Monday, 31 July 2017


Photo by Kevin Krejci / CC BY
With 182 playgrounds, 82 recreation centers, 60 soccer fields, and more than 300 coffee shops (that one's for you, mom and dad), it's no wonder our 49 square miles are perfect for your next San Francisco family vacation. Looking for kiddo-friendly culture? We got it. Outdoor space to play? Plenty of it. Educational experiences so fun that the kids won't even realize they're learning? We basically invented it.

Here are 10 family-friendly activities we recommend for your next San Francisco family vacation:

1. Walt Disney Family Museum

Don't let the title fool you — this isn't Disneyland (although there is a miniature replica of the park in the museum). But there is magic within these walls. Parents will love browsing memorabilia collected by the Disney family and reminiscing about the life of Walt Disney, his films and Disneyland. While the grown-ups are learning about the evolution of Mickey, little ones can participate in the museum's Little Open Studio to enjoy story time and family-friendly activities geared towards children seven and under. Also check the calendar for special film screenings (including those locked away in the infamous Disney vault).

2. Exploratorium

The old Exploratorium was awesome. The totally reimagined Exploratorium in its new waterfront home at Pier 15 is nothing short of spectacular. Named by CNN as the #1 Spot for Kids in the country, the museum encourages guests of all ages to touch, explore and play with 600 exhibits. Investigate the living world, experiment with thoughts, feelings and behavior, explore the local environment, think with your hands and much more. All this science making you hungry? The Exploratorium houses a cafe and a waterfront restaurant, both serving seasonal and sustainable cuisine prepared by local chefs. All ages are welcome, and if you've got toddlers in tow, just follow the giant bubbles. Strollers are also available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

3. PIER 39

Often referred to as the "Disneyland of San Francisco," a family vacation isn't complete without a trip to PIER 39 on Fisherman's Wharf. Visit the resident sea lions who mysteriously took over the PIER's docks after the 1989 earthquake, watch magicians, jugglers, comedians and more during daily street performer shows, and run down oversized musical stairs — all for free! Other activities for the little kids (or big ones) include Aquarium of the Bay, Players Sports Grill & Arcade, Magowan's Infinite Mirror Maze, the San Francisco Carousel, a classic Caricature stand and Frequent Flyers (think bungee cords + giant trampoline).

4. Children's Creativity Museum

As any parent or guardian knows, exposing children to creativity is one of the most valuable tools you can offer a child. The Children's Creativity Museum goes beyond the conventional environment of play by inspiring kids to imagine, create and share in their multimedia environment. With exhibits including an Animation Studio, Imagination Lab, Music Studio and even a Cloud Gallery, the museum is packed with workshops and hands-on activities suitable for kids of all ages.

5. Bay Cruise and Water Taxis

Exploring San Francisco's bay is nothing short of magical, no matter what age. While there are many ways to stretch your sea legs, the most popular for families is a classic Bay Cruise. Get up close and personal with the city skyline, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz Island (to get on the Island, visit If you're lucky you may even spot some sea life. If that doesn't take your breath away, sailing smoothly under the Golden Gate Bridge will. and

6. Chinatown

Experience the bright colors and fascinating facades of the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. Explore the golden dragons and emerald roofs of Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, then follow the scent of fresh fortune cookies to the famed Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley to witness first-hand how the fortune actually makes it into the cookie.

7. Golden Gate Park

San Francisco sets the bar high when it comes to parks. Nearly every neighborhood has one, although the grandest of all is Golden Gate Park, which stretches from the Haight to the Pacific Ocean. With more than 1,000 acres of plush greenery, it's also home to The Koret Children's Quarter (a merry-go-round and playground), the de Young Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, Stow Lake and, if you're lucky, a resident herd of buffalo. There's plenty of room to spread out for a picnic, go on a hunt for waterfalls, or polish a few soccer moves in an open meadow.

8. California Academy of Sciences

Want to earn cool points with the kids? They're guaranteed to pop a smile amidst the aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, rain forest, and home to 40,000 live animals — all under one living roof. Set time aside for a penguin feeding, dive show or swamp talk with the Academy's celebrity albino alligator, Claude. All that knowledge is sure to work up an appetite, which makes the Academy's casual Academy Cafe ideal for a mid-afternoon break.

