The first month of the year is packed with summer music festivals, outdoor markets, blockbuster theatre shows and major art exhibitions. Make the most of January in Sydney with our guide to the coolest events for when it really heats up in the city.
Got rowdy little rugrats? Bookmark this guide to the summer school holidays – otherwise they’ll be running round the house all day until January 27.
If you're entertaining guests, why not show them the best walks in Sydney, marvel at the city skyline from these fab spots, or find a remedy for the summer heat with these 101 things to do indoors in Sydney (with the aircon blasting).
RECOMMENDED: The best vegan restaurants in Sydney.
January's biggest adventures
After she wowed Sydney at Vivid Live 2018, we were aching for more of the powerful, funk-infused live music from this Grammy Award-winning artist. And we're ready to rejoice this summer, because Solange Knowles is coming back to sing under the big white sails at four more performances in January.
This annual cultural celebration is the big one on Sydney’s summer must-do list, and the festival’s contemporary programming always manages to surprise. In 2020, Sydney Festival will run for 19 days in January with a program of experimental art and premiere performances.
Brockhampton will be hitting the solo stage as headliners at this poppy, hip-hoppy festival. We’re keen to see these very cool kids performer their alt R’n’B big-hitters like the bopping ‘Sweet’, but what we’re even more excited about is the confirmation that the record-breaking queen of flute-twerking, Lizzo, will be joining them.
Kudjala and Gangalu artist Daniel Boyd is known for his signature style, which sits somewhere between traditional Aboriginal dot-painting and Impressionist pointilism. The dot motif has appeared in plenty of his work, from large-scale public art installations to smaller paintings. Now it will be exploded out into three immersive video installations at Carriageworks.
Since the mid-1980s, Penn & Teller have been the most bankable magic double act on the planet, combining hilarious sight gags with sleight-of-hand magic and grand illusion. Somehow, they've managed to never visit our shores, but are righting that three-and-a-half-decade wrong with eight shows at the Sydney Opera House.
You may know Louis Theroux best in his befuddled, lanky form from his Weird Weekends series, or you might be more familiar with his recent investigations into subjects like scientology, sexual assault and current worrying trends in the US. But either way, you’ll want to see the Britsh documentary maker’s Sydney talk.
This Sydney Festival show is all about the coming together of First Nations cultures and communities. It follows the nuptials of Māori woman Hera and Aboriginal man Kane. That much is simple enough, but there’s a wild (and properly funny) clash of cultures as the two families come together for the celebration.
Sing along if you know this one: Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Six the Musical is set to have its Australian premiere. Much like Hamilton before it, the pop musical is making history buffs out of legions of musical theatre tragics, telling the story of the six wives of Henry VIII.
What would you do if you found out your dad wrote a porno? Would you ignore its very existence? Or would you create a podcast and read out chapters to the wider world? Let’s just say, Jamie Morton made the right decision – hear part of the devilishly funny Belinda Blinked erotic novel at this live reading.
The Twilight at Taronga concert series has been sparkling on the harbour for 25 years. This time around, hear a synthy-pop session by New Zealand duo Broods, a proper rock'n'roll set with Wolfmother, a country cruise by the award-winning Kasey Chambers, pop bangers by Meg Mac and, of course, a little something from Paul Kelly.
In 1990, Jimmy Chi's musical about a runaway teenage Aboriginal boy on an eye-opening road trip became a surprise hit. It was Australia's first Aboriginal musical, and now it's returning for a 30th anniversary tour produced by a group of Australia's biggest opera companies (but the rock and pop-inspired score isn't going to get an operatic bent).
Aussie rock and hip hop is making a new home in Campbelltown with the brand new Out of Bounds music festival. We simply love the line-up. It features powerful lady-led acts like Brisbane punk veterans Waax, dreamy R'n'B singer Mallrat and Aussie singer-songwriter and jangly guitar expert Alex the Astronaut.
John Cassavetes’ 1977 movie about an ageing actress self-combusting in the out-of-town tryouts for a new Broadway show has developed a devoted cult following since its premiere. Now a new stage version, by auteur director Cyril Teste, is one of the headlining events at Sydney Festival.
Visir this is the outdoor cinema on the water at Mrs Macquaries Chair, where up to 2,000 viewers gather in grandstand seating to watch the 350m2 screen rise up from the harbour for the evening's show. The Opera House and Harbour Bridge wink at you in the background and the food and drinks are restaurant-standard.
Like all great art, Hofesh Schechter's Grand Finale is a work up for interpretation. Certainly, it’s about youth and the power inherent in the young; they’re enraged, armed and almost preternaturally responsive to the pressures bearing in on them. It’s also a distinctly urban work, concerned with the constraints and the thrills of metropolitan confinement.
Vernon Ah Kee's work ranges from large-scale drawings to text-based works, installations and video. He offers searing critiques of Australian culture from an Indigenous perspective (as a member of the Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Yidinji and Gugu Yimithirr peoples) and is set to do so in this show at Campbelltown Arts Centre.
This annual Parisian party celebrating French wine and alfresco dining is always a big hit with Francophiles. But it's the line-up of French-sourced music that really makes So Frenchy So Chic a raison d'être for Sydneysiders. The 2020 headliner is French disco queen Corine, who's being joined by Lou Doillon, Nouvelle Vague and more.
Roll out the red carpet because out of 2,800 submissions from around the world, 100 short films will be chosen for the big screen at the 29th Flickerfest. You’ll swing from laughter to tears as you spend the night watching these impressive short flicks at the open-air screenings at Bondi Pavillion.
The King is back and we’re all shook up about the 28th annual Parkes Elvis Festival. What began as a modest get-together of 300 Elvis aficionados in 1993 has become a massive event officially endorsed by the estate of Elvis Presley. Grind your hips at over 200 Elvis-themed events, workshops, concerts and family-friendly activities.
