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Free things to do between Christmas and New Year

Blown the budget on presents and partying? You can still have fun during the holiday season with these free Melbourne events and experiences.

Christmas continues at Crown

Things tend to happen on a grand scale here, and Christmas is no exception. While Santa decamps on 24 December, Crown’s Christmas Spectacular continues until 5 January. The 15-minute sound-and-light show includes classic Christmas songs, animatronics and 30,000 programmed lights.

A large atrium area with festive red and green Chritsmas lights projected on to walls and huge Christmas decorations suspended from ceiling.

Crown Christmas

Riverside Outdoor Trivia at The Common Man

Pub trivia is an awesome way to escape winter’s chill, but even better outdoors in summer. Gather your brainiest buddies, put on your thinking caps and get on down to Riverside Outdoor Trivia at The Common Man. On every Tuesday evening through summer, including 31 December, it’s free to take part and there are weekly and bonus prizes to be won. Budget-friendly specials include $10 pizzas and a $20 pot and parma deal. Nice!

Pups and Pilates

What’s better than a free pilates session? A free alfresco summer pilates session with riverside city views and your doggo. The Saturday morning Pups and Pilates series continues on 28 December 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!

A lady and her dog on a yoga mat.

Pups and Pilates at Southwharf

Royal Botanic Gardens

Wind down after the silly season in the Royal Botanic Gardens, a beautiful, peaceful place in the heart of the city that’s open every day of the year. Enjoy a picnic and some no-cost experiences too, like the Free Guided Walk starting 10.30am daily (except Christmas Day). Reflect on plants and place with New Shoots – A Garden of Poems, a self-guided walk that includes musings by 10 local poets. Or check out Watercolour Herbarium, the colourful new public artwork celebrating native plants.

A green garden in summer

The Royal Botanic Gardens

Myer Christmas Windows

If you missed them during the festive frenzy, it’s not too late to see the Myer Christmas Windows, which are enchanting young and old until 5 January. Already had a look? Why not take another, because the 64th edition is an absolute classic. This year each window reveals the magical world of May Gibbs’ bush fairies Snugglepot, Cuddlepie and friends.

Gumnut babies characters holding Christmas presents standing on leaves and underneath a giftorium sign.

Myer’s Gumnut Babies themed Christmas windows

Velvet, Iron, Ashes

What better time than during the Boxing Day Test match to see cricket’s most celebrated object, the Ashes urn. It’s making a rare visit to our shores as part of the State Library of Victoria’s free Velvet, Iron, Ashes exhibition, but only for a limited time. All the other artefacts, including Ned Kelly’s armour and a velvet cloak with a story to tell, are on display for the exhibition’s duration (until 12 July). The library has just emerged from a major renovation, so take a look around. Be sure to check out the long closed-off, magnificent Queen’s Hall.

Photo showing long hall with long white archway for ceiling and and white columns along each side.

The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall. Photo credit: Patrick Rodriguez

National Gallery of Victoria

Both NGV International and NGV Australia are open every day except 25 December, and most of what’s on show is free to see. Apart from the huge permanent collection, there are temporary exhibitions like the retrospective of Australian abstract artist Roger Kemp. Or, check out Sydney-based photographer Petrina Hicks’ Bleached Gothic. Other NGV International’s freebies include Liquid Light: 500 Years of Venetian Glass, a trilogy of video installations by Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat, and In Absence – 2019 Architecture Commission.

New Year’s Eve live sites

Melbourne’s fireworks are so massive that as long as you can see the city skyline you’re going to see this extravaganza welcoming 2020. But if you want an up-close-and-personal pyrotechnic experience, we have a few tips. Take public transport. Don’t bring alcohol. Head for one of the four free New Year’s Eve live sites, which have prime views, music, loos and multimedia countdowns. Have a great night, and a wonderful 2020!

Fireworks light up the night sky with yellow pink and blue

Fireworks from Treasury Gardens