9. Historic Streetcar Ride

A cross between a cable car and one of the sleek light rail vehicles that run underground along Market Street, San Franciso's fleet of historic streetcars runs aboveground on Market Street between the Castro District and Fisherman's Wharf. And to learn the full story behind these historic cars, visit the free San Francisco Railway Museum. There are great photo ops, simple didactics that explain the history of the fleet and a gift shop with unique items and memorabilia. The whole experience is right on track for little train buffs.

10. Musee Mechanique

Bring the kids back to a time when texting consisted of a pen and paper and social networking was only available with face-to-face contact at Musee Mecanique at Fisherman's Wharf. This antique arcade is one of the world's largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated musical instruments and arcade games, all available for play. Don't worry about paying "Laughing Sal" as you walk through his open mouth to enter the Musee —admission is free (although the games do require some coins).

Honorable Mentions

Take in a Giants game at AT&T Park. Grab your cardboard and ride down the Seward Street Slides. Step inside a real-life stagecoach at the Wells Fargo History Museum.


More than 700 artists will perform at over 2,800 events across 120 venues when the Tamworth Country Music Festival returns in January 2018.

Headlining acts for next year’s event include perennial favourites and award winners such as Troy Cassar-Daley, Lee Kernaghan, The McClymonts, Sara Storer, Adam Eckersley Band and John Williamson.

NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall said the event will provide a major boost to the local visitor economy.

“In 2018, the event is expected to attract 13,700 overnight visitors and deliver more than $13 million in visitor spend and I encourage country music fans across Australia to start planning their visit to Tamworth next January for an outstanding country NSW event.”

For all ticketing and festival details head to

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Hoshino Resorts introduces unique Japanese resorts to Australia

Mr Yoshiharu Hoshino
Hoshino Resorts, leading Japanese luxury resort is honoured to introduce its line of ryokans (Japanese inns), resorts and hotels to Australian travellers.

All of the company's properties are focused on bringing the best experience of omotenashi (Japanese-style hospitality) to every guest. 

Visiting Australia, Hoshino Resorts CEO Mr Yoshiharu Hoshino said that his company is very interested in welcoming more Australians to experience Hoshino’s unique properties as well as looking at the potential to invest directly in the Australian market to bring the unique Japanese ryokan concept here.

Already many Australians have visited our properties (which number some 35 in Japan) and it is clear that interest in Japan continues to grow, Mr Hoshino said. 

Our objective is to adapt the ryokan concept to work in major cities such as Sydney, London, and New York and to establish an entirely new accommodation category in these markets in the future, he said. 

Japan has become a very popular destination among Australian travellers. At the same, we believe the cosmopolitan cities in Australia as the epicentres for trendsetting which will readily welcome new accommodation concept.

In these cities, we are keen to develop a market in which travellers choose ryokan primarily for comfort and relaxation rather than for simply a "Japanese experience. This could pave the way for a world where ryokan becomes something anyone would see as readily accessible just Japanese cars run on the streets of Australian cities like Sydney or sushi restaurants open in Brisbane. Achieving this will be a challenge, but it is one of our major objectives and we are actively looking at our b u s i n e s s strategy to hopefully make it happen soon.

While Hoshino had its early start as a forestry business in 1904, its origins as a hospitality brand came about with the opening of its first hot spring resort in 1914. It was later rebranded by CEO Yoshiharu Hoshino in 1995 as Hoshino Resorts and, now includes three hospitality brands under its company - HOSHINOYA, RISONARE and KAI. The company also operates 35 properties across Japan, with two located in Tahiti and Bali. 

We look forward to informing more and more Australians about Hoshino’s unique offer and to hopefully bringing the ryokan concept to this country soon, Mr Hoshino said.


Wild Oats XI clears Sydney Heads at the start
of the 2016 Sydney Gold Coast yacht race
(Image credit: Andrea Francolini)
Australia’s most successful ocean racing supermaxi yacht, Wild Oats XI, will return to competition today as a starter in the 384 nautical mile Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast race.

The 30-metre long, silver-hulled racer, which is owned by the Oatley family, made a dramatic exit from the Rolex Sydney Hobart race last December when the hydraulic mechanism controlling the canting keel failed. Wild Oats XI was leading the fleet mid-Bass Strait when the incident occurred.

The cause for the keel failure was confirmed after the yacht limped back into Sydney Harbour and was lifted from the water.

“We did exhaustive tests on every piece of the hydraulic keel mechanism to make sure this was a once only problem,” said the yacht’s skipper, Mark Richards. “The keel failed because part of the mechanism got out of alignment.”

