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Blog » The 18 Best Times to Visit Melbourne, Festivals In 2016

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Australia's most populous city is certainly held in high regard as both an official state capital and as the nation's unofficial capital of culture and sports. This prosperous metropolis on the southern coast of Victoria has one of the longest histories of any major city in the country, having been founded in 1835. Not only does it consistently rank as one of the most liveable places on the planet, but it hosts a staggering variety of year round festivals celebrating everything from music to gardening. As for sightseeing, why not give the hop on hop off bus a try?

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The 18 Best Times to Visit Melbourne, Festivals In 2016

There's nothing better during a city break that a great cultural vibe, whether it be the result of a huge international arts festival or a niche gathering of entertainers across a few intimate venues. Most big city's around the world foster such annual/one-off events, and Melbourne is no exception. To help you decide when to plan your trip to this lively Australian city we've picked out a number of the Victorian capital's most significant and promising festivals in 2015.

Midsumma Festival (17 Jan-7 Feb): This three week extravaganza is Melbourne's largest celebration of LGBT culture. With a huge range of arts related events and activities spread out across 85 venues it's an unmissable spectacle for any summertime visitor to the city. The program features a little something for everyone, encompassing such things as: visual art, theatre, spoken word, cabaret, film, live music, parties, sport, social events and public forums.

Some of the festival's largest outdoor events, such as its opening day Carnival and 'T Dance', draw in crowds of around 100,000 people, and that's without including the main Pride March.

St. Kilda Festival (6-14 Feb): This free festival celebrates the very best of Australian music with a series of programmes including (in addition to live performances): dance, children’s activities, comedy, poetry, visual art, theatre, outdoor cinema, beach sports, and forums. Events are held in a warm communal atmosphere and the overall experience is compounded by the season's long sunny days and St. Kilda's stunning foreshore.

The Age Lunar Markets Melbourne (4-14 Feb)

This exciting dual celebration lets you to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Lunar New Year while enjoying freshly prepared Asian cuisine. Spread out across eleven nights in February it'll take place along Melbourne's Harbour Esplanade in the Docklands district. It's here that beautiful sweeping of views of Victoria Harbour will coalesce with the sights, sounds and tastes of a wide array of pop-up bars and food stalls. Though a pervasive theme in 2016 will be the transition into the Chinese Year of the Monkey you can expect great food and free entertainment from the whole cultural spectrum of East Asia: Filipino, Japanese, Thai, and much more.

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (4-13 Mar): Are you a fan of TV's popular MasterChef Australia? Or perhaps you just have a plain old passion for food and Oz's fantastically diverse culinary culture? Then we'd highly recommend organising a trip to Melbourne during the dates stated above. The city's annual Food and Wine Festival has expanded significantly since its conception in 1993 to include over 200 events spread out across restaurants great and small.

Sydney Road Street Party (6 March): Melbourne's largest single street-based festival occurs on the opening day of the Brunswick Music Festival- one of the city's most multicultural suburbs. And true to the venue's social make-up the party is a celebration of worldwide cultural diversity in general.

Moomba (11-14 Mar): Each Labour Day the City of Melbourne hosts Australia's largest (and one of its oldest) community festivals. Visit during the long weekend and enjoy riverside carnivals, watersports activities and live music performances. Amidst the general revelry there will be a couple of highlight events, namely, the iconic Moomba parade and Birdman Rally.

Melbourne Queer Film Festival (31 Mar-11 Apr): It's one of the oldest of its kind in the world and in 2015 it'll be celebrating its 25th Anniversary! Whether it's a drama, musical or documentary, you'll get a chance to see the world's newest movies exploring a whole range of LGBT issues and culture.

Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (16-20 Mar): Everything a gardening enthusiast could ever dream of, this annual festival is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. You can take part by heading to the Carlton Gardens and Royal Exhibition Building, both are within easy reach of the Melbourne Explorer Bus Tour.

Melbourne International Comedy Festival (23 Mar-17 Apr): Alongside Edinburgh's Festival Fringe and Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival this is one of the three largest comedy festivals in the world. Its eclectic itinerary includes everything from traditional stand-up to cabaret, theatre, street performance, film, television, radio and visual arts. If you find yourself in Melbourne during the festivities either head along to Melbourne Town Hall or any one of the 100+ other venues throughout the city. Past headline acts have included Arj Barker, Stephen K Amos and Rich Hall.

