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A doorway with the Mopoke symbol
Photograph: Supplied/Mopoke

What to do at Mopoke, Sydney's first 24-hour festival

Stay awake all night under the watchful eye of the mopoke with this free arts and culture festival taking over Macquarie Street

By Ashleigh Hastings for Time Out in association with Mopoke Festival
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At 6pm on Saturday, February 4, Macquarie Street East will transform into an artists’ playground as Mopoke, Sydney’s first 24-hour festival, takes hold between Hunter Street and the Hyde Park Barracks. With interactive installations spanning from dusk on Saturday until sunset on Sunday, this brand new festival is curated to stimulate your imagination and nourish your mind.

Mopoke takes its name from Australia’s smallest and most common species of owl, known for its superior night vision. Follow the black light path on the night for an unexpected journey celebrating Sydney’s art, culture and creatives. 

From late-night museum visits to glow-in-the-dark gardens, this guide to what to do at Mopoke will have you seeing this historical part of Sydney in a whole new light.

Here's what's happening...

Macquarie Street
Photograph: Supplied/Mopoke Sydney

Macquarie Street

This busy street will become the heart of the action and the perfect place to refuel on your Mopoke journey. Visit one of ten Food Trucks (6pm-6pm) reflecting Sydney’s impressive multicultural street food scene. With Italian, Japanese, Mexican and more on offer, there will be something to delight your taste buds.

In need of an energy boost? Get a glow-in-the-dark lemonade or head to the ‘bubble bars’ and you’ll be buzzing throughout the night and day. Settle in at the 24-hour Cinema (6pm-6pm) while you sip, or take a walk through the street art installations.

Hyde Park Barracks
Photograph: Supplied/Mopoke

Hyde Park Barracks

The grand gates of Hyde Park Barracks will stay open all night long, leading to the Art Fair (6pm-1am & 9am-5pm). Do a spot of shopping from Sydney’s innovative makers and meet the artists as you go.

Glow-in-the-dark painters, pottery makers, sculptors and more will be there sharing their craft and offering interactive workshops. Get a ticket to Coil Weaving with Peta-Joy from Wiradjuri Wave, or learn how to make Handmade Candles with Lucian Candles. 

Make a leather bracelet when you book the Leather workshop with Mario Sanchez, or score a ticket to Pottery by Crockd to paint, pinch and throw your work on the wheel in a ceramics session. Experience an abstract fluid UV class with Chelsey Foskett, or create a glow-in-the-dark painting with the guide of Paint and Mingle.

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The Mint
Photograph: Supplied/Mopoke

The Mint

Head into the habitat of the mopoke in the gardens surrounding the Mint. By day, wander the Native Flower Market (6pm-6pm) meeting florists and learning about bush food and medicine. 

Book a workshop ticket to learn how to make a modern flower crown at Unleash your Creativity with Blue Flowers with Cecile Keogh, or get an Introduction to Bush Tucker or a cooking demonstration with Bush to Bowls. Floral enthusiasts can also book tickets to the Fresh Native Flower Arranging Workshop or the Dry Native Flower Arranging Workshop with Bess Scott.

By night, lose yourself in the Glow-in-the-Dark Garden (6pm-6pm) to enjoy the black light installations following the rhythm of the moon.

Sydney Eye Hospital
Photograph: Supplied/Mopoke Sydney

Sydney Eye Hospital

Marvel at the remarkable architecture of the Sydney Eye Hospital highlighted in purple light, as Shakespearean theatre unfolds and the Glowing Fountain of Colours (8pm-5am) flows and glows in the dark. 

Let the magicians and street theatre performers beckon you through to the courtyard, reimagined as an Artist Plaza (6pm-6pm) with performers roaming at all hours of the day and night. You can also enjoy visual art displays or watch artists draw live in the courtyard.

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The Domain
Photograph: Supplied/Mopoke Sydney

The Domain

Set your heart ablaze overnight at the Domain. Fire in the Domain (6pm-1am) will see daring artists twirl flames while two glow-in-the-dark pianos battle it out. Lounge in the gardens as you watch, or try a flambé dessert or smoking whisky cocktail from Highland Park.

During the day, accept the white piano’s invitation to ‘Play Me’ (8am-4pm), or take in some Charcoal Cooking (8am-4pm).

State Library of NSW
Photograph: Supplied/Mopoke Sydney

State Library of NSW

Whether you’re in the mood to chill or party, the State Library of NSW will be brimming with activities. Take a Guided Tour (10am-4pm), check out the archives or attend Book Club Brunch (11am-noon) during the day. There will also be Jazz Concerts in front of the Mitchell Building throughout the festival.

Enter the Black Light Tunnel (6pm-2am) during the dark hours, or grab some headphones and join the Silent DJ Party (10pm-7am). If you’re in a more relaxed mood, book in to the Sip and Stargaze session (9-10pm) on the rooftop of the Library Bar and learn about Aboriginal knowledge of the night skies and its connection to Country.

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Australian Museum and St Mary's Cathedral
Photograph: Supplied/Mopoke Sydney

Australian Museum and St Mary's Cathedral

Walk a little further to explore the magnificent sandstone features of St Mary’s Cathedral well beyond its regular opening hours. Standing on the site of the first Catholic chapel in Australia, the cathedral’s architecture in the Gothic Revival style is reminiscent of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. Take a tour through the main cathedral into the expansive crypt, learning the stories of the building.

Likewise, the Australian Museum will stay open until 9pm. Stroll through the exhibitions at your leisure with free general entry and the blockbuster Sharks exhibition late for ticket holders. You can also relax with live music and a pop-up bar in Hintze Hall.

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