Richards said he and the Wild Oats XI crew were looking forward to being back on the race course on what will be the first stage of an extensive program leading up to this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race. The Brisbane to Keppel race is next on the agenda, then Audi Hamilton Island Race Week starting August 19.

A radical new jet-black mainsail and jib will be tested on the yacht during the Sydney Gold Coast race. Made by North Sails using the 3Di RAW process, the massive mainsail is 12 per cent lighter than Wild Oats XI’s previous mainsail. The space-age fabric is also smoother so the drag factor is minimised.

The Wild Oats XI crew is hoping that their yacht’s original sistership, first named Alfa Romeo and now Black Jack 100, will be on the start line on Sydney Harbour at 1pm tomorrow. Brisbane yachtsman, Peter Harburg, purchased the yacht in Europe earlier this year, shipped it to Sydney and had extensive modifications made, including the fitting of a considerably longer bowsprit. The yacht’s sailing master, Mark “Squark” Bradford, said this morning he was 99 per cent certain Black Jack 100 would be ready to race to the Gold Coast.

Race organisers at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Sydney have confirmed 57 yachts have entered for the 32nd staging of the event.

The current weather outlook from yachting meteorologist, Roger “Clouds” Badham, indicates that Wild Oats XI’s course record time of 22 hours 03mins 46secs will not be bettered this year. Badham expects the majority of the fleet to experience light to moderate headwinds winds from the west to north quadrant of the compass, with the maximum strength being about 25 knots on the first night at sea.

New Zealand’s newest city is designed for meetings

Christchurch Centre design - river view
More than $40 billion is being ploughed into Christchurch, transforming New Zealand’s oldest city into its newest.

Speaking at Get Global in Sydney, ChristchurchNZ Convention Bureau Bid Manager Claire Hector-Taylor says this compact, attractive city is an ideal meeting destination.

“Christchurch is a future-focused city boasting major infrastructure developments, including a new convention centre due to be completed in late 2019. We are the gateway to New Zealand’s South Island with a top international airport just 15 minutes from the city.”

Famed as the Garden City, the CBD is now home to new green spaces with the Ōtākaro/Avon River precinct as its centrepiece, creating a beautiful walking environment.

“Christchurch is all about pedestrian-friendly shopping, dining, arts and entertainment,” she says.

New Zealand’s second largest city is home to world-class universities, Crown research facilities, start-up accelerators, and specialist innovation and health precincts.

“Here we are bringing together people from all over the world with interests in Christchurch’s specialist areas of expertise, including earth sciences, health sciences, agriculture, food science, international education, building and environmental technology.”

With Christchurch’s proximity to the beautiful Canterbury region and as gateway to the magnificent South Island, Christchurch is investing in the conference sector by building a world-class boutique convention centre of major architectural significance for up to 2000 delegates on a prime riverfront CBD site, developed by the New Zealand Government.

The Christchurch Centre has been designed by international firm Woods Bagot and promises to be a landmark facility of outstanding architectural significance. Its central riverside location, cultural and heritage references, and flexible design layout are key features.

The Christchurch Centre’s tiered 1400-delegate auditorium will be ideal for large plenary sessions, and can be scaled to allow two events to run concurrently. It is complemented by break-out space in flexible meeting rooms. The purpose-built banquet area has separate capacity to host the total number of convention delegates. An exhibition hall supports the exhibition component of conventions, while public circulation space allows for informal meetings and comfortable pre-event gathering spaces. Support infrastructure includes dedicated offices for professional conference organisers, a hospitality lounge, boardroom, crew room and speaker preparation rooms.

The rebirth of Christchurch doesn’t stop with the Convention Centre. The Crowne Plaza hotel has returned to Christchurch this July, in a new location right opposite the convention centre development. It is the largest upscale hotel in the CBD with 204 modern rooms, a café, bar and restaurants and four modern event spaces. Two more new hotels will add 400 rooms to Christchurch in the coming months, including Novotel Christchurch Airport, and Distinction Hotel Christchurch.

River-facing hospitality precincts and the major shopping areas are nearly complete and will be open this spring.

Senior Reed Manager Sciacca appointed to lead AIME 2018

Angela Sciacca, Project Manager, AIME
Angela Sciacca has been promoted to Project Manager of the Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meeting Expo (AIME), and will be responsible for the overall delivery of the 2018 show.

