Throughout the Darling Harbour precinct, from Dec 27 until Feb 5, visitors can experience a number of terrific summer activities, performances and events. These range from spectacular art installations to pedal boats bobbing on the waters of Cockle Bay and of course, the ever-popular fireworks, a firm summertime favourite with Sydneysiders year in and year out. Whether you’re seeking some fun distractions for the kids these school holidays or you’re hunting for a buzzing atmosphere after dark, Darling Harbour’s Summerific 23 program has you covered.

In January, culture vultures can get their fill at two of Sydney Festival’s most vibrant installations. Cupid’s Koi Garden (Jan 5-39; daily 10am-10pm) is a vividly colourful interactive aquatic experience, fusing play and art. The collection of huge inflatable sculptures depicting a cheeky cherub Cupid and his ten friendly koi pond companions aims to wow with choreographed water jets set to a poppy soundscape that is sure to make waves with the kids. Meanwhile, in Tumbalong Park, an electrifying neon bar with a spellbinding twist will be popping up to offer a cocktail experience like no other. Take a seat at Maho Magic Bar (Jan 6-29; daily 3.15-915pm) and prepare to be amazed by the sleight-of-hand and close-up tricks of some of Japan’s most maverick magicians, including storytelling mentalist Shirayuri, the kawaii princess of illusion Kaori Kitazawa, and Sarito – one of the most controversial and mind-bending close-up magicians in the world (whose act includes surgical needles and gaffer tape – you have been warned).

Also in January, celebrations for the Lunar New Year will be in full effect throughout the Darling Harbour precinct including fun, free performances and events. Ring in the Year of the Rabbit with traditional lion dances, dragon boat racing, and a heap of special events at the Chinese Garden of Friendship. These include Lantern Riddles to solve, Hopes and Dreams bookmarks to hang in the garden, the ‘Emperor’s Quest’ to find the zodiac animals, and fish feeding. There are also ceremonies, private fortune readings, tea ceremonies and workshops.

For a whole new perspective on this familiar corner of the city, a pedal boat ride on Cockle Bay can’t be beat. Throughout December and until Jan 26, 2023, you can hire your very own sea-worthy, peddle-powered vessel to explore this nook of Darling Harbour. Rides cost $44 for a 30-minute session, daily 10am-8pm.

Get the whole family together for a day out in the sunshine and a lighthearted game of putt-putt as Pixar Putt returns to Darling Harbour this year (Dec 16-Feb 5). An interactive game inspired by some of Pixar’s most loved films including Toy Story and Finding Nemo, Pixar Putt is sure to get the competitive juices and laughs flowing. And there’s an after-dark session for adults from 7pm on Thursday to Saturday nights where you can enjoy a drink from the Pumphouse Sydney pop-up bar without getting any kids under your feet before your game. Pixar Putt runs Dec 16-Feb 5, Sun-Wed 10am-8pm and Thu-Sat 10am-10pm. Tickets are $39.90 per person to access all 18 holes.

Around these Summerific activities, visitors to Darling Harbour can enjoy the convenience of more than 150 local hospitality venues and on Friday and Saturday nights, Cockle Bay’s famous fireworks display will be lighting up the night sky with a dazzling array of whizzbangs – the perfect way to kick off a fun summer weekend in the heart of Sydney.