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.

Summer Night Market

Don’t let summer go by without getting into this fun mid-week experience at least once. The Summer Night Market has free live entertainment, sparkling lights and a buzzing atmosphere. And did we mention the pop-up volleyball court? Be prepared to spend a little along the way though. There’s fresh drinks at the pop-up bar, international street food, and quirky stalls to browse. Closed New Year’s Day.

Hanging lights above a laneway at an outdoor market

The summer night market

Vida Melbourne Latin Summer Festival

Get ready for two big weekends of hot Latin flavours and rhythms on 10-12 and 18-19 January. At the Vida Melbourne Latin Summer Festival you can see swivel-hipped experts dance the salsa, then take an outdoor class. Enjoy live entertainment from DJs and circus performers before spending your hard earned on a street food feast. There’s flavours from Peru to Mexico, plus a Latin-style beer garden for livin’ la vida loca.

MPavilion

Once again MPavilion is hosting four months of free events. January highlights include a new play reading with the Melbourne Theatre Company, Know Life Meditation Club with A-Space, and Climate Emergency Cinema. Outdoor and active options include GROOV3 Workshop, Sunrise Yoga Sessions with Happy Melon or a Dog Walking Adventure with Tom + Captain.

Share the Spirit Festival

This family-friendly outdoor event celebrates the resilience and creative talent of Aboriginal people living in Victoria. At the Treasury Gardens on 26 January, this year’s Share the Spirit Festival includes performances by Kutcha Edwards and Doe Eyes.

Midsumma Carnival

Melbourne’s much-loved LGBTQI cultural festival kicks off with Midsumma Carnival. Get a taste of the festival program across three stages, see dogs on parade and browse 190 stalls by queer-friendly businesses. Pace yourself, because when the sun goes down the sassy sights and sounds turn up for T Dance. From a family space to the tea tent where older people can relax, the carnival is 11 hours of fun for everyone. On 19 January.

Five performers in drag posed on a stage

Midsumma

NGV for kids

Get them off the couch and into the arts with the NGV Kids Summer Festival on 11-19 January. That’s nine days of free but priceless hands-on activities, workshops and performances. Then visit Kaws: Playtime, created for kids by pop-culture-inspired New York artist KAWS.

Five kids playing in a pastel pink corridor

KAWS Playtime at the NGV

Feedback Loops

How long has it been since you visited the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art? Their summer-long exhibition, Feedback Loops, is a good reason to get along. Especially if you’re interested in internet-inspired art. Ponder past, present and future through immersive installations by six young artists. Mediums used include video, interactive games and artificial intelligence.

Family Market Riverside

Melbourne loves markets, so no surprise yet another one is popping up on summer Sundays. Family Market Riverside’s stalls offer local gifts, as well as henna tattoos and face-painting. Kick back after you shop and enjoy the lawn games and DJs.

Lunar New Year at Crown

Lunar New Year is happening early this time around. Careful you don’t miss the fun when the Year of the Rat begins on 25 January! Crown Entertainment Complex’s atrium will be transformed into a luminous menagerie of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. Wonder at this installation, which also includes  60+ lanterns, on 22 January-11 February. Crown’s Riverwalk is hosting a Hawkers Bazaar too, on 31 January-2 February. Enjoy free live music, lion dances and a fireworks display. Then indulge in the spicy scents of more than 30 Asian food stalls.

A lit up stage at night with the city skyline in the background

Lunar New Year festivities

Australia Day celebrations

You could spend the whole of 26 January at free family-friendly events. Start with the Australia Day Flag Raising Ceremony. Then join the crowd of 80 community and cultural groups celebrating the nation’s diversity in the Australia Day Parade. Relax or play at the Australia Day Festival in Kings Domain Gardens, where freebies include a Roulettes flyover. Then go out with a bang as the Australia Day Fireworks at Docklands fill the sky.