Adelaide’s famous for its festivals and events. Here’s our list of favourites – month by month.
- Tour Down Under is not just a world class bike race (Australia’s answer to the Tour de France) it’s the week when Adelaide goes bike mad. The tour village is based in Victoria Square. Some days the riders race through the city, some days out in the regions. Lots of opportunity for amateur but serious (lycra) cyclists to get involved. And lots of opportunity to see, and get up close to, some of the best professional cyclists in the world.
- South Australia has a huge German tradition (think Barossa Valley). The Schutzenfest is a community event where that tradition is celebrated. Beer (and lots of it), sausages, music and …….shooting. (It is called the Schutzenfest!).
- Australia Day falls on 26 January. Adelaide celebrates with a parade – followed by a free concert and fireworks in Elder Park (on the river). For cricket fans there is an international game of cricket on at the nearby Adelaide Oval – so you can watch the game, stroll out at about 10, grab a drink and some food on the banks of the river, and take in the fireworks. Not a bad way to celebrate our national day.
- For wine and food buffs, Crush is a weekend Festival in late January. Twenty minutes from the city, in the the cooler, leafy Adelaide Hills this classy festival celebrates wine, food and all things ‘Hills’. This is where our ‘cool climate’ wines are found. Try the whites and sparklings especially. Some free stuff, lots of excellent ticketed events.
- The Cellar Door Festival is the weekend where the wineries come to the city. Rather than tour the regions, pay about $35 (more for two or three day passes) and, in one spot, taste what the state has to offer. There are master classes, food tastings, beer tastings, cooking demonstrations, you name it. A MUST DO for serious wine buffs and amateur enthusiasts alike. No obligation to buy, but if you do they sort out delivery.
- The Fringe . What can I say? This is one of THE best events in the world. For one month every year hundreds of performers of every sort take over our city – performing comedy, music, theatre, everything!! The only downside is that it is so good it can be overwhelming. Best advice: be adventurous. (Tickets are cheap so you can afford to make mistakes.) Buy the Advertiser and read the reviews. Spend time at the Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony (both in the Park Lands at the east end of Rundle St). Check out what’s happening at the Royal Croquet Club (at Adelaide University in 2019). All three venues are fenced off spaces filled with bars, restaurants and performance spaces (read ‘tents’). All three have ticket offices on site – so you can arrive, have a look at what’s on, and grab a ticket on the spot. All three are worth visiting even if you don’t buy a ticket – just soak up the atmosphere, watch the free stuff, grab a meal or have a drink.
They call it Mad March – but there is no better time to be in Adelaide. In fact there is no better place to be IN THE WORLD than Adelaide in March. Here’s why:
- Firstly the Fringe is still on – for the first two weeks of March. (See Feb)
- On top of that we have the Adelaide Festival of Arts. While the Fringe is not curated (anyone who can find a venue can perform), the Festival definitely is. It brings to Adelaide the VERY BEST the world has to offer. Acclaimed Director Neil Armfield and his colleague Rachel Healey are the Artistic Directors for 2017, 2018 and 2019. Their 2019 program, launched on 20 October, is sensational.
- One of the free things the Festival provides is Writers Week. Now, if you are serious about books, you really MUST take a week off work one year and spend it here. Under tents in the Park Lands, authors from all over Australia and the world talk about books, and life. There is food and wine for sale, a pop up book shop on site, book launches and book signings. Entertaining, enriching, at times challenging. And (have I already mentioned this?) TOTALLY free.
- Then there’s WOMAdelaide!!! A long weekend of music from all over the world, presented on 7 stages, under the beautiful trees of Botanic Park (10 mins walk from North Terrace). Again this is one of THE great events – known not just for its music but also for its ‘vibe’. (To say it’s relaxed doesn’t really do it justice.) Look at the lineup on line – but expected to be thrilled by people you have never heard of. Beware though. Once you have been to one WOMAD you will want to come back.