We really got our hair crimpers in a knot with excitement when we heard that this Jamacian rapper and reggae pair would be visiting Sydney. You’re sure to have boogied to Shaggy's infectious beats on a Saturday eve, and if you partake in a bit of untz, untz, untz on the odd occasion, it’s likely that ‘Temperature’ is still popping your eardrums.
From the outside, the spectacular luminaria created by UK company Architects of Air look a little like retro spaceships landed from an alien planet. But if you venture inside the Dodecalis Luminarium, which is popping up in Darling Harbour, you’ll find a labyrinth of uniquely curved and beautiful tunnels lit in dazzling colours.
Since Cold Chisel disbanded in 1984 they've only completed four national tours together. But you can't keep a good thing down, which is why the band is reforming for a massive outdoor tour this summer. Dubbed the Blood Moon tour, the run of shows will be in stadiums, vineyards and out in the bush.
In 1868, a group of Aboriginal cricketers embarked upon a pioneering journey to England and became the first Australian sporting team to tour internationally. This funny and affecting play by Geoffrey Atherden gives their leader Johnny Mullagh his appropriate due and questions how history has treated this legend.
Here's an ogre-sized announcement: Broadway's musical version of the much-loved 2001 Dreamworks movie Shrek is making its Australian professional debut in January 2020 at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. It's very much the ogre-meets-princess story you know and love from the original film.
Fact: it is physically impossible to hear ‘Weapon of Choice’ without starting to dance like Christopher Walken. Sydneysiders will have the opportunity to do that (as well as enjoy other A-grade bangers) when Fatboy Slim comes to the city this summer.
Crawl under the blankets with a glass of wine and settle in for another season of screenings in bed at the EQ. This fun date night series has been running since 2016, offering Sydney’s film buffs the chance to see new releases and classic cinematic moments on the big screen while laying in bed at pop-up outdoor locations.
Strut & Fret’s latest, ambitiously titled Life: The Show is slightly serious for a circus-comedy. It traces the trials of one man’s often mundane life, seeking to pose some existential questions. Expect a dazzling soundtrack, plenty of comedy, adults-only clowning, and even an aerial act in a giant, condom-like plastic tube.
Devotees of the sunny New Year’s Day event will likely be tucking themselves into bed just before the year ticks over on December 31, sober and ready for a wild day of music and festival madness. Headliners include US rapper, singer and produce Tyler, the Creator, his UK rap counterpart Skepta, plus Disclosure and RL Grime.
The London-based Tenebrae was founded in 2001 by director and former King’s Singer Nigel Short. In a little under two decades, Short and co have established a commanding presence in the upper echelons of the world’s great vocal groups. They will deliver two programs as part of Sydney Festival.
Tim Sharp, a Queensland artist who has autism, created the mystical superhero Laser Beak Man when he was just 11 years old as a way of sharing his humour and imagination with the world. One of Laser Beak Man's most formidable forms is as the star of his own stage show.
The Berlin-based American’s ferociously pioneering brand of electro exists at the tipping point between the avant-garde and the mainstream, equally at home in a concert hall, an art gallery or a nightclub. Hear evolving, improvised performance that will be impossible to predict.
On July 25, 2017, Australia lost one of the greatest musicians of our age: Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. To celebrate his legacy and a remarkable musical gift that defied barriers and crossed cultures, this touching tribute, part ceremony, part concert, has been created on Country in North East Arnhem Land.
A trip to see the Flying Fruit Fly Circus delivers many OMG circus moments, but with the added jaw-drop that these are youth performers, aged 8-18. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Australia’s national youth circus, this major new work brings together the troupe's full ranks.
British electronic producer Jon Hopkins will be lighting up the Concert Hall, transforming the Opera House’s main stage into a psychedelic rave. Float away on hypnotic multimedia visuals as Hopkins takes to the grand piano to bring us tracks from his latest Grammy Award-nominated album, Singularity.
In many ways, now is the perfect time to revisit Joan Didion’s 1979 essay about the end of an era – as an American counter-culture started to crush itself. That sort of cultural disintegration feels all too familiar to us now, which is why director and artist Lars Jan has adapted the work for the stage.
Stephanie Lake's spectacular Colossus premiered in 2018 as part of Melbourne Fringe and is returning for a Sydney Festival season in 2020. It will unleash power, mould it and bunch it, and throw it around the space, in ways that are thrilling and frightening and entirely unforgettable.
This influential American indie-rock band are back in Aus, six years after the release of their 2013 Grammy-winning Modern Vampires of the City. Although rather different from the warmer and upbeat tunes of their previous tracks, the 18 new songs in Father of the Bride have proven very popular.
It’s almost miraculous that the Australian theatre dream team of writers Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas and composer Irine Vela are back together again. But the opportunity presented by Anthem – to collectively grapple with what this country is, and the conflicts that lie at its core – proved too lucrative to resist.
It is one thing to watch a magic show, with an illusionist able to deliver smooth patter and clever conjuring from the distance of a stage. But it's a very different matter to have dinner with a 'mentalist' and illusionist and experience the magic at close quarters and in an unpredictable setting.
This British quartet will be bringing a setlist melding R’n’B and electro-pop to Sydney for their Doom Days Tour. They’ll be pumping recently released singles like the retro dance track ‘Quarter Past Midnight’, pop-happy ‘Joy’ and the darker ‘Those Nights’.
Glide around the salty bay
There’s a good reason why Sydney is often called the Harbour City: this place is defined by its connection to the water and the sheltered bays hold some irresistible charms. Whether you’re in it, on it, or simply admiring it, here are our top recommendations for the best ways to experience Sydney Harbour.