Darling Harbour, Sydney
This place was much better then the Sydney Aquarium. I think what made it more better was the fact it actually had Australian fauna to look at. The exhibits mimick their natural surroundings. There's everything from saltwater crocs to wombats to koalas. For the koalas, you're allowed to touch them briefly, but you cannot hold or pick them up, due to a law in NSW. I'm not sure why that is. Of course, like the Sydney Aquarium, you can choose to pay for the photos you get taken at the end of the journey or before. Some are overpriced and typical souvenir stuff, and that's where the tourist trap part comes in. It seems all of Darling Harbour is like this, though. It's crazy crowded with families, so it's not in a peaceful surrounding. Luckily the animals are in their enclosures. You'll find Sydney Wildlife World next to the Madame Tussaud's and Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour.
Unique Suggestions: You got to visit the koala area at least and get a photo. They're right there, just kicking back. They give you the whole spiel of "Don't hold the koalas" and all that jazz.
Fun Alternatives: This beats Sydney Aquarium anyday of the week. Apart form that, you might be better off going to something like Taronga Zoo (I didn't get to).
As much as Madame Tussaud's has become the world over, so includes most cities that have an aquarium that are prone to being tourist traps. I had went to the one in Barcelona, so I went to the one in Sydney just to see what it was like. Extremely crowded!
Families galore all over the place! It was a Sunday. Strollers and screaming kids were blocking the walkways and were more of an attraction then the actual displays and exhibits were. It wasn't a great experience. Maybe on a less crowded day. But we're talking about an attraction in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Where you're bound to run into hordes of tourists as well. So I doubt even on a weekday, it'll be quiet.
The exhibits were great, with facts on the marine species that dwelled within. But for the most part, it wasn't nothing extraordinary or special. Like any other tourist trap, they take your photo as soon as you go in. Then you're met at the end by someone wanting to sell you photos at expensive prices. I dunno how I keep falling for these things. I should've visited Taronga instead. But at least I can say it was done.
Unique Suggestions: We went on a Sunday. So naturally it was butt-to-gut! Maybe going on a weekday might help.
Fun Alternatives: There's Sydney Wildlife World, which, although a tourist trap, is a bit more interesting as it's got native Australia fauna.
When you look at Darling Harbour on a city map, it will look like the alcove, horse shoe-shaped land around that part of the harbour. Let's clear up what part exactly is Darling Harbour (let's call it DH). DH spands around the South & Western sides of this alcove. The Eastern side of this alcove is either Cockle Bay or King Street Wharf, not Darling Harbour. I'm only warning against DH, not the east side. DH restaurants & shops are over-priced, indoors & mainly only visited by tourists.
Unique Suggestions: Quite often on weekends, DH will be host of street entertainers and various festivals. It also has large convention centres where it may also host some huge exhibitions that can attract convention-goers worldwide.
Fun Alternatives: If you are after a good meal, I'd much rather recommend Cockle Bay or King Street Wharf restaurants that are in the same proximity, but attract locals as well. The Malaya is delicious, good people-watching & not on the Darling Harbour side of this alcove I'm trying to explain! If you're after a good bar, there are plenty at Cockle Bay/King Street wharf. Try Cargo or any of it's neighbours. All good fun & they get the last sunshine of the evenings, so they are popular on a sunny Friday afternoon/evening in Summer.
Beware of the money exchange both located at monorail station at Darling Harbor as the commission fees are outrageous. They tried to charge us around 10% commission fee (for changing 100 USD) which, of course, we didn’t wanted to accept. After arguing with the clerk (with her asking questions like “well, how much would you pay”) we settled few percents down, but still much more than the usual fee.
Unique Suggestions: Stay away from all money exchange services that don’t clearly show what commission fees are. Do your math, most of exchange services at airports will charge something like 7% so better exchange some money in advance.
Darling Harbour, Cockle Bay and King St Wharf are a bit of a tourist, restaurant and bar zone for Sydney.
If you've got time, you can watch one of those jugglers build up a crowd, making them wait for a good half hour for one trick!
It's a great place to go for an after work drink or a bite to eat, providing you can afford the $5 beers.
One important thing to look out for is a 10% surcharge on weekend menus. This is an absolute joke if you go into a bar (NAMELY THE GROVE BAR) for just a VB and a wine, and find the beer is $6.60.
Unique Suggestions: The Chinese Gardens are pretty good
The Maritime Museum (haven't been there yet).
The Sydney Aquarium is really good. Look around for cheap entry vouchers for this one.
The Convention Centre has shows or sales on every now and again. The shows are usually quite pricey, from about $10 adults.
Darling Harbour - like all harbourisde arcades (think Fisherman's Wharf etc) it's filled with stores aimed at releieving tourists and some unknowing locals of their spondoolies. Only come here if you MUST buy kitsch Australian wearables and overpriced tennis gear.
Not much to see and its not worth to pay so much money....simply waste of time & money
Unique Suggestions: Buy as a combo ticket...if you must watch this
Fun Alternatives: Better spend time @ the acquarium rather than here