Free things to do between Christmas and New Year

Blown the budget on presents and partying? You can still have fun this holiday season, because there are loads of free events happening in Melbourne, from exhibitions to fireworks.

Stomping Ground La Boca

Mega musical Evita will get everyone crying for Argentina at the Arts Centre Melbourne this summer. But out in the forecourt, there’s a hot Buenos Aires party vibe at the Stomping Ground La Boca pop-up beer garden. Live la vida loca, with tango lessons, Argentinian food courtesy of Asado Bar y Grill and this Collingwood craft brewery’s event-exclusive Argentine-inspired lager. Entry is free, but bring some loot for food and drinks. Until 24 February.

A colourful outdoor pop up bar

Stomping Ground has arrived at Arts Centre Melbourne

Julian Opie

Art isn’t just about pricey blockbusters. NGV International has a bunch of works by hip Brit Julian Opie on show that are free to see. Some even when the gallery’s closed, like 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.

A cartoon style picture on on a wall in a gallery of five people walking

Julian Opie’s exhibition is on at NGV International until 17 Feb 2017

MPavilion

Reborn annually with a stunning new design, this public space for talks, workshops, performances and installations is well into its fifth season. MPavilion‘s angular steel frame and timber latticework was designed by acclaimed Spanish architect Carme Pinós and is hosting 400-plus free events.

From 27 December to 6 January, check out 2018 artist in residence Esther Stewart’s colourful, interactive installation, Fold, Play.

A modern structure that looks like a big outdoor shelter in a park

MPavilion

Indian Summer Festival

The Indian cricket team is coming to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test, so what better time to celebrate modern Subcontinental culture? The Indian Summer Festival is a fun, family-friendly event next to the MCG, with different experiences every day. Like the chance to meet the Indian and Australian players! Throughout there’s loads of Indian delights to enjoy, from curry to Bollywood movies. 23, 26, 27 December.

Fed Square – Guided Tour

Opened in 2002, Federation Square is one of Melbourne’s contemporary architectural icons. From the plaza’s textured sandstone paving to the buildings’ geometric Deconsructivist exteriors, the Fed Square Guided Tour’s a must for design fans. These free explorations of the site’s history, engineering and distinctive architecture are on daily except Sundays and public holidays.

A crowd of people sitting and walking through a big city square with the city skyline and a road in the background

Take a free tour of Federation Square

Ben Quilty and Mirra Whale – Not a Creature was Stirring

What happens to all those bright orange life vests discarded on the beaches of Europe by asylum seekers arriving by boat? Some of them have been turned into a sculpture at St Paul’s Cathedral. Ben Quilty and Mirra Whale – Not a Creature was Stirring is reminiscent of a giant elf’s cap. Flashing like a distress beacon, it reminds us that even at Christmas not all is well in the world. Until 28 February.

Australian Music Vault

Like fresh-pressed vinyl, the Australian Music Vault still has a new and exciting scent, opening just 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.

ArtVo and Atrium light show at Crown

It’s a place where things tend to happen on a grand scale, and the Crown Christmas Spectacular is no exception. While Santa decamps on 24 December, the decorations remain until 1 January, including Australia’s only 24-hour, fully-lit Christmas tree, which is massive. There are also seven giant animated baubles that create a Christmas song compilation.

Until 28 December, there’s also ArtVo at Crown. Discover all 12 of the 3D ‘trick-art’ paintings that will immerse you and your mates in all sorts of festive scenes. From surfing with Santa to standing inside a snowglobe, it’s social media gold.

A man and a woman standing inside a giant snow dome

ArtVo at Crown

New Year’s Eve

This year’s fireworks are so massive that as long as you can see the city skyline you’re going to see this extravaganza. If you do want to come into the CBD for an up-close-and-personal New Year’s Eve experience, we have a few tips. Take public transport. Head for live sites like the Treasury Gardens and Kings Domain, which have music, food and great views. Don’t bring alcohol. Do have a great night, and a wonderful 2019!

people in a park at night looking at the Melbourne skyline