Hill Mine Tour, a self-guided tour that took us on a journey to discover a replica of the 'Welcome Nugget', a 69kg gold nugget that was found in 1858.

Before we knew it the sun was setting and the fairy lights were turned on behind Main Street on Speedwell Street down to Golden Point Road. Thousands of twinkling lights lined the streets, trees and buildings.

We arrived back at Main Street right at 5.45pm right as the Winter Wonderlights light show began.

There were thousands of people lining the streets as snow flakes fell and the lights twinkled.

I don't think any of the photos we took truly capture the magic that was in the air as the lights were turned on, it really is one of those things you just have to experience.

Gorgeous festive images danced along the facades of the buildings all the way along Main Street, bringing the 'Christmas in July' magic to life.

Winter Wonderlights is running at Sovereign Hill until 22 June and you can find out all the details and book tickets at www.winterwonderlights.com.au. It is a perfect activity for the school holidays!

We left the Winter Wonderlights and headed straight to Carboni’s Italian Kitchen for dinner which is located a short drive away from Sovereign Hill in the Eureka Stockade precinct. The food and service were amazing and there was a fantastic kids menu too. Pete and I started with a Negroni and the most delicious mushroom arancinis, Ava had pasta and Alex had Pan fried calamari with hand cut chips. For main course I enjoyed the Pollo Valdostana (chicken breast with prosciutto and provolone) and Pete had the 'meat of the day' which was a pork fillet. There is a great selection of pizzas and pastas on the menu too and it is a perfect family-friendly dinner venue following a fun day out at Sovereign Hill. Carbonis.com.au.

The following morning we headed to Yellow Espresso for the most incredible breakfast.

This sweet cafe was pumping with both locals and tourists and it was easy to see why it is so popular. There is a fabulous menu (including all-day breakfast), friendly staff and the most divine range of cakes and treats. I loved how they've carried the yellow theme through the cafe too, even to the staff aprons and the adorable teacups and saucers.

Pete had the Avocado + Meredith Feta Smash and I had Eggs Benedict with Salmon on gluten free toast. The kids were so well looked after with hot chocolates, toast and hash browns.

Visit www.facebook.com/Yellowespressoballarat

Our next stop was to the Pop Up Ice Rink which is in town over the school holidays until 15 July. The Ice Rink is adjacent to the Ballarat Town Hall and is open from 9am in the morning until 8.30pm.

Our little loves were thrilled to see the resident ice skating penguins when we arrived and each took one around the rink with them.

The music is pumping and it is a super fun activity for the whole family to enjoy.

Bookings are essential and can be made here: http://ballarat.starsonice.com.au/tickets/

From there it was time to visit the Ballarat Wildlife Park. This incredible privately-owned wildlife park is truly an animal sanctuary, with acres and acres of beautiful land for the animals to enjoy.

The free roaming kangaroos were such a highlight for the kids - there were hundreds of gorgeous roos roaming through the park but one little cutie was Ava and Alex's favourite. Alex even asked if we could take it home with us!

They also loved visiting the resident Crocodile, Crunch the Croc, the reptile house and the giant Tortoises too.

For more information about the Ballarat Wildlife Park, visit wildlifepark.com.au

This little Roo stole Alex and Ava's heart!

The final stop on our Ballarat mini-break was to Knife Fork Spoon Kitchen + Espresso.

I have been following this gorgeous cafe on Instagram for awhile and long admired their range of shakes!

You step into the cafe and literally feel as though you have walked into a cafe run by Willy Wonka. Kylee, the lovely owner, is a mum-of-three and understands exactly what parents and kids want! The 'Little People' Menu was SO cute and the kids were delighted when their plates arrived at the table with cheese muffins, fruit skewers, freckle cookies AND a chocolate milkshake. It was the perfect way to finish off such a sweet mini-break in Ballarat.

There is also a fabulous selection of savoury foods including tacos, toasties and warm salads.

It has truly been an unforgettable couple of days for our family and the biggest thank you to the team at Sovereign Hill,Tamara at Esencia Communications and the team at Visit Ballarat for inviting us along to experience the magic of the #ballaratwinterfestival. We can't wait to return to Sovereign Hill and beautiful Ballarat again soon. xx

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