Angela has worked as the Operations Manager for AIME since 2004 and has been in the exhibition industry since 1992. She has a clear understanding of the needs of both exhibitors and delegates and will be a key driver of the new initiatives for 2018.

Kerry Prince, ibtm Events, Portfolio Director, said in appointing Angela; “We are very pleased to have Angela move into this role given her extensive involvement with AIME over the years and her operations background; she was the ideal candidate for this role focusing on flawless delivery.

“As this is our final show for MCB, we are committed to ensuring a fantastic experience for all, to ensure our legacy remains strong in the business events community.

“We would like to thank the outgoing exhibition director, Ian Wainwright for his hard work and passion for the industry over the past two years,” said Ms Prince.

AIME is where inspiration begins, 20-21 February 2018, at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.


Photo by Eric Neitzel / CC BY-NC-ND
December through April and the summertime months means that some of San Francisco’s biggest visitors will be passing through town. Gray whales are making their annual migration north to Alaska where they spend the summer feeding in bountiful waters.

San Francisco Travel partners with a number of whale watching tours and charters that can get you out onto the high seas for an up-close look at these massive and magnificent creatures.

SF Bay Whale WatchingSF Bay Whale Watching provides whale watching and natural history expeditions, departing from Pier 39 to the Farallon islands. Journeys to the so-called “Devil’s Teeth” can get wet and wild, so be prepared for a true adventure.

San Francisco Whale ToursSan Francisco Whale Tours offers regularly scheduled tours as well as private charters. The experienced crew and knowledgeable experts are committed to giving customers a great experience—and to saving the whales you’ll see on your trip. The company pledges 25 cents per full price ticket purchase to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Oceanic Society Whale Watching

Oceanic Society is a non-profit ocean conservation organization based in San Francisco. Their mission is to conserve marine wildlife and habitats by deepening the connections between people and nature. Their whale watching boats depart from docks in both San Francisco and Sausalito.


As Queensland continues its push as tourism powerhouse, one of the state’s most unique travel destinations – Birdsville – is gearing up for a historic year.

2017 marks the 135th anniversary of the Birdsville Races, an outback bucket-list experience that transforms one of Australia’s most remote townships into a tourism and culture mecca – earmarked by travel enthusiasts the country and the world over.

Kicking off on the first weekend of September each year (September 1 & 2, 2017), the event sees Birdsville’s population swell from 115 to more than 7,000, with many visitors flocking from early August to experience the region’s yabby races, street parties and various other unique events that lead into the big Friday and Saturday race days.

The yearly influx of visitors has seen the Races become a staple of Queensland’s tourism calendar, which has grown in recent times to be worth more than $600 million annually.

While the Races have put Birdsville on the map, the town and surrounding region also offer travellers an array of other well-known attractions including the famous camel pie, the legendary Birdsville Hotel, a 40 metre sand dune named ‘Big Red’, the Diamantina River, Burke and Wills campsite and Australia’s largest patch of Waddi Trees - one of only three such spots in the world.

Located more than 1,000 kilometres from any major Australian city, the trip to ‘The Melbourne Cup of the Outback’ on the edge of the Simpson Desert requires significant planning.

And while the actual Melbourne Cup stops the nation for just three minutes, the journey to the Birdsville Races signifies a once-in-a-lifetime road trip adventure like no other – offering up an unrivalled opportunity to take in the striking red desert terrain, remote townships, distinct outback flora, unique characters and rich tapestry of inland Australia.

Bus tours to the Birdsville Races also operate from capital cities, as well as limited flights on Rex Airlines from Brisbane and Mount Isa – with additional flights often added for the Races. For those keen on flying privately, charter flights from capital cities and regional areas offer a direct flight route into Birdsville.

The Races are just one of more than 100 of Australia’s top live events staged in the best destinations, as showcased on the It’s Live! In Queensland calendar:

Today, Birdsville Races Vice President Gary Brook shares his top recommendations for travelling to the 2017 event.


Driving from Melbourne

“Melbournians loves a good horse race. And with the Birdsville Races known to many as the “Melbourne Cup of the Outback”, a strong contingent from the Victorian capital makes the annual journey to Birdsville,” says Gary. “Located more than 2,000 kilometres from Melbourne, the driving trip usually takes around 32 hours all up.”

Starting the trip

“You’re off and driving with a long trip ahead, so it’s worth staying on the road for a few hours at least,” says Gary.

