We’re in the thick of the chilly season now, but that won’t stop us from seeking out all kinds fun around the city. Head to wintery festivals to find the best outdoor ice skating spots, or celebrate Indigenous Australian women this NAIDOC Week with live music and workshops around Sydney. If you need a small reprieve from the cold, there’s at least 101 fun things to do indoors in Sydney and pubs with fireplaces that’ll warm your tired bones.
Need a laugh to cheer your chilled spirits? These are the best places to see comedy in Sydney.
July's best events
Kendrick Lamar sold out tickets to his DAMN. tour in Sydney in less than an hour – so the Pulitzer Prize winner and 12-time Grammy Award winning artist has added a second show to the bill. He’s likely to perform tracks like ‘Loyalty’ (feat. Rihanna), ‘Love’ (feat. Zacari) and ‘Humble’ – which took out the number one spot on Triple j’s Hottest 100, plus ‘King Kunta’ and ‘Alright’.
Bark painting is among the most recognisable Aboriginal art, but you mightn’t know that it was only popularised in the 1930s. One of the greatest exponents of bark painting – and Aboriginal art in general – is John Mawurndjul, who rose to international fame in the late 1980s and ‘90s. The Kuninjku artist, based in Arnhem Land, is getting a major career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, made up of 165 works.
Set in 1954 Baltimore, the newest adaptation of John Waters' 1990 movie Cry-Baby follows Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker, the coolest teen in town, who falls for Allison, a rich girl who also happens to be a total square. She leaves her old life behind to become a "drape" at Cry-Baby's side. In the Hayes Theatre production, Christian Charisiou will become the playboy hearthrobe originally brought to life by Johnny Depp.
Tick off the whole of Sydney’s dining bucket list by purchasing a ticket to the Burning Love edition of the Carriageworks Night Market. Fifty five of the city’s finest culinary talents will be joining them for a night dedicated to heat, smoke, fire and flame. Focus on filling your belly with fiery flavours or feed your mind with a demonstration of traditional Aboriginal fire making, seafood prepping and asado barbecue.
Two of the biggest acts of the 2000s (and beyond) are hitting Sydney for one massive show. Neither band has visited Australia for five years – so it's fitting that off the back of their Splendour appearances, they're blessing the stage at the Hordern Pavilion with all the hits that soundtracked your youth. You'll also hear some ripper new music that both groups have produced in the last 12 months.
Elijah Moshinsky's 1991 production of Rigoletto is returning to the Sydney Opera House. It's one of Opera Australia's most visually striking productions, with La Dolce Vita-inspired revolving sets and costumes by two-time Tony Award-winner Michael Yeargan. This time around, Slovak baritone Dalibor Jenis will be playing the tragic titular court jester. Russian soprano Irina Lungu will play his daughter Gilda and Opera Australia favourite Gianluca Terranova will play the Duke.
Adapted by award-winning British playwright Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel, the hi-tech production brings to stage one of the most compelling literary protagonists of the noughties: 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone, a self-described “mathematician with some behavioural difficulties" whose unusual way of looking at the world makes him particularly well-suited to solving the mystery of who murdered his neighbour’s dog.
If you're dreaming a dream and can hear the people sing, here's an exhibition for you: Les Misérables '18 displays video, sculpture, photographic and installation works loosely inspired by Victor Hugo's novel and the smash hit Boublil and Schönberg musical. Not that you'll see characters or stories from Les Misérables, but rather its spirit of (failed) rebellion brought to life through heightened, musical melodrama in a consideration of how history is remembered through culture.
The good old days of Sydney rugby league are being revived in a one day, family-friendly, beer food and footy festival down at Henson Park. Grab the whole clan and set up on a blanket overlooking the oval. In between big hits and passes from the Newtown Jets vs Penrith Panthers, peruse the 20 craft beer stalls and a food market of snacks to bribe the kids with.
[Sponsored] Head to Parramatta's Prince Alfred Square for ice skating, winter carnival rides and all the mulled wine you can handle this July. Hop on the ice rink for a spin, watch the action from the Ferris wheel or be entertained by roving performers and a live music program. Warm your belly at the food village, and on Friday and Saturday boogie to pumping DJ sets, free circus workshops and nightly ice-shows.
Daniel Buren is one of France's leading contemporary artists and has exhibited work at an astonishing ten Venice Biennales. He's best known for his site-specific stripe installations, and there'll be glimpses of those stripes in the mammoth installation he's bringing to Carriageworks. 'Like Child's Play' features 100 oversized children's wooden block toys arranged into a colourful cityscape. It'll be a little like stepping into a Toy Story movie.
Australian artist John Russell was a close friend of Van Gogh and Rodin, dined with Monet and was credited by Matisse for teaching him the basics of colour theory. Yet despite his talent and illustrious connections, few Australians have heard of him, let alone seen any of his work. This survey of his work is the first in 40 years, and brings together around a hundred of his painting and drawings.
[Sponsored] It might be too cold to swim, but that won't keep anyone far from Bondi’s shores this winter. Enjoy some classic beachside vistas at the Bondi Winter Magic, sitting atop the Ferris wheel while you watch the kids hurl themselves around the ice rink below. Or, get a little cultured – the Bondi History Walks and On the Streets music and art series will give everyone a little mental stimulation in the winter school holidays brain freeze.
A Taste of Honey caused a stir with its portrayal of single motherhood, interracial relationships and teen pregnancy when it debuted in 1958. It follows pregnant teenager Jo, left alone after her African boyfriend returns to sea. When Jo meets arts student Geoff, who has been kicked out of his rented room for being gay, the pair form a solid if unconventional family – until Jo’s mother comes crashing back into her life again.
