CHARGE your camera, lay out your best frock and dig out your favourite hat - The Carnival of Flowers is back and it's bigger and better than ever.

Every year the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers and The Chronicle Garden Competition attract thousands of visitors from around the state, country and even world, many of them coming year after year.

This year is particularly special as it is the 60th year The Carnival of Flowers and The Chronicle Garden Competition have been run and the celebrations are going to sparkle.

Running until Sunday September 27, there is plenty to see and do during the nine days of The Carnival of Flowers including checking out the grand parade, window display competition, photography competition, floral design competition and the food and wine festival.

The Chronicle Garden Competition

The 2009 Chronicle Garden Competition winners have been announced and your souvenir guide, including a map to all the winning gardens will be available from The Chronicle office, the visitor information centre, local shops and local newsagents.

The top three must-see gardens for the year included City Grand Champions Arch and Julie Roggeveen, City Reserve Champions Glen and Ida Kendrick and Country Grand Champions David and Gay Kearey.

Besides The Chronicle Garden Competition winners, there are also details of The Chronicle Exhibition Gardens which are a must see while you are immersing yourself in all things gardens and flowers.

Check out our photo galleries from the City Grand Champion garden, City Reserve Champion garden and exhibition gardens.

You can also view videos by clicking the play buttons on the videos on the right

Also be sure to take the time to have a look at some of the local parks which have been specially decorated by Toowoomba Regional Council.

See winners lists and video from the awards night:

City garden winners

Country garden winners

See video of more winning gardens

The Carnival of Flowers

To save lining up in Queens Park for this year's event, why not pre-purchase a three-day pass to the Ergon Energy Flower, Food and Wine Festival for just $35.

You can also pre-purchase a family pass for three days for $88.

The three-day passes are available until next Thursday by contacting the Empire Theatre Box Office on 1300 655 299.

Instead of standing in the sun during the Grand Central Floral Parade on Saturday, September 19, why not book a covered seat?

The seats cost $12 and will ensure you are sun smart and able to view all the action in comfort.

Contact the Empire Theatre Box Office, 1300 655 299, to purchase your covered parade seat.

Another popular event during the Carnival of Flowers is the Twilight Tours in Laurel Bank Park, Herries Street.

The tours are free and run Monday, September 21, Tuesday, September 22 and Wednesday, September 23 at 7pm.

Be quick to book on 4688 6542 or you may miss out.

New to the carnival last year was the Longest Lunch which is on again on Sunday, September 27 at noon.

Tickets cost $79 per person and will be held in Laurel Bank Park.

Contact the Empire Theatre Box Office. Bookings are essential.

Getting there

Toowoomba is Queensland's - and Australia's - largest inland city,with a population of about 100,000 people. Located 128 km from Brisbane via the Warrego Highway, the "City of Gardens" is easily accessed by car or bus from the capital.

Toowoomba Transit Coaches have five services to and from Brisbane each weekday, and one a day on weekends.

For a more leisurely travel experience, the historic Westlander train leaves Brisbane each Tuesday and Thursday. But it arrives in Toowoomba late, so be sure to have your accommodation booked. 

Queens Park Botanical Gardens are a short walk from the city centre and Toowoomba Railway Station.

Take a hike

If you are keen for a taste of the outdoors, why not try climbing Tabletop Mountain or taking a stroll along one of the numerous walking tracks in Ravensbourne National Park. Best of all, both these activities are free, but don't forget your sunscreen and hats.

The trek up Tabletop Mountain is about 1.9km so it should take you around three hours if you take it easy. The view from the top is absolutely spectacular, so don't forget your camera. Although it might sound a little challenging, provided you take it easy, it is do-able for all ages.

Ravensbourne National Parkis around 50 kilometres out of town. From Toowoomba head along the New England Highway to Hampton, then take a right into Esk Hampton Road and follow it until you reach the park.

While you're at the park you can take a walk along the tracks and do a spot of bird watching while you are at it. There is also picnic facilities, but you are advised to boil or treat any water before you drink it.

If you were keen to extend your outdoors adventure in the area, you could also check out Crows Nest National Park or do a spot of fishing on Cressbrook Dam. Make sure you are well informed on the laws which apply to fishing in Queensland dams first though.

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