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Things to DoThings to DoThings to DoThings to DoThings to Do

Parramatta is a city stage, a platform for ideas, creativity and talent melded into activities of all types and styles. During the past months of hiking around the city, people-watching and taking part in activities of all shapes and pursuits, we see a bustling city with more activities than we can attend and more places of interest than we can frequent.

stay...

For an evening event, you may want to 'party' and avoid the drive home. Parramatta has a number of hotels, apartments and B&Bs for a comfortable night's stay.

Holiday Inn Parramatta

Address: 18–40 Anderson Street
Phone: 02 9891 1277 or 1800 007 697

Taking over a pre-existing hotel, the Holiday Inn finished a complete renovation and re-launched in 2013. The transformation is both impressive and remarkable. From lobby to conference facilities, the look is upmarket and striking – the conference room overlooking the outdoor pool is perfect for any event – social, wedding or business.

The accommodation rooms provide all that an international or business traveller would expect – the latest high-tech accessories and ergonomic work desks and chairs. They're really smart looking and easy on the back and shoulders.

We have, in our past corporate life travelled to many countries – Europe and Asia – in compressed time schedules. The Holiday Inn seems familiar, somehow comforting yet triggering travel memories of long flights and bone-tiring work days.

Happy to see a friendly face at reception, sit down to a superb dinner and collapse in a pristine bed? This Holiday Inn fits the bill.

Travel Tip: The Holiday Inn is a seven-minute walk from Westfield Parramatta Shopping Centre and only a one-minute walk to the most terrific Irish pub in Parramatta.

And ... Play

Old Government House Ghost Night

Address: Parramatta Park (Pitt Street entrance) Third Friday every month, February through November
Hours: Two hour Tour & Light Supper Bookings required

Phone: 02 9635 8149 Comfortable shoes recommended.

This is your opportunity to explore at night the oldest public house of Australia. The Georgian mansion, occupied by early Australian governors, sits perched and lit, high on a hill overlooking Parramatta. An eerie setting and particularly so on Halloween night 2013.

Equipped with handheld lanterns, our volunteer guide leads us quietly through candle-lit rooms, cautious not to disturb any apparition. It seems sightings of the paranormal are normal here. And from related stories, the spirits are looking for resolution to their untimely and often unsatisfactory demise. Or, perhaps seeking revenge?

Friends of Old Government House sponsor the Ghost Nights. The volunteers share facts about many 'visitations' and spectres roaming about. These have been reported by tour participants (just like us). Guides do not hide in the stairwell or lurk behind doors. Cynics (or doubting Thomas's) are often surprised yet rarely startled by the sensation of a 'presence'. Perhaps the occupant's passing was of a murderous nature? While we hesitate to reveal too much about the tour, the visit to the obelisk of Lady Mary Fitzroy was our daunting moment.

The two-hour tour ends with animated and excited conversation and a delightful supper of sandwiches, cakes and slices with a touch of wine to calm your nerves.

So, call early for your Ghost Night at Parramatta's Old Government House. Some unfortunate spectre may be waiting to share a deadly story.

Did You Know? In 2010 Old Government House and Domain was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List?

Parramatta Farmers' Market

Address: Town Hall CBD, Parramatta
Hours: Friday 7:30am – 2:30pm

On Fridays, Town Hall Square takes on the appearance of a medieval fair. International food stands pop open their windows and farmers set out an appealing display of the freshest produce to be found locally. A baker arrives with freshly baked tarts and mouth-watering cakes.

An arriving train churns out its masses and within minutes, Town Hall Square – the city centre – wakes up as the first customers – the Parramatta workforce —fill the square. The aroma of freshly ground coffee wafts upward and the baker smiles at the hungry crowd.

Later, in front of Town Hall, life-sized chess pieces are set up in the shade. Pawns, rooks and bishops stand erect silently waiting for the gauntlet to be thrown down! A tennis-table (ping-pong) is rolled out and flags high above flap gently against the restraint of their tall dark posts.

