These top 5 Canberra festivals are a must do!
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say Canberra is boring, I would probably be writing this post while relaxing in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, sipping on Moet (my dream holiday, btw). But sadly, this comes to you from my couch in Kingston with David Attenborough playing in the background. That does not mean the common sentiment about Canberra being boring doesn’t come up often.
I’ll be the first to admit that Canberra is no Melbourne or Sydney and no one pretends that it is. There aren’t street festivals or free gigs to pack your weekends with. The city isn’t buzzing on a Sunday afternoon. In fact, it’s pretty fucking dead. And I often complain that I never find out about the going ons until it’s too late. Nevertheless, there are some things that one simply can’t miss.
I’ve certainly got my favourites. So here is my list of top Canberra festivals.
1. National Multi-Cultural Festival
When: 13-15 February 2015
Where: Canberra City
What is it: What better way to celebrate the multicultural melting pot that is Canberra than with food, entertainment and alcohol? The national multicultural festival takes places every year in February and runs from Friday evening through to Sunday. This is the one festival that I never miss – it’s just so much fun. It’s a food lovers dream! There are dishes to enjoy from all over the world – Thai curries, paella, gozlemes, tacos, Korean BBQ and loads , loads more. Then wash it all down with a beer (honey flavoured beer, anyone), sangria, or maybe even a vodka shot from the Russian stall, all while watching some kick ass entertainment. The organisers certainly seem to be doing all the right things making this event a great day out for kids and adults alike. The best part is, entry is free.
If I could change one thing it would be that food stalls serve smaller portions at a lower price. Then I would be able to sample more food rather than filling up just a few dishes.
Verdict: Go with an empty belly and don’t hold back. Always save space for the one thing that you’ve never tried before. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen and bottle of water.
When: Last week in October, early November (check website for dates)
Where: Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC)
What: Oktoberfest in Canberra is a must do, even if only one time! If you enjoy sharing long tables with strangers, pork knuckles, steins of beer, ritter sport and watching the young ‘uns struggle to hold their alcohol (other than in Civic, of course), then it will almost feel like the real thing. Almost. The best part of the night is usually the entertainment. The performers are great, with my favourite being the burlesque dancers. Gather together a group of mates and head to EPIC for an epic night out. Entry fee is approx. $25.00.
Verdict: go once, and then maybe one more time. Your mission when you arrive is to get yourself a table.
When: Runs for a month over September and October
Where: Commonwealth Park
What: Floriade marks the start of spring in Canberra. The festival showcases one million flowers in bloom, a colour extravaganza, and attracts visitors from all over Australia and overseas. It’s not just about the flowers, though. There are cooking demonstrations, food stalls, entertainment and stalls where you can buy soaps, jewellery and more. I even walked away with a free pot plant, one year. Nighfest , as part of the floriade festival, is a twilight event that runs for five nights (check website for dates) when the flower beds are transformed by lights into a wonderland. Nightfest also features live music, DJs and comedy. Don’t forget to rug up nicely as it can get very, very cold. Entry to Floriade is by gold coin donation; Nightfest is a ticketed event.
Verdict: go once and go again on a spare, lazy Sunday afternoon.
4. ANZAC Day Dawn Service
When: April 25
Where: Australian War Memorial
What: I guess this isn’t a festival at all; it’s more an event to honour those who served and died keeping Australia safe. The dawn service is held every year on ANZAC day at the Australian War Memorial. Each year, despite the cold, thousands gather to remember the landing at Gallipoli in 1915. Following the dawn service, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commemorative Ceremony is held to honour the Indigenous Australians who served in the Australian forces. The Commemorative Ceremony is held at the Aboriginal Memorial plaque on the side of Mount Ainslie.
Verdict: I go every year to show my respect. Don’t rush off after the service, spend time in the memorial with other service goers. Rug up, it gets cold.
When: Usually in January
Where: Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC)
What: The most bogan thing to happen to Canberra every year, and it’s been going on for the last 27 (!!) years! So I’ve never been and I plan on keeping it that way, but I know many who have and who keep going every year. Apparently, the drawcard is burnouts, beer, bourbon, boobs and bundy. Oh, and there are the cars as well. The festival attracts motor heads from across Australia, making it a one-of-a-kind event. So if you are into cars and booze, head on down to EPIC and stay safe and sober.
Verdict: Love your cars? Head on down to EPIC for a night you literally won’t remember.
Other Canberra festivals:
- Thai food festival at the Thai embassy in Yarralumla. Usually held in September with loads of food and entertainment on offer.
- Nara Candle festival at the Lennox Gardens. Experience 2,000 candles shimmer to life as Japanese and Australian cultures unite. Enjoy an evening of free entertainment, Japanese food and cultural activities. Usually held in October.
- Carols by Candle light in Woden. Get together a picnic dinner and enjoy a night of music and celebration
- Sunset cinema runs from Nov to Dec at the Botanic Gardens, showcasing the latest releases, classic and art house films.
- Fireworks: Australia day fireworks spectactular and Skyfire (held in March) are the two major firework festivals held in Canberra. Don’t forget to take along your portable radio to Skyfire.
- Manuka oval has received a face lift so expect more sporting events coming to Canberra. Keep an eye out for the 2015 World Cup cricket matches held in Canberra.
- Enlighten Festival: Borrowing the concept from Sydney and Melbourne, the enlighten festival in Canberra is a festival that shines a new light on some of Canberra’s most iconic attractions. The Night Noodle market is now part of the Enlighten festival and runs from 27 Feb to 8 March.
- Check out Visit Canberra’s website for more things to see and do in Canberra,
So Canberra isn’t so boring after all. Who would have ever thought that there were festivals in Canberra that one might enjoy, eh? Just time your visit right to get a taste of what Canberra has to offer.