“Around two-and-a-half hours into the drive, you’ll reach Shepparton, which is definitely worth a visit. Shepparton is the biggest town within the Goulbourn Valley – famous for its juices!

“The town has a great local museum, a longstanding art gallery and little lookout tower offering spectacular views if you can manage the 160-step ascent. There’s also Belstack Strawberry Farm situated just south of Shepparton, which offers farm tours, an orchard and some serene river walks.”

“Five hours along the road from Melbourne is Griffith, which is a popular stopover point with some great local wineries, museums and cultural spots,” adds Gary.

“If you have limited travel time, another four hours’ drive from Griffith will bring you to the historical town of Cobar.”

Reaching the border

“Another popular stopover on the journey is the well-known town of Barringun,” says Gary. “Situated right on the border of NSW and QLD, this town has a usual population of just four, but their 140 year-old pub is a must-see in the region.”

“By the time you reach the border, you’ll have travelled through several outback towns, with Quilpie – 6.5 hours from Bourke – another favourite of visitors making the long haul.

“With several museums, Quilpie has a long history and is famous for its opal industry, which showcases some of Australia’s finest gems. It’s definitely a top spot to rest for the night before the final trek into Birdsville.”

Reaching Birdsville

“From Quilpie, there’s around 10 hours of driving left, which can either be done in one long day or with another overnight stop at Windorah, home to the renowned Western Star Hotel,” says Gary. “Voted Best Outback Pub in Australia, the Western Star is loved for its big, hearty meals.

“From Windorah, it’s just under 400 kilometres to Birdsville, which can be driven in an easy day.”

Driving from Adelaide

“One of the top spots on the way from Adelaide to Birdsville is Clare,” says Gary. “Just two hours from the city, Clare is lauded as one of Australia’s best wine regions.

“Another hour’s drive from Clare is Orroroo, popular for both its name and quaint small-town vibe. It’s also home to the Orroroo Kangaroo store, which stocks an abundance of different Kangaroo products.”

“The famed Ikara-Flinders Range National Park is another 2.5 hours’ drive and is renowned for its indigenous rock art sites and well-preserved cultural heritage,” adds Gary.

“The national park is a great spot to set up camp for the night or, alternatively, you can find accommodation nearby in Hawker.”

Reaching the Outback

“The next day will bring travellers to Parachilna, a picturesque town that was used as a filming location for parts of Rabbit Proof Fence,” says Gary. “Showcasing bush tucker and the infamous daily 161 wagon-carrying coal train, Parachilna is a worthy and unique stopover point.

“Another 3 hours’ drive from Parachilna is Marree, the last town before Birdsville,” adds Gary.

“A town bustling with history, Marree is home to Australia’s first ever mosque. Known by locals as “where the Outback begins”, it’s a great little destination for a stopover, camping or bunking at the Marree Hotel.”

The final stretch

“Beyond Marree is the famous Birdsville track, a 517 kilometre dirt-road that leads straight into Birdsville,” says Gary.

“There is only one fuel stop once you leave Marree, which is at Mungarannie, a 200km drive from Marree. Mungerannie also has a hotel for those wishing to break the trip up, as well as facilities to camp.

“Once you get to Mungerannie, you’re only 315 kilometres from Birdsville.”

Driving from Sydney

“Birdsville is located just under 2,000 kilometres from Sydney, with several driving routes in between,” says Gary.

“As with the trip from Melbourne, you’re looking at around 30 hours’ total driving time.”

Hitting the road

“The most popular route to Birdsville from Sydney cuts through the picturesque Blue Mountains and then the historic city of Lithgow,” says Gary. “Lithgow is home to the spectacular Hassan’s Wall lookout, the scenic Zig Zag Railway and the Lithgow State Mine Heritage Park.”

“Continuing inland, you’ll find the popular tourist destination of Dubbo, which is renowned for the Taronga Western Planes Zoo, the Old Dubbo Gaol and the Shoyoen Japanese Garden. Dubbo is also one of the bigger stopover points on route to Birdsville and, as such, has one of the larger accommodation selections.

“Nearly two hours on from Dubbo is the historic town of Nyngan, one of the main wool-growing and agriculture regions in Australia. Nyngan has a self-guided heritage trail, the Mid-State Shearing Shed Museum and affordable motel and farm-stay options.”

Reaching the Outback

“The next hot-spot on the journey for NSW travellers is the popular town of Barringun, which is also a common intersection for those driving from Adelaide,” says Gary.

