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5 tips for doing White Night right

Cassidy Knowlton

Melburnians have a love-hate relationship with the city's most visually spectacular night of the year. On the one hand, White Night (Sat Feb 17) means world-class art installations and jaw-dropping projections on some of our most famous buildings. On the other, it also means jostling crowds, long and hungry hours on your feet, and huge queues stopping you from seeing much of the cool stuff on offer. But there are ways to maximise your art time and minimise queueing. Herewith: how to do White Night right...

Photograph: Ben Clement

1 Pick your battles

With more than 100 separate works in locations all around the city, you will definitely not be able to see everything. Also remember that you’ll be fighting your way through 600,000 compatriots to get places – and as this year White Night falls on the second night of Chinese New Year, there might be lion dances and processionals in the streets as well. Instead of trying to get to everything, pick a few can’t-miss highlights and plan your night around them. Maybe you really want to see kinetic fire-breathing installation ‘The Serpent Mother’, hear the classic jazz of the B# Big Band or enjoy 40-minute theatrical catwalk show ‘Fashion City’. Prioritise those works; you’re sure to stumble on some cool unexpected stuff along the way. 

2 Get off the street

The biggest crowds are between 9 and 11.30pm, so don’t try to move around the city during that time. Park yourself at Melbourne Museum, the NGV or ACMI for a few hours and explore their permanent collections and travelling exhibitions – all three have plenty to see while you wait for the crowds to die down. Or you could take in a show, such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Priscilla Queen of the Desert or Dream Lover. You could also get some much-needed sustenance during that time – we have some suggestions

Photograph: Ben Clement

3 Timing is everything

If there is an exhibition or show you really want to see, your best bet is to see it either right on the stroke of 7pm, or in the wee small hours of the morning. Don’t try to get into a popular show or installation during peak crowd time – be first in line, or check it out at 4 or 5am. 

4 Take a disco nap

Partying all night is exhausting, and the best time to experience White Night is well after 2am. Melbourne’s trains and trams will be running all night, so you might want to nap until 1 or 2am and then head in to enjoy the experience without the crazy crowds. Most experiences and installations are running until 7am, so don’t worry about missing out. 

5 Don’t forget to eat

You need plenty of fuel to keep you going all night, and your eyes and ears can only take so much before your stomach needs some love. Take regular breaks to eat, drink and talk about some of the cool art you’ve just seen. Quite a few Melbourne restaurants are keeping special White Night hours, and we also recommend these places to get a late-night meal. Once the festivities are over and the sun comes up, you can grab breakfast at one of Melbourne’s best cafés. Or tuck into one of these delicious breakfasts to cap off a perfect night.

Art is all very well and good, but the most important thing you need to know is where to pee at White Night.

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