|Winter Magic Festival - Quick Facts|
Katoomba is 109km west of Sydney along the Great Western Highway.
If you're fed up with long cold winter nights in the city, and crave a bit of community warmth, pack your fairy wings and head to Katoomba, where every year, on the closest Saturday to the winter solstice, the town's main street hosts the Winter Magic Festival.
For centuries, people in cold climates all over the world have celebrated the shortest day of the year and welcomed the returning warmth of the sun. Katoomba has transformed the tradition into a celebration of community spirit.
Run by a team of volunteers since 1994, the festival attracts about 30,000 people. Most are locals, but word of the party has spread and a growing number of visitors come to enjoy a day of music, shopping, fun and fancy dress.
A parade kicks off the event at 11.30 am. Incredible effort and imagination produces some amazing costumes but don't worry if you miss it - you'll see most of the parade participants enjoying the festival throughout the day. Stilt walkers, clowns, cowboys, medieval maidens and lots of fairies outnumber the amount of people wearing jeans.
Katoomba Street is closed to traffic for the day to make room for market stalls, entertainment stages and buskers. To take in the full scope of the festival, you'll probably have to wander the street's 250-metre inclining length several times.
Start at the top, opposite Katoomba train station. The wide mouth of the road here is dedicated to street theatre. Performances, like Larrikin - the juggling surfer, occur intermittently throughout the day. Make sure you catch at least one of them.
Twenty metres further along, you'll come across the main entertainment stage and the nearby organiser's stand, where you can pick up a program listing the acts appearing at each of the three entertainment areas. Music dominates the festival. No matter what your taste, you're sure to find something that appeals from the scores of local and national acts.
Face-painting stations are located along the street, clowns pop up all over the place and a ride area near the Uniting Church on the eastern side of the street features a mini-merry-go-round, compact Ferris wheel and slides.
If the kids are feeling creative, take them to the craft table at the base of the street. Here they can choose from a range of blank plaster-of-Paris moulds and use the pots of paint supplied to transform them into colourful ornaments.
While the paint is drying on the plaster masterpiece, you can scout the festival for food. There are numerous places to eat. As well as the usual market fare of Chinese stir-fries and Rotary sausage sizzles you will find organic falafels and pumpkin soup.
All of Katoomba's restaurants and cafes are open and doing a roaring trade. Most have tables set out on the street so you never have to leave the festival atmosphere.
But if you do need a break from the heady activity, head back up to the top of the street to the elegant Carrington Hotel. Enjoy a warming snack by the fire on the large comfortable couches of the colonial lounge room or have a more formal meal in the dining room.
After lunch is a good time to browse the market stalls. Items for sale range from greeting cards and glittering fairy wings to hand-knitted jumpers and bonsai trees. All stalls in the festival are vetted by the organisers to ensure the quality and nature of their products keeps with the artistic and community spirit of the day.
One of the most popular features of the festival is Art Street, a shop-window art exhibition. More than 40 Katoomba businesses donate their shop fronts to display the works of local artists. The gallery walk through town is the best way to appreciate the vast array of artistic talent in the mountains.
Finish the day with a burst of fireworks on the lush lawn of the Carrington Hotel at 6pm. For those hardy souls who want to continue dancing into the night, the live music finishes at 10pm, and there is another explosion of fireworks at 9pm.
The Winter Magic Festival is a great time to experience the cultural scene at Katoomba: fine art, cottage crafts, indigenous art, even historical things like stained and leadlight glass, metal forging and classic bookbinding. Check out Lurline Street and Waratah Avenue. OurSecret, Katoomba.
The local markets on the opening Saturday are a big attraction for visitors to the area. They see local products they you won't see elsewhere. Teagan, Canberra.