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Ten amazing experiences you have to try in Sydney

With unique, fun events lined up year-round, you’ll find your merrymaking stretched from dusk to dawn when you visit Sydney next time.

No matter what your interests are, you’ll find something new to try, see and do in Sydney. So book your flight, pack your bag, and get your cameras and artistic side ready for a fabulous trip where glittering festivals await!

1. Australia Day

Sydney Harbour on Australia Day. -- PHOTO: ETHAN ROHOFF, DESTINATION NSW

Sydney is in full celebratory mode during Australia Day, its national day, on January 26. The day starts with the WugulOra Ceremony, a symbolic moment to commence the ceremony, and the raising of the Aboriginal and Australian flags on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

A group of aboriginals performing during the WugulOra Indigenous Festival at Sydney Opera House for Australia Day. -- PHOTO: JAMES HORAN, DESTINATION NSW

In the afternoon, head to the family-friendly Summer Playground in Hyde Park or enjoy a picnic by the harbour to soak up the views and atmosphere of this enjoyable day for everyone.

By nightfall, Darling Harbour comes alive with more events. The Harbour Concert celebrating great Australian music kicks off from 6pm, followed by the Darling Harbour Australia Day Spectacular that showcases lights, more music and fabulous fireworks.

An aboriginal elder who was a part of the WugulOra Ceremony. This is a symbolic moment for the country. -- PHOTO: JAMES HORAN, DESTINATION NSW

Celebrations start from January 24 and continue over the weekend to January 26, with a full programme of activities in and around Sydney.

When: January 26, 2015

Where: Various locations across Sydney


2. Sydney Festival

From late night burlesque, contemporary dance and outdoor concerts to major art installations and international theatre, the range of free and ticketed events during Sydney Festival 2015 promises something for everyone. With around 400 performances and 1,000 artists in more than 30 avenues around town, Sydney Festival presents the best of the world’s performing and visual arts every January.

The crowd enjoying a concert by Hot Dub Time Machine. -- PHOTO: CAROLINE MCCREDIE, DESTINATION NSW

Experience Sydney’s unique spaces such as Festival Village in Hyde Park, Sydney Town Hall, and The Domain as they come to life at festival time. The city’s famous venues, including the Sydney Opera House, Carriageworks, and Riverside Theatres in Parramatta, will be buzzing with exciting performances.

Crowds enjoying the Sydney Festival Bar in Hyde Park. -- PHOTO: CAROLINE MCCREDIE, DESTINATION NSW

Sydney Festival 2015 will also showcase Tabac Rouge, an event exclusive to Sydney and Australia. For his most extravagant work to date, James Thierrée, one of the world's greatest circus performers, tells the story of power and society through a whirling circus and dance act.

 When: January 8 - 26, 2015

Where: Various locations across Sydney


3. Vivid Sydney

More than 1.4 million people attended Vivid Sydney 2014, making it one of the most popular events in the world.

Luna Park and the Sydney Harbour Bridge all lit up for Vivid Sydney 2013. -- PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

This annual outdoor event is a unique celebration of light, music and ideas. Featuring immersive light installations and grand-scale projections, performances from local and international musicians and an ideas exchange forum with leading creative thinkers, this is a unique experience that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Children having fun with the multimedia interactive light sculptures. -- PHOTO: JAMES HORAN, DESTINATION NSW

You’ll be enthralled by the multimedia interactive light sculptures and 3-D mapped building projections that transform famous buildings and landmarks in and around the Sydney Central Business District and Sydney Harbour into a canvas of art. And, it’s absolutely free.

A couple entertaining the crowd with a tune from the grand piano. -- PHOTO: DANIEL BOUD, DESTINATION NSW

This cultural event has become Sydney’s major winter festival, featuring installations brought to life by 140 artists from 15 countries, 80 live music shows, and 550 speakers at more than 180 creative industry events.

