Free things to do in Melbourne in January

Have you made a New Year’s resolution to spend less? From Midsumma’s gay times to a Latin lovers’ festival, these awesome events will get you out and back on budget.

Vida – Melbourne Latin Summer Festival

Get ready for a big weekend of hot Latin flavours and rhythms at Vida – Melbourne Latin Summer Festival. Watch swivel-hipped experts dance the salsa, samba, cumbias and batucada, then take an outdoor class.

Enjoy live entertainment from DJs to circus performers, and still have money for Central and South American treats. There’s street food from Peru, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Argentina and Brazil, and a Latin-style beer garden for livin’ la vida loca. 11-13 January 2019.

Two flamenco dancers walking in a procession

Vida – Melbourne Latin Summer Festival

Rooftop yoga at Rooftop Bar

Enjoy free yoga classes (with mats provided), DJs spinning cool tunes and awesome city views at Rooftop Bar. These vinyasa and yin-style yoga sessions are held at 10.30am on select summer Saturdays. You might be tempted by the special menu afterwards, including coconut cocktails, Bloody Marys, acai bowls and mushroom burgers. 5 and 19 Jan, 2 Feb and 2 Mar.

Dog Walking Adventures in the City with Tom & Captain

Take a guided walk with your furry friend, or just join the pack for instant canine and human companionship. Dog Walking Adventures in the City with Tom & Captain are a fun, active way to sniff out what’s interesting in Melbourne. From MPavilion to the CBD’s lanes, streets and arcades, it’s a tail-wagging hour of exploration. 12 January and 2 February.

A dog sitting in front of a street art covered wall

Dog Walking Adventures in the City with Tom & Captain

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.

NGV Kids Summer Festival

Get them off the couch and into the arts with nine days of hands-on activities exploring the theme of make believe. Kids Summer Festival events at NGV International include dancing in the garden, drop-in drawing, and collage and art workshops.

Just up the street at NGV Australia, options include an Indigenous art trail and surreal photography workshop for teens. It’s all free, but some events require bookings. 5-13 January.

A performer giving a show in front of a crowd of adults and kids sitting down

NGV Summer Kids Festival

Midsumma Carnival

Melbourne’s much-loved LGBTQIA+ cultural festival kicks off with Midsumma Carnival, an all-day all-night party to celebrate the kick-off of this fabulous festival. From a family space to pop-up bar, the dog show to bite-size samples of the festival program, it’s 11 hours of fabulousness. Pace yourself, because when the sun goes down the sassy sights and sounds are turned up for T Dance. Sunday 20 January.

AO Festival

You don’t need to buy a ticket or even like tennis to be part of the good times at the Australian Open. 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. 13-27 January.

A group of people sitting on beanbags and outdoor chairs at a bar in a park

AO Festival

Adelphi Hotel Rooftop Gin Sessions

One of Melbourne’s coolest hotel rooftops recently had a stylish renovation, complete with all-new cantilevered, glass-bottomed swimming pool peeping over Flinders Lane. It’s the centrepiece of the Adelphi Hotel Rooftop Gin Sessions, though the city views are pretty cool too.

Entry is free to this space usually reserved for hotel guests, but make sure there’s something left on your credit card. You’ll definitely want some of the cocktails by Four Pillars distillery and posh snacks from Om Nom Kitchen downstairs. Thursday and Friday evenings.

A jug and two glasses of cocktails on a table by a hotel pool

Adelphi Hotel Rooftop Gin Sessions

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. This year’s line-up at Balit Narrun includes Birdz, Mojo Juju and the Djirri Djirri Dancers. Bring your wallet for some tucker from the food trucks! 26 January.

Koorie Art Show

From film to feather craft, painting to photography, explore Indigenous art at the Koorie Art Show. This year 185 artworks were received from over 100 artists. Don’t miss the major prize winner by Yorta Yorta woman Janet Bromley, whose Sea View is woven from plastic, nylon and yarn. Until 24 February at the Koorie Heritage Trust.

Shelves displaying three boomerangs and one other wooden aboriginal artefacts

Head to the Koorie Heritage Trust to see the Koorie Arts Show

Julian Opie

NGV International’s exhibitions aren’t just pricey blockbusters. Right now there’s a bunch of works on show by hip Brit Julian Opie that are free to see. You can even check out some after hours, including the larger-than-life animated human figures perpetually striding outside the entrance. Follow their lead and step inside to discover how Opie distils elements of the natural, urban and figurative worlds. Until 17 February 2019.