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A Very Summer Yulefest Christmas
About 50 miles northwest of Sydney, you'll find the majestic Blue Mountain Range. Every July, this otherwise peaceful section of New South Wales comes alive with decorations, wandering men dressed as Santa Claus, carolers, joyful revelers and those seeking comfort, joy and merriment. "Yulefest" is the southern hemisphere's answer to Christmas during the typically coolest months of the year.
For a few weeks the small town of Katoomba is turned into an anomaly of a Christmas wonderland and a sight to behold! If you're yearning for a little yuletide cheer in the middle of July, take the pilgrimage to "Yulefest" to join in the grandiose merriment.
On a brisk, blustery evening in 1980, a group of Irishmen sat around a roaring fire in Katoomba's Mountain Heritage resort, longing for Christmas in their faraway homeland. The establishment's owner, Gary Crockett, insisted a Christmas celebration be held at the lodge, inspired by the stories told to him by his father of traditional northern hemisphere holiday gatherings, complete with turkey, ham and all the trimmings. Much to the dismay and wonderment of the townspeople, Mountain Heritage was turned into a Christmas wonderland, complete with a tree, decorations and a large feast. The tradition grew from there, spread rapidly throughout the Katoomba and thus "Yulefest" was born. From June to August, a large section of the Blue Mountain Range celebrates the spirit of Christmas during Australia's winter.
Staying in the Blue Mountain Range
Throughout June, July and August various resorts, hotels and lodges host their own "Yuletide" celebrations. The packages vary by hotels, motels and resorts. Expect to be treated to a five to six course meal, Christmas caroling, a cabaret-style show and a warm glass of apple cider around the fireplace with your fellow revelers. The adult-themed cabaret-style or musical show is a must when staying in Katoomba. Book your "Yuletide" lodging at one of the area's several hotels or resorts early and pay attention to the entertainment choices offered. Many are geared toward children, while others are explicitly "adults only" and not for tender eyes minds to witness.
Winter Magic Festival
For one weekend in June, the entire town of Katoomba comes alive with the annual Winter Magic Festival. Many commercial structures and streets are literally shut down to allow the townspeople and tourists alike the opportunity to enjoy the festivities together. In the heart of the city, the streets come alive with independent performers, merry elves, choirs, dancers and artists all dressed in traditional Christmas fashions. The festivity is completely community-run, so even if you're not a local don't be afraid to chip in by simply dressing up in a yuletide-themed costume, purchasing the locally made wares or dropping a few dollars into a street performer's hat.
After the Festivities
You've eaten your fourth turkey dinner, drank what seems like gallons of rich eggnog and are ready to work off some of those dreaded holiday pounds. You won't need to wander far, because the Blue Mountain Range is home to several breathtaking trails and natural wonders to explore. The Three Sisters is a spectacular sight that draws in millions of tourists each year. Located only three miles from the Great Western Highway, the Three Sisters is a unique triple-pronged rock formation that soar 922, 918 and 906 meters into the cool mountain air, respectively. According to Aboriginal lore, three sisters were turned to stone to protect them from harm after falling in love with three brothers from a nearby, warring tribe. Visit this wonder alone or in a tour group to learn more about the formation's origin story.
Take a short 45 minute drive outside of Katoomba and visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in nearby Mount Tomah. The sprawling, 252 acre park is located at the peak of a basalt mountain and located over 1,000 meters above sea level. Visiting the park in the southern hemisphere's winter allows you the distinct opportunity to view the ground's cool climate garden, which features flora that only bloom during these chillier months. Call ahead if you plan on dining at many of the fine restaurants found adjacent to the botanic gardens, as the seats fill up fast!
When visiting the Blue Mountain Range during "Yulefest," don't forget to pack appropriately. Even though Australia is known for its blistering heat, June through August is still technically winter and the temperatures can drop low enough for snow to fall. Bring along a coat and don't be afraid to slip into a restaurant or pub to enjoy a steaming cup of hot chocolate between Christmas-themed activities.
This article was written by Erica Gustafson who is a travel consultant and writer. When she isn’t helping people book their flights from Australia, she enjoys spending time traveling throughout the world and writing.