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Forty Baskets Beach
Photograph: Destination NSW

The best things to do in Sydney this January

Summer is in full bloom, adventures are lined up and Sydney is ripe for the taking

Maxim Boon
Written by
Maxim Boon
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The first month of the year kicks off with two blockbuster events: the new Elevate Sydney and the annual return of the Sydney Festival. These huge celebrations of culture are starting the year as we mean to go on, with the city bursting at the seams with music, art, theatre, dance and lectures.

It's also a great time of year to get out and about, so be sure to check out the best walks in Sydney, marvel at the city skyline from these fab spots, or check out one of Sydney's best beaches. Can't decide which to visit? We've ranked the 50 best sandy stretches in the city.

RECOMMENDED: New Year, new you? Check out the best group fitness classes in Sydney.

The best things to do in January

  • Restaurants
  • Sydney

Slide on your glass slippers and get ready for a feast that will leave you feeling happily ever after. Affordable fine dining favourite Nel has announced the third chapter of of its hugely popular Disney-themed degustation, which happily coincides with a grand re-opening after a holiday facelift. ‘Once Upon a Time’ involves eleven dishes with a nostalgia-inducing creative touch. In 2019, the menu gained international notoriety for the controversial ‘Bambi’s Mum’, which came complete with dukkah served in rifle casings. In 2022, chef Nelly Robinson is focussing his attention on happier childhood memories, but much of the menu is under wraps – though, we have been granted a quick peek into the magic mirror. If Disney references galore are what you're hungry for, this bounty is the Cave of Wonders you seek. A little taste of Piglet (pork belly) is served up glazed in Pooh’s favourite honey, and topped off with Eeyore’s carrots in the dish 'Hundred Acre Wood'; the 'Boo’s Best Friend' is a white chocolate and mint parfait made to look like Mike Wazowski’s eye; and the 'Dead Man’s Chest' serves up seafarin' squid topped with a black garlic emulsion. There are lovely bunches of coconuts, flounder from the deep sea, and elote and chimmichurri to celebrate the Day of the Dead, just like in Coco. Bookings are now open for this fantastical degustation, which will be on the table between January 18 and April 9. The Once Upon a Time menu will set you back $145 per person, with optional d

  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • price 2 of 4
  • Parramatta

Update: the initial run of A Chorus Line at Riverside Theatres has been delayed from January 6-16 to January 13-22. Things are changing rapidly, always check ahead with the venue if you have purchased tickets to a performance.  There are few shows that have made as big an imprint on the landscape of musical theatre as Michael Bennett’s 1975 masterpiece A Chorus Line. The production about a group of hopeful dancers auditioning for a role on Broadway, Bennett famously created the show by interviewing real-life dancers, who spilled some extraordinary stories which made it into the final show. It went on to pick up a Pulitzer Prize and an astonishing ten Tony Awards, beating Chicago to the Best Musical gong. Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production of A Chorus Line has been on its own journey of grit and determination. Postponed twice due to Covid lockdowns, the curtain will finally rise on this dynamic new staging at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres as part of Sydney Festival in January, before it step-ball-changes its way over to the Sydney Opera House for a run at the Drama Theatre from February.  The legendary dance musical arrives to a fever pitch of anticipation with brilliant new choreography by director Amy Campbell. She’s assembled a fabulous ensemble cast of triple threats led by Angelique Cassimatis (American Psycho, Pippin, Priscilla Queen of the Desert). Campbell says: "These stories were based on real people and I want to show that 50 years later these stories trans

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  • Things to do
  • Fairs and festivals
  • Sydney

This January, Darling Harbour becomes a vibrant playground that enthralls from morning to night. The Summer of 20You is a month-long program with experiences to delight every person, and every version of them – whether that’s one who rises early for a free barre class in Tumbalong Park, or prefers evenings of live music in Darling Square (or both). If you love a good boogie, you’re in business. Popping up on the Convention Centre forecourt from January 3-30 is an interactive dance floor that transforms your steps into shimmering light. Drop by any time, night or day to have a play. The dance floor will also host DJs every Thursday to Saturday evening, live choreographed performances from street dance group Destructive Steps Dance Association (DSDA), free hip-hop classes on Saturday nights and a free salsa class on Thursday 27 January. There will also be thrilling dance battles each week encompassing genres such as ‘70s, ‘80s and G-funk music.  Over at Tumbalong Park a free otherworldly show will take place as part of the 2022 Sydney Festival. Airship Orchestra comprises a platoon of 16 giant inflatable creatures – measuring up to six metres high – pulsating with glowing light and mesmerising melodies. Having delighted audiences from Washington DC to Shanghai, it’ll enchant Sydneysiders of all ages this summer while providing bountiful photo opportunities. Then on January 20 and 21, acrobatic school the Construct will wow crowds from a cube apparatus on the harbour as they wea

