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People wondering at Marrickville Markets
Photograph: Anna Kucera

January events in Sydney

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

By Maxim Boon
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The first month of the year is packed with outdoor markets, blockbuster theatre shows, major art exhibitions, and of course, the annual return of the Sydney Festival. 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 around the house all day until the end of the month.

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.

January's biggest adventures

Boat lined up in the harbour for floating cinema
Photograph: Supplied/Mov'in Boat

1. Mov'in Boat Floating Cinema

Things to do Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour

So we've had movies in the park, movies by the beach, outdoor movies in bed, and movies set in front of the glorious Sydney Harbour – you'd almost believe that this city had exhausted all the possible ways of having an al fresco cinematic experience. Until now, that is.

Mov'in Bed is upping the ante on summer movie-going this year and transforming into Mov'in Boat, by bringing a fun (and socially distanced) floating cinema to the harbour. Kicking off on December 3, the water-bound season will run until March 21, 2021. But how will you choose to watch? 

Head out onto the lapping harbour waters via rowboat ($119.90 for up to four people – or just you and your date), lie back in a plush day bed on a floating pontoon ($99.90 for two people and $109.90 for three), or go full luxury with the VIP option. It's $149.90 for two people and $169.90 for three people, and you'll get umbrellas, popcorn and access to an exclusive bar, as well as the option to order a sumptuous fine dining spread from Star restaurants like Sokyo (your go-to for melt-in-your-mouth sushi), Black Bar and Grill (juicy steaks aplenty) or Flying Fish (for a real waterfront extravaganza). 

Unless, of course, you've got your own little water vessel, be that a little dinghy or a luxury yacht. Feel free to pull up by the mega high-definition 4K 15-metre screen and tune in to the film, for just $50 per boat (and feel free also to call us when it's a sunny day and you're thinking of taking that baby out for a sail). Should you feel some mid-movie cravings set in, order fresh fish from the nearby markets, pizzas, cocktails and fairy floss waffles and have them delivered over to your boat or pontoon via jet ski. Now, that's service. 

As for what you'll be treated to on screen? It all kicks off on December 3 with romantic classic Dirty Dancing. Over the season, movie-
goers will have the chance to bask in the glory of contemporary favourites like heart-wrencher Lion, Christopher Nolan newbie Tenet, romantic swoon-fest Casablanca and quirky rom-com The Broken Hearts Gallery, as well as a whole lot more. Check here for the full season. 

Book your tickets online now. 

Jemma Rix as Elsa in Frozen the Musical
Photograph: Lisa Tomasetti

2. Frozen

Theatre Musicals Capitol Theatre, Haymarket

It has a decades-old pedigree of creating animated classics, but Disney isn't shy about bringing its cartoon heroes into the real world. Not only is the entertainment giant in the process of transposing many of its most beloved animated films into live-action remakes, but it also continues to expand its portfolio of stage musicals.

Following in the footsteps of global megahits Aladdin and The Lion King, Disney's frosty fable Frozen is the latest story to tread the boards – a decision that was surely a no-brainer for the show’s creators at Disney Theatrical. Not only is the movie original one of the most wildly successful animated blockbusters of recent years, but the soundtrack is also laced with Broadway-worthy belters and up-tempo earworms including arguably the most cherished song in the Disney canon since Aladdin’s ‘A Whole New World’, the Idina Menzel-immortalised ‘Let it Go’.

Traditionally, Disney’s model for rolling out its stage musicals has been pretty firmly stamped: debut the show on Broadway, followed by a US tour before transferring to London’s West End and then, box office willing, the rest of the world. Aladdin, for example, premiered in New York in July of 2011, a full six years before the show eventually made its way to Australia.

However, these are strange times we’re living in, especially when it comes to touring theatre. While stages in the majority of cities around the world remain shuttered due to the ongoing health crisis, Australia’s theatres are once again alive with performance, and thanks to support from the federal and state governments, Sydney is not only the first city outside of the US to stage Frozen, but currently, it is the only place in the world where the show can be seen. The production is also the first major import to open in Australia since global shutdowns stopped productions in their tracks early in the year.

For these reasons, coupled with the existing popularity of its cinematic counterpart, hype surrounding Frozen’s opening had been (ironically) white-hot. As the curtain rose on the show’s official Aussie premiere, the celeb-studded audience packing out the Capitol Theatre erupted in thunderous applause. It was an apt reception for a show that certainly channels the same aesthetics and emotions of the film. And yet, this IRL retelling of Frozen stands apart from the movie in some beautifully touching ways. 

Like Disney’s other stage musicals, there are some notable departures from the original story, plus the addition of several new songs. Partly this is for pacing reasons; the first half ends with ‘Let it Go’ – because frankly, what could possibly follow such a show-stealing number – so ensuring that this song lands in the right spot requires a bit of tailoring. But there is also some dramatic refocusing that adds even greater depth to the relationship between sisters Elsa (Jemma Rix) and Anna (Courtney Monsma).

After Elsa’s frost magic almost kills her sister as a child, these two young princesses are kept apart, while Elsa waits to come of age and ascend the throne of the vaguely Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle. Despite this enforced estrangement, Anna’s love for her sister remains unshakable, even when Elsa’s out-of-control powers threaten to destroy their lives. As the character wielding the spectacular ice magic, the film iteration is firmly anchored to Elsa, but on stage, it’s Anna at the story’s heart, driving the emotional impetus. In many ways, this makes shouldering the role of Anna even more challenging. She’s a character who is quirky and awkward, uncertain at times, yet tenacious and compassionate. Mastering the nuance of these qualities is no easy task, but Monsma nails every beat, down to its last detail. There are moments where the movie’s Anna is clearly a muse, in mannerism and reaction, but much of Sydney’s Anna is of Monsma’s making, and it’s an utter triumph. 

Rix still gets her moments in the spotlight, however. Having made her name performing Elphaba in Wicked, a role that is similarly hooked to one epic song, she is an ideal choice for Elsa, and in her astonishing delivery of ‘Let it Go’, Rix is truly a force of nature.

The supporting cast are equally accomplished – Thomas McGuane as the wooing Prince Hans and Sean Sinclair, who brings a hint of hipster swagger to the role of ice merchant Kristoff, are standouts. But special mention must go to Matt Lee, who masterfully performs the role of magical, summer-lovin’ snowman Olaf while also skillfully operating his character’s puppet. Almost all the comic relief in the show hinges on this goofy snowball, and Lee finds laughs in the smallest of gestures.

Where this stage version slightly under-delivers is in the scale of its world-building. It’s a tall order, to be fair, given the spectacular CGI sorcery and Arctic vistas this production attempts to evoke, and at certain key moments, trundled icicles and flurries of stage snow just can’t live up to the audience’s expectations. But ultimately, this show is not attempting to be a slavish mirror to its on-screen twin. In all the ways that matter most to a live performance – the sincerity of the portrayals, the power of the singing, the emotional depth of the relationships – Frozen does exactly what it sets out to do: it melts our hearts.

 

Here's what goes into bringing a hit musical like Disney's 'Frozen' to life.

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Chicken wing box with chillis nearby
Photograph: Supplied/Winghaus

3. WingFest

Restaurants Winghaus by Bavarian, Circular Quay

Dial up the heat on what's set to be an already toasty summer with Winghaus by Bavarian's new three-month-long celebration of the mighty chicken wing.

Kicking off on December 1 and wrapping up at the end of February, you've got plenty of time to go back again and again to get your hands on hot wings, beers and cocktails all summer long.

