Just before Christmas I had entered a few giveaways in hopes to win some tickets to the Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Lights Spectacular. You see, I had tried to take the kids a couple of times before back in 2016 & 2017. We made the 45 minute journey both years only to arrive and, while stopped for dinner, discover that they had been cancelled due to storms that were brewing - yep, both times. So you can imagine how excited I was to win tickets this year and not only did I win a family pass to the gardens to see the lights, but also an overnight stay at Harrigan's Irish Pub, which is right next door. I was a little nervous about locking in a date, given our previous run ins with the weather but luckily all the stars aligned and we finally got to go - not a storm in sight.
For those not familiar with the area, the Hunter Valley Gardens are located in the heart of Hunter Valley Wine Country (about 45 mins from Newcastle, where we are from). This trip was just me and the kids though so no wine tours or wine tastings this visit *** insert whines here ***
We checked in just after 3pm and chilled out in our room for a few hours before heading out to dinner. So many amazing places to dine, so where did we decide? Maccas *** insert even more whines here *** If I was there for a romantic weekend away (maybe someday, a girl can dream, right?) I would totally have splurged on somewhere ah-mah-zing, but I just couldn't justify spending $15 per child for a serve of chicken nuggets and chips at a fancy restaurant, so McDonald's it was.
After dinner it was off to see the Christmas lights. The sun was still shining at 7pm when we arrived, so we did a lap in the daylight before the sun finally set around 8:30ish. Beautiful as the gardens are in the daytime, they were truly magical after sunset. So many different displays to see which were all incredible and gave us those Christmas feels all over again. At one point on our journey around the gardens, we arrived at a display showing Santa and his sleigh being pulled by 6 white kangaroos. Tiny Whiny #1 made a comment about them not being reindeer. I asked her had she not heard the song 'Six White Boomers'. To which she replied, 'No, what's a boomer?'. OMG, what are they teaching them in schools these days? I cannot believe she is about to start her 5th year of school and has yet to be taught the song 'Six White Boomers'! It was legit my favourite Christmas carol when I was in primary school. I'll be making sure they learn it from YouTube this year since it's no longer part of the Christmas carol curriculum.
Anyway, after a second lap in the dark, we headed back to our room and turned in for the night.
The next day we woke up to a delicious buffet breakfast - all the bacon, sausages, pancakes, pastries and fresh fruit we could eat. I don't normally do breakfast, but seriously, who can resist a buffet? Obviously not me!
After checking out, despite it being hot as hell I decided to take the kids to the Hunter Valley Zoo. We'd never been before and I had an Entertainment Book voucher so I thought, 'why not?'. It was a great experience and the kids loved getting up close to the kangaroos, farm animals and even got to pat a baby wombat. The Tiny Whiney's were particularly fascinated by the camels - thank goodness we didn't get spit on, but sweet Jesus those things are slobbery. We braved the heat for as long as we could but after about 2.5 hrs and a complete lap of the zoo (plus an extra trip back to say farewell to the camels) we bought some slushies and retreated to the air conditioned car for the journey home.
This mini trip was one of the highlights of the school holidays so far. I'd love to go back for another visit - probably not in the sweltering heat. Next visit to wine country though - definitely needs to include some wine!