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Seven Summertime Events That'll Help You Beat the Back-to-Work Blues

The summer break may be over, but there are heaps of fun things to do before winter arrives.
By Concrete Playground
January 17, 2021
By Concrete Playground
January 17, 2021


The summer break may be over, but there are heaps of fun things to do before winter arrives.

We made it through 2020. We're in the throes of a new year, with two months of summer still ahead of us. The holidays are done and dusted, and as we get back into the swing of work it can be easy to get swept up in all the chaos and miss out on the good stuff — like outdoor cinemas, gigs, wine festivals and food pop-ups.

It's time to make the most of the summertime events you probably meant to check out in 2020 but didn't. New year, new you. And that means getting outside and embracing the best of Melbourne life. Here are seven things to do this summer and autumn to help lift your mood. Get out there and enjoy it.

  • 7
    Summertime Fling Festival

    There’s never been a better time to get acquainted with the top-notch wineries located right here in Melbourne’s own backyard. And that’s especially the case given that a slew of Macedon Ranges-based cellar doors are coming together to showcase their finest drops for the inaugural Summertime Fling Festival.

    From Saturday, January 9–Sunday, January 31, wineries right across this cool climate wine-growing region will throw open their doors to deliver a jam-packed program of wine, food and music events for all palates. You can discover the region’s up-and-coming pinot producers with a special tasting festival at Lyons Will Estate (January 16) or head to Hanging Rock Winery for a Sunday session of burgers, tunes and art (January 24). And with stacks more live music, masterclasses, tours, feasts and tastings among this broad-ranging lineup, it seems the Macedon Ranges might be just the fling you’re looking for this summer.

  • 6

    When the warm weather rolls around each year, Melburnians usually have multiple reasons to head to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. For those feeling festive, it’s where Carols by Candlelight is held. And for anyone keen on catching orchestral shows under the evening sky, it’s where the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has held its free summer series for decades.

    Come 2021, the iconic venue will also play host to a new event: Live at the Bowl. It’s a response to this past chaotic year, with holding a COVID-safe summer festival its number-one aim. Well, that and giving the city’s residents something fun to add to their calendars after 2020’s struggles.

    Live at the Bowl will run from Friday, January 8–Friday, April 23 and will feature more than 40 performances. The eclectic lineup is stacked with local talent from different eras and genres including Missy Higgins, Lime Cordiale, Daryl Braithwaite, Sampa the Great and Birds of Tokyo performing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. If you’re looking to laugh, Emmy Award-winner Hannah Gadsby is also heading up a night of comedy alongside Zoë Coombs Marr.

    Image: Jason Lau

  • 5

    The National Gallery of Victoria has your summer art fix sorted, showcasing works from over 100 artists as part of its ambitious NGV Triennial exhibition. And now the fun is set to continue after hours, too, with the ultimate supporting act — a month-long series of tunes, performances, eats and drinks, dubbed Triennial Extra.

    Taking over the NGV International precinct nightly from Friday, January 15–Sunday, February 14, this free festival will be making the most of those balmy summer evenings to come. As well as late-night access to the NGV Triennial from 5–9pm, visitors can tuck into an exclusive menu of modern Indian eats, with a pop-up restaurant from Adam D’Sylva’s acclaimed Tonka descending on the NGV’s Garden Restaurant. Elsewhere, you’ll find pop-up bars from the likes of Asahi and Yering Station, and bespoke Triennial-inspired pastries from the famed Lune Croissanterie.

    Meanwhile, Melbourne Music Week has jumped on board to help curate a lineup of DJ sets, gracing the Triennial Summer Stage in the fairy-lit Grollo Equiset Garden each night. Across the month, you’ll catch sounds from the likes of Andee Frost, Pjenné, Sui Zhen, Claire Knight, IN2STELLAR, Edd Fisher and many more.

  • 4

    After spending so much time indoors in 2020, we’re all keen to be outdoors as much as possible (while the good weather lasts). And one spot you can soak up the good vibes is Federation Square, which is transforming into a garden oasis this season. The CBD space has unveiled new grass zones, deck chairs, colourful beanbags and a jam-packed program of free happenings to keep you entertained (and comfy) for those lazy summer afternoons and evenings ahead.

