Free things to do in Melbourne in January

Have you made a New Year’s resolution to spend less? Or are you one of those clever people who know the best things in life are free? Then check out these free cultural events in Melbourne this month, from gay times at Midsumma to a festival for Latin lovers.

Art attack

You would have heard about the NGV Triennial, but did you know this showcase of local and international contemporary art is free? It gets better. On the evenings of 19-28 January, the Triennial EXTRA program delivers more free awesomeness. Guest DJs from Dan Sultan to Dave Graney get the gallery into party mode. Chunky Move dance and Bell Shakespeare thesps do The Bard among Triennial artworks. The list goes on …

Just across the road, the MPavilion 2017/18 Program is pretty awesome too. Highlights include the Westside Circus pop-up, London design duo Soft Baroque’s Foamy feeling installation, and the return of Tree-telling botanical tarot sessions. Enoy Morning Stories with N’arweet Carolyn Briggs and an evening of The Orbweavers’ music inspired by Melbourne’s waterways. Again, the list goes on …

A little girl looking at a giant skulll with more giant skulls behind her

Ron Mueck’s installation Mass is part of the NGV Triennial exhibition

Bedazzlers at the ready!

Another event that keeps on giving is the Midsumma Festival. From Midsumma Carnival 2018 community day to the Pride March, free events galore mean you can splash more cash on looking fabulous. See what’s happening at the La Mama Midsumma Festival Hub and the official Midsumma Bar, Bombini Buzz. Discover queer artists from around Australia at the Art Prize. Or set future artists on their path at the Our Time to Shine! play event for rainbow families.

Ballroom dancers love to shine too, as Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom revealed back in 1992. See Tina Sparkle get her comeuppance when this classic Aussie musical lights up the night at Park Cinema on 26 January. This free outdoor cinema at Docklands continues every Friday until 2 March.

A crowd of people sitting in front of a big cinema screen in a park

Park Cinema

Get outside

Also this month, popular laneway bar Section 8 is transforming their space in Tattersalls Lane into a tropical paradise – complete with beach umbrellas and several tons of sand. Over four days and four nights (Thursday 11 to Sunday 14 January), catch some of Melbourne’s finest DJs and musicians at it’s annual Urban Oasis Beach Party – and entry is free.

A crowd of people drinking and mingling at a tropical themed party in an outdoor bar

Section 8 Urban Oasis Beach Party

Immerse yourself in culture much older, and closer to home, at Balit Narrun – Share the Spirit Festival. This annual, family-friendly outdoor concert showcases the diversity of local Indigenous musicians. This year’s event celebrates strength in culture, and also features dance, art and activities for young people. Bring some loot for the food trucks!

DIY music

Is there a musician inside you wanting to strut the stage? Before setting your sights on an arena spectacular, test out those vocal cords with You Really Got Me! Bedroom Karaoke. Belt out a song from past or present in a space inspired by teenage bedrooms during the British ‘youthquake’. If it turns out your voice is not so hot, this could still be a very cool social media moment!

If tickling the ivories is more your style, track down the pianos dotted around the city for Play Me I’m Yours. This interactive installation has been touring the world for a decade, tarting up old uprights and placing them in public areas. Whether it’s Chopin, Leonard Cohen or something made up on the spot, your piano awaits!

two children playing a piano outside

20 pianos will be on the streets of Melbourne for Play Me I’m Yours

Anyone for tennis?

The Australian Open 2018 is going to create a lot of excitement in the heart of summer. Whether you’re into tennis or not, the free AO Festival at Birrarung Marr is an ace place to hang out. There are giant screens showing the action happening next door, as well as DJs, Melbourne food favourites like Gingerboy, and refreshing drinkies.

A group of people dancing to a DJ at an outdoor festival

The Australian Open Festival returns to Birrarung Marr Monday 15 to Sunday 28 January