Melbourne International Jazz Festival (3-12 Jun): Every year since 1998 the concert halls and jazz clubs of central Melbourne have been enticing the international music community with mellow beats and lively scat. It doesn't matter whether you're a seasoned listener or a compete novice, the Melbourne Jazz Festival welcomes any music fan interested in experiencing something new and interesting.

Melbourne International Animation Festival (21-28 Jun, 2015; 2016 TBC): Challenge your own conventional notions about animation as an art form by diving into the 2015 edition of Melbourne's International Animation Festival. Witness countless mediums be tapped of their storytelling potential through conversion into moving image, and see the newest examples of these be brought to the fore across 11 fun-filled days. MIAF15 will also include a fresh new host of forums, workshops and retrospective screenings. The primary venue for this festival tends to be the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

MIAF director Malcolm Turner was kind enough to provide a few fun and technical facts about this year's festival. For the duration of MIAF 2015 420 films will be screened across 45 sessions, and considering all "are projected one frame at a time, 24 frames per second, there are in total 4,860,000 frames (or little individual works of art) on display in MIAF this year". Each year MIAF entices around 6,000-7,000 eager viewers through its doors, some of whom also come to take part in a 2-day conference called RENDER which runs beside MIAF.

MIAF photo credits go to John Lewis and Janette Goodey, who can be seen working on the Australian film "The Story Of Percival P. Pilts".

Open House Melbourne (25-26 Jul): Each year during the last weekend of July Melbourne's most iconic buildings become free to access and the 'Open House' Festival steps up to provide entertaining and informative guided tours. If the focus of your visit is to discover Melbourne as deeply as possible (a kind of super sightseer!) then we'd strongly recommend booking the Melbourne Explorer Bus Tour in conjunction with this unique 2-day event. 2014's roster of buildings included the Royal Botanic Garden Melbourne Observatory, Victoria Barracks and the National Gallery of Victoria.

Melbourne International Film Festival (28 Jul-14 Aug): The city's pinnacle film festival features around 300 new movies from all across the globe. Venues vary, but key ones include the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Forum Theatre and Arts Centre Melbourne.

Melbourne Underground Film Festival (11-19 Sept): This alternative film festival has been operating since 2000 and declares itself to be a strong supporter of "indy, guerrilla, micro budget, underground and avant garde cinema". Expect plenty of screenings that push conventional boundaries, court controversy and circumvent industry norms.

Royal Melbourne Show (17-27 Sept): Each September crowds of up to half a million people converge on the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds for the country's largest agricultural show. Although its original intention was to act as a showcase for innovations throughout the rural industries it has evolved a lot in its 150+ year lifetime. Today the show includes something for everyone to enjoy, from amusement rides and blue ribbon competitions to fmx stunt bike shows and live music.

Melbourne Fringe Festival (15 Sept-2 Oct): Where hundreds of entertainers both established and amateur compete to fill every available venue in the city be they bars, clubs, pubs or theatres. Fringe festivals are a hectic affair, and Melbourne's is no different, but they are excitingly unpredictable, all-inclusive, and whip up a brilliant urban atmosphere. If you plan to head to Melbourne this year you can't go wrong with a visit during the fringe season.

Melbourne Festival (6-23 Oct): Each October for 17 days Melbourne springs to life in a citywide burst of music, theatre, dance, circus and more. Almost every form of visual art with a passionate host of performers behind it is present in venues across the city both indoor and out. Events that take place across the duration of this important international arts festival are free to access, and incorporate an unlimited range of age groups and interests. Most of the venues can be found in the upper half of the central business district and Southbank. Follow the link above for detailed list of the places to lookout for.

Big Day Out Music Festival (May return in 2017): This event held at the end of the first month is one of Australia's largest annual music festivals. Besides Melbourne, it is also hosted in Sydney, Gold Coast, Adelaide and Perth. Featured acts tend to range in genre from contemporary rock music to electronic and mainstream international/local acts.