Cement Fondu is one of Sydney's newest galleries, having only opened in March this year. Its next exhibition looks at the relationship between personal narratives and migrant communities and features video and installation works from five artists: James Nguyen, Mona Ibrahim, Phaptawan Suwannakudt, Khaled Sabsabi and Shivanjani Lal. The exhibition is showing alongside the Refugee Art Project.
The main drawcard for these annual races is that they’re both real flat and real fast. If you’re looking to smash a personal record, this is a fun and scenic way to do it. The 10k course kicks off at 8.30am and is a one-lap loop through Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour, Barangaroo and the Rocks. The 5k course starts at 7.30am and takes runners from the Rocks to Hickson Road and back again.
Plenty of Sydney art lovers would've discovered the work of Sun Xun this year at White Rabbit's latest exhibition, which features a full floor of work by the Chinese artist, called 'The Republic of Jing Bang'. The Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting his first solo Australian exhibition, where visitors can see several of his animations and a brand new project: a 40-metre long painting on bark paper and woodcuts.
Skate every day – and late into the night – at an open-air ice rink at the forecourt of St Mary’s Cathedral. During the day you'll skate under the Sydney winter sunshine, but the evenings will be illuminated with a colourful glow. You’ll be able to warm up with a hot chocolate or savoury snack from one of the food vendors throughout your skating session. There's more beyond the rink, with ice slides jumping castles and music.
This is Ryoji Ikeda's third major audio-visual project at Carriageworks and another step forward in his exploration into the intersection between art and science. One installation is called 'the planck universe [micro]' and represents the smallest matter in the universe in a theatrical setting. The other is called 'the planck universe [macro]' and shows the largest matter in the universe on a ten-metre tall projection screen.
These twins have been creating some of the city’s most forward-thinking electronic music since releasing their breakthrough hit ‘Phantasm’ featuring Nicole Millar in 2013. They'll be throwing it back with fond childhood memories and popular pop-tinged beats like 'Polarised' on a national tour, introducing their highly anticipated album, What Comes Next. They’ll top-and-tail it with two shows in Sydney at the Metro Theatre.
Capitalising on the inherent creepiness of the industrial hallows of Cockatoo Island, these tours allow you to learn more about the convict, ship-building and orphanage past with stories about mysterious deaths, solitary confinement cells, shipwrecks and George the military ghost who floats around the upper island. The 90-minute tour is suitable for families or brave individuals.
Strap on your skates and slide onto the ice under falling snowflakes at the outdoor ice rink. There's no need to pre-book a session time and skating is free with the Unlimited Rides or Annual Pass. Naturally, the food and beverage offering is hearty German-themed fare. Warm up with thick hot chocolate, munch a large salty pretzel, or get struck into a bratwurst with sauerkraut on a roll.
The audacious Camp Cope will return to Sydney for one of their final shows of the year, showcasing their latest studio album, How to Socialise & Make Friends. Burgeoning from humble beginnings in a Melbourne backyard, this all-female indie-punk trio are taking the music landscape by storm with their unflinching sound, injected with social consciousness, self-exploration and feminine empowerment.
Let’s face it, we’re not at our bright-eyed and bushy-tailed best in winter. But help is at hand. Following the success of Sunrise on the Steps, the Opera House has launched a new indoor yoga series. Classes will be held every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in the sunlit Northern Foyer, which has views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and over to the east so you can watch the sun rising over the Harbour as you downward dog.
This national festival of doggo-centric short films is getting two sessions – one at the Ritz, one at the Orpheum – screening a two-hours of eight short films celebrating puppers of all shapes and sizes. Pooch-loving audiences will gain an insight into the life of an inspiring dog trainer; delve into the competitive dog grooming scene; meet a crew of disabled dog adorers; and enter the wild world of the wolf.
Over two weeks, Bondi Pavilion and surrounds will be transformed into a carnival playground, with more than 40 shows from the best home-grown performers, plus an old-fashioned parlour tent, art installations and a new pop-up restaurant. The fun begins with an Opening Gala filled with comedy, beat boxing and bingo for one huge night of laughs. And it's only up from there.
The Empire Strikes Back – aka Episode 5 – is widely considered the best of the eight Star Wars films, set to the score by John Williams, which brought to Star Wars the thunderous 'Imperial March'. Now fans have the chance to hear that music played live by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Nicholas Luc.
This four generational saga set in a coastal Australian town follows archaeologist Simone who, after two long years of searching, has finally discovered her great-grandfather’s bones, jumbled in a dusty box. But bringing them home will unearth secrets about her father, Jeremiah, and the brutal history of her town that she might have preferred to stay hidden.
Gear up for Sydney's most flamboyant and fabulous dinner show, Priscilla's Drag'n'Dine. Taking place in the Imperial's restaurant, the evening turns the spotlight onto some of Sydney's top drag and LGBTIQI+ performers only to be matched by a plant-focused, forward-thinking dinner menu. You can go totally meat-free and order up crabless crab cakes or cauliflower and broccoli hot 'wings’ with chipotle mayo, ranch and celery.
While some people are doing Dry July, the Glenmore is offering a pithy alternative that involves whisky appreciation. Rye July is an evening of tastings, masterclasses and snacks designed to take the edge off the cold weather and help educate punters in the fine art of the distilled grain. Tickets are $65, which gets you a tasting glass, five tasting tokens and entry to a masterclass.