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  • Things to do
  • Sydney

Returning to the Royal Botanic Garden for the second year across six weeks this summer, this free outdoor series brings together all the things you want on a balmy January evening: live tunes, outdoor dining and glorious views of the Harbour. Oh, and G'n'Ts, all night long. With views spanning from the grassy hills of the RBG over to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, there's no more quintessential Sydney scene to feast your eyes on this season. Not that you'll just be feasting your eyes – line up for delicious food courtesy of pop-up eateries which will set up alfresco to feed garden frolickers in the evenings and during the day on weekends.  This year, a unique floral custom light installation will welcome guests as they make their way to a central dome tent, where they will be able to enjoy refreshing beverages from the four-sided bar and al-fresco catered dining. And all this set to the dulcet tones of musicians fresh from Sydney's Conservatorium of Music – they'll be serenading you with live music performances throughout the event. The event takes place on the Tarpein Precinct Lawn. Entry is via Macquarie Street (opposite the Moore steps). It's a completely free and Covid-Safe event – just walk on in. The Garden Social series runs from January 6 to February 14. It'll be open Thursdays and Fridays from 5pm; Saturdays and Sundays from 11am. There's also a Valentine's Day special event on Monday February 14.

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  • Things to do
  • Sydney

Darling Harbour's beautiful hidden garden has been lit up in an immersive world of lights, colour and natural splendour, transforming the tranquil sanctuary of the Chinese Garden of Friendship in the heart of the city into a digital art playground.  Using augmented reality technology, the heritage-listed gardens have been transformed into a reflection of the four seasons. Meet giant koi fish, cacti and birds all while enjoying the gentle sounds of a string quartet. Wander through the illuminated world with a cocktail in hand, as the dulcet sounds of a string quartet fill the air. Use your phone to scan QR codes throughout the experience, and you will be able to watch the nature around you come to life.  If you fancy a feast, the Gardens' teahouse-style dining space, The Garden by Lotus, is dishing up a premium Chinese banquet before the illuminations light up. It features popular dishes like Pacific oysters with finger lime dressing and flying fish roe, jade prawn dumplings and duck pancakes. Pescetarian and vegan banquet options are also available. Entry is $50 per adult and $30 per child, with tickets including the Chinese banquet starting from $165. After-dark sessions are set to run at 7.30pm and 9pm each night (except Mondays) until March 27. This event is following Covid-safe guidelines. Things change quickly, so always check ahead with the event organiser before heading out to any events in Sydney. Want more? Here are the best public gardens to explore in Sydney. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Things to do
  • Fairs and festivals
  • Millers Point

After three decades at the helm of one of the country’s most vital arts companies, it’s hard to imagine a swan song that could possibly do justice to the legacy and vision of Bangarra Dance Theatre’s outgoing artistic director, Stephen Page. But as the lights began to fade on its arresting final scene – a cascade of golden wattle petals drifting gently onto the stage – there was little doubt that Wudjung: Not the Past was a production worthy of being Page’s last as the leader of Australia's top Indigenous dance troupe. In the vernacular of Western art, this production defies simple categorisation: a multi-hyphenate melding of musical theatre, modern choreography, cultural storytelling and traditional practices. However, in his pre-show remarks at the Roslyn Packer Theatre, Page offered his personal choice of a descriptor. Wudjang, he told us, is a ceremony, and that indeed rings true in the most essential meaning of the word – not merely a ritualised pageant but rather a process through which past and present can coexist and change can be witnessed. It’s a production that searches history, lore and extremes of emotion for its raw materials, and while this search takes both Page and his cast into profoundly personal and sometimes confronting territory, it also yields one of the most moving and fearless works ever presented by Bangarra. Wudjang is created in partnership with Sydney Theatre Company – a first for Bangarra. This fusion of the theatrical and the choreographic produ

