Moving to Australia

What’s on in Canberra

If you thought Canberra was a boring, politics-centered city, think again! It may be remote and it is certainly the seat of Government but Canberra has some pretty exciting festivals and events happening throughout the year.

When choosing where to live, study or holiday, it’s a good idea to check out what kinds of events a city has to offer so you know if you ever get homesick, there’s always something fun to put a smile on your face.

Festivals in Canberra that’ll perk you right up!

Australia Day in the Capital (Jan)

January 26th is Australia Day and in Canberra, it’s a celebration involving picnics, food trucks, live music and fireworks. Gather a group and head to Commonwealth Park for the Great Aussie Breakfast and free entertainment from 7.30am. Welcome Australia’s newest citizens at 9am at Rond Terrace where there’ll be the National Flag Raising and Citizenship ceremony, followed by a 21-gun salute and the traditional flyover. Take the family to Patrick White Lawns where there is live entertainment, a giant slide, face painting, glitter tattoos and jumping castles. From 6pm, there is a concert at Regatta Point, ending at 9pm with the dazzling fireworks display.

National Multicultural Festival (Feb) 

For three days in February, the streets of Canberra’s CBD burst to life with colour, noise and smiles. This free festival celebrates cultural diversity and welcomes over 200,000 people who converge to eat, drink, dance, laugh and enjoy the entertainment. When you’re hungry, you’ll be spoilt for choice with tantalising aromas of barbecue, satays, pizzas and so much more wafting through the streets. Taste your way around 300 food and wine stalls, catch clever street acts from all around the world, watch circus-style performances and be sure to watch the parade on the Saturday. Walking bands, dancers in national costume, Chinese dragons and colourful groups of ethnic communities make the parade an event you’ll thoroughly enjoy.

Royal Canberra Show (Feb) 

Every city in Australia has its agricultural show where ‘the city meets the country’. It’s where the region’s livestock and farm produce are brought to be judged and awarded prizes. The 3-day event is an opportunity to get up close to magnificent prize-winning cows and bulls, feed baby animals in the nursery, and marvel at the beautiful displays of the cream of the ACT’s crops in Harvest Hall. Kids and kids at heart will love Sideshow Alley for its thrilling rides which include the Ghost Train, Freak Out, Gravitron and the popular Ferris Wheel. For the little ones, there’s a kid-size roller coaster, the Cup and Saucer ride, pony rides and more. Inside the pavilions, you’ll find the Crafts Expo, fashion parades, a technology hub and the Cattle Precinct where you can see, touch (and smell!) the beautiful prize cattle as they await their moments in the spotlight.

Canberra events that light up the night

Skyfire (Mar)

Lake Burley Griffin is the setting for Canberra’s annual fireworks spectacular, Skyfire where 100,000 people gather to watch some of the country’s best musicians perform on stage. The event culminates in a 20-minute fireworks show that locals say is the highlight of the year. The show plays out in sync with an energetic music soundtrack which is also broadcast live by a local radio station.

Enlighten Festival (Mar) 

Let there be light!! And let it be projected onto all manner of buildings and other surfaces around Canberra! For two weeks, Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle becomes a colourful arts precinct. There are interactive installations, fireside chats, late night exhibitions, photography workshops, fireworks and night noodle markets, all with a magical backdrop. Australian Parliament House, the National Library of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Portrait Gallery and Questacon buildings all become backdrops for enchanting projections with various themes. Enlighten also features the Canberra Balloon Spectacular, one of the world’s longest-running hot air balloon events. Take a picnic meal to the free Symphony in the Park event and settle back to listen to the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, with the stars as your fairy lights.

Music festivals in Canberra

National Folk Festival (Apr)

For more than 50 years, the festival has been the focal point for lovers of folk music. Go along to chill out to your favourite of the 200 acts which include blues, roots, country and acoustic music. You may also like to catch the other performances such as dance, circus acts and spoken word. Craftspeople and artists exhibit and peddle their wares and you can join in on a range of activities. How about Zumba or yoga? Would you like to sing with the Festival Choir or take part in a percussion jam? There are plenty of tasty food options too.

Canberra International Music Festival (May) 

Yank off your headphones and get into live music at CIMF. Spread out over the city’s many venues, the festival offers scores of concerts and spoken word performances. There’s always a children’s concert with past themes including The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and Peter and the Wolf. Depending on the year’s programme, you may get to attend piano recitals, open-air theatre or experience a violin virtuoso in motion. Each year has a theme so be sure to check the website.

Read about more music festivals in Canberra for 2019

More niche Canberra events

Summernats (Jan) 

This annual car festival will get your motor running! Touted as “Australia’s biggest horsepower party”, it’s a family-friendly event for all ages. Go along to see hot rods, vintage cars, muscle cars and elite show cars. Thrill at the world record burnout attempt and salivate at the gleaming assembly of polished and primed street cars vying for prizes. There’s the annual crowning of Miss Summernats, lots of driving competitions and exciting car parades, complete with all the noise and buzz you’d expect. If you’re a car lover, you can’t miss Summernats!

Floriade (Sep/Oct) 

8,000 square metres of prime inner-city parkland become festooned with a sea of flowers for around a month every Spring. Open daily from 9.30am to 5.30pm, take the family to experience Canberra in full bloom. Sit in on horticultural workshops, talk to growers, eat delicious food and bop along to the music. It’s a lively, visually awesome event that will make you happy just for being there, and it’s free to attend!


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