The ultimate winter experience can be found closer to the city of Melbourne than one might expect. Here are some of the best ways to embrace the chill this winter, aside from hitting the slopes in Victoria’s Alpine region:
Out of town:
Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill (located one hour and forty minutes from Melbourne) will host Winter Wonderlights Christmas in July (25 June-24 July 2016) for the third year running. The popular outdoor museum will come alive as its building facades are bought to life through large-scale light projections, sound and faux snow falls. Over 20 buildings will be lit up each evening, making it home to the largest number of projections on one site in Australia.
Port Fairy Winter Weekends
The biggest draw card to Victoria’s south west coast, Port Fairy Winter Weekends (until 24 July 2016) presents a fire and water-themed winter celebration of food, wine, music, performance and arts. Visitors are invited to rug up and wander around the small sleepy town of Port Fairy to experience its unique sense of life after dark. The program is available to download here.
In the city:
Winter in Fed Square
Celebrating 10 years of warming up Melbourne in winter, Federation Square is again rolling out Winter in Fed Square (until 17 July 2016), a program of winter activities including performances, exhibitions, culinary delights, and Melbourne’s only outdoor ice skating arena, River Rink.
Winter Night Market
Queen Victoria Market aims to spice up the evenings this winter, with the return of its much loved Winter Night Market (until 31 August 2016). Every Wednesday, some of Melbourne’s best foodies, artisans and performers cosy up under the historic sheds with crackling fires, mulled wine and a revolving line-up entertainment. Over 30 street vendors provide a veritable global feast and some of Melbourne’s best designer and artisan stalls.
It’s snowing on South Wharf
South Wharf’s Dukes Walk will welcome 10 days of cascading artificial snow, coloured lighting effects and special winter meals every evening, between 5pm-8pm (1-10 July 2016). Snow machines will shoot out small flurries of continuous snowflakes to create a winter wonderland experience for children walking through. Dukes Walk will also be alight with the installation of seven swivelling special effect light towers.
Variety Ice Slide
The heart of Southbank will be transformed into an action packed winter wonderland for the July school holidays, with Eureka Skydeck’s new Variety Ice Slide (25 June-17 July 2016). For kids, and kids at heart, the Variety Ice Slide will supply endless hours of winter fun to the Yarra precinct.
Year round, this Olympic size arena offers lessons in figure skating, ice hockey and curling as well as adult drop in ice hockey and themed events. During the winter school holidays, it will host The Nutcracker Winter Experience where each day, there will be three 15-minute Nutcracker shows on ice; an Enchanted Chalet where kids can get crafty; winter movies and a meet-and-greet with the Nutcracker characters and public skating with games for kids under 8 and free 15 minute lessons for beginners.
The coolest bar in town is now open on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy just a short walk or tram ride from the centre of Melbourne. The only one of its kind in Australia, the IceBar invites guests to pull on winter attire and enter its icy interior. Cocktails are served in glasses made of ice and ice sculptures abound. Guests are challenged to break the current record of four hours inside.
The Big Freeze Festival
With a focus on kids staying active, being creative and using their imaginations, The Big Freeze Festival (2-10 July 2016) features an arena of activities at the Cranbourne Racecourse, 50 minutes south east of Melbourne. For nine days, families can enjoy a snow pit, snowball toss, winter inflatable slide, snow village & forest, workshops, craft and construction play.
Winter Warmer Chocoholic Tour
Melbourne’s best hot chocolates are revealed with this Winter Warmer Chocoholic Tour. Sweet tooths will be guided through the city’s famous arcades and laneways to showcase the top five hot chocolates in Melbourne. Participants will have the chance to try all five, which range from the traditional to the innovative, with some blends featuring surprising ingredients such as raspberry druplets and house-made fairy floss.
Scandinavian Film Festival
Channel some of the coldest countries on earth with the Scandinavian Film Festival (6-27 July 2016). The perfect way to snuggle up indoors yet still embrace the winter vibe, the festival presents new dramas, documentaries and comedies from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland at Melbourne’s Palace Cinemas.