When you live in a big city, it’s easy to take that city for granted.
Day after day you get lost in the depths of the early morning commute. You get to work. You go to the same place for coffee. Occasionally you might try something new for lunch, but more often than not it’s last night’s leftovers or a sandwich from the lunch lady on the building’s ground floor. You leave work. You get swept up in the afternoon commute. And as you walk home via the people catching up over a beer or some tapas on a warm summer’s night, you think how fun it would be to get out more and experience the city in all her glory.
But then you never do. And all the while, the city and its secrets pass you by.
It wasn’t until I moved interstate that I truly understood what my home city of Melbourne had to offer. After three years, I missed the culture, I missed the secret spots that only exist when you know someone who’s been there before, and I missed that iconic view of the Yarra River, the MCG and beautiful Flinders Street Station that I had taken for granted too many times.
Now officially back in Melbourne, I’d determined to make the most of the beautiful city I missed so much.
And here are the spots that are on my list of places to see over summer – and I’d recommend you add them to your list too.
1. The National Gallery of Victoria.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a rare afternoon off work. Walking past the National Gallery of Victoria, I saw that the Andy Warhol|Ai Weiwei exhibition was on and randomly decided to take a look.
The image below is a series of flower bouquets Weiwei placed outside his studio in Beijing after the government took away his passport. Weiwei placed a bouquet outside every day for almost two years until he finally got the document back.
I didn’t have enough time to appreciate the whole exhibition. The gallery recommend two to three hours to see everything and I only had one. I think I’ll take a friend back in January (mostly so I’ll have someone to sit in the gardens with afterwards.)
2. The Summer Night Market.
The Summer Night market is the perfect way to not waste a weeknight. Grab a couple of mates and make a plan to meet after work sometime over summer. The market is on every Wednesday night between November and March. Oh and it’s family friendly too.
3. The Australian Open.
There are two types of Victorians out there. The ones that go along to the Australian Open every year, and those who prefer to watch from the comfort of their air-conditioned homes. I’ve been the lazy one for years now and it wasn’t until I went along this year to see my friend Dylan play in the Men’s Wheelchair final that I remembered what an amazing atmosphere it is. This year’s Open runs from January 18-31. There’s live music available every night to anyone with a Ground Pass or seated ticket and plenty of family activities if you want to bring the kids along. And even if you’re not heading to the actual games, you can tag along to the free Australian Open Festival featuring food, bars and entertainment along the banks of the Yarra.
4. The Sunset Series (Fitzroy Gardens).
Two weekends of live music in the park. There’s something for everyone here. It’s a perfect place to take the kids, a big picnic rug and lots of delicious nibbles and enjoy the surrounds as the sun sets. Gena Rose Bruce, The Zebras, Frankie Wants Out, Mighty Duke and The Lords play on Saturday the 16th of January, and it’s a Bollywood Dance Evening with The Fifths and NB Dance on Sunday the 17th of January. The following weekend will feature Eliza Hull, Fraser A Gorman, Swim Season and The Cactus Channel on Saturday the 23rd of January and a Go-go Dance Evening with Anna Go-Go, Talei Wolfgramm and the Terry McCarthy Special and DJ Emma Peel on Sunday the 24th of January.
5. Just walk around the city and see what you find.
It’s probably my favourite thing to do in Melbourne. Sometimes, when you’re just walking along the high-traffic area, you miss the best parts of this city. It’s the side streets that have the best cafes and restaurants, it’s the middle of the Botanic Gardens that you’ll find that tranquil spot under a leafy tree, and it’s in the laneways where you and the kids will be able to see some of Melbourne’s best grafitti art.
If walking is too much, try the free CBD tram. The Free Tram Zone includes the Queen Victoria Market, the area up to Victoria Harbour in Docklands, up to Spring Street and over to Flinders Street Station and Federation Square.
6. The Moonlight Cinema.
On this year’s program – The Dressmaker, Sisters, Dirty Dancing, Top Gun, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip, Grease, Star Wars. The Moonlight Cinema happens at the Royal Botanical Gardens between Thursday the 3rd December and Sunday the 27th March and the movies start once the sun is down.
7. White Night.
White Night is the one night of the year every Melburnian with a sense of adventure descends on the city – and it’s absolutely awesome. What happens on White Night? Well, for just one night of the year, the City of Melbourne transforms into a sea of lights, culture and creativity.
There are street performances, there are light installations on landmarks around the city, there’s music, there’s dancing. It’s one of those times that find yourself looking around the city and saying ‘wow’. The amount of people flocking to the city usually peaks between 9:30 and 11:30. I have it on good authority that wandering through the city at 2am on White Night is a pretty excellent experience. Next year, White Night runs from 7pm on Saturday 20 February until 7am on Sunday 21 February. And wearing white is absolutely optional.
What’s your favourite activity to do in Melbourne in the summer?
Find your Melbourne moment in the city this summer. Wander through beautiful parks and gardens, stroll along our vibrant waterfront, enjoy alfresco dining and visit one of the many family attractions. Our city is a journey waiting to begin, visit the City of Melbourne summer website for inspiration and suggested outings, and use the city hashtag #melbmoment to share your experiences with us, melbourne.vic.gov.au/summer