    The roster of events includes live music, wellbeing classes — think yoga, cooking demos and life drawing — plus screenings of major sports events and an outdoor cinema screening classics like Muriel’s Wedding, The Great Gatsby and Red Dog. In collaboration with ACMI, Fed Square will screen a silent film on the digital facade with a live score accompaniment on selected evenings, too.

    And, when you get hungry, you can get food delivered from any of the surrounding Fed Square restaurants and bars, including Riverland, Mama’s Canteen and Atiyah Lebanese Kitchen.

    Image: Liam Neal

  • 3
    So Frenchy So Chic Le Long Lunch

    Fancy prancing through fields laced with the charm of provincial France? It’s just casual summer weekendery when So Frenchy So Chic is in town. The ever-popular one-day French festival is waltzing back to Melbourne in 2021, although this time there’ll be a few changes. If you haven’t been before, expect an entire afternoon of French-inspired niceties, including (but not limited to) gourmet picnic hampers, top-notch tipples and a chill French soundtrack. But, this particular event has been badged ‘Le Long Lunch‘, rather than being called a festival.

    From 11am on Sunday, February 21 at Rippon Lea House and Gardens, you’ll listen to tunes from Tame Impala’s Julien Barbagallo, ex-Paris street musician Nadéah, Melbourne-based five-piece Bananagun, Melbourne DJ Mike Gurrieri and So Frenchy So Chic founder Jean-François Ponthieux. And, you’ll do so in a group with your mates — because, to stick to social distancing requirements, tickets are only being sold in lots of six or ten.

    This picnic is fully catered and licensed, too, with So Frenchy putting on the works. You can pre-order a picnic box, or grab something from Frederic, Romu, Tarts Anon, Milk The Cow and L’Hôtel Gitan on the day. As for drinks, expect French champagne and beer from Laurent Perrier and Kronenbourg 1664.

     Images: Max Kruse.

  • 2
    Jerry Mai and Friends' Epic Summer Barbecue Celebration

    For the past couple of months, Jerry Mai — the acclaimed chef behind Bia Hoi and Annam — has been giving the Mornington Peninsula a taste of her culinary prowess, firing up the grill for a barbecue-focused residency at Ocean Eight Winery. But if you’ve missed out thus far, fear not, because the upcoming weekend finale is set to be the biggest yet.

    On January Friday, 22 and Saturday, January 23, Mai will be whipping up her usual storm of Viet flavours; think, fried chicken with fish sauce caramel, and coconut-braised beef rib bao. Then, from Sunday, January 24 to Tuesday, January 26, she’s invited some legendary food friends to join her on the charcoal grills, slinging punchy eats best enjoyed on a picnic rug with a bright local wine in hand.

    Sunday sees Mai and George Calombaris duel it out in a Greece vs Vietnam culinary battle, with Alice Zaslavsky as MC and the winning chef voted by diners themselves. Then, on Monday, Masterchef alum Sarah Tiong challenges Mai to a Southeast Asian cook-off, while TV chef favourites Diana Chan and Khanh Ong go head to head whipping up a final feast on January 26.

    Images: Michelle Jarni and Made With Moxie

  • 1
    Garden Gathering Vol. 1

    This year, Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens clocks up a huge 175 years. And to mark this milestone birthday, it’s inviting punters along for an in-depth glimpse at some of its most iconic landscapes. A new series of free Garden Gathering events kicks off on Saturday, February 20, each one focused on celebrating a different aspect of the historic 38-hectare precinct.

    First up, is a deep-dive into the newly completed arid garden, and surrounding elements like the eucalypt lawn and Guilfoyle’s Volcano. This little pocket of the gardens features a whopping 3000 arid plants, including a vibrant array of striking cacti and succulents that’ll have you plotting your next plant shop visit, stat.

    Bring along a picnic lunch, and settle in for an afternoon of nature appreciation and knowledge. Running from 10am–3pm, each Garden Gathering event will deliver a fresh program of guided tours, curator talks and self-guided activities, along with a series of creative workshops designed to inspire some green thumb action of your own.


Top image: Triennial Extra


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