When: May 22 - June 8, 2015

Where: Various locations across Sydney


4. Blackmores Sydney Running FestivalDescribed as one of the most scenic and spectacular courses in Australia, the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival attracts around 36,000 participants annually. With all four events crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it’s the perfect way to enjoy Sydney’s stunning scenery firsthand.

Participants running past the iconic Sydney Opera House. -- PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

Whether you’re a walker, a jogger or a professional runner, the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival is open to runners of all skill levels and ages. Share the experience with your family and friends while doing something worthwhile.

When: September 20, 2015

Where: All four events start in Bradfield Park at Milsons Point. You’ll run across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and finish at the Sydney Opera House (Marathon, Half Marathon and Family Fun Run). The Bridge Run has its own special finish line at the Conservatorium of Music, near the entrance of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival is a memorable experience that is open to runners of all skills and ages. -- PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW


5.  Christmas Lights Spectacular at Hunter Valley Gardens

Sydney will sparkle like never before in the Hunter Valley this Christmas! With a whopping 1.5 million Christmas lights as part of its display, the 60 acres of stunning gardens at Hunter Valley Gardens will be ablaze with colour.

Kids enjoying the beautiful Christmas lights. -- PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

The sound and light show will include new displays, such as all-time favourites Candyland, Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland and more. Festive food, beverages, children’s entertainment, such as a jumping castle and rides, and a special visit from Santa (with photos captured by professional photographers), are part of the fun. -- PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

Every year, Hunter Valley Gardens makes several additions to the Christmas Lights Spectacular with choreographed music and light displays. With the Christmas tale narrated over loud speakers at the Nativity scene and eye-catching sights, such as Cinderella's Pumpkin Coach in fairy lights, this experience is bound to create lasting memories for you and your loved ones. When: November 7, 2014 - January 26, 2015 (Closed December 25)

Where: Hunter Valley Gardens, Broke Road Pokolbin


6.    Sydney Royal Easter Show

After Vivid Sydney, the Sydney Royal Easter Show is Australia’s second largest annual event, attracting close to 900,000 people each year. Ever since the first event held in 1823, it has been a tradition to celebrate Australia’s rural culture, from the traditional to modern-day lifestyles. The event is a unique mix of agricultural competitions, animal experiences, entertainment, carnival fun, shopping, food and more.

Participants competing in a wood chopping competition. -- PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

If you love baby animals, the animal arena offers the perfect experience. Touch cute and cuddly farmyard animals in the Farmyard Nursery or the fleece of a sheep during sheep shearing, and see the finest animals on display in the animal pavilions.

Don’t miss the exciting District Exhibits, featuring creative and artistic installations assembled from quality grain, wool, fruit and vegetables. Each display consists of more than 10,000 pieces of the best quality, fresh produce from five agricultural districts throughout New South Wales and other states. Get involved by cheering on the five districts as they undergo five days of judging to compete for a prize.

The adrenaline-pumping carnival at Sydney Olympic Park. -- PHOTO: ETHAN ROHLOFF, DESTINATION NSW

If you’re after more adrenaline-fuelled action with the kids, you’ll enjoy Australia’s largest carnival with its thrilling rides and games. If 100 rides aren’t thrilling enough, head to the Coca-Cola Carnival for fast and furious rides, such as the Crazy Spinning Coaster and Extreme.

When: March 26 - April 8, 2015

Where: Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park


7. Sculpture by the Sea

Get absorbed in nature and art at the beautiful Bondi Beach, transformed into a stunning sculpture park overlooking the Pacific Ocean by the works of over 70 local, interstate, and international artists.

An intriguing sculpture by Ken Unsworth AM for Sculpture by the Sea Bondi 2013. -- PHOTO: CLYDE YEE, DESTINATION NSW

Sculpture by the Sea is the world's largest annual free-to-the-public contemporary sculpture exhibition that began from a budding artist’s simple vision to create visual arts in Sydney. The exhibition is featured along the dramatic Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach coastal walk.

It’s a must-see for everyone - the incredible sculptures created by artists from 16 countries are matched by the beautiful panoramas of coast and ocean.

