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The 13 most exciting things happening in Sydney in 2020

Written by
Time Out editors

As January draws to a close, the Time Out team – city editor Maxim Boon, arts editor Ben Neutze, food and drink editor Matty Hirsch, film editor Nick Dent and editorial assistant Alannah Maher – have looked ahead to some of the major milestones Sydneysiders can look forward to in the next 12 months. From world-famous arts festivals to blockbuster movies, arena spectaculars to luxury hotels, here are 13 events, productions and openings to get excited about this year.

Lockout-free nightlife at long last

No two ways about it – the lockout laws have had a drastic and devastating effect on the cultural fabric of this city, particularly our once-vibrant nightlife scene. But the good news is they’re finally gone (with the exception of Kings Cross), so we can get back to what we’ve been without for almost six years: staying out well past our bedtime, ordering shots, buying bottles of wine on the way home after dinner like all good grown-ups should and supporting the venues that make Sydney shine. Let’s boogie. Matty Hirsch

Disney bringing a cool change to Sydney this winter

This year marks 25 years since Disney Theatricals first made its way to our shores with the wildly popular Beauty and the Beast. Since then, they’ve been a major player in our musical theatre and are set to make their mark on the city again with Frozen making its Australian premiere at the Capitol Theatre this July. We’re yet to find out who’ll be playing Anna or Elsa (and crucially, who’ll be belting the bejesus out of ‘Let it Go’) but we know this Broadway hit is big on sparkle and spectacle. Looking to win brownie points from your favourite niece or nephew? This is how you do it. Ben Neutze

The opening of Sydney’s new W Hotel

Over the past decade, several billion dollars has been invested to completely reimagine the Darling Harbour precinct, across a footprint spanning more than 22 hectares between Paddy’s Markets and Pyrmont Bay. The result has been the creation of a vibrant public space, dotted with landscaped greenery, water features, play zones and a complex of state-of-the-art convention theatres, retail locations and an excellent casual dining scene. The area is also the epicentre of Sydney’s luxury accommodation boom, with the towering 38-storey Sofitel welcoming its first visitors in 2019 not far from the Crown Resort skyscraper currently being built at Barangaroo. Perhaps the most exciting development within Darling Harbour, set to be completed later this year, is the new W Hotel, rising like a giant glass snail shell between the concrete arteries of the Western Distributor. Not only will this 25-storey addition to the CBD skyline house 593 rooms of five-star luxury from one of the most highly regarded hotel chains in the world, it will also feature day spas, restaurants, Sydney’s first Living Room (W Hotel’s award-winning cocktail bar brand) and best of all, a new IMAX cinema, to replace the one that previously stood on the same site. Maxim Boon

Sam Smith, Dua Lipa and Kesha headlining Mardi Gras’ massive final party

Every year from mid-February, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras takes over the city with a colourful celebration of diversity, unity and all things queer, culminating in the massive Parade down Oxford Street. This year’s Mardi Gras comes at a unique time. This is the first Mardi Gras after six years of lockout laws, the third since marriage equality passed in Australia, the first since it was announced that Sydney would host WorldPride in 2023. Parties will be pumping well into the night after the parade, and the official Mardi Gras Party at Hordern Pavilion is packing a line-up that has us really excited – superstar Sam Smith has been announced, along with grungy pop princess Kesha and British pop sensation Dua Lipa. We hope you’re somewhere praying (that you get your hands on a ticket). Alannah Maher 

The release of No Time to Die

To everyone’s surprise, Daniel Craig has extended his licence to kill to a fifth and final movie, after having confessed to Time Out London in the wake of Spectre that he’d sooner slit his own wrists. We’re more than happy to see him return for one last hurrah, especially given the 2020 upgrade to the franchise we’ve been told to expect, with Bond’s inability to hold down a relationship under the microscope – Bond girl Léa Seydoux from Spectre will return, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve) has done a polish on the script. Add to that a pair of Oscar-winning villains (Rami Malek and Christoph Waltz, also returning) and musical contributions from Billie Eilish, Hans Zimmer and former Smith Johnny Marr, and you can colour us very happy to line up for tickets on April 9. Nick Dent

Sydney Theatre Company getting its harbourside home back

You’d be hard-pressed to find a theatre company anywhere in the world with a more beautiful home base than Sydney Theatre Company’s beloved Wharf at Walsh Bay. But since mid-2018 the company has been operating primarily out of just two venues – the Roslyn Packer Theatre and Sydney Opera House – while the Wharf gets a major renovation. The Wharf Renewal Project is promising to update the two theatres on the Wharf, allowing them to be more flexible and even open up into one enormous space. Foyers and all facilities will also be updated, and the theatres’ accessibility will be improved. The closure was originally meant to be just 18 months, but the renovations suffered several delays. At this point, STC is saying it will be back in the Wharf by the end of 2020, with productions starting there for 2021. We’re more than ready to have a drink at the Bar at the End of the Wharf and duck in for some fabulous homegrown theatre. BN

