Melbourne should re-name this month Free-bruary, because there are 29 days of awesome stuff that won’t cost you a cent.
MSO Sidney Myer Free Concerts
Enjoy Champagne entertainment at tap-water prices thanks to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. They’re performing three free alfresco concerts this month. Experience the world premiere of a new Australian composition as well as and classics like Dvorak’s ninth symphony. The Valentine’s Day program gets romantic with melting tunes like the overture from Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman. Pack a picnic and add some class to your summer soundtrack at the MSO Sidney Myer Free Concerts. 5, 8 and 14 February.
National Sustainable Living Festival
Change your life or even change the world with a visit to the National Sustainable Living Festival. The 21st edition has more than 300 events, from talks to workshops, and a new week-long Climate Week program. This year’s festival also includes a sustainability marketplace at Queen Victoria Market on the final weekend. Explore a tiny house and discover unique recycled plastic designs. Enjoy organic, vegan food and connect with local and international groups. From 1 to 29 February.
Zodiac Spectacular at Crown Melbourne
The Zodiac Spectacular at Crown Melbourne is a highlight of the city’s Lunar New Year celebrations. This entertainment complex’s atrium is transformed into a colourful, luminous menagerie of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. Welcome the Year of the Rat with a visit to this larger-than-life installation, which also includes more than 60 lanterns. From 22 January to 11 February.
Marking Time at NGV
NGV Australia is one of the best places in the country to see Aboriginal art. Have you checked out the Marking Time exhibition, which draws on the gallery’s extensive permanent collection? It explores millennia of markings by Australia’s first peoples, including contemporary artists. They reconsider traditional approaches, like ochre on bodies and incisions in trees, in more permanent forms. From bark paintings to neon and video art, this art is timeless. Until Sunday 14 June.
Melbourne Japanese Summer Festival
Crazy about everything Japanese? Yet to embrace the Land of the Rising Sun’s wonders? Either way, the Melbourne Japanese Summer Festival is a delightful cultural escape. There’s everything from traditional taiko drumming to J-pop dance performances to get you in the mood. Then check out lots of amazing Japanese food, arts and crafts, and have fun with games like toy-fishing. You could even win a trip to Tokyo! Sunday 23 February.
Architect-designed pop-up space MPavilion is another annual summer favourite. Its season includes live music, performances, talks, workshops and everything is free. February highlights include Know Life Meditation Club with A-Space. Or try Dog Walking Adventures with Captain + Tom. Why not end each working week with the Friday Sunset Series’ live music and DJs. They’re joined by contemporary dance company Chunky Move on Friday 14 February.
Summer Night Market
Don’t let summer go by without getting into this fun Wednesday evening experience at least once. The Summer Night Market has free live local entertainment, a pop-up volleyball court, and a buzzing atmosphere. Be prepared to spend a little along the way though. You’ll want some cool drinks and international street food, from yakitori skewers to churros. Browsing the curated stalls may lead to temptation too. Until Wednesday 11 March.
Ride Melbourne Community Cycling Event
The Jayco Herald Sun Tour wheels into Melbourne after four gruelling days of cycling around regional Victoria. Before the pros hit the final leg’s leafy closed circuit around the Royal Botanic Gardens, have a go yourself. The Ride Melbourne Community Cycling Event is a rare opportunity to cycle in the city car-free. Afterwards, watch the tour competitors speed around the course – a punishing 22 times! Sunday 9 February.
Northside Summer Festival
After the success of last year’s inaugural festival, this celebration of North and West Melbourne returns with more good times. The Northside Summer Festival is packed with free entertainment. Enjoy bands, street performers and kids activities, especially at the closing block party. This means your budget will be in good shape for the special shopping, food and drink offerings throughout the festival. From 15 to 22 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 getting bigger 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 for the creations that will inevitably catch your eye. There are zines about everything from cooking to photography. From 8 to 9 February.
Pups and Pilates
What’s better than a free Pilates session? A free alfresco pilates session with riverside city views and your fur baby! The weekly Saturday morning Pups and Pilates classes are at South Wharf restaurant-bar Common Man’s outdoor zone. Bookings are essential and places limited, so get in quick. Then tell your pooch the good news: you’re going to be doing the downward dog together! Until Saturday 29 February.
Movies Under the Stars
The free Movies Under the Stars season in Docklands returns on 14 and 15 February. Pack a picnic, grab snacks on-site or dine waterside by the river at Yarra’s Edge or South Wharf. Located at Point Park, movies begin at sunset. Be early as there will be free bean bags to the first 200 guests.