Melbourne may as well re-name this month Free-bruary, because there are 28 days of awesome stuff that won’t cost you a cent.
February is the best time of year to celebrate Melbourne’s multicultural spirit, at these free outdoor festivals. What cultures will you get better acquainted with at the Lygon Street Multicultural Festival (2 February)? Want to experience traditional taiko drumming and try toy-fishing at the Melbourne Japanese Summer Festival (24 February)? Will you be part of the Zorba Til You Drop competition at the 32nd Lonsdale Street Greek Festival (23-24 February)? Even if you just like to watch, don’t miss this Hellenic party that gets bigger every year.
Lunar New Year
Get ready for firecrackers, drums and dragons to sweep through the streets of Melbourne during Chinese New Year. Build up an appetite for all your favourite porky dishes too, because 2019 is the year of the pig. There are heaps of sights, sounds and flavours to enjoy around town, starting in the traditional epicentre, Chinatown. Be there for the Dai Loong Dragon Parade, when this remarkably long, lucky beast is carried and animated by over 200 people.
Another lunar new year hot spot is Crown, where the fireball towers are transformed into fire-breathing dragons by local artists. There’s also the Hawkers Bazaar, fireworks and a luminous, larger-than-life display of Chinese zodiac animals.
Other highlights include the official festival opening ceremony at Queensbridge Square and Dragon Boat Festival at Docklands.
National Sustainable Living Festival
Change your life and change the world with a visit to the National Sustainable Living Festival. The 20th edition has more than 300 events, from talks to workshops, including the popular Big Weekend on 8-10 February. Discover bright, green ideas for everything from gardening to transport, and sustainable food that’s local, fresh and organic. 1-28 February.
Movies Under the Stars
Quit complaining about how expensive going to the cinema is and get down to Movies Under the Stars at Yarra’s Edge. Baz Luhrman’s Great Gatsby, Marvel’s Black Panther and family-friendly Peter Rabbit are the A-grade line-up at this three-nights-only season. Pack a picnic, or spend your cinematic savings on something special from the food vendors or nearby restaurants. The screen lights up at sunset, but arrive early to nab a bean bag. 7-9 February.
Northside Summer Festival
There’s a brand new festival celebrating North and West Melbourne and everyone’s invited. The Northside Summer Festival is packed with free entertainment: bands, street performers and comedy, especially at the opening day block party. Which means your budget will be in good shape for the shopping nights, food and drinks – including the Northside Summer cocktail. 16-23 February.
MSO Sidney Myer Free Concerts
Enjoy Champagne entertainment at tap-water prices when the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra plays three free alfresco concerts. Tap your toes to vintage Gershwin tunes, then lap up two evenings of symphonic sounds by the likes of Berlioz and Debussy. Pack a picnic and add some class to your summer soundtrack at the MSO Sidney Myer Free Concerts. 8, 16 and 20 February.
The Music Gym Choir
Mondays are bad enough without sweating and straining at the gym, so try The Music Gym Choir instead. Fire up those happy brain chemicals every Monday in February by singing your heart out at these free after-work sessions. You don’t need a golden set of pipes like Adele to get into it! 4, 11, 18 and 25 February.
Have you spied Tinky’s amusing little street-art dioramas, tucked into the nooks and crannies of Melbourne’s laneways? There’s no hunting required at the Unzipped exhibition, where her tiny figurines, models, found objects and comic wordplay are on show. It’s part of the Midsumma Festival, so expect an added dose of saucy, queer humour. Until 9 February.
Jayco Herald Sun Tour
After four days and hundreds of kilometres cycling around regional Victoria, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour’s grand finale wheels into Melbourne. The four-kilometre circuit around the Royal Botanic Gardens (part of the 2006 Commonwealth Games cycling course) is great for spectators. It’s not so easy for cyclists though, who have to complete it 22 times, including the punishing Anderson Street hill! Sunday 3 February.
The Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair
Zines are handmade with paper, photocopiers, staplers, typewriters, scissors, even pencils. They shouldn’t exist in the digital age, yet The Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair keeps growing every year. Indulge your zeal for zines, or find out what all the old-school fuss is about at this free event. Bring some loose change to pick up some unique creations, from cook zines to collage zines. 9-10 February.