- If all that culture is too much to bear there is always the Adelaide500. An outstanding weekend of motor racing on an inner city track. (It is hard to miss – you can hear the revving engines from all over the city.) Topped off by big name outdoor concerts in the evenings.
- And on the second Monday in March we run the Adelaide Cup. This horse racing event, which cracks its own public holiday, was first run in 1864. Get your best clothes on, hop on the tram, and head out to Morphettville race track – for the biggest day of Adelaide’s racing calendar.
- By April the AFL football season has well and truly started. Adelaide Oval games are thing to behold. You can now do a roof climb, during a game!
- Lots of locals go away for Easter. Those that don’t go to the Oakbank Racing Carnival – or so it seems. A much loved picnic racing carnival – when tens of thousands of people take over the (usually) sleepy Adelaide Hills town of Oakbank (25 minutes from the city). It starts on Easter Saturday (one of the most attended race days in the country). The premier race – the Great Eastern Steeplechase – is run on Easter Monday.
- Anzac Day is celebrated around Australia on 25 April. It began as a commemoration of the landing of Australian and New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli, now in Turkey, in WW1 (a venture that ended very badly indeed). Now it honours all those who have served their country in the armed forces. It starts with a service at dawn, at the War Memorial on North Terrace, and is followed by a march down King William Street. Even if military history is not your thing, this is a moving event that says something about what it is to be Australian.
- Tasting Australia, at the end of April, is Australia’s premier culinary festival. It’s home base is Victoria Square (a great place to start), and events happen all over the city and the state. Tastings, talks, masterclasses, lunches – many one-of-a-kind, some ticketed, some free. All excellent.
- DreamBig Childrens’ Festival is the largest festival of its kind in the world – with local, national and international productions including lots of stuff aimed at schools and families. It’s held every two years. There’s one this year.
- May is also history month in Adelaide. The HistorySA co-ordinates a month long program of events: the History Festival. Some of the events are tiny community activities, some quite grand affairs. The program is sorted by location – so you can find easily find the things happening near you. Tours, talks, exhibitions, walks. Much of it free. Definitely worth a look.
- And for those who want to venture out of the city there is the Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend – this year from 17-20 May. Great food, great wine (try the Reisling especially), beautiful location (about 2 hours drive north).
- Thank God for the Cabaret Festival! Run in the depths of winter, this fabulous showcase of local, national and international talent gets Adelaidians out of their living rooms and back out for some fun. The word ‘cabaret’ is clearly read widely – basically if a show includes music, it’s on. The festival happens mostly in and around the Festival Theatre and, with so much musical talent in one spot, things sometimes happen spontaneously in the bar between and after shows. The festival has even spawned its own little Cabaret Fringe – which features more local artists (some very good) in more local venues.
- And in the middle of the month (8-10 June) there is the McLaren Vale Sea and Vines Festival. McLaren Vale is the most accessible wine region in the country. (You can get there by bus!) and on Sea and Vines weekend it is packed. Best to find an event or venue you like the look of and book.
A quieter winter month – to give us time to get over the Cabaret Festival I suspect.
- July is a month long celebration of the guitar at the Adelaide Guitar Festival. The main program happens biannually (next one in 2020) but increasingly there is activity in the ‘off’ year. It includes a great program of ‘Guitars in Bars’ – local live music in pubs and bars across the city and the state.
- The Cellar Door Winter Edit (19-20 July) is a boutique take on the much loved summer Cellar Door Festival – with wine, spirits, food and great music. A sampler of what the state has to offer – on the banks of the river (in the Convention Centre).
- There is the impressive Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize. It has big prize money so it attracts fine artists (painters, print makers, sculptors, ceramicists, glass makers, you name it) from all over Australia and beyond. This is the Archibald Prize for the natural sciences. It is biennial. The next one is in 2020.
- And there’s always the footy!
- In August we celebrate our artists. SALA (South Australian Living Artists) Festival is an open access festival that allows visual artists to exhibit their work as part of a larger co-ordinated event. So there are exhibitions all over town – in galleries of course, but also in shops, businesses, pubs, restaurants – some by rank amateurs, some by local greats. Again the program of events is sorted by location – so you can easily see who is exhibiting near you. Venues display the SALA sticker.
