Normally, Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers welcomes guests from all over the country and even the world. However, this year, we’re going to get it all to ourselves. Brisbane, if you haven’t been already, or haven’t been recently, this is your year!
Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers (TCOF), is of course, the gold standard for events in Australia. Running since 1949 and leveraging Toowoomba’s acclaim as a true garden city, the festival has grown into a cultural and natural celebration that has earned the state and country’s top awards for tourism and events, many times over. As we reported back in July, it’s one of the few major events to go ahead post COVID-19, while retaining almost all of what makes it so great.
TCOF will spring into life on September 18 so our countdown has officially started. It’s time to break down the very best attractions and things to do when Toowoomba blooms with flower power.
Flowers (of course)
It’s the most instragrammable event of the year, and we’ve got it all to ourselves. Head to the parks, gardens, and public spaces across the city to take in the sights and scents (and brighten your feed).
In preparation for the grand springtime carnival, council planted 170,000 blooms across the city’s major parks and public spaces. As usual, they will create a spectacular canvas of colour across the garden city.
The floral line-up at the Botanic Gardens in Queens Park and Laurel Bank features Alyssum, Antirrhinum (Snapdragon), Bellis, Calendula, Candytuft, Cherianthus, Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Delphinium, Dianthus, Digitalis (Foxglove), Dutch Iris, Hollyhock, Larkspur, Linaria, Lobelia, Mesembryanthemum, Nemesia, Ornamental Kale, Pansy, Parsley, Petunia, Polyanthus, Poppy, Primula, Ranunculus, Rhodanthes, Schoenia, Statice, Stocks, Sweet Pea, Tulips and Viola.
If you’re a glutton for gardens, you will have your fill.
Good Mornings, Great Nights
Regulars rave about the carnival’s Night Garden. The popular attraction powered by Ergon Energy was previously a paid, two-day, event. This year it runs every day of the carnival AND it’s free!
From dawn each day, you’ll enjoy the blooms as you normally would. From dusk each day, in a secluded section of parkland, you will awe at them in a whole new light. Purposely designed to transfix the whole family in wonderment, the Night Garden takes natural beauty and cranks it up to 11. The night-time light installations and illuminations bring an exciting edge to the carnival, you should bring the kids, and your camera. The Night Garden is open every night of the festival, 6pm – 8:30pm.
Grand Central Floral Parade
Sadly, this is one of the very few concessions that had to be made post COVID-19. Usually the Grand Central Floral Parade sees crowds lined along the streets, hours before, to get the best views. This year the organisers put their thinking flowercrowns on and came up with some savvy ways to continue the tradition.
For 2020, the Grand Central Floral Parade will transform into a static installation of decorated floats throughout Grand Central Shopping Centre in the heart of the city. You’ll be able to explore them all, much closer than the parade would normally allow, so it’s kind-of a win?
Organisers have also planned the Itty-Bitty Grand Central Floral Parade. It’s a virtual parade with decorated mini floral floats, handmade, and decorated by local Community Groups. Check in at Grand Central or on your own device on Saturday 19 Sept at 3pm!
Tasting Toowoomba with #trEATS
You’ll do a lot of walking at TCOF so you’re going to get hungry. Far more than flowers, for years TCOF has also been celebrating the region’s finest tastes. 2020 will kick it up a notch with a curated must try called #trEATS.
The food trail will showcase the incredible range and quality of the region. More than 60 local tastemakers across the city will each offer $20 springtime #trEATs during the festival. These food specials run the entire month of September, so explore the hashtag and explore the city’s eats.
These petals are making me thirsty
The instantly popular Talking Pubs Tour was added a couple of years ago, it is a historic bar hop across the city that had to be suspended for 2020. But no matter, you can still drink (responsibly) and eat across the city.
We recommend the retro stylings of Bar Wunder on Ruthven Street, full service Fitzys on Margaret Street, the rooftop cool of Muller Bros, and the trad county pub feels of the Irish Club Hotel on Russel Street. All these establishments offer a $20 #trEAT to soak it up.
The Dark Side Tour
Toowoomba garden city – it’s all lightness and brightness, right? Well, not always. Take a tour of the city’s underbelly and explore her hidden secrets with local expert Paul Herbert. Paul’s Toowoomba is a city of brothels, prisons and unsavoury historic characters. This is the Toowoomba they don’t want you to see. The Dark Side Tour finishes with a beer and casual chat at the Historic National Hotel.
Petals and Pups 2020
There are 27 off leash dog parks in Toowoomba. It’s a dog friendly city and so is the carnival. So much so that this year there’s a whole pawsome program for the furry member of your family. Bring Fido for a romp in the flowers.
The Petals and Pups program boasts a howling goodtime with more than 20 dog-friendly activities, as well as dog-friendly cafes, restaurants and accommodation recommendations. Find all the canine friendly details here.
If you don’t have a four-legged friend of your own, you can seek out TCOF’s second ever Ambassadog for a snap and a scratch. Rambo is an eight-month-old, tricolour, pure-bred Australian Shepherd. Rambo loves visiting Toowoomba parks and gardens and he loves having his photo taken. If you spot Rambo on your TCOF adventure be sure to say hi!
Go your own way, be exceptionally well-informed
Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers may run for 10 days but there is a least a month of experiences to be had. This might be the only difficult decision you have to make for your visit – which way to go.
That’s why the good people at TCOF have put together a sizable collection of self-paced guides that go into detail on the experiences to be had. You can explore the parks, laneways, street art scene, architecture styles or even historic rail history of the region. There are options for those who would prefer to cycle, and foodie tours for vegans. There are guides to shopping local specialties or bringing home an esky full of freshest produce the region offers. From here, it is really up to you but you’ll be exceptionally well informed.
The view from above
We’re listing it last but you should put this at the top of your list. There is a Ferris Wheel in the Botanic Gardens that will lift you into the sky for the best vantage point in city.
It’s cheap, operates entire 10 days of carnival, and it is the absolute best way to enjoy the splendour of Queens Park. Thank us later.
Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers 2020 runs 18 to 27 September 2020. There will never be a better year to visit than 2020.