“From Barringun, an hour-and-a-half drive takes you to Cunnamulla, a town of 1,500 people situated on the banks of the Warrego River. Cunnamulla has loads of Aboriginal art and artefacts, as well as a Bicentennial Museum and various historic sites.

“Cunnamulla is home to Robber’s Tree, which was named after Queensland’s very own Ned Kelly, Joseph Wells, who held up the National Bank in 1880.

“From Cunnamulla, there’s an opportunity to stop off at one of Australia’s most famous opal mining towns, Yowah, before driving another 193 kilometres to Quilpie, where you’ll find a number of accommodation options and spectacular natural attractions – namely the Bulloo River and Baldy Top and Table Top lookouts.”

Reaching Birdsville

“From Quilpie, you’ll have around 10hours’ drive-time left to Birdsville, which you can knock out in a long day or break up with an overnight stop in Windorah,” says Gary.

“Windorah’s pub was not only voted Best Outback Pub in Australia, but it also boasts a huge 19 kilometre waterhole, some breathtaking red sand hills and a number of picturesque ruins and historical sites – well worth a look if you have a bit of time up your sleeve.”

Driving from Brisbane

“While Birdsville is located in Queensland, it’s still a solid 1,581 kilometres from the state’s capital, Brisbane,” says Gary.

“As with other states, there are several ways to make the trip depending on time-constraints and travel preferences.

“Several companies offer coach services and package deals to the event, with Kangaroo Bus Lines, Birdsville Race Tours and Sunshine Travel among the options.

“Alternatively, self-driving the 23 hours opens up opportunities to take additional time and explore more of the smaller towns dotting inland Australia along the trip to Birdsville.”

Beginning the trip

“Leaving from Brisbane, the first major city is on the driving route is Toowoomba – a city in the Darling Downs with loads of history, natural attractions and free things to do,” says Gary. “The Crows Nest National Park is a must-visit and the Queen Mary Falls forms part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

“The views from Table Top Mountain are also spectacular, and you can’t visit Toowoomba without checking out the beloved Rudd's Pub in Nobby.”

“From Toowoomba, Goondiwindi is an easy drive for lunch – or you can keep trekking on to the Nindigully Pub, which holds the title of Queensland’s oldest pub.

“Keep driving on to St George, which offers good overnight stopover options and, from there, it’s only a 100 kilometre drive west to Bollon, a quaint township famous for its abundant wildlife including koalas, emus, echidnas and at least 110 known species of bird.”

Reaching the Outback

“Another 300 kilometre drive takes you to Cunnamulla which – with a population of 1,200 – is one of the biggest towns in the region,” says Gary.

“With a library, public pool, racecourse, two museums and plenty more, Cunnamulla offers loads to do and several accommodation options, as well as camping.

“Next up is Thargomindah, just 200 kilometres away. This small town has a big claim to fame as the third place in the world to adopt hydroelectric street lights behind London and Paris.

“Another 142 kilometres along the route is the Noccundra Hotel. First opened in 1882 and the only surviving building in the tiny township, the hotel remains a popular rest stop for travellers, offering a variety of room options, as well as a free camping area on the lawns of the Hotel grounds.”

Final stretch

“Next stop on the track is Eromanga, which is famous for being the most land-locked town in Australia,” says Gary.

“Alongside its lack of ocean proximity, Eromanga has been a hotbed for palaeontologists, with Australia’s largest dinosaur bones discovered in the town. These historic fossils remain on display in Eromanga’s Natural History Museum.

“From Eromanga, a 278 kilometre drive brings you to Windorah, which offers overnight accommodation options – and from Windorah, it’s just under 400 kilometres to Birdsville, which can be driven in an easy day.”


“Brisbane is the only capital city that offers a commercial flight into Birdsville via Rex Airlines,” says Gary. “Flight availability is limited to particular days and numbers, but Rex does sometimes offer additional flights around race time, so it’s worth checking regularly and keeping an eye out.”

“If flights from Brisbane fill up, you might consider flying to Mount Isa and then onto Birdsville via Rex – though note that flights from Mount Isa also have limited availability.

“This means that all travellers wanting to fly commercially from NSW, Victoria or South Australia will need to fly into Brisbane first.

“If you’re up for chartering a plane – which some adventurers are – there are a number of private carriers that fly direct from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as various regional airports in all states.