Classic, boneless and vegetarian-friendly cauliflower wings come in 10 piece ($12), 20 piece ($22), 50 piece ($49) and 100 piece ($94) serves. You've got 13 new flavours of wings to try: they range from the universally appealing, to the "turbo-charged". Taste-test the nacho cheese or garlic parmesan wings to start with, and then slowly ease yourself into the higher spice tiers. The mango habenero and Thai chilli have a little kick of spice, but you can amp it up further with the Carribean jerk, which also has a dash of dark rum for a complex flavour.

If you think you can handle it, approach the last two with caution: there's the Nashville, with a potent blend of chipotle, paprika and brown sugar, or the Indian-inspired Vindaloo rub with seven spices, a hint of acidity and a Scoville rating higher than the Harbour Bridge.  

Book online here

Want more? Here are the best things to do in Sydney this week

A beautiful bush pic of trees and a rocky outcrop
Photograph: Supplied

4. Streeton

Art Galleries Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Need a little extra sunshine in your life after the winter that was? Then we recommend a splash of Arthur Streeton’s gloriously glowing depictions of Sydney and surrounds, stat. The Art Gallery of NSW is hosting a major retrospective of his gloriously impressionistic take on the city and the bush surrounding her, as well as his more pastoral works straddling the turn of the 20th century. “Arthur Streeton’s brilliant evocations of light, land and sea are among the most enduring paintings for many Australians,” gallery director Michael Brand says. “This exhibition reveals the seminal role he played in defining a unique vision of Australia, while exploring the evolution of his art over six decades.”

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Tina Havelock Stevens in black beating a drum set on a moving platform pulled by Ivey Wawn
Photograph: Supplied/Tina Havelock Stevens

5. Thank You For Holding

Art Film and video Carriageworks, Eveleigh

If last year pulled you from pillar to post and left you wanting to thrash it all out, then a thrilling new video installation screening at Carriageworks during Sydney Festival totally feels you. Tina Havelock Stevens, the 2018 Blake Prize-winner, has always fused music with visual and site-specific art. Her latest work, Thank You For Holding, marches to this beat. Literally. The footage centres on her masked up and dressed all in black riding atop a platform on wheels bearing a red drum set. As she pounds down summoning raging sound, co-performer Ivey Wawn drags the mobile stage around the concrete and red brick warehouse space that is Carriageworks’ The Clothing Store. It’s oddly soothing in a shake it out kinda way.

Chika Ikogwe in a leopard print skirt and pink top in Fangirls at Belvoir St 2021
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud

6. Fangirls

Theatre Musicals Seymour Centre, Darlington

Yve Blake’s joyous Australian musical about the agony and ecstasy of teen longing, Fan Girls, is back by popular demand as the first cab off the ranks in Belvoir St’s 2021 season. Karis Oka steps into the lead role of Edna – played by Blake herself In the 2019 run – a teenage girl obsessed with Harry, lead singer of global sensation boyband True Connection (The Voice contestant Aydan).

When the band announces an Australian tour, Edna hopes to meet her number one crush. With script, music and lyrics written by Blake, and lovingly directed by a returning Paige Rattray, the show is a sympathetic look at the intense teenage kicks felt by young women admiring their favourite pop stars from afar. It’s also a savvy reading of the effect of our increasingly digital landscape on them.

Time Out reviewer Cassie Tongue said of the original run, “Edna is one of those rare teens onstage… Lovingly, but not uncritically constructed, we see her ambition and impatience alongside her wit, imagination and truly impressive but totally relatable ability to study and cross reference fan ephemera well beyond the information on any Wikipedia page… It’s about good hooks and big feelings, and best enjoyed with friends.”

Oka and Audan are accompanied by Chika Ikogwe (pictured), Shubshri Kandiah, Ayesha Madon and James Majoos, making up an excitingly diverse cast who get the millennial frenzy young fangirls inhabit.

Belvoir artistic director Eamon Flack says the glorious show was always destined for a second season. “It was a phenomenon. It has a life of its own. We had no choice, really. Originally, there was a much bigger tour planned that will just have to wait for now. But we always wanted it to come back, and we’ve increased the cast size to take it to the Seymour Centre.”

What's up next? Read the first half of Belvoir's 2021 season here

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Dinosaurs
Photograph: Supplied/Australian Museum

7. Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family

Museums Australian Museum, Darlinghurst

The Tyrannosaurus Rex stars in a new blockbuster exhibition at the Australian Museum. And the 13-metre-long, saw-toothed, weedy-armed predator isn’t coming alone – the whole tyrannosaur clan will be there. The newly refurbished museum has a colossal collection of tyrannosaur skeletons, skulls, fossil eggs and even coprolites (fossilised dinosaur dung) on display for the whole family to discover. Come face-to-face with a life-sized T rex, run for your life in a virtual experience, or can even hatch a dino egg in this interactive exhibition.

Tim Draxl in a stripey T and painters overalls in his studios surrounded by oil paintings
Photograph: Supplied/ Sean Sinclair

8. In Between

Art Paintings

Currently filming the latest Liam Neeson blockbuster in Melbourne, sadly A Place to Call Home star Tim Draxl won’t be in his home state to see his debut solo show of beautiful abstract paintings open in the Blue Mountains. Created during lockdown, In Between opens at Rex-Livingston Art + Objects in Katoomba on Saturday, January 9, and is well worth the road trip, or you can watch the exhibition unveiling livestreamed on the gallery’s Facebook page on Saturday, January 9, at 2pm. If you know Draxl best from stage work including Torch Song Trilogy at Darlinghurst Theatre Company, where the curtain fell on his turn as Zac in A Chorus Line after opening night last year, or Only Heaven Knows at Hayes Theatre, then rest assured the way he sees art and acting isn't that different. “Painting is a performance,” he says. “It’s like getting into character.”

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Performers in costume as the Luna Park clown
Photograph: Supplied/Luna Park Sydney

9. Countdown Carnivale at Luna Park Sydney

Attractions Theme parks Luna Park Sydney, Milsons Point

Luna Park has been a go-to for families, thrill-seekers and fun-loving folks since it opened its smiling mouth back in 1935. Now, to continue through the 2020s in style, they're closing temporarily and giving the park and its signature smile a facelift. Before they close though, Luna Park is set to host a park-wide party of epic proportions.

The Countdown Carnivale will pack as much fun in as possible before January 26, with Luna Park's signature rides, games and carnivale-inspired fun, including dancers and performances. Bid farewell to rides like the topsy-turvy Power Surge, the gravity-defying Round Up and the rock'n'rolling Body Rock by heading in for a day or night-time adventure.

The park's closure and makeover will run from the end of January until July 2021, with nine new rides being installed in the park. But the Countdown Carnivale is your last chance to enjoy a summer adventure in this heritage-listed amusement park as you know it. Tickets are just $50 per person, with pre-booking essential to ensure entry to the park.

Countdown Carnivale will occur daily from Boxing Day including New Year's Eve day and night (a special late-night event), as well as New Year's Day and on the January 26 public holiday for a last hurrah until July. So whether it's a nostalgic adventure with your mates, a family day out, or a date with a difference, make sure you nab tickets to Luna Park's Countdown Carnivale before the fun disappears.

