Fun Winter Happenings to Enjoy in Sydney This Season
When winter arrives it can be hard to resist cancelling all your plans, building a blanket fort in the middle of your lounge room and spending the rest of your cold weather weekends in a state of cosy hibernation. But before you get too ahead of yourself, there are a few things happening in Sydney that you won’t want to miss.
Over the past few years, the city has developed an incredible winter calendar of annual festivals, pop-up activities and fun-filled events that make braving the cold worthwhile. With neon-lit playgrounds popping up in the Sydney Tower Eye, magical ice rinks in Parramatta offering a chance to embrace the chill, and bustling markets boasting all kinds of delicious food and drink to sample, there are plenty of exciting activities to draw you away from the couch – just remember to wear a warm jacket and some wooly socks.
Bringing people together in the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity, Sydney’s Bastille Festival is back this July with an unstoppable line-up of food, wine and art. Whether you’re a fan of fire twirlers and salsa dancers or prefer cabaret and DJ sets, the streets of Circular Quay and The Rocks will be brimming with plenty of entertainment all day and night. But the festival isn’t just a feast for the eyes, it’s a feast for the belly, too. They’ll be French fusion dishes like gooey camembert arancini balls and mouth-watering France-inspired burgers to tuck in to, plus mulled wine in a pop-up chalet, a champagne bar, and local brews at the ever-popular Electro Beer Garden. Viva la revolución!
The Essential Duchamp
In a celebration of all things unconventional, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) is currently showing the most comprehensive Marcel Duchamp exhibition to ever reach the Asia Pacific. It’s not surprising if you don’t recognise the name. Although considered one of the most original figures in the history of modern art, Duchamp enjoyed keeping his aura of mystery. To put it simply, he was the guy who decided a urinal could be considered art and much of his work focused on expanding ideas about what art is, shifting the medium from the visual to the conceptual. A replica of the aforementioned ready-made Fountain sculpture, the original of which was lost, as well as the iconic Nude Descending a Staircase, are must-sees in this incredible representation of one of history’s most influential artists.
Sydney's Highest Playground
This winter, a nostalgic playground is taking over the Sydney Tower Eye to help you relive all your favourite childhood memories 250 metres off the ground. The retro-themed paradise will feature all the games and activities you loved as a kid, including giant Jenga, Connect 4 glow-in-the-dark hula hoops and KerPlunk, along with endless photo opportunities for those that are game to break out the parachute pants and hair crimpers. Of course, the neon-lit space wouldn’t be much without a soundtrack, so they’ll be an endless supply of old-school 80s and 90s jams to have a cheeky boogie to. Plus, select nights will see the crew from Milky Lane whipping up decadent loaded shakes at the pop-up milk bar of your dreams. Get ready for a sugar high.
Mulled Wine Cinema
Whoever said watching a film under the night sky was only a balmy summer activity? Certainly not the Mulled Wine Cinema, which is transforming the Tallowoladah Lawn outside of the MCA into a cosy open-air movie theatre during July. Complete with fantastic views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour, the outdoor cinema will be screening a selection of the best French and French-inspired films around as an extension of the broader Bastille Festival. Attendees will be provided with a comfy lawn chair, a warm blanket, buttery popcorn and a deliciously steamy glass of mulled wine, but you’ll need to bring your own company to snuggle up with. Then again, you never know who you might meet; French is the language of love.
Sydney Science Festival
Every year during National Science Week, Sydney’s cultural institutions, universities and research centres come together in a celebratory exploration of mathematics, science, art, technology and engineering for the Sydney Science Festival. In the past, the program has always been jam-packed with talks, events and activities that stimulate both the mind and the body, and this year is no different. Highlights include engaging panel discussions hosted by Triple J’s resident medical expert Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and math tutoring genius Eddie Woo; a night of stargazing and music at Centennial Parklands as Planets by Gustav Holst is performed by the Sydney Youth Orchestra; and Elysium Arctic, a series of breathtaking artworks exhibiting at Darling Harbour that capture the majestic beauty of land and sea. Make sure to book in advance for any paid talks and activities as they can sell out fast.
The worst thing about Sydney winter isn’t the rain or the low temperatures, it’s that there’s never any snow – or the cold weather activities the icy white flakes encourage. Luckily, all of that’s about to change thanks to Winterlight at Parramatta's Prince Alfred Square. The magical wonderland’s ice-rink is the perfect place to experience the glistening and appealing winters you always see on the big screen. From learning how to ice skate to heating things up with a heart-pounding toboggan ride down the ice slide, there’s so much fun to be had you’ll find yourself forgetting that you were afraid to leave your snug house in the first place. But if you do start to feel the chill, you can always warm up by heading over to the large range of market stalls selling tasty treats, take a few turns on the colourful Ferris wheel, get up close and personal with the interactive neon art installation, or even take a circus skills workshop.
Parramatta Night Markets
There’s nothing quite like a good night market. The smell of delicious food hangs wafts through the air, pretty lights brighten up the night, and the constant hum of conversation conveys a sense of joy and excitement that’s hard to resist. With that in mind, the City of Parramatta has decided that they’ll be hosting their first night markets series this winter. Just a short stroll away from Winterlight, you’ll be able to peruse the handmade and unique wares of local craftspeople and artisans, including ceramic wizzes Parra Clay Pottery, sustainable fashion brand Earthie, Indigenous social enterprise the Social Canvas and talented wood wick candle makers Red Lauren.
Igloos on the Pier
Pier One's harbourfront igloos are back. The luxe see-through structures might not actually be made of ice and stone but they’re still pretty special. Draped in faux furs and finished off with touches of Scandinavian-inspired simplicity, the dome-shaped constructions offer the ultimate winter dining experience – with signature cocktails, cheese boards and champagne just some of the indulgent items on the menu. Although, if you’re after something truly special, there’s only one option and that’s a steamy, two-and-a-half-hour soak by the harbour in the one and only hot tub igloo.
Q Station Extreme Ghost Tour
As the days become shorter and the nights takeover, there’s no better time to scare yourself with a ghost tour of Sydney’s most restless spirits. There are a few places all over the city that are pretty spooky, but the most terrifying spot is definitely the Quarantine Station. Once the first port of call for colonial ships carrying passengers with contagious diseases, the area is now a hotbed of ghastly ghouls and playful poltergeists. Starting at 10.00pm, the Q Station Extreme Ghost Tour provides a chance to interact with these lingering spirits. But it’s not for the faint-hearted, guests often feel like they might pass out – don’t say we didn’t warn you.