“Several of these carriers also have Birdsville Races packages that include entry to the races. Companies of this type include Kirkhope Aviation, Vortex Air and Australian Air Holidays, among others – and accommodation is available in Birdsville’s pop-up tent city.”

What: Birdsville Races
Where: Birdsville, Queensland
When: Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd September 2017
How much: Two day packages start from AU$62.75
More info:
Road trip video:

Saturday, 29 July 2017

West Hollywood for Free

The Standard

Get Groovy

If hanging by the pool is your vibe, you’re in luck. Hit The Standard, Hollywood for the Wednesday night series, Desert Nights for intimate acoustics by candlelight. Shirt optional.
Taste Book Soup

Feel the word of your favorite writers at Book Soup’s free author readings and book signings, almost every night. Snap a pic to prove to friends (and social media followers) you mingled with literary giants.

Shop Fresh

Live like a local with a trip to the Helen Albert Certified Farmers’ Market, 1200 N. Vista Street, on Thursday. Stock up on local Cali produce, dairy and meat, and sway to the beat of live music and entertainment—practice those moves for the club later. 

Unleash Your Artsy

Whip out your sketchpad or camera, and don’t be shy with your questions. Get lost in the Blue Building masterpiece of the Pacific Design Center to discover architecture and interior design inspiration around every corner. Take those ideas home to make the neighbors jealous.

Get a Little Culture

Little known fact: The tiny Museum of Contemporary Art branch in the Pacific Design Center courtyard offers free admission. Find rotating exhibits of contemporary design, architecture and specialty shopping every Tuesday through Sunday.

Stroll Santa Monica Boulevard

Sunset Tower Hotel
Stretch your legs on a 1.9-mile edge and don’t worry about getting hangry or thirsty – you might trip and fall into a world-renowned gay bar and find a cocktail in your hand. Or choose a WeHo cafe where to enjoy specialty lattes and small plates.

See the Stars

Celebrity watch at Tower Bar in the Sunset Tower Hotel! You’ll catch the stars doing what we all do – you know, eating lunch. The hotel itself is an icon of Hollywood history – so explore while you’re there.
* by Julissa Rodriguez


Taking over Sydney’s iconic Carriageworks today Saturday 29 July, Video Junkee 2017 is a new Festival from the team at Junkee Media presented in partnership with Destination NSW, the State Government’s tourism and major events agency.

The festival is a two-day celebration of creativity and innovation in video, partnering with leading platforms including Foxtel, YouTube, Netflix, BuzzFeed and ABC iview to present a series of talks, panels, screenings, masterclasses and awards.

Australian actress and star of Netflix Original series Orange is the New Black, Yael Stone will present a keynote speech taking a deep dive into the history and commodification of storytelling.

Creator and Showrunner, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, of the hit Netflix Original animation series Bojack Horseman will discuss the creation of his wildly acclaimed dark comedy and how an animation about a humanoid horse became a global hit.

For more information about this event and to purchase tickets, click here.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Helpmann Awards - the night of nights for the live performance industry in Australia

Helpmann Awards Red Carpet
The Annual Helpmann Awards were held last Monday Night at the Capital theatre in Sydney. The Helpmann Awards recognise and celebrate the live and performing arts industry In Australia.

42 Awards were presented to worthy recipients in 9 categories which included Cabaret, Comedy, Contemporary Music, Dance and Physical Theatre, Musicals, Opera and Classical Music, and Presentations for Children.,

The Red Carpet before the Awards saw many famous people from the world of theatre dressed in their glamorous finest. Black was the dominant colour, but many women (and men) brightened up the night with their glittering colourful gear.

The Helpmann Awards were hosted by Jan van de Stool and Tim Draxl. Jan kept the audience in stitches of laughter with her changes of clothing, talking, and singing. Various presenters came on stage to present the awards, with only two slight Oscar moments. A wrong winners envelope was handed to presenter Deborah Hutton, but fortunately she realised the mistake before reading out the wrong winner. The right envelope was quickly produced and the correct winner read out. The other goof was where the winner of an award was put up on the screens before presenter Joel Creasey opened the envelope with the winners name in it.

