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Ten Sydney Solstice Highlights You Should Have on Your Radar This Winter

Don’t hibernate — head to debaucherous feasts, aquarium nightclubs and music-filled stargazing sessions instead.
By Samantha Teague
June 04, 2021
By Samantha Teague
June 04, 2021


in partnership with

Don’t hibernate — head to debaucherous feasts, aquarium nightclubs and music-filled stargazing sessions instead.

While Sydney may be best-known for its sparkling beaches and rooftop bars, it is most magical in winter. And this year, it'll be even more spectacular thanks to the launch of Sydney Solstice. The new two-week event is taking over more than 200 bars, restaurants, art galleries and live music venues across multiple suburbs for a series of pop-ups, gigs and light shows that'll convince even the sleepiest of bears to skip hibernation.

Running from Tuesday, June 8 till Sunday, June 20, Sydney Solstice's calendar is large — very large. So, to save you scrolling for hours, we've teamed up with NSW Government via Destination NSW to round up ten highlights, which you should add to your calendar ASAP. Dust off your winter woollies and prepare for a winter of debaucherous feasts, nightclubs inside aquariums and music-filled stargazing sessions.

  • 10

    Sydney’s largest aquarium is transforming into an adults-only, neon nightclub for six nights this June as part of the citywide winter fest. Opening after dark for Sea Life Glow, the aquarium will be filled with pop-up bars and food stalls, plus glow-in-the-dark dancers, magicians and installations by the team behind Sydney’s dessert museum, Sugar Republic.

    If you haven’t put on your dancing shoes since COVID-19 hit, now’s the time. At the centre of Sea Life Glow will be a DJ and dance floor beneath a colourful wave of tropical fish, reef sharks and turtles. Tickets for the event will set you back $55, but include a drink on arrival and ‘gourmet’ sausage sizzle, as well as access to the photobooth and (most importantly) the dance floor.

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  • 9

    One of the city’s most exciting new food precincts is turning it on for Sydney Solstice. Aptly named South Eveleigh, the collection of heritage-listed railway sheds is now home to the likes of Maurice Terzini and Matt Whiley’s no-waste bar Re; Kylie Kwong’s new restaurant; a nine-seat ramen joint by the RaRa Ramen crew; and Middle Eastern favourite Bekya. South Eveleigh Solstice Festival is the hub’s first major public event, and it’s going down on Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19.

    At the two-day fest, you’ll be able to try bites and cocktails from said eateries (and more) while perusing art installations, listening to live music and attending workshops about native Australian plants at the precinct’s community rooftop garden. A free street party will be happening, too, so if you haven’t had a chance to explore this new spot, here’s a good excuse.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 8

    While Sydney’s inner city isn’t blessed with snow each winter, you can pretend you’re in a charming village in the European alps at this winter wonderland right by the harbour. Don your mittens — and that beanie you knitted during lockdown — and head to Darling Harbour Winter Festival stat. Here, you’ll be able to zoom down a giant arctic slide, spin around an ice skating rink, watch fireworks glittering over the water and snack and sip on warming winter treats at the sprawling food market at Tumbalong Park.

    There’ll also be live performances, DJs and bands for when you just want to soak up the atmosphere. And, if you haven’t yet put those Dine & Discover vouchers to good use, you can redeem them for a session on the ice rink or something to eat from the market afterwards.

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  • 7

    Badu Gili has seen the Sydney Opera House sails light up for a spell since back in 2017 — and you can bet the dazzling art projection and live entertainment program has made its way onto the Sydney Solstice bill. Each night at sunset, the sails of the Sydney icon come alive with a six-minute animation, called Badu Gili: Wonder Women, showcasing the work and stories of six female First Nations artists. Artworks previously shown in 2017 and 2018 will also feature.

    On top of the nightly luminous projections, Badu Gili: Winter Nights promises live music, accompanied by dance performances and poetry readings, all taking place on the Opera House steps. There’ll be a pop-up bar, too, overseen by a First Nations chef and serving cocktails and snacks featuring native Australian ingredients.

    Image: Sydney Opera House

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  • 6

    Yeehaw, cowboys and cowgirls — a country music festival is descending on the inner west. Running over Saturday, June 12 and Sunday, June 13, the event will see some of the city’s best country and country-adjacent artists take to the stage at small bars, pubs, galleries, record stores, clothing shops and more across Newtown and its surrounds.