A beautiful, colourful image of a beachside home surrounded by trees, cut in half so we can see inside
Photograph: Chalk Horse | Detail of ‘Dream Home Renovation’, 2021, Amber Boardman

10. Decision Fatigue

Art Paintings Chalk Horse, Darlinghurst

If your prime position is perched on the fence with a severe aversion to choosing one way or the other, then you’ll probably vibe with Sydney-based American artist Amber Boardman’s latest show at Darlinghurst’s Chalk Horse gallery. Decision Fatigue, opening January 28 and running for a month, is all about the inexorably crushing anxiety sparked by all the little Y/N’s that accrue throughout our days, weeks and months. She was fascinated researching the phenomena where all the mundane stuff just piles up and up on our shoulders, exacerbated by our oft-online digital lives, corralled by algorithms and turbo-boosted during lockdown boredom. “All of these little decisions, many of them screen-based, slowly erode energy and willpower throughout the day,” Boardman says. “How do you solve the problem of the increasing speed of life?” The resulting large-scale oil paintings teem with energising colour.

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A wide shot of the crowd sitting down in front of the large scre
Photograph: Moonlight Cinema

11. Moonlight Cinema

Film Outdoor cinema Centennial Parklands, Centennial Park

Pack your picnic baskets, because Sydney’s favourite outdoor cinema experience is returning to Centennial Park. After months of being cooped up inside, we’re super-pumped for the return of movies outdoors, as steamy hot summer nights set into the city’s sun-baked streets. Moonlight Cinema is back, baby – and you can enjoy it from the end of November right through to April of next year. 

Moonlight’s rolling expanse of green grass and pop-up screen is the perfect setting for unfurling a picnic blanket and keeping the family entertained, spending time with mates or having a date where you have more room to chat (and canoodle) than a traditional cinema.

As for what's on show? The program kicks off with Pulp Fiction on November 26, while Tenet, starring Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, and Elizabeth Debicki will entrap you in a mind-bending tale of espionage on December 2. Sundays are for superheroes with the best action films of the last 10 years screening every week, including the ground-breaking and Oscar-winning Black PantherThor: Ragnarok; and Marvel’s favourite intergalactic tale, Guardians of the Galaxy. Homegrown hero Hugh Jackman will also strap on his tippity tappity shoes for a rousing rendition of The Greatest Showman (Dec 8) and, of course, with Christmas rapidly approaching, the love/hate opinion columns will be unleashed once more when the other beloved Hugh, Mr Grant, shows up in Love, Actually (Dec 16 and 18).

Actually, the whole week leading up to the holidays will see an array of Christmas flicks get the spotlight. Catch old-school Zooey Deschanel in Elf (Dec 19) or lean into the nostalgia of Home Alone (Dec 20). 

It’s been a remarkable 25 years since the Australia’s biggest, most-beloved outdoor cinema sensation brought the movie magic to the lush surrounds of our gorgeous park after dark. There will be an increased focus on social distancing this year, and, as ever, Moonlight Cinema is a BYO event, so pack a picnic and some bubbles on ice. If you’re famously unprepared, have no fear, there will be a phalanx of food trucks on offer and a licensed bar for libations too. 

And if you’re the extra AF-type, you can bling it up with Moonlight’s Gold Grass option, offering the best views plus waiter service direct to your plush bean bag pew. Espresso Martinis and ice cream will, of course, be on hand to cool your jets.

Callum Francis and Seann Miley Moore in costume for Rent, including angel wings, on the steps of the Opera House
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud

12. Rent

Theatre Musicals Sydney Opera House, Sydney

“How we gonna pay last year’s rent?” might be a bit on the nose after the year that was, but the famous lyric from the title song of Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning smash hit Rent has us super-excited, nonetheless. Jonathan Larson’s beloved Broadway rock musical will be the first major show to relight the Sydney Opera House after months of pivoting to digital.

The show follows a gang of glorious misfits trying to make a quick buck in New York’s East Village in 1991. The march of gentrification is pushing artists out of their spiritual home, and the HIV/AIDS crisis is tightening its grip on the area's queer community. Mark, Roger, Angel and the gang band together to celebrate the triumph of love and art over adversity, in a loose re-imagining of Puccini's grand opera La Bohème.

This brand new Australian production stars Kinky Boots alumnus Callum Francis and local lad Seann Miley Moore, who popped up on the UK edition of The X-Factor. They're joined by So You Think You Can Dance Australia contestant Tim Omaji aka Timomatic as lovable Benny, and Robert Tripolino as struggle town musician Roger. Time Out fave Elenoa Rokobaro (High School Musical on Stage) is Ivy league lawyer Joanne, Mia Morrissey (Home and Away) is dancer Mimi and Monique Salle is unflappable Maureen. Shaun Rennie directs, with Andrew Worboys on musical direction and Luca Dinardo choreographing.

“In these dangerous times where the world is ripping apart at the seams, we can learn from those who stare death in the face every day, by reaching out to each other and bonding as a community,” Larson said in 1996, though tragically he died suddenly just before the show opened. But his words are as true today as we emerge into the new normal. Tickets to Drama Theatre will be limited to 50 per cent capacity. The team at the Opera House hopes this rabble-rousing classic ­– which runs from December 27, 2020, to January 31 – will help the city regroup after a year of social, physical and emotional turmoil.

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Channing Tatum with buff male dancers on stage announcing Magic Mike Live
Photograph: Supplied

13. Magic Mike Live

Theatre Musicals The Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park

Poor Melburnians. They’ve been through so much in lockdown, and once again they have to contend with Sydney snagging their best stuff. First, we came for Van Gogh Alive, and now we’ve nabbed Magic Mike Live.

The show is the brainchild of dancer-turned-movie star Channing Tatum – who fronted up, stripped down, and sweated through both big screen outings – who had been set to bring the buff boy acrobatic spectacular strip show to the Victorian capital. But Melbourne's loss is our major gain.

Set in the stunning, burlesque circus-like surrounds of the Arcadia, a  purpose-built upsized Spiegeltent, erected in the Entertainment Quarter, this dance extravaganza comes complete with a bar that doubles as a climbing frame for lithe bodies and podiums in amongst the audience. It will premiere at Moore Park on December 17, after runs in Las Vegas, London and Berlin. Thrusting you right into the heat of the moment, the all-singing, all-dancing, all-hip-thrusting gyration of this 360-degree immersive hullabaloo is EXACTLY what we need at the tail end of the year that was.

Though Tatum has hung up his dancing pants for now and will not appear up close and personal in the stage show, he's overjoyed he finally gets to unveil a feisty phalanx of beautiful bodiess, co-directed by choreographer Alison Faulk. And hoooo boy, you do not wanna miss these boys (and a handful of fiercely awesome women, too). Their smooth, gravity-defying moves make it a must-see this Christmas.

“The morning after we opened our first production in Vegas four years ago, we all talked about the crazy idea of someday putting Magic Mike Live in a tent and travelling around Australia,” Tatum says. “The fact that it’s actually happening now is mind-blowing to me. The tent and this new version of the show is more than I ever imagined it could be, and I can’t wait for our fans in Australia to see what we’ve created especially for them.”

We're ready to get sweaty just watching them sweat. But it’s not just about the titillation. As Time Out London’s reviewer put it, “Rather than provide pure raunch, a thread runs throughout the night about how, as women, we deserve to feel empowered and appreciated. ‘You are enough, just as you are,’ declares our host just before the boys hump the floor to Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’.” Zoiks.

And as for our Melbourne mates? Never fear, the boys are heading your way middle of next year. Sharing’s caring.