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Elizabeth Bay

We’ve all heard the old twisted nursery rhyme somewhere: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks.” The true story of Lizzie Borden is the stuff of American legend. For those unfamiliar with the grisly tale; on a sweltering summer morning in 1892, a prominent Massachusetts businessman and his wife were brutally axed to death in their home. Their daughter Lizzie was the prime suspect. Her trial became a media sensation, her story became a legend – and more recently, it was turned into a thumping rock musical. Lizzie gets its Aussie debut at Sydney’s intimate home of musicals, the Hayes Theatre, with Maeve Marsden directing an all-women and non-binary cast and creative team. Four performers front a fierce rock band, and explode onto the stage in a fit of bombastic energy and killer vocal performances, with wicked humour that packs a whack, amidst all the darkness.  This production takes a hatchet to Borden’s Victorian era tale and puts it back together again with fresh eyes. Americana is substituted for Australiana, and a story of lesbian rage fires up. The result is a whole lot of bloody fun and big feelings. The script itself is not particularly interested in the whole truth of Lizzie Borden’s life anyway, and Marsden’s interpretation removes it further from any concerns for time, place or historical accuracy. The action is transported to Australia, with the cast leaning into Aussie accents, and the glam rock score gets a grungier, more pub rock style loca

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Marrickville

The days of the daggy old Marrickville Metro are well behind us, after a multi-million dollar refresh in 2021, and the new (and improved!) precinct is making strides in the Inner West food scene. One of the myriad multi-cultural eateries that have swung the doors open is China Fusion, a mainland franchise bringing together highlights from Shanghai, Hong Kong and beyond.  In the ramp up to the Lunar New Year, the folks at China Fusion are dishing out one dollar dumplings all the way up until January 31, so you can get your dumpling fix on a shoe-string budget all month. You read that right. One. Dollar. A buck. A smackeroo. You can gorge on steamed pork and chive dumplings, vegetable dumplings, prawn dumplings, and prawn and spinach dumplings until your heart's content for just one dollar a piece. As with all good things, there are certain terms and conditions to contend with — you must order a minimum of one serve, each serve comes with 10 dumplings and each table can have one serve at a time — though we're sure you won't have any trouble polishing them off before round two. Want to know more about the Marrickville Metro food precinct? Check out our guide to the best of the best right here.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Sydney

Note: performances of The Wedding Singer from from Jan 6 to Jan 12 inclusive were cancelled due to members of the company contracting Covid-19. The show is back with a new dates, running from January 15-30. Read on for our review from the Melbourne season. The 1998 Drew Barrymore-Adam Sandler film The Wedding Singer is a mulleted, leather-gloved, parachute-panted nostalgia trip to 1985. The stage musical, now much further from 1998 than the film was from 1985, has an extra layer of nostalgia, recalling both the fashions and gender politics of the 1980s and the uncomplicated innocence of a late-’90s romcom.  Far from being weighed down by these expectations, however, the show fizzes and pops like Mentos dropped into New Coke. It's as high energy as a Jane Fonda exercise video, sweet as a Ring Pop and pulls you in like a dancefloor filler at a wedding.  The gist, in case you haven’t seen the film, is this: wedding singer Robbie Hart (Christian Charisiou) and waitress Julia Sullivan (Teagan Wouters) meet-cute the night before Robbie is left at the altar by his fiancĂ©e. Julia soon gets engaged to her Wall Street boyfriend Glen (Stephen Mahy), who cheats on her, worships money and fulfils his obligations as a panto villain. No points for guessing whether there’s a wedding at the end.  As the two leads, Charisiou and Wouters have far more chemistry than Sandler and Barrymore ever did – and here both parties are charming and adorable. They are both vocal powerhouses, with Broadway v

  • Film
  • Special screenings
  • Moore Park

You’ve heard about multisensory experiences, but this is extrasensory. Get ready to experience a new reality at Wonderdome, where stunning visuals and bleeding-edge technologies dissolve the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds.  This pop-up 360-degree theatre is the largest of its kind to ever be seen in Australia, and it makes its down under debut at Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter this December and January after beguiling audiences at Coachella and Burning Man.  Audiences are invited to venture into a pulsating new world, where art, film and music are fused together to create a wholly unique experience. Think virtual reality, without the goggles. The program is out now and features a catalogue of the world’s most successful and thought-provoking 360-degree film experiences, made to entertain all audiences with something for everyone. Headline films include Coral Rekindling Venus, a stunning Australian production written and directed by Emmy Award winner Lynette Wallworth; Flying Monsters, a David Attenborough narrated National Geographic film about flying dinosaurs; and Dynamic Earth which explores the inner workings of Earth’s great life support system, the global climate, narrated by Liam Neeson.  The program will also feature the stunning Carriberrie, an exhilarating journey across Australia celebrating the depth and diversity of Indigenous dance and song from the traditional to the contemporary. If you’d like to dabble in the psychedelic side, check out Wo

Glide around the salty bay

  • Things to do

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.

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