    The festival’s main event will take place at the Sydney Park Amphitheatre, where All Our Exes Live in Texas, Caitlin Harnett & The Pony Boys, Leroy Macqueen, Babitha, Kasey Chambers and more will pull on their cowboy boots and serenade the masses. The team at Route 66 has also programmed a series of free shows at venues along Enmore Road, including The Midnight Special, Cottonmouth Records and Jacoby’s.

    Image: Caitlin Harnett & The Pony Boys. Photo by Tom Wilkinson

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  • 5

    A debaucherous feast that’d even impress the Queen of Hearts is taking over Sydney Town Hall this winter. Fittingly called The Queen’s Feast, the event will see a meal prepared by some of the city’s top chefs paired with live music, art, performance and an ‘unexpected surprise or two’ — all set to the theme of a twisted, dark last supper.

    Dessert royalty Anna Polyviou, MasterChef Australia’s Sarah Tiong, Claire Van Vuuren from Bloodwood and Bart Jr‘s George Woodyard are preparing the four-course meal, which’ll be served up alongside wine by Hunter Valley’s Lisa McGuigan. The exact nature of the performance, art and music is still under wraps for now, but you can expect it to be big, bold and breathtaking. Heaps Gay Creator and Sydney Mardi Gras Creative Director Kat Dopper is looking after the whole shebang, while DJ duo Stereogamous, who describe themselves as ‘the gayest band since The Village People’, is overseeing the tunes. Oh, and donning a twisted, dark fancy dress outfit — think black, lace and lots of leather — is highly encouraged.

    Image: Sarah Tiong and George Woodyard. Photo by Zoë Hyland 

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  • 4

    Harry’s in Surry Hills is helping us make up for lost dancing time with a 12-night rave running till 3am every night. Called Altar Danceteria, the event will see the pub transformed into a rave cave with electro tunes, lasers, fluro posters and installations by Babekuhl and Serwah Attufah.

    The Danceteria’s lineup stars some of the country’s best DJs, including Stereogamous, Roy Blues, Body Corp, Santamaria Bros and Finer Things Deejays. The best part? Entry to all the events is absolutely free. Stock up on glow sticks and glitter, folks, this is going to be one helluva party.

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  • 3

    Stargazing, classical music and wine combine at this magical Sydney Solstice event. Taking place at the Sydney Observatory over four nights, the event will feature the world-premiere of ‘Songlines of Our Universe’ — a work by highly lauded composer and Kalkadunga man William Barton.

    A collaboration between Barton and musician Veronique Serret, the piece will be performed live and outside, under the stars. While listening to the six-part performance, you can look up at the Milky Way and Andromeda (astronomical objects that inspired Barton’s composition) through outdoor telescopes. Plus, there’ll be a winter-themed feast with wines and top-notch produce from across NSW.

    Image: Ken Leanfore

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  • 2
    YCK Laneways: Night Over Light

    Earlier this autumn, Sydney’s CBD got a new precinct. Dubbed YCK Laneways, it encompasses 15 bars located across York, Clarence and Kent streets — and it’s turning up the heat this winter.

    Across the 13-night program, the bars and their surrounding outdoor areas will come alive with live music, tarot readings, crime stories, DJs, drag queen bingo and 90s-themed music nights. You’ll be able to boogie to Caribbean tunes at The Lobo, Latin American melodies at Esteban, live jazz at Stitch Bar and deep house in Since I Left You‘s courtyard, too. Or, you can wander over to Barrack Street’s outdoor stage, where different musicians are performing each night.

    Image: Since I Left You

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  • 1

    The inaugural Sydney Solstice is going out with a bang — a bang that’s not only delicious, but that’s helping raise money for those in need, too. Third I Fest will see some of the inner west’s best restaurants and bars open their doors, so you can go on a globe-hopping culinary adventure — without the plane ticket.

    You’ll be able to buy a ‘passport’ that’ll let you eat at restaurants, such as Colombo Social, with all money raised going to employment and career opportunities for asylum seekers and Indigenous Australians doing it tough. The three-day event will also feature pop-up art galleries, food and cocktail masterclasses, and an all-day music festival showcasing international, Indigenous and inner west artists (representing the event’s three ‘i’s) on its final day.

    Image: Colombo Social

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Keen to check out the full program? Head to the Sydney Solstice website.

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