A red-haired Nikki Shiels looking over her shoulder, close-up, as Sybylla in Belvoir’s My Brilliant Career
Photograph: Supplied/Belvoir/Brett Boardman

14. My Brilliant Career

Theatre Drama Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills

Esteemed author Miles Franklin gave her name to Australia’s most prestigious book prize. Her treasured novel My Brilliant Career was written when she was only 20 years old. Depicting the life and times of headstrong Sybylla Melvyn and her determination to go her own way in the 1890s, the story was memorably brought to the big screen by, yes, brilliant director Gillian Armstrong, casting Judy Davis as Sybylla and Sam Neil as her would-be suitor Harry.

Now you can see it come alive all over again on stage at Belvoir St Theatre thanks to a brand-new adaptation by Australian playwright Kendall Feaver (The Almighty Sometimes) and directed by Kate Champion (Every Brilliant Thing). Running from December 5-January 31, the magnificent Nikki Shiels (The Sugar House, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) steps into Sybylla’s shoes, with Guy Simon as Harry alongside a stellar cast worthy of Miles' fine words in Blazey Best (Medea), Jason Chong (Chimerica), Tom Conroy (Jasper Jones), Emma Harvie (The Harp in the South) and Tracey Mann (Top End Wedding).

Belvoir’s artistic director Eamon Flack says: “Nikki has a great old-fashioned star quality mixed with a great contemporary boldness that is one of the gifts of contemporary feminism. It’s a boldness she shares with Kendall… We went to great lengths to save this show from being lost to [lockdown], but we made it a priority because of these artists, and because Australian writers and Australian writing matter more than ever.”

It’s a fascinating look at the turn of last century and the expectations and suppressions placed on women. Like Miles herself, Sybylla is determined to be a writer, but distractions along the way include young love, collapsing family fortunes and a society not quite ready for brilliant women to shine. We may be facing some of the same problems now, depressingly, but you can bet this production will positively glow.

Love Belvoir? Here's what's coming up in 2021, and it's a doozy.  

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People sitting at the Bondi Pavillion for outdoor screenings at Flickerfest.
Photograph: Supplied

15. Flickerfest

Film Film festivals Bondi Beach, Bondi Beach

These short films have a long, long history. Flickerfest has now been in existence for three decades, showcasing the best short films made internationally and playing an important role in global film culture by helping makers of short films reach an international audience.

In 2021, Flickerfest will celebrate by holding its screenings in the fancy surrounds of the Famous Spiegeltent, and a glam outdoor cinema under the stars in the Flickerfest festival garden on Bondi Beach near the pavilion where Flickerfest has always been based.  

Two hundred films have been handpicked from 2,700 submissions and they'll compete for prizes including the Flickerfest Award for Best International Short Film, the Yoram Gross Award for Best International Animation, the Panasonic Lumix Award for Best Australian Short Film and the Flickerfest Award for Best Documentary. Winners in all of these categories will qualify for the Academy Awards and could well go on to win an Oscar. 

Films will screen in two-hour sessions across a range of Australian and International Academy-qualifying competitions and special showcases such as LBTQI films (Rainbow Shorts), kids and family-friendly films (FlickerKids), films about relationships (Love Bites) and comedy (Short Laughs). Highlights include the Australian premiere of the sibling drama ‘Furlough’ by actress turned writer/director Phoebe Tonkin; ‘David’ starring comedy US legend Will Ferrell; and animation ‘Roborovski’, which is a first turn behind the camera for acclaimed actors Dev Patel and Tilda Cobham Hervey.

Flickerfest takes place January 22-31, 2021. Tickets are on sale now, and check out this year's Flickerfest trailer, a fun tribute to to yet another iconic film – this year it's Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, with a loved-up Satine and Christian descending on Bondi Beach in a nod to Flickerfest's glam new 2021 venue, the Famous Spiegeltent.

the cast of circus musical Pippin
Photograph: Supplied/Brian Geach

16. Pippin

Theatre Musicals Sydney Lyric Theatre, Darling Harbour

Once enough restrictions had finally been eased to allow theatres to tentatively reopen in September, the first productions to step out on stage were necessarily on the austere side. Substantially reduced audience capacities took a chunk out of the box office, so making economies on production values was par for the course. While it was a relief to see IRL performances return to the visceral space of the auditorium, the absence of large casts or impressive sets gave little spectacle or fanfare to theatre’s post-lockdown revival.

By contrast, the first big-budget musical to open in Sydney since the Beforetime has so much relentless razzle-dazzle, it almost seems to be making up for lost time. The 1972-penned Pippin is a high-energy carnival featuring circus acrobatics, vaudevillian schtick, high kicks, jazz hands, plenty of earworms and... medieval French history. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s a show that holds nothing back, except perhaps the reason why composer Stephen Schwartz (best known for megahits like Wicked and Godspell) thought this particular story was ripe for Broadway.

The show follows our titular hero, the restless son of Frankish king Charlemagne, as he attempts to find a raison d’etre worth living for. Pippin’s search for meaning leads him to war, to sex, even to murder, but eventually, it is the simple pleasures of family love that fulfill his dreams of an extraordinary life. 

Superimposed on this slice of seventh-century European courtly drama is a thoroughly American brand of song and dance, with a trippy, circus-infused, meta-theatrical twist. Overseeing the action, the Leading Player (that’s the enigmatic title of this role) is the ringleader of a circus troupe, but one that seems to exist in some existential hinterland, outside of time or history. Under the canvas of her ageless big top, she seems to wield almost godly powers over Pippin’s emotional awakening, as she and her cavalcade of performers attempt to guide him towards a glorious yet deadly finale. The historical inspiration for the narrative becomes increasingly sidelined as the show progresses until it unexpectedly shapeshifts into a deep philosophical parable about the purpose and folly of ambition without meaning.

It’s a lot to wrap your head around, and indeed, you’ll likely find yourself confused at times as to what, who and where your attentions should be focused. The pace of the story can be jarringly lumpy and for reasons that aren’t exactly clear (other than the fact this is a show of the sexually liberated ‘70s), there’s an awful lot of eroticism, including a 10-minute pan-sexual circus orgy. But once you’ve surrendered yourself to the baffling strangeness of its many odd juxtapositions, Pippin reveals itself as a show with a helluva lot of heart that delivers Entertainment with a capital E. 

And this is in no small part due to the calibre of its very capable cast. Ashley Melham, who wowed Aussie audiences in the Australian premiere of Disney Theatrical's Aladdin in 2018, is a thoroughly charming Pippin, managing to make a rather irritatingly fickle character largely likeable. Gabrielle McClinton, who is a veteran of the role on Broadway, is a powerhouse as the Leading Player, the absolute exemplar of the ‘triple threat’. Kerri-Anne Kennerley steals the show (or at least a portion of it) in her short yet unforgettable turn as Pippin’s overly horny grandmother Berthe, and one of Australian theatre’s most venerated luminaries, Simon Burke, brings a brilliantly judged infusion of camp to the role of King Charles. While her role is comparatively small, the extraordinary Lucy Maunder emerges as one of the highlights of the night as the widow Catherine. She is one of our very best musical theatre talents, and despite only appearing in the second half of the show, she makes every second on stage utterly captivating. 

The ensemble, which features both circus performers and musical theatre specialists, are absolutely essential to Pippin's success. “We have magic to do, just for you,” they tell the audience in the toe-tapping opening number. And as they bring this vibrant, cartwheeling world to life so vividly, magic is exactly what we get.

Love big energy shows? Here are the hottest tickets this Christmas

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Pixar Putt
Photograph: Supplied

17. Pixar Putt

Things to do Games and hobbies Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta

There's nothing more likely than a round of mini-golf to coax the hyper-competitive streaks in siblings, school mates and family members to the surface. Now, you can face off with your foes (we mean, friends) at this pop-up putt putt experience in Parramatta. 