- In September we turn our faces north, to Asia – and invite some of that region’s best artists and performers to show their wares to Australian audiences at the OzAsia Festival. But this remarkable event is not just about entertainment (although there is a LOT here to entertain, and even astound, us) – it is also proudly about helping us to get a better understanding of our neighbours. The festival usually focuses on a particular region. Best advice: Buy a ticket to something you have never heard of, and expect to be impressed. And try to make it to the free Moon Lantern Festival on the banks of the river.
- September brings another cross cultural event – the Royal Adelaide Show, where country South Australia meets the city. ‘The Show’ starts on the first Friday of the month and runs for 10 days. It’s in Goodwood, just across the Park Lands from the city. (Take a tram or train.) There are showbags, rides and sideshows of course – but there are also proper old show events like wood chopping, horse events, and sponge cake judging. Personal favourites: the poultry shed (all those incredible chooks, all those poultry fanciers), the animal nursery, the cake judging, the dog trials, the CWA café.
- For over 25,000 runners and walkers, September is also City-Bay time. This much-loved fun run starts in the City and finishes 12km later on the beach at Glenelg. (There is also a 6km course.) It’s on 21 September this year. Register on line. Run down, get the tram back.
- It’s also footy finals time – both for AFL (the national league) and SANFL (the local league). If there is an AFL final in town (it’s rare) and you can get your hands on a ticket – take it. Failing that, an SANFL final at Adelaide Oval is also well worth a visit.
- Named by Variety Magazine as one of the world’s top 50 film festivals, Adelaide Film Festival (10-21 October) is unique in that it not only shows films, it commissions them – building on SA’s long tradition of film making (think Picnic at Hanging Rock, Storm Boy). The film critic Margaret Pomeranz says ‘The Adelaide Film Festival is to me the most important cultural event to do with cinema in Australia. I never miss it .’ If it’s good enough for Margaret…….
- Also in October, Tarnanthi, the Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. Exhibits in the Art Gallery and other sites across the city showcase the best art this country produces. Outstanding!
- It is only appropriate that SA, proudly the first state to decriminalise homosexuality, should now have a gay and lesbian festival. Feast Festival has gone from being a grass roots community event back in the late 90s to the biggest event of its kind in the country. Two fabulous weeks of LGBTIQ arts and culture (and parties). Straight people very welcome!!
- The Adelaide Horse Trials is a three day event (dressage, showjumping and cross country) held in the middle of a city of 1 million+ people. (Thank you Colonel Light for planning in the Park Lands). It is Olympic standard – one of only 6 events in the world to get that rating. So you get to see the best riders in the world do their stuff, on some of the best horses in the world.
- And then there’s the pageant! It started in the Depression – when John Martins department store thought it would do its bit to cheer up the children of Adelaide. Now it’s a not-to-be-missed tradition. On the second Saturday of November, over 400,000 people (mostly children) fill the city and line the 3.5 km route to see the floats and bands go by. It is the largest event of its kind in the world and, while it is sponsored by the four local credit unions, it is remarkably free of the commercial awfulness sometimes associated with Christmas. There is no merchandise to buy, no vendors selling fast food. Just children, and the people who love them, in the streets soaking up the joy of Christmas. I don’t care how old you are – if you’re in town that day, GO.
- There is often a Test Match at Adelaide Oval in December. (For the uninitiated that is a 5 day – yes 5 day – cricket game). If you can get a ticket, go – even if you don’t like cricket. Day 5 is sometimes free.
- And don’t forget Carols by Candlelight. It’s corny, but it’s fabulous. Sing carols, by candlelight, on the banks of the river, with thousands of other people, in aid of childrens charities. It is hard not to like this event.
- New Year’s Eve? Fireworks – of course. At 9 (for children) and 12 in Elder Park. Also at Glenelg. Both events family friendly – meaning that alcohol consumption is monitored pretty closely.