I’ve got to be honest, I had heard of Toowoomba’s annual Carnival of Flowers (TCOF) but never thought of attending as I’d just assumed it wasn’t really, erm, age appropriate for me. After all, there’s only so long you can stare at a garden bed for, right?! But, when Tourism Events Queensland (TEQ) asked me to go, I thought I owed it to my beloved Queensland to give it a go. Turns out, the festival isn’t a snooze-fest aimed at oldies. It offers SO much and I ended up having an amazing weekend at the Carnival. So, to inspire you to visit too, I wanted to share with you A L L the reasons you should definitely visit Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers.
1. The live music goes off!
Banish any mental images of boring string quartets playing among a field of tulips! The live music at TCOF absolutely goes off! We attended Ergon Energy’s Flower, Food & Wine Festival, where they have a main stage set up with a whole lot of speakers pumping out music. What’s great, you can be up the front dancing around close to the stage or you can get cosy at a table or on a picnic blanket and not miss a second of the live music action.
2. And there are some BIG names playing
Who knew they had so many big names playing?! Not me. This year we were lucky enough to see Montaigne (AMAZING) as well as Emma Louise and Birds of Tokyo. Also playing were Katie Noonan, The Chantoozies, Tim Finn, Eurogliders, the Models and the Whitlams. If you’ve got doubts over how professional the gigs will be, feel free to ditch them, because it’s honestly top-notch!
3. It’s a great excuse to have an incredible weekend with those you love
We had so much fun each day! We ate a LOT of great food, drank plenty of wine, lost hours dancing and singing, laughed so much our cheeks hurt and came away from the weekend feeling utterly exhausted, yet totally buzzed from how much fun we’d had. The Carnival is the perfect excuse to get away with those you love and have a really fun weekend.
4. There’s so much good food on offer
Oh my gosh, the food. Inside the Flower, Food & Wine event you’ll find a slew of food tents set up selling all kinds of delicious goodies. There’s everything from cheese platters, Turkish cuisine, burgers, fresh seafood and Indian through to freshly made pizzas, luscious desserts and so, so much more. What’s great, you can buy and try lots of different things, giving you the chance to sample as much yummy food as your body will allow!
5. Did I mention the wine?
If the food was good, the wine was amazing. There are so many wine tents set up and a lot of them are local Queensland vineyards, so it’s a really good opportunity to get stuck into some local wine for a change and support Queensland wine makers. We got a few bottles from different wineries and shared them, giving us the chance to have a mini-tasting at our table. Because the wine is direct from the vineyards, it’s surprisingly well-priced!
6. Flower crowns
A real highlight for me was the excuse to make a flower crown and wear it around all day, feeling totally appropriate! The flower crown making was a free event, with the materials and instruction supplied by the festival. During the day, the offered a few other great activities too, some free and others at a small fee.
7. In fact, there a lot of beautiful flowers
Okay, so I’ve harped on about the food and wine and the wine and the food and then the wine again. But the flowers are definitely worth a big mention too. We visited a few gardens and were blown away by how beautiful the flowers are. You’ll find a few more older patrons enjoying the gardens, which is a great excuse for you to enjoy some scones with fresh jam and cream while marvelling at the sea of colour around you!
8. It’s a peaceful, happy event
The whole weekend was really peaceful, relaxed and chilled out. I never felt overwhelmed by crowds, stuck in long queues or in a situation where I was being shoved, pushed or lost in a huge sea of people.
9. Toowoomba is a foodie destination to be reckoned with!
Outside of the Flower, Food & Wine event you’ll find a lot of fantastic places to eat in Toowoomba. In fact, Toowoomba is fast becoming a must-visit destination for food-lovers. Places worth a visit include Zev’s Bistro, Firefly Cafe, Ground Up Espresso, Muller Brothers, The Baker’s Duck and Artisan Pizza.
10. So close to Brisbane!
It always feels like it’s soooooooo far away, but Toowoomba is only 1 1/2 to 2 hours drive from Brisbane. Once you’re on the motorway, the drive is nice and easy and there are some great places to stop along the way to pick up some fresh fruit, plants or just check out local shops and grab a bite to eat.
11. A great way to spend a weekend, without breaking the bank
We’ve all jetted off for a weekend away in places like the Barossa and Hunter Valley’s and the Carnival of Flowers offers a similar experience for much less! You’ll save money on flights and accommodation and, if you stay somewhere central, can walk to and from events so you’ll also save money on Uber/cabs. Food and drink at the festival events are also really well-priced! It’s a great weekend away that won’t leave you broke.
12. It’s definitely instagram-worthy
All those flowers, fun events and great live acts make for some gorgeous photographs! I found myself snapping off a tonne of photos! It’s a photographers dream but also definitely instagram-worthy.
13. Meet cool locals and make new friends
Being a country town, you’ll find Toowoomba filled with plenty of friendly locals who’ll give you a smile and a friendly, ‘hello.’ It’s a good chance to strike up a conversation over a drink and get to know some new people. Who knows, you may even make new friends! If you’re picturing an older-crowd, you can stop that right away, because there’s a young crowd getting around having an amazing time too!
14. It’s family friendly…
Yep, that’s right, it’s great for families. You’ll find there’s a play area for kids as well as a heap of activities for them to take part in, like candle-making and some fun flower arts. It’s a good way for them to get outdoors and active and have a really fun time at the carnival (it’ll also tire them out!)
15. Fairy floss and carnival rides
Set up in Queens Park was a great little carnival offering some very fun carnival rides and games as well as all your favourite carnival food like dagwood dogs and, you guessed, it, fairy floss!
16. You can sneak in some op-shopping
One of my favourite things about Toowoomba is the great op-shopping scene. If you follow me on the reg, you’ll know I love a good op-shop bargain and buy most of my skirts from thrift stores. There are so many great thrift stores in Toowoomba, you’ll be spoilt for choice! Set aside a few hours and get busy digging for bargains!
17. It’s a great chance to check out First Coat
Another thing I love about Toowoomba is the incredible street art all over the city. There are some really well-known and up-and-coming artists who have made their mark on Toowoomba, so it’s well-worth driving or walking around town, exploring hidden alleyways and checking out the amazing artworks dotted all over the place. There are some amazing photographs to be taken of them too! Just be sure to tag the artists if you share them on Instagram, so they can see their work and you can spread the word about how talented they are.
Note: If you missed the carnival this year, fear not, it’s held annually! So, let this blog post inspire you and pop the carnival in your diary for next year. Grab a few friends, family or your sweetie, jump in the car and head out to the carnival for next year’s celebration of spring!
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.