What began as the sustainable light-art festival, Smart Light in 2009, has evolved into one of Sydney’s most innovative and interactive annual events. With a carefully curated program of ideas, speakers, workshops, contemporary art and music, VIVID Sydney now acts as an intersection between technology, art and commerce.

No longer confined to Circular Quay, the 18-day line-up of events and installations is definitely overwhelming. So, in an area-by-area guide, we’ve rounded up the top spots where you’ll find illumination, music and ideas.

Chippendale

Free of the lockout restrictions of the CBD, VIVID late-night music events will take over the inner city. The versatile venue that is Freda’s will host a program of free events curated by Vibe Positive, Plastic World, Cut Silk and Jangle Jangle. Freda’s will embark on a world tour with Japanese and African themed nights accompanied by beats from Astral People DJs and Andras Fox.

Carriageworks and VIVID present Modulations, a music and food extravaganza. Highlights of the Modulations program include Italo Dining and Disco Club, that will feature four top-notch Italian restaurants, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Da Orazio Pizza+ Porchetta, Fratelli Paradiso and 10 Williams Street amidst Italian disco tunes in a free six-night showcase. The iconic Grace Jones will also dazzle over three nights.

Indigenous artist Reko Rennie will revamp Central Park's heritage-listed brewery façade in a spectacular projection of contemporary street art. Every Friday and Saturday the Central Park grounds will transform into a silent disco. Free entry will give you access to headphones, a dance floor and three DJ channels to choose from.

aMBUSH Gallery will host the inauguration of Streets Ahead. An exploration into the rise of contemporary street culture, Streets Ahead presents a series of talks and exhibitions showcasing Tony Arcabascio and jeffstaple and Mishka and 123KLAN. Two Up, an offbeat and engaging talk series will also host a VIVID edition at 107 Projects.

CBD

For the first time Semi-Permanent is part of the official VIVID program. The hub for creatives will feature talks by designer Beci Orpin and Archibald Prize winner Ben Quilty. Hub Sydney is also offering a free VIVID Coworking Day that will give individuals the chance to experience a diverse and creative co-working community.

Goodgod Small Club will host a special edition of its bi-monthly ‘90s dance party Rhythm of the Night, and in the same nostalgic spirit, Sweetie and Shag from FBi will present a free night of classic Ugly Duckling tracks that didn’t make it to air.

VIVID lights will transform the rooftop of The Star into a Sydney Game Zone. In Pyrmont Pyro, visitors can create their own digital fireworks display, while Mission Control allows anyone to control dozens of searchlights atop the Star. For those enjoying the rooftop VIVID Lounge, there will be Face Off karaoke, interactive projected video games and pop-up eateries from Balla, Sokyo, Momofuku Seiobo and Fat Noodle.

Circular Quay

Sydney harbour is VIVID’s beating heart. This year’s light walk features piano stairs, a wave chandelier, interactive illuminations of Sydney’s skyline, and Dolly, a crocheted three-metre-tall light-up doll. For the first time the walk will extend to inside the Opera House for Universal Everything, a free exhibition celebrating the design collective behind this year’s Lighting the Sails.

Narrated by BBC’s David Attenborough, Life Story will transform the vaulted roof of the Argyle into a projected enclosure of bird, marine and animal life. The Rocks will also host VIVID night markets, offering food, specialty stalls and music amidst light installations.

Like always, VIVID and The Sydney Opera house have an outstanding line-up of Australian and international music acts. Whilst Matthew Herbert is sold out, tickets are still available for Daniel Johns, Sufjan Stevens, TV on The Radio, and the third year return of Redbull Music Academy’s and Astral People’s studio takeover.

For the first time Etsy.com, a marketplace of unique goods, will host a free admission craft party in the Rocks. The MCA presents the VIVID Ideas Exchange inclusive of talks and an MCA Zine Fair.

Opera Bar will transform its Meat & Cheese room into a retro picnic area with Astroturf and picnic benches. The Opera Bar cafe will become a ‘90s arcade-game bar by night. Think Pacman, Space Invaders and Street Fighter.

For the first time, Sydney Opera House will create an indoor pop-up bar headed by Alex Dowd and Jeremy Blackmore of The Cliff Dive and Tio’s Cerveceria called the Deep Purple Pool Hall. Head to the Concert Hall Northern Foyer for free pool, whiskey and DJs.

Inner West

The inner west will get its first taste of VIVID as the program expands for VIVID ERSKNVL. Highlights include a record fair and a diverse program of drag queens, international DJs and cabaret performances.

The Factory Theatre in Marrickville will host Heaps Gay, a day and night festival of music, art and performance presented by FBi Radio and VIVID.

Chatswood

In a spectacular display of LED lights, jellyfish chandeliers and Nautilus and the Sea, Ample Projects have transformed Chatswood shopping centre into an immersive underwater fantasy characterised by floating creatures and pulsing colours.

Nautilus Pop-Up Co are running two pop up bars at the Upper Podium Level, alongside the installation. 4 Pines Rooftop Bar and Market is nautical in theme and serves locally crafted 4 Pines beers, drinks and food every night of Vivid. The bar sports a rooftop garden, a sandpit for kids and spectacular views of the lights.

With a nod to the British Colonial era, the Cabana Bar is a sophisticated cocktail and wine joint, with ferns, cane seating and subdued lighting: perfect for evening chats.