The Disney Pixar-themed mini-golf course teed off at the Bank West Stadium in Septemeber, and is sticking around until the end of January 31 due to popular demand.

Pixar Putt supplies reams of nostalgic putt putt fun for those of us who grew up wishing our toys would come to life like in Toy Story, or imagining what it would be like to face Hopper and his gang in A Bug’s Life, it's a dream. You’ll face challenges featuring these beloved films alongside others starring familiar animated friends from The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Monsters Inc., Wall-E and more. 

Choose between playing a nine-hole round or hit up the whole 18-hole course. Tickets for the shorter journey cost adults $29.90 and their kidlets $19.90, while the infinity and beyond level will set Disney-obsessed grown ups back $39.90 and their kids $29.90. Coming as a family team? Face-off the 18-hole course for $119.90 and nine holes for $79.90.

If you want to reminisce about the original Disney Pixar hits under the stars (sorry kids, sequels are a hard thing to master), you can head to the after-dark sessions. After December 18, the course will be open every day (exclusing Christmas Day and Boxing Day) from 10am-8pm Sunday through Wednesday, and from 10am-10pm from Thursday to Saturday. Check here for session times and bookings.  

 

A spooky dark tunnel in blasted concrete and steel far below Sydney
Photograph: Tin Sheds Gallery | ‘A Chorus #13/11/17, 2021, Julia Davis and Lisa Jones

18. Thresholds

Art Photography Tin Sheds Gallery, Paddington

Every city has an underworld. A vast network of dark and ghostly tunnels that stretches out in every direction beneath our unwitting feet, spiralling like the intricate silken web of a spider. You’ll be able to catch a glimpse of this secret mirror universe far below thanks to a brand new exhibition at the University of Sydney architecture school’s Tin Sheds Gallery. Reopening the space on January 21 after the year that never was and running until February 19, Thresholds is a collaboration between artists Julia Davis and Lisa Jones that peeks behind an innocuous green door in Elizabeth Street’s St James station and dives headlong into the abandoned labyrinth beyond. The exhibition is comprised of goosebump-inducing photography of these silently brooding, spooky places alongside large-scale drawings inspired by the artists’ explorations and a video installation work that allows you to travel through the long lost times of subterranean Sydney.

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Cargo-chella at Cargo Bar
Photograph: Supplied/John Puah

19. Cargo-chella

Bars Cocktail bars Cargo, Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is far from a desert, but Cargo Bar is nevertheless channeling Palm Springs this summer, so throw on your best festival attire and head down for drinks and party tunes.

Groups of 4-15 people can book one of the new harbourside booths for some exclusive fun. The GA package costs $35 per person and gets you jugs of cocktails on arrival plus pizza to share, while the VIP package gets you bottomless cocktails and snacks for two hours for $80 per person. 

On Saturdays, there's a two-hour bottomless Cargo-cella Brunch with a hard seltzer opener followed by the main act of rosé sangria, Bloody Marys and wine. The menu is all-American with poke bowls, mac 'n' cheese balls, brisket tacos, doughnut fries and baked New York cheesecake. Book for 11am or 1.30pm sessions.

And if you're looking for a party on NYE, the DJs will be spinning all night by the water. Tickets range from $69 General Admission (with a complimentary drink on arrival) to the $140 Upstairs package, which includes three hours of canapés and beverages. Rockstars, their groupies and high rollers can upgrade to a private booth for $200 per person. 

Westpac Openair Cinema
Photograph: Fiora Sacco

20. Westpac OpenAir

Film Outdoor cinema Mrs Macquaries Point, Sydney

AACTA Award winner Eric Bana will walk the red carpet on December 15 when Westpac OpenAir returns to Mrs Macquaries Point with the Opera House and Bridge as the staggering backdrop. 

The full program will drop on November 30, but for now consider us super-excited to finally get our eyes on opening night movie The Dry. Adapted from the mega best-selling crime thriller novel by Jane harper, the film stars Bana as financial investigator Aaron Falk, who gets embroiled a shocking murder when he returns to his rural hometown.  

Directed by Robert Connolly (Balibo, Paper Planes), it's one of the most-anticipated Australian movies in many a year and also stars Genevieve O’Reilly, Miranda Tapsell, Keir O’Donnell and Matt Nable. The perfect kick-off to a summer season of popcron-ready films by the water. Sta tuned for more major annoucements soon. You can sign up for their newsletter here.

Elsewhere in the program you can catch Naomi Watts in emotional biopic Penguin Bloom, lush queer historical drama Ammonite, hilarious looking Irish romantic movie Wild Mountain Thyme, Australian Western High Ground and classics including Love
Actually, Almost Famous, Thelma & Louise, The Devil Wears Prada and Pulp Fiction.

The first round of tickets goes on sale 9am, Thursday December 10, and it's always a big selling drawcard, so don't dilly-dally.

Love seeing movies outdoors? Check out our round-up of choctop hotspots here

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Bungalow8 Bali  pop-up
Photograph: Jasper Avenue

21. Bali Beach Club at Bungalow 8

Bars Cocktail bars Bungalow 8, Darling Harbour

Squint and you can almost imagine you're in Bali in one of the greenery-fringed decks that Bungalow 8 has set up for the summer. Rent a deck with some mates for two hours and work your way through an esky of prosecco and Bintangs, plus Balinese-inspired snacks such as cured kingfish with ginger dressing, gado gado salad and grilled corn with chilli honey butter. There are three seatings a day at 1pm, 3.30pm and 6pm, and the food-and-drink Bali Deck Package costs $79 per person.

On Saturdays, dig into a Bottomless Brunch with two hours of unlimited prosecco and Bintangs, plus beach club eats such as fish tacos and club sandwiches, for $65 a head.

Sundays are a real occasion, with Suckling Pig Sunday Sessions offering live music from 2-5pm. Grab yourself a plate of rotisserie pork with sambal and gado gado for $29; up the ante with additional sides, coconut cocktails and frozen Daiquiris.

For NYE in Bali, there's also pig on a spit, plus canapés, a three-hour drinks package and DJs through the night. General admission tickets are already sold out, but you can still muster a group of up to ten friends and shell out for the VIP balcony package ($2,500) and look down smugly on the commoners.

Magician James galea in a denim jacket and hat with a floating kettle filling his tea cup
Photograph: Supplied/Sydney Opera House

22. James Galea’s Best Trick Ever

Theatre Sydney Opera House, Sydney

It’s a kinda magic when award-winning sleight of hand star James Galea (POOF! Secrets of A Magician) assembles a powerful cabal of conjurers at the Sydney Opera House in January.

James Galea’s Best Trick Ever teams him with YouTube sensation and shadow puppet master Raymond Crowe (Australia’s Got Talent) and slippery escapologist Helen Coghlan, who racked up a celebratory hat trick bamboozling Penn and Teller on their ratings smash Fool Us. Also showing off his wand-waving prowess is cheeky beer-disappearing America’s Got Talent finalist Dom Chambers, and Rubik’s cube-manipulating supremo Vincent Kuo, the latter fresh from his appearance at the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques, aka the Magic Olympics.

In other words, it’s a whole lotta awesome in the truest sense of the word. Commissioned as part of Opera House initiative New Work Now, it’s a reimagined take on Galea’s ABC TV series of the same name, in which he scoured every corner of the globe looking for the greatest tricks ever performed. So keep your eyes peeled, try and keep up and be prepared to have your mind well and truly boggled when the show appears in a puff of smoke on Jan 2, 2021, and before it disappears like the waist on a sawed-in-half person on February 14.

