Canberra is just about to erupt into a month long feast of festivities and birthday celebrations and everyone is invited to the party. If you’ve been considering a visit, this might just be the incentive you need to come and a perfect time to discover the hidden secrets of the capital as it lights up – literally.
Enlighten Festival (28 February to 15 March)
It all starts on 28 February with Enlighten, Canberra’s 17-day autumn festival when the city turns on a massive party and the national buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle light up with after-dark illuminations and a host of events and performances.
There’s a range of fabulous ticketed events but because we Canberrans love a bargain, there’s also lots and lots of free entertainment. There’s in fact two and a half weeks of entertainment, lights and fun with roving artists, music and all sorts of performances throughout the Enlighten precinct. Many of the national institutions open up at night with special activities during the festival, like a degustation at Old Parliament House, private garden dining at Questacon’s Igloo Garden or night access to the Spy exhibition at the National Archives.
Look out for the Symphony in the Park event (8 March) on the lawns of Commonwealth Park when the Canberra Symphony Orchestra will bring the Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac to symphonic life as the sun goes down. And guess what – it’s free too!
And spoiler alert, it’s a photographer’s and ‘grammer’s dream!
The next day, the city’s takes a day off for its 107th birthday celebrations, with free-flowing entertainment, local musicians, street food, family friendly activities and more. The festival culminates with the annual Skyfire fireworks on 14 March and another chance for an evening outdoors when the skies explode in colours above the lake. Then there’s just one more chance to catch those balloons with an early rise the next day.
So many options!! All the details and program of events can be found on the Enlighten website.
Night Noodle Markets (Reconciliation Place, 28 February – 9 March)
What’s a big street party without food? The Night Noodle Markets are back with new and returning stallholders and a world of tasty treats, and this year with an extended stay. Lots of Asian favourites and international flavours and of course gelato. This year there’s a new doughnut with a Japanese twist made from rice. Lots of places to relax with a drink and plenty of space for the kids to run around. You can check out all the menus here.
If you’re serious about good food, the even better news is that the noodle markets are part of an even bigger event – Good Food Month. That’s a whole month of culinary events and special dinners. I’m off to the special degustation event at funky Monster Bar and Kitchen when Brissie chef Matt Blackwell from GOMA arrives in the Can for a foodie feast with music on the side. Heads up: looks amazing and tix still available.
More info about the events on the Good Food Month website.
Balloon Spectacular (7-15 March)
This is my favourite time of the year in Canberra when the dawn skies fill with coloured balloons gently wafting over the lake and beyond and the kayakers are out in force. It’s one of the rare times I’m inspired to get up early to try and catch them. Always a festival atmosphere on the lawns of Parliament House as the balloons inflate in the dark and gently take shape and rise to float over the city sights. Now in its 31st year, this is a sight you should take in at least once in your life. I’m up to about 20.
If you’re planning on joining in, I’ve got you covered with tips on how to get the best out of the event, including photography tips and some of the best vantage points. This year a giant T-Rex will be joining the flotilla.
Canberra film festival (6 March)
The Academy Award come to Canberra (sort of) with the Lights! Canberra! Action! Film Festival as part of Enlighten. Now in its 17th year, this annual event combines creative film making in a competition. Local film makers have to create a seven minute film based on a given theme and including a number of specified items. On top of that, they have just ten days to make the film. The 12 finalist films are shown at a free event under the stars in the Rose Gardens at Old Parliament House with food and drinks available on site or BYO. More information on their website.
Maybe I’ll see you there?