This year it was good to see several Musicals being nominated for awards and receiving them.This was unlike the year when one Musical, Matilda, scooped the pool. 
  • The Book of Mormon won Best Musical, Direction of a Musical Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw),
  • My Fair Lady won the Best Female Actor in a Musical (Anna O'Byrne), Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Robyn Nevin),
  • Kinky Boots won Male Actor in a Musical (Callum Francis), Choreography in a Musical  (Jerry Mitchel), 
  • Aladdin won Costume Design (Gregg Barnes), Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Michael James Scott) 

Capital Theatre - Helpmann Awards
Scattered amongst the awards being handed out was a varied entertainment program. Songs were presented by the casts of Kinky Boots, The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, Green Day's American Idiot, , Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, My Fair Lady and Velvet. The highlight was a very funny energetic dance called Construct with 3 dancers from the Australian Dance Theatre.

Two big awards were presented to two worthy recipients,. Richard Tognetti was presented the JC Williamson Award and Rob Brookman the Sue Nattrass Award. I really liked the way Barry Jones presented his award. He spoke with much enthusiasm and sincerity.

Special thanks were given to two people stepping down from their Helpmann roles - Ross Cunningham and Jon Nicholls. They have been heavily involved in staging the Helpmann Awards over many years.

The In Memoriam segment, where people from the performing arts industry who had passed way during the last year were honoured, was accompanied by the beautiful singing of the Sydney Children.s Choir.

Helpmann Awards After Party
The Helpmann Awards After Party was held at the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Sydeny, a much better location than the cramped upstairs foyer at the Capital Theatre where it has been held in previous years.

Congratulations to all this years Helpmann Awards nominees  The winners, and losers all help to entertain, educate, and stimulate Australian audiences. I can not wait to the 2018 Helpmann Awards when it will all happen again.

The full list of Helpmann Awards 2017 winners can be seen at

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Epicenter: 130,000 square feet of indoor sports, entertainment

Packed with a unique mix of attractions built for adults but fun for kids, the new Epicenter in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County is the San Francisco North Bay’s largest all-in-one destination for sports, recreation, entertainment, dining, and nightlife.

Entertainment options include: an upscale bowling lounge, 100-plus game arcade, two-story laser tag arena, laser maze, multi-sensory 7D adventure ride, interactive mega-play structure for kids, and toddler play area.

The sports facilities include: an arena sports center for basketball, volleyball, and more; a 24-hour, 365-days-a-year fitness center; and a trampoline park.

Kick back and watch the action in a sports bar and restaurant with two 40-foot walls filled with massive screens, multi-zone surround sound, and the ability to show up to 14 games at once. Grab pizza by the slice, nachos, and more in a sport-themed concession-style restaurant. Or relax and refuel at Starbucks.

Epicenter delivers 130,000 square feet of fun, food, and entertainment, all conveniently located under one roof.

Epicenter Sports and Entertainment

3215 Coffey Lane
Santa Rosa, CA 95403


YAMATO THE DRUMMERS OF JAPAN are touring Australia from 8 September to 6 October 2017 including stops in Sydney, Queensland, Perth and Adelaide.
Since 1993, YAMATO have performed in 53 countries around the world, reaching over 6 million people, making them the most prolific Japanese performing art group to tour internationally.
YAMATO are the epitome of the Japanese spirit and bring new life to the traditional Japanese taiko and wadaiko drums by paying respect to its rich history and exploring contemporary drumming styles.
Beginning with the boom of a taiko drum made from a large 400 year-old tree, performers move their whole bodies to strike the drum with a powerful surge of energy that uplifts audiences in sync with the rhythm and intensity.
YAMATO is based in a village called Asuka, known as the birthplace of Japanese culture, and the group pride themselves on their expression of the ancient Japanese spirit.
The group live together in a community and create everything themselves, including the musical compositions, lighting design, choreography, performance techniques, makeup, and props such as the bachi (sticks) used in performances. In a first for the company, YAMATO will wear outfits designed by international fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto.
YAMATO’s newest display of originality and innovation takes the form of “The Challengers” tour performing in 16 cities across Australia, offering an anthem of encouragement to all to pursue life’s challenges with courage.


8 September - Bundaberg, QLD
11 September - Maryborough, QLD

12 September -Toowoomba, QLD

14 September - Port Macquarie, NSW

15 September - Newcastle, NSW

16 & 17 September - Sydney, NSW
ROSLYN PACKER THEATRE WALSH BAY, 7.30 (16 Sept), 5.00 (17 Sept)

19 September - Sutherland, NSW

21 September - Bathurst, NSW

23 September - Torrensville, SA

27 September - Kalgoorlie, WA

29 September - Esperance, WA

2 October - Bunbury, WA

3 October - Mandurah, WA

5 October - Perth, WA

6 October - Geraldton, WA