Are you heading to Umbraco Spark this year but not sure what to expect? I live near Bristol and now consider myself a Spark veteran, so thought I'd share my insights!
Keep up to date with the goings on by following Spark on Mastodon or Twitter as they announce speakers and share crucial event information. Keep an eye on the #UmbracoSpark, #Umbraco and #UmbracoCommunity hashtags in the lead up to the event to keep in touch with the communuity.
Although the Spark conference is only one day, the fun starts the day before with a hackathon and pre-party.
Umbraco and true digital are hosting a hackathon all day on Thursday 7 March!
This is a great opportunity to get stuck in with the Umbraco source code, with Umbraco HQ crew and community experts on site to help you out!
Unlike some other hackathons you may have attended, Umbraco hackathons don't have a strict theme or overall goal. They're an excuse to get together and code together. People work on Umbraco source code bugs, Umbraco packages and community projects. You don't need to have an idea before you attend - but be sure to ask for inspiration when you get there.
Umbraco Hackathons usually include refreshments and a pizza lunch.
How do you convince your boss to let you take an extra day for Spark? Simple! Hackathons allow you to get your head into the source code and understand how the product works better. You might even be able to fix some bugs that have been niggling your business for a while! You also get the assistance of Umbraco employees and community experts - who better to help you understand the Umbraco ecosystem!? Plus the usual networking - it's a very sociable way to code!
You don't have to be there for the whole thing either - just turn up for the afternoon if that's all you can muster!
More information and sign up on Meetup. This is a separate event and requires signing up (free!) on Meetup to attend. Once signed up, keep an eye on your inbox in the weeks leading up to the event for more details.
Every year umBristol, the Bristol Umbraco Meetup, host a pre-party to make friends (it's like "networking" but more fun!) and have fun. This year we're all meeting just 5 minutes from the hackathon venue at Roxy Lanes to play some duck-pin bowling, ice-free curling and other games. A few drinks are sometimes thrown in by the sponsor, and there's usually an opportunity to buy food.
Spark are hosting a morning 5km run. It should be "easy-paced" (but Frederik always claims his pre-Codegarden runs will be easy too - maybe I'm just too slow!) You'll need to register your interest in joining the run and meet outside Ibis Bristol Centre Hotel, Explore Lane, Bristol, BS1 5TY (by the We The Curious disco ball!)
Spark is hosted at the fantastic M Shed on the harbourside. Upon entry, follow the signage upstairs and be greeted by some friendly Bristolians to get your name badge and merch. Coffee and tea are available in the foyer and it's time to mingle! The Umbraco community are very friendly (it's kinda their thing!), so don't be afraid to chat to people you've never met before (even if they're a community celebrity!) I'll be there awkwardly mingling too, so come and chat to me - "I read your blog post" is always a great conversation opener!
Spark offers two tracks, and both are usually fantastic. So plan ahead as much as you can - you'll likely want to swap between tracks a lot! If you miss some talks, why not ask the speaker to repeat at your local meetup?
Lunch and snacks are provided at various points throughout the day, as well as a cheeky drink at the end before we move on to...
No need to book this one, just turn up to Arnolfini across the harbour with your lanyard (it's privately hired). It's always nice to join folks for a drink and food before heading home - so try to plan around this if you can! There will be food and drink to buy at the after-party venue (this one's not included).
It's usually a casual affair where we sit and chat with friends new and old late into the night!
Spark is a casual conference, so a hoodie and jeans will suit for all events. Umbraco merch is always a bonus if you want to fit in! Also, remember a raincoat - we're only a stones throw from Wales after all!
You're also unlikely to need a laptop during the conference, but you might want to bring a notebook or take photos. If you elected to receive merch when buying your ticket, you'll get a branded notebook and pen on arrival as well as a t-shirt.
Don't forget your laptop and charger if you're also attending the hackathon!
A map of the primary locations is included below. It also includes my recommendations for Bristol - read on for details!
Bristol is a lovely city - so lovely, in fact, I moved here in 2022 - so many people elect to stay in the area for the weekend afterwards. Here's some advice for those people:
Although the city is quite sprawling, a lot of Bristol is accessible by foot (particularly if you're good with hills!)
As much as the locals complain, Bristol has a pretty good bus network (just don't compare it to London or any continental European city!) Fares are £2 for a single, £3.80 for 2-trips and cap at £6 for the day, if you stay within Bristol. Busses all support tap-on-tap-off which are automatically capped, so no cash is needed.
For bike and electric scooter hire you'll need the TIER app which you'll need your driving license (full or provisional) to sign up for, so be sure to do that ahead of time.
Bristol is home to fantastic independent cafes, pubs, restaurants and food stalls - as well as the birthplace of small chains like The Lounges and Boston Tea Party.
My favourite food stalls are in Wapping Wharf (Spike Island, harbourside) (St Nicholas Market is closed at the weekend!)
You can't go wrong with most cafes in Bristol, but some of my regulars are Mud Dock (harbourside), The Bristol Loaf ("The Centre"), East Village Cafe (Clifton Village) and Santiago's (particularly if you're waiting for a bus at the bus station!)
Some of my favourite pubs include The Strawberry Thief (central), The Cottage Inn (Spike Island, harbourside) and pretty much anywhere on King Street (central). (The Apple is closed for refurbishment).
Leigh Woods is a fantastic woodland a short walk over Clifton Suspension Bridge. You'll want some boots but it's easy to follow signposted routes.
Ashton Court is a deer park with great views over Bristol and a lovely cafe. You can stick to tarmac and gravel paths here if you want clean shoes! Also a Parkrun location.
Brandon Hill is a lovely park right next to Park Street and is home of Cabot Tower - which is worth a climb (free) for some more fantastic views.
Cabot Circus and Bristol Shopping Quarter are mostly (although not entirely!) big chain shops you'd find in most cities.
Clifton Village (further out than Clifton but within the city, unlike it's name implies!) is where you'll find the best of Bristol's local boutique-y gift shops and cafes. Also worth visiting the iconic suspension bridge while you're there.
A little closer to the centre of town is Park Street and Whiteladies Road as well as Gloucester Road, less classy than Clifton but some lovely smaller shops. (Gloucester Road is the charity-shopper's heaven!)
Bristol is home to some great museums. M Shed is the venue for Spark but also a great little free museum. You can find more information about all the Bristol Museums on their website.
The aquarium (central) is expensive but very good. Bristol Zoo is no longer located in Clifton, and is now outside the city.
Cabot Tower in Brandon Hill park (central) is free to climb for some epic views.
Clifton Suspension Bridge (Clifton Village) is free to walk across and Observatory Hill is nearby for some good views and a nice coffee shop. Or head into Clifton Village for endless cafes and pubs.
Bristol University has several beautiful historic buildings. The closest to the city centre are at the top of Park Street along with the Bristol Art Gallery.
Personally, I like to explore new cities using virtual audio tours. Claim a free one using my VoiceMap referral link. There are 5 highly-rated tours of Bristol to choose from.
The cities of Bath and Cardiff, Wales are within an easy train ride (15 minutes or 1 hour respectively) if you want to spread your wings a little further.
I'll be at the hackathon right the way through to the after party - so I'll see you there! Please come and say hi, and see my talk too if it appeals!
If you think I've missed something vital, let me know on socials!
Thanks to Tristan Thompson for his contributions.