Free things to do in Melbourne over the January long weekend

What better time for a super-sized weekend than summer’s peak? There’s no need to go extra-large on your spend though, thanks to these free events.

AO Festival

As always, the Australian Open gets to the pointy end over the long weekend, but you don’t need to buy a ticket to get into the thick of it. The AO Festival takes over Birrarung Marr with tennis on a custom-built court and live tournament action on the big screen. Other entertainment at this free event includes the AO Sports Film Festival and DJs at the pop-up bars. Bring some loot for drinks, and food by Hunky Dory and Huxtaburger!

A crowd of people sitting and drinking at an outdoor festival

Australian Open Festival

Australia Day celebrations

You could spend the whole of 26 January at free family-friendly events, like the Australia Day Parade on Swanston Street. Be among the flag-waving crowd as 90 community and cultural groups celebrate the diversity of Melbourne and the nation.

Kick on at the Australia Day Festival in Kings Domain Gardens. There’s heaps on offer, like a heritage vehicle showcase, Roulettes flyover, Peppa Pig show and a feast of food trucks. The good times continue into the evening, culminating in the Australia Day Fireworks at Docklands.

Melbourne Street Eatz

Sure, you need some funds to really get into this food truck gathering, but Melbourne Street Eatz has free stuff too. Entry for starters, plus live music, tennis on the big screen and activities for all ages. And budgets wont be busted at the food and drink vendors, like Loaded gourmet hot dogs and The Kraken Squid. Good doggies are welcome!

A crowd of people sitting at tables under outdoor fairy lights

Melbourne Street Eatz

Australian Music Vault

Like fresh-pressed vinyl, the Australian Music Vault still has a new and exciting scent as it only opened a year ago. This free, immersive, permanent exhibition celebrates contemporary homegrown music, and includes iconic objects from the Australian Performing Arts Collection. It’s got the stamp of approval from the likes of Archie Roach and Kylie, so you know it’s dope.

Julian Opie

NGV International’s exhibitions aren’t just pricey blockbusters. Right now there’s a bunch of works by hip Brit Julian Opie on show that are free to see. Some you can check out when the gallery’s closed, like the larger-than-life animated human figures perpetually striding outside the entrance.

Balit Narrun – Share the Spirit Festival

This annual, family-friendly outdoor event celebrates the resilience and creative talent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Victoria. There are craft stalls and kids activities throughout the afternoon, but the main attraction is always the concert. The line-up at this year’s Balit Narrun – Share the Spirit Festival includes Birdz, Mojo Juju and the Djirri Djirri Dancers. Bring your wallet for some tucker from the food trucks.

A crowd of people sitting on the grass in a park watching a concert

Balit Narrun – Share the Spirit Festival

Polly Borland: Polyverse

Sixty alluring, enigmatic and surreal celebrity photographs await at this exhibition showcasing a renowned Australian artist. Polly Borland: Polyverse features photographs from the past decade, including the Bunny series. See towering Game of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie like never before, subverting the idea of the Playboy bunny. Plus new work created specifically for this exhibition at NGV Australia.

Melbourne Sights Free Tour

The Melbourne Sights Free Tour includes many of the places and stories that make this city special. Discover laneway street art and hidden bars. Eyeball architecture old and new, from grand Gold Rush era icons to the edgy 21st century Federation Square. Learn about notorious bushranger Ned Kelly at the Old Melbourne Gaol, and get the lowdown on even more free things to do. By the end of these daily 2½ to 3 hour tours, visitors will probably know more than locals.

For more walks easy on the hip pocket, check out free tours of iconic Melbourne places.