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Sidney Myer Free Concerts Making Up For Lost Time bubble
Photograph: Supplied/Matt Irwin

Fun things to do this summer in Melbourne

Make up for lost time with free events, interactive exhibitions, stunning outdoor activities and more

By Time Out editors
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Once again, Australia’s cultural capital delivers a stellar city-wide line-up this summer. And after the year we've had, we certainly deserve to enjoy some safe, physically distant fun. From ground-breaking exhibitions to socially distant festivals, there’s plenty to explore.

Treat this as your guide to everything you need to do before the end of summer.

For more fun in the sun, see our lists of the best rooftop bars in Melbourne and outdoor cinemas – and when it's seriously boiling, go for a swim in one of these beaches, pools or lakes.

Melbourne's best summer events

NGV Triennial 2020
Photograph: Supplied/NGV

1. NGV Triennial

Art Sculpture and installations NGV International, Southbank

The hotly anticipated NGV Triennial will return this summer, with the gallery announcing the dates for the second edition of the colossal exhibition. The NGV Triennial will run from December 19 to April 18, 2021, showcasing 86 thought-provoking, eye-widening works from more than 100 artists. The best part? It's free.

Tiwi Islands Exhibition NGV
Photograph: Courtesy of National

2. Tiwi

Art The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

The NGV is bringing the largest ever exhibition of Tiwi art to Melbourne this November, showcasing 70 artists and nearly 300 works in Tiwi. The works presented in Tiwi date from 1911 right up to the present day, but don’t come expecting a chronological tour. Instead, the exhibition will present the works in the context of Tiwi art and culture, including their two primary cultural events: the pukumani (mourning) and kulama (coming of age) ceremonies.

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Three monochromatic faces painted on three silos
Photograph: © Rone

3. Rone in Geelong

Art Street art Geelong Gallery, Geelong

Over the last 20 years, street artist Rone has cemented himself as one of Australia’s most successful street artists. The artist (real name Tyrone Wright) has carved himself a niche in the world of urban art by routinely taking over abandoned places and distressed spaces and filling them with large, despondent portraits of women. What you might not know is that Rone is from Geelong, and he’s returning there for his first survey exhibition from late February.

Angels Garden Party, 2014,
Photograph: Supplied/Jewish Museum

4. Mirka

Art Jewish Museum of Australia, St Kilda

It’s hard to fully comprehend the impact that artist Mirka Mora had on Melbourne. The French-born artist emigrated to Melbourne in 1951 following the Holocaust, and quickly set about ingraining herself and her playful art within the city’s growing bohemian scene. There have been many exhibitions on Mora, but none quite like this. The Jewish Museum of Australia has announced that it will host Mirka: the most extensive survey of Mirka Mora ever.

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Melbourne Music Week Extended
Photograph: Supplied / Melbourne Music Week

5. Melbourne Music Week Extended

Music Music festivals

Every year Melbourne Music Week explores the undercurrent of Melbourne’s vibrant local music scene in some of the city’s most forgotten corners. Usually, the "week" is more like ten days but in 2020 the event has really outdone itself in regards to stretching said week. In 2020-2021, MMW will run all summer long to give Melburnians all the live gigs they've been missing (and to also allow for maximum events and artist opportunities while adhering to health restrictions). 

A photograph of two women, one of which is Frida Kahlo, standing against a bright teal wall. A hawk rests on a man-sized vase behind them
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist Silin Liu and Migrant Bird Space

6. Photo 2021

Art Photography Around Melbourne, Melbourne

Photo 2020 – which was set to be the largest and most significant photography event in Australia – was just about to really get started when a certain something put the whole world on pause. However, the huge event was rescheduled, not cancelled, and will re-emerge as Photo 2021 from February 18 to March 7, 2021. Photo 2021 brings together free exhibitions and a massive public program to Melbourne and cities across Victoria. Works in the inaugural event are based around the central theme of ‘the truth’ and features photographers from around the world.

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People sitting on the lawns at Heide Sculpture park
Photograph: Supplied / Articulate PR

7. Heide Summer Festival

Things to do Fairs and festivals Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen

The art in Heide's sculpture garden will be a little livelier this summer. From January to March 2021, Heide MoMA is hosting its first Heide Summer Festival: nine weeks of outdoor events set in the plush surrounds of the Heide Sculpture Park. Over those nine weeks, Heide is welcoming local performers, bands and cultural organisations through its doors to host a range of free and ticketed events. The gallery has collaborated with three major cultural organisations for the festival, including Midsumma, Melbourne International Jazz Festival and Songlines Music Aboriginal Corporation.

Come from Away 2019 Comedy Theatre
Photograph: Jeff Busby

8. Come from Away

Theatre Musicals The Comedy Theatre, Melbourne

Come From Away returns to Melbourne from January 19. It will be the first major production to return to Melbourne's stages following lockdowns, with an encore season at the Comedy Theatre until March 21. The production will then embark on a national tour.

Cool off at a rooftop bar

Too hot? Here's what to do

The bathing boxes at Brighton Beach
The bathing boxes at Brighton Beach
Flickr: Indigo Skies Photography

Five ways to escape the heat in Melbourne

Things to do

Sure, Melbourne's weather is typically unreliable, but when it's hot, it's hot. Don't hold out for the cool change or spend the day under the air conditioning unit – get out and explore the city's cooler spots.

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