Musicians warm up and when the weather cooperates, early folk claim a seat on the benches along the city gardens and the St. John's Cathedral gate.

And so it has been since September 1791, as recorded by the Colonial Secretary of the Colony.

Hip and Edgy

Riverside Theatres Parramatta

Address: Corner of Church and Market Streets, Parramatta
Phone: 02 8839 3399 (bookings recommended)

With its three theatres, Riverside is a year-round showplace for dance, opera, drama and comedy. Then, there are the film festivals, the Sydney Writers' Festival, the Sydney Festival and classes, along with fantastic performances for kids scheduled in 2014.

Follow the schedule of coming attractions on Riverside's website.

Riverside Brewery

Address: Unit 3, 2 North Rocks Road, North Parramatta
Phone: 02 9890 7007
Tasting hours open to the public: Friday, 2–6pm; Saturday, 10am–2pm

It took us a bit of effort to find the micro-brewery out in industrial North Parramatta but its worth the trip. Parking is convenient – available at Bunnings Warehouse across the street. (Traffic light crossing) All beers and ales are brewed onsite at Riverside Brewery. (Check the website before you go as the brewers are moving locations in early 2014)

Parramatta Lanes

Address: Locations all over the City
Check the home page for 2015 dates

'Parramatta Lanes' is the city-sponsored extravaganza of food and drink, music and art. It kicks off at 4.30pm on Thursday and Friday of two consecutive weeks.

You will find a choice of gourmet cuisine from China, Malaysia, Italy and many more countries as Parramatta's culturally diverse restaurants, cafes and local breweries pop up in eight lanes across the CBD.

You will need a map! Pick up a clever little "menu" and locater map with descriptions of all the urban lanes and car parks where you can enjoy food to please every taste. Music and performance art should top off the evening. What a terrific concept!

Did you know? The Parramatta Shuttle Bus is free – hop on, hop off. It begins its loop at Parramatta station every 10 minutes. First bus leaves the Station at 7am and last one at 6:30pm. Jump on at any of the 12 stops. Street signage is well marked and the shuttle bus drivers are really helpful.

Sydney Sacred Music Festival

Address: Performance locations across Parramatta and Sydney
Phone: 0430 464 660

Commencing September 5th, the Sydney Sacred Music Festival will again showcase devotional sounds from both ancient traditions and the new, cross- cultural world music. This is a beautiful way to celebrate the cultural diversity of Australia through music, ceremony and art.

There will be free and ticketed events and for the first time, international artists will perform.

Good stuff for kids

  • Pack a picnic on Australia Day – grab a spot to spread out for the celebration in Parramatta Park – terrific fireworks.
  • Take Mum or Dad on the Riverside Walk (see map).
  • Below Lennox Bridge and along the river are the beautiful footpath paintings. These tell stories of how indigenous clans lived along the river before the European settlements.
  • Check out the Parramatta Heritage Centre (346A Church Street) for school holiday classes (for info: 02 8839 3311)
  • Activate your 'inner detective' Discover the old colonial hospital on George Street. It's a glass mystery!
  • In February, dress up in 'your best' and take Mum for dinner at Ribs & Rump – then on to Riverside Theatre to see Annie
  • The Lancer Barracks at 2 Smith Street is a military museum – from the 1800s – a long time ago! (fee – but free parking)
  • Bring brothers or sisters (along with Mum or Dad) to Town Hall Square and follow the Parramasala Parade down Church Street to Prince Alfred Park. Entertainment is on in the park – you can dance, dance, dance
  • Walk & Find historic skyline. Start at St John's Cathedral, look at the church towers. Then look for 'copycat' towers all over the city. Wear good runners, bring bottled water in your backpack
  • For Mother's Day, bring Mum to Lachlan's at Old Government House for High Tea...so yummy! She will love you for it (fee)
  • Join in the Sydney Architecture Festival and its fun program – drawing, walking, designing and building. Check our website for dates and time.