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10 Free Things To Do in Sydney

3 January 2019 by Elissa Blake
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Arts and culture gets a bad rap for being pretentious and expensive, but that’s definitely not the case with these amazing free events happening throughout Sydney this winter and beyond. Mark your calendars and get ready to experience the best of the city.

Art After Hours
Art Gallery of New South Wales, The Domain, Sydney, free

The Art Gallery of New South Wales presents regular Wednesday evenings of free performance, celebrity talks, films, painting and drawing workshops, nocturnal tours, and opportunities to socialise or just hit the gift shop. Almost everything on offer is in some way connected to the gallery’s major exhibitions.

Nick Cave: Until
Carriageworks, Eveleigh, until March 3, free

The American artist’s physically overwhelming yet strangely calming meditation on power, race, and gun violence fills the cavernous foyer space of Carriageworks, a huge former industrial hub, and spills into two of its large exhibition spaces. It really needs several viewings to take it all in – and doing so won’t cost you a cent. This is activism as art, art as activism and one of the most Instagrammable cultural experiences this summer. #nickcaveuntil

Dollar Bin Darlings
Sydney Festival Garden, Hyde Park, free

DJs and crate diggers have long stripped the secondhand shops of everything cool, rare, and hip. What’s left behind is the domain of the Dollar Bin Darlings, who spin the often cheesy but always danceable dregs of Sydney’s thrift store and charity shop record shelves. For proof that pop chart clangers can still be bangers, catch the DBDs in the Sydney Festival Garden and each Friday and Saturday night in the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent.

Little Darlings Night Owls Kids Film Festival
The Village Green, Darling Quarter, Darling Harbour, Jan. 6-25, free

The more sultry the summer evenings become in Sydney, the harder it can be to get the kids to bed. Why not pack a pillow and blanket and head to Darling Harbour for a cool breeze and a program of free, family-friendly films including Pixar’s “Coco,” “Paddington 2,” and “Peter Rabbit,” from 6:45PM.

Tweens and teens can stay up later on Friday and Saturday evenings for 8:30PM screenings of new-ish hits such as “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Ocean’s 8,” and “Ready Player One.”

Apollo 11
Barangaroo South, Sydney CBD, until January 27, free

The Sydney Festival celebrates the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 moon landing with a participatory outdoor experience paying tribute to the unknown, diverse and under-appreciated heroes of a mission that opened humankind’s gateway to the stars.

The Beehive
University of New South Wales Galleries, Paddington, until February 23, free

The murder of activist-heiress Juanita Neilson in 1974 is one of the enduring stains on Sydney’s modern-day history. Artist Zanny Begg explores the riddle of her fate in a constantly shifting video work examining themes of gentrification, corruption, and non-conformity. Algorithmic editing ensures you will never see the same story twice.

Sydney Flash Mob Choir
City Recital Hall, Sydney CBD, free

No rehearsals. No experience necessary. No divas to deal with. Just register your interest on the City Recital Hall’s website, wait for details and show up prepared to sing your heart out (song sheet provided) under the baton of some of Sydney’s best choir leaders and rising conductors.

Wendy’s Secret Garden
Clark Park, Lavender Bay

Not so secret these days but Wendy Whiteley’s urban reclamation project overlooking Sydney’s Lavender Bay remains an off-the-beaten track delight and serves as a lasting, living tribute to one of Australia’s great artists, the late Brett Whiteley. 

Xaio Lu: Impossible Dialogue
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Jan. 9-27, free

In 1989, prior to the Tiananmen Square protests, the Chinese performance, installation, and video artist Xiao Lu fired a pistol at one of her own installations. Those shots reverberated through the art world – and saw her briefly imprisoned – but what came next? Find out in this retrospective of her work, the first mounted in Sydney. 

Chinese Lunar New Year
Feb. 1-10, Sydney CBD, free

Traditional lion dances, contemporary art installations, storytelling, music, dragon boat races and food. Sydney celebrates the Year of the Pig in style and the place to start is Chinatown’s Dixon Street, which will be crowned by 1000 red lanterns.