Melbourne’s essential summer events

Grab the diary – you’ll want to lock in every one of these experiences, including major events like the Australian Open and Midsumma.

Australian Open

The Australian Open always creates a lot of excitement in the heart of summer, both on and off the court. Whether you’re into tennis or not, the free AO Festival at Birrarung Marr is an ace place to hang out. Tournament ticket holders should also check out the AO Live Stage, where bands like You Am I pump up the volume. When its time to eat there’s something for every mood and budget, from burgers to the AO Chef Series fine-dining spectacular. You can even catch free movies at their Birrarung Marr Tennis Club, or inside the stadium with a ground pass.

Just before the main event, the Kids Tennis Day on 12 January offers aspiring players  a chance to have all the fun, from learn-to-play sessions with scaled-down equipment to arena spectaculars. The Australian Open is on from Monday 14 to Sunday 27 January 2019.

A crowd of people sitting and standing on the grass in front of a big outdoor stage with the city skyline in the background

Summer means the return of the Australian Open, including AO Live

Macbeth

We may not have the Pop-Up Globe this summer, but we do have Shakespeare Under the Stars’ thrilling 30th anniversary season. Get thee to the Royal Botanic Gardens for a new production of Macbeth. This bloody tale of murder, ambition and ghosts is sure to be enhanced by the circling bats at dusk. Pack a picnic, or have gourmet food delivered to your prime spot on the lawn. Until 23 February.

National Sustainable Living Festival

Change your life and change the world with a visit to the National Sustainable Living Festival. The 20th edition has more than 300 events, from talks to workshops, especially during the popular Big Weekend on 8-10 February. Discover bright, green ideas for everything from gardening to transport, and sustainable food that’s local, fresh and organic. 1-28 February.

Midsumma Festival

The Midsumma Festival, Melbourne’s much-loved LGBTQIA+ cultural extravaganza, returns with 165 events from drag queens to art exhibitions. Lots of events are free, so you can splash more cash on looking gorgeous, starting at the festival kick-off, Midsumma Carnival on Sunday 20 January. 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. Midsumma runs from 19 January – 10 February.

NGV Friday Nights

Experience this summer’s blockbuster exhibition, Escher X nendo – Between Two Worlds, with added beats, bites and booze at NGV Friday Nights. Check out the line-up of guest DJs and live music, including Indian Summer and Alice Ivy. Plus the nightly Bach X Reimagined, which brings together Australian composers and performing artists to radically reinterpret Escher’s favourite composer. Until 6 April.

Aerial view of a crowd of people watching a band perform on a stage

NGV Friday Nights

Moonlight Cinema

Melbourne’s original alfresco movie experience, Moonlight Cinema has been a summer essential in the Royal Botanic Gardens for decades. BYO picnic, blanket and cushions, or pimp up the experience with fancy options like Gold Grass (including bean bed!). There’s a licensed bar and catering on-site, and friendly four-legged guests are welcome, so every human and furry pal is happy. Until 31 March.

Summer Night Market

International street food, cool drinks, 100-plus curated stalls, live entertainment and party lights. All good reasons why the Summer Night Market is Melbourne’s Wednesday evening summer essential. Tasty new traders include Colombiantojos for traditional Colombian treats, and The Garden Bar, where tipples include the Cider Mojito. Until 20 March.

A street performer performing in front of a crowd at a busy outdoor market

The Summer Night Market

Zoo Twilights

Aloe Blacc, Archie Roach and Sampa the Great are among the amazing musos lined up for this summer’s Zoo Twilights program. Who will you enjoy while grazing on a picnic with friends or family as the sun goes down? Hurry though, because tickets are selling fast! Make sure you arrive early to say goodnight to the animals and stake your claim on the lawn’s prime real estate. Until 9 March.

Chinese New Year

Get ready for firecrackers, drums and dragons to sweep through the streets during the Melbourne Chinese New Year celebrations. Build up an appetite for all your favourite porky dishes too, because 2019 is the year of the pig. There are heaps of sights, sounds and flavours to enjoy around town, including Queensbridge Square and Chinatown. Be there for the Dai Loong Dragon Parade, when this remarkably long, lucky beast is carried and animated by 200+ people. From 2 February.

Chinese lions performing in front of a crowd at an outdoor market

Melbourne Chinese New Year Celebrations

Rooftop Cinema

One of Melbourne’s first sky-high movie venues, Rooftop Cinema recently had a makeover that pays homage to classic Art Deco drive-in design. As always there are stunning city views, a bar, burger shack, deckchairs for everyone and another hot summer of cool films. Until 31 March.

Cinema at the ‘G

The iconic MCG is transformed into the ultimate open-air cinema every summer over two huge nights. This year’s movies on the giant scoreboard are 2018’s biggest musical hits: A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody. All proceeds from Cinema at the ‘G will be donated to The Bank of Melbourne Foundation, which supports Victorian communities. 1-2 February.

A crowd of people sitting in an outdoor stadium

Cinema at the ‘G

Arbory Afloat

Can’t make it to the Amalfi Coast this year? Then get on board Arbory Afloat, the Yarra’s fab floating bar that takes its cue from Mediterranean beach clubs. It’s actually 19 metres longer than last summer, which means you can almost always score a seat along it’s 69-metre length. Kick back and enjoy panoramic riverside views, sun-kissed cocktails and a Mediterranean-inspired menu. Until 30 April.

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 an event-exclusive Argentine-inspired lager from this Collingwood craft brewery. Until 24 February.

A colourful outdoor pop up bar

Stomping Ground has arrived at Arts Centre Melbourne