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Disney The Magic of Animation at ACMI
Photograph: Phoebe Powell

Discover the magic of Melbourne after dark with this late-night itinerary

Kick off your evening with a visit to ACMI’s exclusive Disney exhibition, and then see where the night takes you…

By Time Out in association with ACMI and Visit Victoria
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Melbourne is a city full of possibilities, which is never more evident than at the beginning of a night out. Filled with plenty of secret little spots, it’s the type of place where you can easily lose track of time and not realise it’s 5am until the sun starts its early morning march through the streets. And there’s a little bit more excitement in the air with the arrival of ACMI’s Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibition. A visit to one of the exclusive twilight sessions is the ideal way to begin a night on the town, with cocktails and tunes to get you in the mood. From ACMI, just a short walk away, rollicking karaoke rooms, underground bars and live music sets await – we hope you’ve had your beauty sleep, because it’s going to be one epic evening.

Disney: The Magic of Animation is now open until January 23 at ACMI in Federation Square. The exhibition features more than 500 rare artworks that have been specially selected by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library in Los Angeles, California.

To celebrate the final weekend of Disney: The Magic Of Animation, ACMI is hosting twilight sessions from January 20-22. There will be plenty of special photo opportunities, plus you’ll be able to grab a cocktail from the bar and enjoy a playlist of classic Disney tunes. Showing for the very first time in Australia, the exhibition displays more than 500 original artworks, sketches and paintings that have been carefully selected by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library in Los Angeles. It also charts the studio’s progress and success, beginning with Mickey Mouse’s first talkie (Steamboat Willie) in 1928, right through to 2021’s Raya and the Last Dragon.

Warm up your vocal chords at: A karaoke venue
Photograph: Supplied

Warm up your vocal chords at: A karaoke venue

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you a good night out in Melbourne always involves karaoke at one of the city’s many singing dens. Some of our absolute faves include Heroes – a three-level wonderland that not only has a private room for up to 20 people, but also a rooftop bar for when you need a little breather. KBOX Karaoke is another goodie, and even has its song book online so you can practice your performance beforehand. Love a theme? FM Karaoke has Roman and Egyptian-inspired rooms for you to belt out a tune in. Or you could just jump on the open stage and give the people a show they won’t forget. And for spinning disco balls, groovy decor and a setlist loaded with ‘70s anthems, pop on your flares and head to Juke’s at Crown Casino.

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Grab a drink at: A top Melbourne bar
Photograph: Melanie Desa

Grab a drink at: A top Melbourne bar

You don’t go to Melbourne without sampling its world famous laneway bar scene. Head to Boilermaker House on Lonsdale Street to taste from more than 700 different whiskies. Bar Ampère is a late-night city bar inspired by the Futurist philosophy and a love of obscure herbal liquors. A Melbourne take on a New York version of a Parisian bistro, Bar Margaux won Best New Bar at the last Time Out Bar Awards and has a reputation for classic cocktails and French bistro fare. Bodega Underground, meanwhile, is a basement mezcaleria where the cocktails are varied, the list of mezcal is comprehensive and the kitchen is open until the bitter end. Or step into 1806 on Exhibition Street, which is old-world glamour from top to toe, with deep leather chesterfields and red velvet bar stools, and drinks made to the highest standard. And that's just a tiny taste of what's on offer.

Venture outside the city limits to: Explore nearby neighbourhoods
Photograph: Supplied/Visit Victoria

Venture outside the city limits to: Explore nearby neighbourhoods

A hub of art, culture and fantastic bars, Brunswick is home to Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern populations, evident in its community spaces and food scene (head to Bar Romantica for great pizza and beer). It’s the place to be if you want great craft beer, delicious coffee, art or music. St Kilda – arguably one of Melbourne’s favourite beachside ‘burbs – packs a lot into its 3.2 square kilometres. The Espy caters for everyone with three stages, 12 bars and two restaurants, while Stokehouse offers fine dining on the foreshore. And keep an eye out for the little penguins who appear every evening after sunset near the breakwater. West of the city is Yarraville, a picturesque village full of charm. Catch a movie at the Sun Theatre, a gorgeous Art Deco building that was refurbished in the 1990s and now features eight cinemas. For a bite to eat head to Mabu Mabu, an Indigenous-owned café and tuckshop with a focus on native ingredients, or try your luck getting a reservation at Navi, an exclusive 25-seat restaurant with an ever-changing menu.

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Catch: A live music gig or DJ set
Photograph: Supplied/Arts Centre Melbourne

Catch: A live music gig or DJ set

Melbourne is a live music town, and easily the live music capital of the country. You can get a glimpse of it at the Toff in Town, a super-eclectic space hosting local and international artists, spoken word, comedy, cabaret and theatre. Famous venue Cherry Bar has a famous address (AC/DC Lane) and a weekly line-up in the iconic bandroom. The Curtin Hotel up on Lygon Street in Carlton alternates up-and-coming acts with circuit veterans. Then there’s the Sidney Myer Music Bowl – Melbourne’s largest outdoor performance space. Check out everything from symphonic masterpieces to all-day festivals at this open-air amphitheatre. Be sure to book ahead if there’s a gig you especially want to see.

Rest your head at: A chic hotel
Photograph: Adelphi Hotel

Rest your head at: A chic hotel

Late-night revellers are spoiled for choice when it comes to lodgings to stumble into at the end of a big Melbourne sesh. The newish W Hotel on Flinders Lane (it opened in February 2021) boasts all the fancy furnishings you’d expect from a luxury hotel, while still maintaining a vibe that’s fun and playful. Inspired by the city’s laneway culture, Ovolo Laneways is anything but generic, with chalkboards, pinball machines and colourful murals. The free mini bar is a real winner, too. At the QT Melbourne, you come for the glamorous rooftop bar, and stay for the sleek, stylish rooms and gel-topped beds. Oh, and the valet parking, 24-hour room service and free Wi-Fi. As if the lolly jars in every room weren’t enough to sweeten you up, the Adelphi Hotel also offers cloud-like king-sized beds, rainfall shower heads and the coolest pool going around. But with just 34 rooms, securing a suite requires an early booking – so don’t leave it too late.

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