Canberra is the fortunate home of a number of national landmarks, such as the War Memorial, galleries and museums that provide the perfect base for special events and exhibitions. Canberra’s doors are open every day of the year to visitors with an assortment of activities - from art and culture, sport, food and wine, there really is something for everyone. If a trip to Canberra is in the pipeline, here are some annual events that are well-worth planning your trip around:
Canberra’s Enlighten Festival is a calendar highlight for locals and visitors alike. As the weather starts to cool down, this festival is a brilliant way to celebrate the start of autumn. The best thing about Enlighten is that the festival is comprised of a number of individual events that take place throughout the festival period, such as the Canberra Balloon Spectacular in the mornings, as well as Symphony in the Park and Skyfire fireworks on Canberra Day. A number of Canberra’s national attractions also get a “make-over” as stunning images are projected onto them at night and visitors can enjoy the Canberra Night Noodle Markets.
The Enlighten Festival coincides with Canberra Day - the Capital’s annual birthday to celebrate the official naming of Canberra, marked with a public holiday. The exact date of Canberra Day usually varies from year to year, as it falls on the second Monday in March.
Commonwealth Park is the destination for an action-packed program of live music and entertainment for the whole family. There are also amusement park rides, face-painting and other activities for the kids, as well as delicious food options from local food stalls. The weather is usually as good as it gets at that time of the year, with warm (but not hot) sunny days and mild evenings, so it’s the perfect time of year to pack a picnic and hang out in the park.
ANZAC Day is a special day throughout Australia, but the Canberra War Memorial really goes all-out to put on a spectacular series of commemorative services that honour our ex and active service men and women. The order of service is generally as follows: Dawn Service followed by ANZAC Day breakfast, then the National Ceremony, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commemorative Ceremony, followed by the Last Post Ceremony to conclude the day’s events. Even if you can’t get to the Dawn Service, these other services provide additional opportunities to participate in the day. There are also a number of Two-Up events at various venues throughout the day. The War Memorial regularly hosts exhibitions and special events for visitors to enjoy year-round, so a visit anytime you are in Canberra is highly recommended.
Springtime in Canberra is magical. After a few cold months the locals really embrace sunny spring days, as well as the beauty of emerging flowering bulbs, which they eagerly share with Canberra visitors. A renowned annual event, Floriade is a must-see for interstate visitors, particularly since it is a free event. Centrally located in Canberra’s Commonwealth Park (adjacent to Lake Burley Griffin) there are good public transport links as well as convenient parking, but it is recommended to get there early to snag a parking spot close by. NightFest is an ingenious event to ensure that Floriade’s flowers can be enjoyed even when the sun goes down. Many of the flower beds are illuminated and special performances from comedians, circus performers and other acts make it a fun night out. There are also unique installations and delicious food options for the night-time crowd. NightFest is open from 3 October to 6 October 2019, 6.30pm – 10.30pm (weather permitting).
In honour of Canberra’s sister city, Nara in Japan, the Canberra Nara Candle Festival is held at the Nara Peace Park in Lennox Gardens every October. The festival features a variety of Japanese and Australian arts and crafts, including origami, lantern making, ikebana and calligraphy. At sunset, 2000 candles illuminate the park to signify the strength of the relationship between these two cities.
If you find yourself in Canberra over public holidays such as New Year’s Eve or Australia Day, you will be treated to some fantastic fireworks displays. Australia Day also offers a great opportunity to pack a picnic and hang out with family and friends at Regatta Point or Patrick White Lawns, where you can enjoy live music and a range of sporting and interactive activities such as cricket, golf and more. Lounging on the grass at the Yacht Club and soaking up some Aussie-flavoured live music with a box of fish and chips and a cold drink is also a great way to spend Australia Day in Canberra.
In addition to these major events, visitors to Canberra can take their pick of current exhibitions at the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, National Library, or National Museum, live music and shows at the Canberra Theatre, or a sporting event such as rugby at GIO Stadium or the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport). There are also craft and farmers markets most weekends, as well as exhibitions at EPIC (Exhibition Park in Canberra) and the National Convention Centre. Add in a visit to local wineries and food producers and you’ll be pushed to fit it all into a weekend!