HALE W18 Masthead

Five Floriade experiences not to miss

Amanda Whitley

Yes, there are more than one million blooms on display throughout Commonwealth Park, but locals know Floriade is about much more than the flowers. This year, the theme of Reflection will be represented in garden beds, horticultural workshops, engaging demonstrations, children’s entertainment and the twilight event (our favourite), Floriade NightFest.

Here are five experiences that you shouldn’t miss!

Explore the flower beds

In line with the Floriade 2015 theme of Reflection, this year’s garden beds serve as floral tributes to the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli, representing iconic symbols of war and peace. From the “rising sun”, the motif that has formed an integral part of the badge worn by Australian soldiers, to the red poppy – a symbol of remembrance for soldiers who died during wartime, the garden beds are sure to prompt much discussion and thought.

If you’re keen to beat the crowds and get exclusive early access, local Heart Foundation walk organisers and CANwalk members will lead walkers through the gardens before the gates open to the general public. The walks are held 8am—9am daily during Floriade, starting Saturday 12 September. Meet at Commonwealth Avenue Pedestrian crossing. For more information contact Diane on 6269 2655 or [email protected]

Be inspired by big names

Floriade’s 30 days of activity have been programmed into four themed weeks – StoriesPrideConnections and Harmony – to ensure there is something new and exciting to see each week. Tying in with the theme of Reflection, some well known Australian names will share their passions with visitors: from the funny and insightful Gretel Killeen (Saturday 19 September and Sunday 20 September), to respected newspaper columnist, radio host and author, Peter FitzSimons (Sunday 27 September).

There are also some delicious presentations: Mark Olive will showcase his talent for fusing native food and culture with contemporary lifestyle cooking on Saturday 3 October and Sunday 4 October, and award-winning chef, restaurateur, author and television presenter Karen Martini will showcase her passion for food in The Kitchen Company Tasting Plate on Saturday 10 October.

See the full program here.

Get into NightFest

As the sun sets on Commonwealth Park, Floriade will take visitors on a journey of discovery for five nights only with spectacular lighting designs, roving performers, bustling night markets and a fantastic line-up of entertainment.

NightFest will also feature two new pop-up venues – La Petite Grande and The Little Palais – which will surprise crowds with classy sideshows, quirky circus acts, a silent disco and a UV dance party.

The Comedy Cave will offer a relaxed atmosphere featuring entertainment from top Aussie acts Hannah Gadsby and Joel Creasey, while a variety of delicious food and wine workshops will leave mouths watering in the Tasting Plate.

For the first time in 2015, Floriade NightFest’s VIP Experience will present an exclusive opportunity to enjoy the after-dark event in style. The VIP Experience will include a twilight ferry ride across Lake Burley Griffin, entry to NightFest, as well as drinks, canapés and an exclusive set by comedian Hannah Gadsby in the VIP marquee.

Get your tickets at www.floriadeaustralia.com/nightfest

Play up with some family fun

Floriade is undoubtedly my kids’ favourite time of year, and it’s amazing for parents, because so much of the entertainment is free! You could spend a whole day (or 30!) here. From reptile and farm animal encounters to kids craft and circus workshops; from storytime to sports – there’s something for every age and stage.

One of the highlights is pop-up PLAY UP, the result of new partnership between the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House and the IKEA Foundation. The exhibition will feature a range of interactive activities to engage families in the rights of the child, including building challenges, reading and activity spaces, and a virtual reality film “Clouds Over Sidra” which takes the viewer through the experience of life in a refugee camp.

When you’ve exhausted Kids Corner, wander through the many colourful flower beds and take a trip up the Ferris Wheel where you can see Floriade in all its glory from the air.

Explore hidden parts of Parliament House

Not all the action is happening in Commonwealth Park. Parliament House has some great activities on that allow visitors to explore hidden parts of this iconic building, and experience it in different ways.

The Spring Glory Courtyard Tour is a once-a-year opportunity to see the glorious gardens that are lovingly tended by the Parliament House landscape staff. Beautifully calm and simple, these hidden gardens will delight and amaze everyone.

These hour-long tours are being held at 10am, 12 noon and 3:30pm tomorrow, Saturday 12 September, and every Saturday from 26 September to 10 October; every Sunday from 13 September to 11 October; and weekdays from Monday 21 September – 9 October.

If you’re a keen gardener, the Parliament House Landscape Services gardeners will lead a very special in-depth tour through the gardens and hidden courtyards of Parliament House. They will show you how they manage the intricate systems and plantings that keep the gardens always looking their best. Here is an opportunity to ask all of those gardening questions and get a few tips from the best. You will finish the tour with tea in the Queen’s Terrace cafe.

For the ultimate ‘exclusive’ high tea, you can Celebrate spring in one of the stunning hidden Parliament House courtyards. Enjoy a delightful high tea of mouth-watering delicacies with a glass of something sparkling to celebrate Floriade. Spring Tea us being held at 2pm on Saturday 3 October and Saturday 10 October.

Bookings for all events are essential at canberraticketing.com.au or by phoning 02 6275 2700.


Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

  • gjacqui

    Confession – I’ve lived in canberra for 11 years and have never been to floriade. 2015 might be the year!