The public walking along Bondi Beach where Matt Calvert’s massive sculpture is displayed. --  PHOTO: S BURNS, DESTINATION NSW

Sculpture Inside is an indoor exhibition of sculpture by invited artists, held by Sculpture by the Sea to coincide with the outdoor exhibition. The exhibition, at Mark's Park in Tamarama, provides a wonderful opportunity to purchase works by emerging, mid-career and established Australian and international artists.

When: October 23 - November 9, 2015

Where: Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk, Sydney


8. Sydney on stage

Sydney is famous for staging world-renowned musical productions in iconic venues, such as the Sydney Opera House and Capitol Theatre. Once again, in 2015, the city plays host to several acclaimed musicals that are set to become must-see experiences.

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has become a huge part of the cultural landscape, combining all the things Sydney does best. -- PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour – AIDA

AIDA blends battle scenes of the Aida kingdom with an emotional royal love triangle and powerhouse vocals, guaranteed to make it a night to remember.When: March 27 - April 26, 2015

Where: Mrs Macquaries Point, SydneyLes Misérables

With themes of love, courage, and the human spirit, the cast of the production of Boublil & Schönberg's legendary musical Les Misérables is thrilled to perform in Sydney. --  PHOTO: MATT MURPHY

Fans of the Broadway hit musical have the chance to experience a brand new production of Les Misérables in Sydney from March 2015.

Experience the emotional power and spectacle of the show with your family and friends while enjoying a fantastic new staging and the scenery inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings.

When: From March 2015

Where: Capitol Theatre, Sydney

Matilda the Musical

Matilda The Musical will continue to capture the imagination of young and old alike when it makes its Australian debut in Sydney. -- PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

Winner of 50 international awards, including 12 for Best Musical, Matilda the Musical makes its Australian debut in 2015.

The stage musical, which has taken Broadway and London’s West End by storm, is based on the children's novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. The musical has received widespread critical acclaim and box-office popularity, winning seven 2012 Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical - the most won by a single show at the time.

When: From August 2015

Where: Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star, Sydney


9. ARIA Week and ARIA Awards

ARIA Week and ARIA Awards are the creation of The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).

In the lead up to the 28th Annual ARIA Awards in 2015, there will be a week-long programme of gigs, showcases, conferences and events. ARIA Week will have Sydney abuzz with the best new artists and music industry conferences showcasing the talents of the Australian music scene.

When: November 2015Where: Various locations across Sydney


10. Sydney International Art Series

Exclusively brought to Sydney every summer, the 2014-15 Sydney International Art Series showcases two inspired exhibitions - Pop to popism and Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration.

Popular, witty, sexy and glamorous, Pop to Popism takes over an entire floor of the Art Gallery of New South Wales with works from the giants of the Pop art era - Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, and David Hockney. Re-live the movement that changed art forever with over 200 works, including masterpieces such as Roy Lichtenstein’s In the car and his first-ever comic-style painting, Look Mickey, as well as Andy Warhol’s Triple Elvis and David Hockney’s Portrait of an artist.

There will be two new features here: POP PLAY, a creative family space with interactive art-making activities, and POP CAFÉ, which provides special food and beverage from the Gallery’s caterers.

One of the works of artist Chuck Close, which will be featured at the exhibition. An acrylic on gessoed canvas, Bob 1969-70. -- PHOTO: PACE GALLERY

Held at The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) is a personal and intimate look into Chuck Close and his works. Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration is the largest collection of Close's work ever presented in the southern hemisphere. One of America's best-loved visual artists, Close is celebrated for his large scale, photo-based portrait paintings, some of which include celebrities such as Brad Pitt, President Obama and a fellow artist - Roy Lichtenstein.

When: Pop to popism -- November 1, 2014 - March 1, 2015Where: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney>

When: Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration -- November 20, 2014 - March 15, 2015Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney

PHOTOS: Destination NSW


Plan your Sydney adventure now!

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