Sun, surf and shopping: what other reason do you need to head across the ditch for a Sydney city break? Here's one - Sydney Festival, January's annual extravaganza of music, theatre, circus and more. This year, as always, the programme includes some brilliant free events. These are our picks.
The Flaming Lips
Still heartbroken by the news The Flaming Lips' Auckland show has been cancelled? Jump on a flight to Sydney and see them for free in Sydney's Domain. The Flaming Lips' shows are famously euphoric experiences, with frontman Wayne Coyne leading the audience in a glorious celebration of life, love and pop music. Take it from someone who's been lucky enough to see them play live: it'll be a truly unforgettable night. 9 January, the Domain.
Australia Day Events
If you're looking for free things to do on the 26th, you're spoiled for choice. There are free Australia Day events all over town, many held in collaboration with the Sydney Festival. See legendary Japanese mixmaster DJ Krush perform live on the Sky Terrace above The Star entertainment complex; cheer on the racing ferries at the annual Sydney Harbour Ferrython; and rock out to live music at The Rocks Australia Day, a street festival centred around The Rocks precinct in the CBD. 26 January, various venues.
The Ephemeral City
If you enjoyed playing with white Lego at the art gallery last year, you'll love taking part in super-sized building project The Ephemeral City. Help create a huge temporary “city” using cardboard boxes and tape, then watch its dramatic demolition on Australia Day, January 26th. Keen for even more of a thrill? Get a bird's eye view on the free flying fox, in operation daily. 8-26 January, The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve.
Symphony in the Domain and Opera in the Domain
Over the years, these much-loved free music events have become bona fide Sydney institutions. This year is Symphony in the Domain's 40th anniversary and will feature a “greatest hits” programme culminating, as always, with the show-stopping Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture – cannons, fireworks, church bells and all. A week later, you're invited back to the park for Opera in the Domain, a chance to hear spine-tingling arias sung by some of Australia's biggest opera stars. Symphony in the Domain, 16 January; Opera in the Domain, 23 January.
Arquitectura de Feria
A hand-cranked Ferris wheel, a bicycle-powered carousel and a shooting gallery with olive stones for pellets: Arquitectura de Feria isn't your usual fairground. The Barcelona-based group Antigua | Barbuda uses recycled objects and vintage junk to create rides and other fairground attractions that are powered with human energy instead of noisy generators. It's open daily at the Parramatta festival precinct, where you'll also find food stalls and free music each Friday and Saturday night. 7-24 January, Prince Alfred Square.
Sydney Festival: 7-26 January. sydneyfestival.org.au