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Rooftop Amalfi Garden at The Rook
Photograph: Supplied

23. Rooftop Amalfi Garden at the Rook

Restaurants Italian The Rook, Sydney

This summer, the Rook is swapping its industrial warehouse look for citrus vines and coastal Italian vibes. The menu is getting in on the action too, with an Italian-inspired bottomless brunch every Saturday through the summer. For $69, you'll get 90 minutes of Quincy seltzers (lime or passionfruit), Spritzes (lime and elderflower, or passionfruit and mango), Bellinis (mango or lychee) and Furphy beers. 

To accompany the tipples, there's an antipasti spread of charcuterie (Wagyu bresaola, salami and 'nduja), cheese (stracciatella, Brie and cheddar), olives, pickles, dried figs, rye bread, sourdough thins and mixed fruits. This boozy, grazy package is available at 11.30am and 2pm on Saturdays; booking is recommended.

On NYE, things kick up a notch at the Rook's Amalfi Rooftop Party. A welcome glass of Champagne sets the mood for the evening, followed by a three-hour beverage package with complimentary canapes for $130. Snack on rock oysters with cucumber granita, scallops with Romesco butter, and mini crab rolls with Calabrian chilli mayo while you count down to midnight.

A man in overalls cap and short shirt with hairy arms holds a toilet plunger aloft
Supplied/Sydney Festival/Christian Trinder

24. Kenny

Theatre Comedy Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why something being “the shit” oddly means good instead of poop, then Kenny is the prime example. Starting life as a popular and critical hit mockumentary co-written by and starring Shane Jacobson – with his brother Clayton contributing to the screenplay and directing – it cast him as the eponymous porta-dunny installer. A cheery guy with a colourful vocabulary, he mined unexpected pathos from smelly business. It became an instant Australian cinematic classic.

Now, we're pumped like a septic tank for Kenny's overflow onto the stage as part of Sydney Festival. Opening at Ensemble Theatre on the edge of the harbour at Kirribilli, this number two take has been adapted by playwright Steve Rodgers and will run from January 15, 2021, until February 27.

Time Out’s review at the time the original film came out noted that while it was, “full of deft character turns (most notably Shane Jacobson’s mesmerising, total-immersion tour de force in the title role) and some delightfully outré (though never crude) comic touches in the script, Kenny has nothing but respect for its central character, and it’s all the better for it.”

In the Sydney Festival iteration, Ben Wood (The Big Time) plays the dunny man with a big heart to match the size of his wrench and a bottomless bucket of true blue one-liners. Sometimes you have to take a good look at your business.

Pumped for Sydney Festival's return? Check out our go-to guide here

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People gathered under a dinosaur skeleton
Photograph: Nick Langley

25. Nights at the Museum

Museums Natural history Australian Museum, Darlinghurst

The Australian Museum is keeping its lights on this summer with a stellar lineup of eats, beats and exhibitions to explore after hours, and general admission is free.

Every Thursday the museum will grant access to its fascinating collections, including summer exhibitions Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2020 and Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family until 9pm (entry to Tyrannosaurs attracts a charge). Budding palaeontologists can get creative in Prehistoric Playground, a creative playspace where kids can design their own dinosaur, watch a fossil being excavated or make a paper pterodactyl. Delve into the Australian Museum’s incredible collection on a 15-minute spotlight tour, where you can learn the stories behind three key objects.

There'll also be a pop-up bar and live music sending celebratory summer vibes through the newly renovated halls. DJs Ayebatonye, Terazatron and Salllvage will be on the decks January 7, 14 and 28, while on Thursday January 21 a special program will be dedicated to the museum’s annual First Nations event, Ngalu Warrawi Marri – We Stand Strong.

The evening will celebrate First Nations resilience with hands-on workshops, music, storytelling and tours. Sit in for conversations with Aboriginal hip-hop artists Dobby + Barkaa, a panel discussion titled You Can’t Speak for Us led by Sara Khan (Race Matters, FBi Radio) and a weaving and adornment workshop.

Check the Australian Museum’s website for the full program and register for Ngalu Warrawi Marri events. Details for Nights at the Museum in February and March will be announced soon.

Three performers on stage in front of big curved wave props and surrounded by seaside ephemera
Photograph: Supplied

26. Magic Beach

Kids Seymour Centre, Darlington

Alison Lester's stories and illustrations have been charming kids and parents since the early '90s. You may remember Magic Beach from your own childhood and the dense and dreamy seaside world within its pages. Now, you can share this classic tale with the young people in your lives with a reimagining for the stage from award-winning playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer and the team who brought you The Gruffalo and 91-Storey Treehouse.

Magic Beach follows a family who take an annual beach holiday packed with adventure. This beach is ultra-special though as anything you can imagine comes to life – think waves transformed into charging white horses and riding on seahorses through the kingdom of fishes. The year this story takes place is when the eldest child begins to grow up and starts losing some of the magic. And the journey to find out if she can hold on to the fun and whimsy begins.

A tale for any person big or small about the power of imagination and the differences that make every child special, Magic Beach is bound to captivate this school holidays. Matinee and arvo performances take place at The Concourse in Chatswood from January 7-10 and at The Seymour Centre from January 21-24. Pop this Sydney premiere production on your nostalgic bucketlist this summer.

Book tickets for the Concourse shows here.

Book tickets for the Seymour Centre shows here.

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Beachside Cherry Blossom Garden at Manly Wine
Photograph: Supplied

27. Beachside Cherry Blossom Garden at Manly Wine

Restaurants Manly Wine, Manly

If your Japanese ski holiday plans have been put on ice, you can always console yourself with Japanese-inspired food and drink at Manly Wine. On Saturdays during summer there's a Sakura Spring Boozy Brunch with bottomless Roku gin Spritzes and Japanese snacks for $79, including tempura prawns, soba noodle salad and teriyaki salmon don. The drinks flow freely for two hours from 11am-1pm or 2-4pm, so you've got the option of a boozy brunch or a long, lazy lunch.

On Wednesdays from 5pm, there's Bottomless Karaage Chicken to get you over the hump of the week. For $35, gorge on crisp fried chicken or mixed tempura veggies with sides. Having a tough week? Upgrade with unlimited beer, wine and cider for an extra $29.

On NYE, say sayonara to 2020 in style with a three-course shared menu for $79 per person. Add a standard drinks package for $35 or a premium drinks package for $45, and get ready to kiss someone under the cherry blossoms at midnight.

Hands reaching for plates on a table
Photograph: SuppliedChin Chin

28. Archie Rose x Chin Chin Yum Cha

Restaurants Chin Chin, Surry Hills

When you wake up on a Saturday morning with only the faint memory of having consumed one too many Negronis last night, there's one thing to get your weekend back on track: yum cha.

Sydney's spoilt for choice when it comes to spots to indulge in hearty, comforting Chinese-style dishes on a weekend, and your decision just got even more difficult. Hospo heavyweights Archie Rose and Chin Chin have just partnered up for a 'gin-spired' version of the tradition – if ever there was any doubt that a little hair of the dog was the only way to properly recover. The master distillers at Archie Rose have crafted cocktails especially for the occasion, like Archie's Spritz with passionfruit and apricot, the Violet Crown with elderflower and orange, and a Strawberry Colada with pineapple and coconut. A range of new dishes will also be gracing your brunch table, including crumbed prawn steamed buns, fried chicken wings, BBQ pork buns and more ($55 per person). 

