Free things to do in Melbourne in October

Whether you’re saving for the summer holidays or your big Christmas shop, there are oodles of October events as free as the spring air.

Melbourne International Arts Festival

The Melbourne International Arts Festival is only for those with deep pockets, right? Think again! There are lots of free experiences including the opening ceremony, Tanderrum, a traditional Welcome to Country by Melbourne’s First Peoples. Throughout the festival, admire the Melbourne Art Trams (and get on board in the Free Tram Zone), then catch the Spiegeltent’s late-night Mirror on Melbourne sessions. Other freebies include the teamLab – Reversible Rotation exhibition, featuring three stunning screen works. 2-20 October.

A colourful tram going past a large old railway station

Melbourne Art Trams at MIAF

Oktoberfest at Hofbrauhaus

Get a head start on October’s top tipple festival and pop into Hofbrauhaus for Oktoberfest.  Join the fun and try imported bier, special Bavarian feasts and awesome live entertainment.  You could even win free beer for a year just by showing up – which leaves more sweet coin for schnitzels!

Spring Fling Festival

The heart of North Melbourne beats a little faster during the Spring Fling Festival, which celebrates community and creativity. From awesome Errol Street to little laneways, discover what makes this inner-city hood tick during the fest’s 42nd outing. Market stalls, a suitcase rummage market, local musicians including African drummers, street food, pop-up bars and an adorable dog show make this an unmissable Saturday session. 19 October.

Holey Cheese Festival

Melbourne, get ready to melt with delight at Queen Victoria Market’s Holey Cheese Festival. Blue to brie, cheddar to chevre, sample some of the finest local and imported products from the market’s cheesiest traders. Bring some hard-earned to really indulge from guest pop-up stalls The Cypriot Kitchen (hello, halloumi chips) and 400 Gradi (mmmm, pizza). There are even cheese-friendly cocktails, like an Old Fashioned paired with smoked gouda. 22-27 October.

Different wheels of cheese in a shop

Holey Moley Cheese Festival

Children’s Week

Children’s Week at the City of Melbourne offers dozens of free events for kids and their grown-ups from 19-27 October. A highlight is Play Date, a mini-festival of creative indoor and outdoor activities for children aged 2-5 at ArtPlay. From making ochre art to learning about urban animals and plants from park rangers, it’s an action-packed two hours. Other highlights include family yoga sessions and the interactive Scrapatorium exhibition, featuring soft toy animals, a fortress, tiny realms and even a puzzle to solve.

Arriba! Melbourne Mexican Festival

Still saving for that trip to Mexico to celebrate the Day of the Dead? No hay problema, amigo, because it’s coming to you at Arriba! Melbourne Mexican Festival. This free event features colourful Day of the Dead parades, live music including mariachi bands, handcrafts and food from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Raid the piggy bank for treats like empanadas, enchiladas, burritos and five styles of margarita. Salud! 26-27 October.

Nachos on a plate with a margarita beside it

Feast on Mexican at Arriba!

Petrina Hicks: Bleached Gothic

The first major survey of her 15-year career, Petrina Hicks: Bleached Gothic reveals dozens of this Australian artist’s large, hyperreal photographs. Images of animals, children and young women against the simplest of backgrounds seem benign at first, but look closer and discover their ambiguity. Subverting the photographic language of advertising and portraiture, they are both beautiful and disturbing. This exhibition opens at NGV Australia on 27 September.

Victorian Seniors Festival

Melbourne’s older, wiser citizens celebrate and are celebrated during the Victorian Seniors Festival throughout October. Many events are free, so the only challenge is choosing what to go to like chair yoga or the Big Band Dance. The main event is Celebration Day, which is packed with live performances, stalls and activities. Drop into the Festival Hub for free entertainment, tea and coffee, and don’t miss the Vivienne Westwood Fashion and Film Afternoon Delight. Bonus – Victorian Seniors Card holders get free public transport from 6-13 October.

Hawker 88 Night Market

Soak up the scents, sights and sounds of Asia at the Hawker 88 Night Market. Enjoy free live music and cultural experiences, weird and wonderful stalls to browse, and street food from Vietnam, India, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and more. Spice up your Wednesday nights until 23 October at this seasonal market. See what’s on for the Korea Japan Festival, Bali Boracay Island Night, Diwali Bollywood Sri Lanka Night and finally the South East Asia Fest.

Three Chinese dragon performers in front of a crowd inside a large shed

Hawker 88

City Precinct showcase at Town Hall Visitor Hub

Head to the Melbourne Town Hall Visitor Hub between 8 to 25 October, for a showcase of Melbourne’s independent artists, makers and small businesses in the CBD. Chat to different guests on rotation and pick up a series of themed maps to help you explore the city.

Victorian Festival of Diwali

From India and Sri Lanka to Fiji and Trinidad, Diwali is an annual celebration of light and the triumph of good. Everyone is welcome to eat, dance and celebrate in Melbourne at the Victorian Festival of Diwali. This joyous day includes Bollywood dance performances and workshops, Indian cinema and street food, yoga, traditional henna painting, fireworks, colourful illuminations and more. 19 October.

cars driving along a bridge at night with fireworks in the sky

See the fireworks at the Victorian Festival of Diwali at Fed Square. (Photo: Adan Renyard, taken during the 2018 event)

Ride2Work Day Community Breakfast

From two-wheel-commute newbies to devotees of the lycra lifestyle, cyclists celebrate pedal power at the Ride2Work Day Community Breakfast. Cycle over to Docklands, Southbank or Carlton for a free feed, information and motivation. If you’ve read this far you must like free stuff, so no-cost commuting should be all the motivation required. 16 October.

Velvet, Iron, Ashes exhibition at State Library of Victoria

From bushranger Ned Kelly to cricket’s celebrated Ashes Urn, Velvet, Iron and Ashes uncovers the surprising connections between extraordinary people, events and icons from Victoria’s history. Launching at State Library of Victoria on 24 October, the exhibition features over 200 intriguing items drawn from the Library’s vast archive, major institutions and private collections. Use their handy Map-o-matic device to create a your own personal tour through the many secrets of Victoria’s history.

An old photo of a old fashioned wagon outside a building

Uncover Victoria’s history at Velvet, Iron, Ashes exhibition at State Library of Victoria. Image: MacRobertson’s chocolate factory delivery vehicle, c. 1910–40.