Philter Brewing’s new bricks-and-mortar HQ

There’s no shortage of dynamite craft brewery taprooms in Marrickville, but we certainly won’t scoff at the arrival of another one – especially when it’s a permanent site for the legends behind some of Sydney’s most sessionable beers and on-point retro labelling. Philter will be setting up shop in an old yoghurt factory across from Wicks Park on Sydenham Road, due to open early this year, with a concept that “lives up to [its] unique branding” and a 25-hectolitre brewing system. That means more seasonal releases, site-specific specials and – we are glad to say – more of that lip-smacking XPA. Hallelujah. MH

The eagerly anticipated arrival of Coogee Pavilion’s middle level

After half a decade, the wait is finally over – and Merivale’s blessed us with three more quality seaside hangouts on Coogee Pavilion’s first floor to relish long after the sun goes down. The most casual of the bunch is Una Más, a tapas and wine bar specialising in fresh seafood off the plancha, while those on the hunt for a classy cocktail might want to pull up a pew at Will’s, an elegant cocktail bar. The jewel in the crown up here has to be Mimi’s, though, a coastal-chic showcase for executive chef Jordan Toft’s minimal, ingredient-driven approach to cooking. MH

The opening of the Kingsford branch of the light-rail extension

The story of Sydney’s new light rail extension has been a six-year, $2.9 billion saga. Delays, budget blowouts, and a cloak-and-dagger approach public information had many cynical Sydneysiders doubting if this major addition to the city’s public transport infrastructure would ever open. But open it did, at long last, on December 14, 2019. Well, almost. While the L2 section between the CBD and Randwick began operations, between 7am and 7pm, the L3 line to Kingsford remained off-limits. This is set to change in March, when the final stretch of five stops finally links this southeastern suburb with Sydney’s beating heart at Circular Quay. In June, the teething phase of the L2 and L3 lines also comes to a close, with the current 12-hour operating window between 7am and 7pm finally extended to serve Sydneysiders after dark. MB

The opening of a Sydney home base for Four Pillars gin

Four Pillars was an early adopter of the boutique-gin-made-with-homegrown-botanicals thing – maybe even the early adopter – and we certainly have the Victorian distillery to thank for kick-starting our obsession with the juniper-scented spirit. In the first few months of 2020, Four PIllars will move into the historic Bussel Bros building in Surry Hills, next to the Dolphin Hotel, with room for a 70-litre still named Eileen as well as small-bar licence and a program of tastings, masterclasses and a shop for all things gin. Now that is something worth raising a glass to. MH

The return of the Biennale of Sydney

We still know very little about this year’s Biennale of Sydney, apart from the theme, the names of the artists involved, and the director, Brook Andrew, who’ll be the first Indigenous person at the helm of the festival. But what we do know about the 22nd iteration of this prestigious international art festival has us properly excited. Andrew’s theme is "Nirin", a Wiradjuri word that means "edge". He's shaking things up and moving what you might think of as the "edge" right to the centre of our cultural spaces. So he's got a strong focus on First Nations artists and artists who you mightn't usually see in our biggest galleries. We’re not expecting this Biennale to look like any we’ve ever seen before. BN

A star-studded bushfire relief concert

The ongoing bushfire crisis sweeping through NSW and Australia is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. The mateship we’ve witnessed from community initiatives and businesses around Sydney, doing their part to raise funds for charities and organisations providing relief, has been truly heartwarming. We’re also seeing a lot of big names in the entertainment business put their love for the land Down Under into practice, with a huge concert coming up with a jaw-dropping line-up. Fire Fight Australia comes to ANZ Stadium on February 16, with Queen, KD Lang and Alice Cooper joining Aussie stars like Olivia Newton-John, Daryl Braithwaite and Tina Arena. No surprises that this gig sold out in a flash, but fear not: it will be broadcast live on Channel 7 and Foxtel for those who weren't able to snag tickets. AM

The release of Black Widow

Double Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson finally steps into the spotlight as the lead in a Marvel movie, consolidating her current stellar run, but the truly exciting thing about Black Widow (which opens April 30) is that visionary Aussie filmmaker Cate Shortland (Somersault, Lore, Berlin Syndrome) is calling the shots. Appallingly, Shortland will become the first woman to independently helm a Marvel epic (Anna Boden co-directed last year’s Captain Marvel), and one has to ask if a superhero has to be female for Disney to even consider appointing a woman to the director’s chair. But in terms of the baby steps these gigantic movies inevitably make, we’re excited that it’s Shortland’s turn. ND

Now you've taken a look forward, how about a look back? Here are the defining events of Sydney in the 2010s.

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