Sydney never stops! At any time of year, if you land in this vibrant city, you’ll discover that something big is going on. It could be a music festival, a food and wine festival, a huge art event or a gigantic, glittery parade.
Knowing what’s on in Sydney before you arrive is key to being a part of the celebrations so make sure you do your homework and don’t forget to pack your party hat!
Over three weeks in January every year, the harbour city comes alive with the Sydney Festival, more than a hundred events encompassing music, theatre, dance, circus and the arts. Expect contemporary ballet performances, cutting edge virtual reality experiences, powerful poetry readings and Indigenous art exhibitions.
People come from all over the world to be a part of the Sydney Festival, either to participate in it or to soak up the epic creativity and discover new ideas. There are tons of free outdoor events, which attract over half a million people, in addition to ticketed events attended by more than 150,000 fans of the arts. Imagine attending a 10-minute dance party in a shipping container with 49 other party-hard types!
Try to envisage musicians playing scientifically designed instruments under water in custom-built aquariums, while timing their breath to the music. It’s these kinds of antics that draw such huge crowds and leave visitors wondering what they just witnessed! And that’s the beauty of the Sydney Festival. Tickets and event information can be found at the website.
For forty years, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival has provided a place where people from the LGBTQI community can come together with members of the broader community and celebrate love, inclusion and diversity. One of the biggest tourist drawcards Australia has to offer, it features several events including the Mardi Gras Film Festival, Fair Day in Victoria Park, the Bondi Beach Drag Races and of course, the huge parade and party.
Every year, the festival grows; hundreds of thousands of people converge on Sydney to join the colourful party which begins on the second Thursday in February and ends on the first Saturday in March. Over the years, international headline acts have included Cher, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Thelma Houston and Chaka Khan, with local superstars Tina Arena, Kylie and Dannii Minogue and Olivia Newton-John also drawing huge crowds.
Aside from performances to watch, there are also events to participate in including The Little Black Dress Run, The Rainbow Run, dance workshops, high teas and pool parties.
The country meets the city at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, held at Easter every year. The Show combines fairground attractions, amusement park rides and agricultural exhibitions and is loved by visitors young and old. Animal lovers adore getting up close to their favourite animals or watching the judging events where Best in Show dogs, cats and birds are recognised.
There are competitions like woodchopping, whip cracking, baking and flower arranging and important livestock judging to determine the finest wool and highest quality animals. Kids and teens have a brilliant day out, going on rides and playing games, maybe even meeting their country counterparts.
The nightly fireworks are a major drawcard and there are always plenty of show foods to enjoy such as dagwood dogs, fairy floss and toffee apples. Entry fee applies and discounts are usually available for pre-booking or for purchasing as a family.
The Vivid festival is a 3-week award-winning annual event over May and June. As the name suggests, it is a vibrant celebration of light music and ideas, and features mind-blowing light displays, some projected over city landmarks, others forming part of hanging or ground installations.
The Light Walk invites visitors to follow a two-kilometre illuminated trail from The Rocks to the Sydney Opera House or go along to Darling Harbour, Kings Cross, Barangaroo or other stages for the light spectacular. Every year, the festivities are more innovative and impressive and the event attracts local and international music acts who perform in huge venues and the more intimate clubs.
The Ideas aspect of Vivid calls to assembly some of the best minds in design, tech and culture and explores new and emerging concepts over a number of debates, talks and workshops. For tourists visiting Sydney, Vivid is a magical three weeks of kaleidoscopic light shows that have to be seen to be believed!
It’s only a single day but oh, what a day! Pack a healthy appetite because there is way too much food and it’s all outstanding. The Italian Wine + Food Festival brings the best Italian celebrity chefs, local Italian restaurants and incredible food and vino to Sydney Town Hall.
Witness high-energy pasty making demonstrations, sample exquisite gelati and sorbets, enter the wine zone to taste vibrant Italian wines, experience the fun of a cheese wheel and try your hand at flipping pizza dough. This family-friendly event is infused with all the warmth and hospitality of an invitation to Nonna’s house for lunch and anyone who attends simply must wear their stretchiest pants.
It’s Australia’s largest annual outdoor sculpture exhibition and since 1997, it has been enthralling visitors of all ages. For three weeks from late October to early November, more than a hundred artists from all over the world converge on Bondi Beach to showcase their work and vie for a $60,000 prize.
Visitors can walk along the two-kilometre stretch of beach and contemplate the inspiration behind each of the sculptures, some fashioned from iron, others from plastic, wood and a range of obscure materials. Sculpture by the Sea is a free annual event that attracts more than 500,000 visitors.
Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve is rapidly gaining on Time Square, New York City as ‘the’ place to be when the clock strikes midnight. The monumental fireworks display is telecast across the world, to the envy of billions of people, particularly those in the northern hemisphere, shivering their way through the last day of the year.
Being on the harbour in person is an unparalleled experience and definitely a bucket list item! You could celebrate on the water by chartering a vessel or attending a party aboard a boat or pull up a folding chair and sit yourself down at one of the many vantage points around the harbour. Or, book a hotel room with a magical view and order champagne with your room service dinner. The spectacle is so dazzling, you will want to return year after year.
Sydney is such a major attraction for interstate and international tourists that everybody seems to know when their favourite festival is happening. Don’t miss out on tickets to your preferred events, or accommodation to coincide with a festival you want to attend.
Once you find out what’s on in Sydney that takes your interest, plan your itinerary paying close attention to dates and times.