7 things you didn’t know about the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
Think the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is all garden enthusiasts and erm, well, mature-aged audiences? Guess again.
You’ll find it’s not only the blooms that come out to play at this mammoth 10-day celebration to welcome spring, but locals and visitors from far and wide who are ready to shake off the shackles of winter with some good food, good wine, and good music (but replace ‘good’ with ‘freaking great’ and you’ve hit the nail on the head).
Intrigued? Here are 7 things you didn’t know about the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers. (Then when you find yourself sold, check out this itinerary with all the info you need to make the most out of a long weekend here).
1. It’s a food and wine festival to boot
And we’re not just talking scones and tea over some roses.
Kicking off the festivities in style, the first Thursday evening of every carnival sees a decadent four-course gala dinner held in Queens Park, with a degustation-style menu changing in theme each year.
This is merely just a warm up to get you prepped for the days ahead: cue the Ergon Energy Flower, Food and Wine Festival held in Upper Queens Park.
Running for the first three days of the carnival (Friday to Sunday) from 10am to 10pm, you’ll be treated to the best local produce in Southern Queensland Country, and some of the finest wines from the orchards and vineyards of the region, including the award-winning Symphony Hill Wines and Golden Grove Estate.
But the foodie train doesn’t stop once the festival is over, with gourmet food tours (including a Talking Pubs tour of the town’s historic waterholes) taking off in the second week to give your palate the full taste of Toowoomba’s many flavours.
Tip: Want to stock up on regional produce while you’re here? Hit up My Local Feast Farmers’ Market at the Empire Theatre (every Thurs from 12pm to 6pm) or the Toowoomba Farmers Market at Walton Stores (every Sat from 8am to 2pm) for fresh, seasonal and organic fruit and veg direct from the local farmers.
2. Oh, and it’s a mini music festival as well. No biggie.
Don’t forget your dance pants because the Heritage Bank Live Concert Series will be dishing out a sweet lineup of music to go with your grub during the Ergon Energy Flower, Food and Wine Festival.
Yep, that’s three magical nights of entertainment from some of Australia’s top performers, this year seeing The Paper Kites, Hot Potato Band, The Temper Trap and Aussie legend Daryl Braithwaite take to the stage.
Again, the killer music scene keeps going long after the festival, with free live performances for the entire 10 days of the carnival at Laurel Bank Park, Queens Park and Picnic Point, with every type of genre you can think of from folk and opera to jazz and blues.
3. So. much. learning.
And not the boring textbook stuff, but real, in-the-flesh, so close you can (and will) taste and touch it kind, at the live garden presentations and cooking demonstrations going down during the flower, food and wine fest.
While last year saw the Smiling Spaniard (aka cooking extraordinaire) Miguel Maestre and Australian landscape guru Charlie Albone share their tricks of the trade, this year you can expect another round of pow-wows from industry pros, including Aussie chef Anna Gare and Gardening Australia TV presenter/horticulturist/author, Sophie Thomson.
Oh, and let’s not forget the Beer Buffs and Vino Lovers who each have their own taste-testing expert sessions (cheers to that, I say!).
4. Arts and crafts are boss
The Carnival of Flowers is one massive injection of creativity and colour (one look at the thoughtfully designed themed gardens at Laurel Bank Park and you’ll see what we’re talking about).
But you don’t just have to sit back and admire here, with multiple workshops and interactive sessions taking place – from DIY flower headbands and adding your own floral touches to the changing blooms art piece presentation, to henna tattoos, pop-up paint sessions, and (bringing it back to the whole foodie theme) coffee art and cupping demonstrations where you’ll learn the connoisseur-standard of observing the aroma and flavour profile of a brew.
Even the Grand Central Floral Parade lets you get your creative on, with free chalk being handed out at the tail-end so you too can make an artist mark on the town.
5. The kiddies aren’t left out either
Not by a long shot.
At the Ergon Energy Flower, Food and Wine Festival, little ones have their very own pimped-out play space known as The Cubby House, where they can have fun, create and design to their heart’s content.
Parents, be warned, they’re likely never going to want to leave this spot, and we don’t blame them, because who wouldn’t want to spend a whole day playing in a super-sized sandpit, doing crafts, petting cute farm animals, and making muffins and mini planter boxes?
6. It’s part regional show *squeal*
Fairy floss, show bags, joy rides, oh my!
Sideshow Alley is another three-day treat taking place during the first weekend of the carnival and can be found decked out in Lower Queen’s Park with sideshow games (my favourite was the Flippin’ Chicken), glorious show food, amusement rides and live comedy acts.
Tip: Best to leave that dagwood dog until AFTER you’ve had your fill of stomach-churning action.
Then when the sun goes down, the skies over Toowomba are lit up by a cracking display of fireworks each night, with the added bonus of a laser light show on the Saturday.
7. Carnival aside, you’ll realise there’s actually so much more to see and do in Toowoomba
From noshing your way through the incredible eats that have popped up all over town (including a new rooftop bar #holla), to op shop hopping and mountain climbs, there’s a lot more to this country city than just its beautiful gardens.
If you plan on staying longer (or coming back again soon which no doubt you’ll be itching to), make sure you check out all the other awesome things to do and see in this 48-hour guide.