Head over for gin-fuelled yum cha sessions on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at Chin Chin Sydney

Want more? Here are the best places for a bottomless brunch in Sydney.

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Three kids playing at an inflatable water park
Photograph: Supplied/Waterworld

29. Waterworld Central Sydney

Attractions Theme parks The Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park

A waterpark is set to make a splash in the Eastern Suburbs with the arrival of Waterworld Central Sydney at the Entertainment Quarter. 

From December 28 through to January 26 (closed New Year’s Day), visitors will be able to zip down the multi-lane Epic Racer slide, go on an 80-metre water tubing ride, or just chillax in one of the wading pools. Ever wondered what it would be like to walk on water? Take a spin in the giant zorb cylinder and find out. Then for ultimate thrillseekers, there’s the Big Wave slide….

The park’s attractions are aimed at kids 16 years and under but adults are also allowed in to supervise and to have a go on the big thrill slides. Tickets allow two hours of fun during one of five daily sessions, and booking ahead online is strongly recommended. Prices are $25 for a Little Dip N’ Slip (2-16 years), $35 for an Extreme Splash N’ Slide (7 years-adult, 120+ cm) and $5 for non-participant entry.

See you at the EQ this summer, and don’t forget your togs, towels and sunscreen. 



Lindy Lee's bronze, liquid-like globule sculpture 'Unnameable’
Photograph: Anna Kucera

30. Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop

Art Galleries Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks

There’s a silver lining even in the poop storm of the last few months. While in some respects the world at large feels further away than ever, that allows for a little bit of love spent right here and now. After months of lying dusty, the MCA is back in a big way, and it's fully embracing the new normal, throwing focus on Australian artists. It’s in this spirit that we get absolutely spoiled with a cracking retrospective of Lindy Lee’s exhilarating career.

Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop celebrates the Australian-Chinese artist’s genius, nimbly dancing through four decades of jaw-dropping creativity crossing mediums and cultures. Curated by the MCA’s director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, the show pulls together 70 of Brisbane-born, Sydney-based Lee’s works sourced from public and private collections, including rarities from her personal records. It’s the most comprehensive overview of Lee’s artistic contribution that’s ever been assembled.

For Lee, embracing the heritage passed to her by her Chinese immigrant parents has always been central to her work, engaging with Taoism and Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, philosophies that see humanity and nature as inextricably linked, and pushing back against whitewashing of history, including art.

You can a lot of these influence sin her incredible work, often grappling with the idea of eternity as being the here and precisely now. A useful Buddhist outlook to apply to 2020. You can also get a squiz at her some of her earliest experimentations, playing around with photocopiers and with wax paintings. You’ll also be able to see immersive installations like ‘No Up, No Down, I Am the Ten Thousand Things’, and beautiful sculptural works like the sizeable shimmering bronze, liquid-like ‘Unnameable’. A new piece of public art created by Lee, the mesmerising ‘Secret World of a Starlight Ember, now adorns the Circular Quay forecourt.

MCA director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor was very keen on a ‘Love Local’ perspective. “We seized the opportunity to celebrate the work of Australian artists. I’m delighted that the first exhibition the MCA has been able to generate since the lockdown is of the extraordinary Lindy Lee. One of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists, Lee’s work addresses important and timely issues regarding identity, cultural authenticity, as well as history and spirituality.”

You can tune into a ticketed livestream of Lee in conversation with Macgregor at the MCA on October 7 at 6pm. The exhibition runs through to February 28, 2021, and what better way to celebrate Sydney’s vibrant art scene reignited?

Want to see Lee's new sculpture? Check out Sydney's awesome public art.

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Wind in the Willows performers pose in a garden.
Photograph: Supplied/Australian Shakespeare Company

31. The Wind in the Willows

Kids Book events Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Grab your picnic baskets and settle down by the pond as the Australian Shakespeare Company returns to the Royal Botanic Gardens for their 18th annual outdoor production of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, The Wind in the Willows. The theatre experience gives children the chance to immerse themselves in the adventures of Ratty, Mole, Otter, Badger, Weasel and the ever-extravagant Mr Toad in a 90-minute production.

The interactivity will be turned up to 11 for this school holidays show, and the sunny spot by the Garden's Main Pond is perfect for a family outting. 

The show runs from January 6 to 24, with show times at 10.30am and 6pm on Wednesday to Saturday, and 11am on Sunday. Tickets are $25 on weekdays and $30 on weekends, or get a family pass for $90-$110. Book here

Shaun Gladwell, 'Planet and stars sequence: Barrier Highway' 2009 (video still),
Photograph: Shaun Gladwell

32. Under the Stars

Art Galleries Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, Under the Stars highlights our shared understandings of the night sky. Highlighting the commonalities and connections in our shared attempts to understand the sky above our place in relation to it, the exhibition has a particular a focus on Indigenous knowledge. It presents an opportunity to explore, engage and educate at a time when discussions surrounding the 250 years since Captain Cook’s arrival have sparked great debate, as further highlighted by the Black Lives Matter marches. Under the Stars includes the work of artists like Lindy Lee, Mick Kubarkku and Shaun Gladwell. Shining a light on complex ideas, it also centres the idea that the night sky is an expanse that is not owned, and that connects us all.

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Tuscany in Surry Hills at the Winery
Photograph: Supplied/The Winery

33. Tuscany in Surry Hills at the Winery

Restaurants Italian The Winery, Surry Hills

The prosecco and rosé will be flowing all summer down at the Winery, Crown Street's sprawling, irreverent homage to wine. While Europe is off-limits these holidays, the drinking hole will be doing its best to channel the Tuscan countryside with a daily aperitivo hour from 5-6pm during which you'll get a complimentary prosecco gelato from Mapo Newtown with every drink purchase. Also during the aperitivo hour, you can purchase a carafe of Tempus Two prosecco or rosé, plus an antipasti board, for $55. Gotta hand it to them – the Italians know how to end the afternoon right.

If you can't make the ice-cream happy hour, there's always the Tuscan long lunch to while away a slow afternoon. For $59, you'll get a glass of prosecco and three courses of Italian fare; wash it down with bottomless Tempus Two prosecco or rosé for an extra $39. The meal opens with warm marinated olives, spiced pickles and stracciatella cheese, and tuna crudo with melon and pasta fritta. It's followed by a smoked salmon and caviar sandwich, porchetta on sourdough with rosé apple sauce, and a salad of pear, walnut and rocket. Cleanse your palate with the aforementioned prosecco gelato before moving onto dessert proper: baked cheesecake with mango mousse and prosecco jelly.

A man in jean and a red t-shirt stands in a pile of clothes
Photograph: Supplied/Griffin/Brett Boardman

34. Green Park

Theatre Drama Green Park, Darlinghurst

Let's go outside in the sunshine, I know you want to,” sang the late, great ‘Father Figure’ George Michael, and Griffin took that anthem for gay men hooking up in a risky beat to heart. They open the 2021 season with Elias Jamieson Brown’s Green Park. Literally set in the public space down the end of Victoria Street, opposite St Vincent’s Hospital, the show will run from February 5 to March 6 in this dear green place with a racy queer history.

While Google might now list it as family-friendly, once there was a public toilet thriving with hook-ups until the cops shut it down in 1988, inspiring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to erect a shrine to its long lost urinals. Artistic director Declan Green grabs this thrilling new work with both hands. It asks audiences to meet at the rotunda and done headphones. Then they’ll listen in voyeuristically to Warren and Edden as they meet there to suss each other out on a Grindr meet. One of them doesn’t look like his photo, and there’s a big age gap and a dangerous buried secret. This one-hour play will leave you breathless.

“The show embodies the fascinating tensions of the Darlinghurst area,” Greene says. “It has this history of squalor and desperation, repression and lust, but now it’s also a gentrified dog-walking park where rich gays carry their miniature poodles around in their active wear. The play’s all about what these two very different men carry into this place, in ways that they don’t actually understand themselves.”

He’s thrilled to step outside the SWB Stables to indulge in this intimate overhearing. “It’s going to be a secretive conversation that the world outside will not know anything about. People will still be walking their dogs and jogging all around this play as it’s happening. And that’s queer culture. It happens under the surface of the mainstream world.”

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Two women laugh as they sculpt clay with wine and cheese on the table
Photograph: Supplied/Clay Sydney

35. Wine and Cheese Ceramic Workshop

Things to do Classes and workshops Clay Sydney - Marrickville Studio, Marrickville

Wine time and snacking are tried and tested ways to blow off steam, and a lot can be said for a little art therapy. Throw in the gentle sense of accomplishment of making a beautiful object with a practical use? Muy bueno!

Clay Sydney has opened the doors back up and is welcoming in visitors once again for it’s ever popular Wine, Cheese and Clay Nights. Grab a bottle of your favourite plonk and snacks and head down to the new Enmore studio on Wednesdays, or the Marrickville studio on a Friday or Saturday night to get your hands dirty at one of their chilled out, boozed up workshops. They’ll provide all the tools, raw materials and guidance required to create your own smashing ceramic mug or vase. You’ll be guided through hand-building your vessel with speckled white clay and decorating it with vibrant glazes. 

Keeping the atmosphere intimate – and keeping physical distancing observed – class sizes for these workshops are limited and they do book out, so check ahead and book online. The workshop will set you back $80 including your precious item to take pride of place on the mantelpiece of your ‘good room’.

There’s more going on down at the studio. You can book in for a Planter Party or Mugs and Mimosas workshop on alternate Saturday day-times, recreate the famous scene from Ghost with beginner Wheel Classes on Saturdays and selected weeknights, plus special Date Night wheel throwing taster classes on Sundays to share with some special. If you're a bit of a pro mud slinger, there's also more advanced in-studio classes. Check out all the classes and make a booking here

If you’re out of town or you’d rather get your hands dirty at home, Clay Sydney is still slinging Clay at Home kits nationally so you can get amongst it from your kitchen table with a live virtual class – you can even get some mates around and Zoom in together. Choose between serving platters and teapots, kids classes and special ladies night sessions where you can make your own ‘boobie vessel’.

Looking for more options to get your hands dirty at home? Check out all these pottery classes and kits you can get stuck into at home.

Did you know? Boozy painting classes are back on in the studio as well.

Actors kissing in the film As Tears Go By
Photograph: Supplied/Sydney Film Festival

36. Love and Neon: The Cinema of Wong Kar Wai

Film Film festivals Multiple venues

High up on many people’s lists of the greatest films of all time, In the Mood for Love has cast a spell over audiences since its release in 2000. A story of unrequited love set in 1960s Hong Kong, it’s memorable for its neon-soaked, East-meets-West visual style, its addictive mood of longing, and its palpable eroticism.

Filmmakers including Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) have paid homage to its influence on their work, and the film is even said to have inspired the founder of MUBI to launch the film streaming platform when he couldn’t find it to watch on the internet anywhere.

This summer, Sydney Film Festival and ACMI in Melbourne are joining forces to bring In the Mood for Love and ten other films directed by Wong Kar Wai back to the big screen, where they can exercise their full impact. The retrospective covers the Hong Kong filmmaker’s 30-year career with prints lovingly restored in 4K.

Highlights include his stylish 1988 debut As Tears Go By starring Maggie Cheung and Andy Lau; Chungking Express (1994), a two-part comedic drama inspired by Haruki Murakami’s short story; its spiritual sequel Fallen Angels (1995), showcasing the romance of Hong Kong at night; and classic queer story Happy Together (1997).

Wong has also made grand historical films: a lone swordsman’s tale of love, revenge and honour in Ashes of Time (1994 and revised in 2008); and The Grandmaster (2013), about the life of Bruce Lee’s legendary teacher, Ip Man.

This is a rare opportunity to see a major director’s oeuvre the way it was meant to be seen. Screenings take place at the Domain Theatre at the Art Gallery of NSW and at Dendy Newtown, and tickets are on sale now.

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37. Happy Endings Comedy Club

Comedy El Rocco Room, Potts Point

Sydney's comedians are pretty fond of this cosy comedy club. With an intimate vibe and weekly shows featuring at least two names you know and guests you may not, Happy Endings also has the benefit of being beneath cosy jazz bar the El Rocco Room, for pre-show wines and post-show beers. There's limited capacity, so you best book ahead for Friday nights (8.30pm) or for the early and late sessions on Saturdays (6.30pm or 8.30pm). 

If you're looking for more places to laugh, the Happy Endings teams has also expanded operations and embarked upstairs with more weekend shows around the corner with the Kings Cross Comedy Club

Frosé Your Way at Untied
Photograph: Supplied

38. Frosé Your Way at Untied

Bars Cocktail bars Untied, Barangaroo

Round up your drinking buddies, the frosé craze of summers past is not over yet. You can go DIY with the wine world’s adult slushie at this self-service frosé station returning Barangaroo’s tropical rooftop bar, Untied

The aptly named Frosé Your Way bar allows you to to choose from seven fruity flavours and a pick’n’mix of fresh and dried fruits and nostalgic lollies to garnish your bevvie including sour gummy worms, gummy bears and rainbow straps. Think beyond pink with drink flavours like sour green apple, mango-lime and blue hibiscus on tap in addition to rasperry-white peach, grapefruit frosemary, fraperol and tropical island frosé. The bar is offering up two-hour bottomless sessions on the slush for $39 per person. 

Frosé goes hand-in-hand with brunch, and the taps will be flowing for anyone taking up Untied’s brunch packages. Their vegan banquet and ‘brunch with soul’ both include unlimited frosé bar access. 

And revellers at the NYE Rooftop Party can dance up a sweat with the DJs before cooling down with bottomless slushies, beer, wine and roaming canapés all night for $199. 

The pop-up will be open until the end of February, so grab yourself a frosty sundowner (with gummy bear garnishes, obvs) and enjoy a summer night by the Sydney Harbour. 

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Missy Higgins plays her Maton at Lorne's Falls Festival, 2004
Photograph: Martin Philby

39. Maton: Australia’s Guitar

Things to do Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo

After months of uncertainty, the Powerhouse is back! And if that news has you playing the air guitar to the tune of 'excellent', Bill & Ted-style, then does the museum have the re-opening exhibition for you. Maton: Australia’s Guitar is a truly bodacious collection of the beloved Australian manufacture's thrumming good guitars, favoured by the likes of Elvis Presley, Keith Richards Men at Work, Missy Higgins and Keith Urban. Opening Saturday, July 25, you can thrash out some 130 beloved models, including the one the Easybeats’ guitarist Harry Vanda used to write the hit track ‘Friday on My Mind’, plus Tommy Emmanuel’s hand-painted electric Mastersound MS500M. Entry is free, but timed bookings are essential.

Glide around the salty bay

Many yachts in the water of Sydney Harbour with the city skyline and harbour bridge in the background
Many yachts in the water of Sydney Harbour with the city skyline and harbour bridge in the background
Photograph: Creative Commons

The best ways to experience Sydney Harbour

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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