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Big Days Out

Cityscape scopes out the city’s top festivals and few worth travelling for. If ever there was a season for festivals, it’s summer (and OK, early autumn as well)! Nothing beats getting out in the sunshine and sacking out with a few vinos, beers and awesome eats, all set to the sweet sounds of a sensational live music line-up.

Best of the Fests

1 WORLD BUSKERS FESTIVAL

The Topp Twins

The World Buskers Festival turns 25 this year, and is still a city (and world!) favourite. It’s their birthday, but we get the presents; the line-up for this special anniversary includes our own globe-conquering Tape Face premiering his brand new show, RuPaul’s Drag Race star Ginger Minj in her amazing solo musical comedy Crossdresser For Christ, the fabulous Topp Twins in a new show of songs and spoons, Jonny Woo and Le Gateau Chocolat bringing us hilarious hijinks in the ‘Les Misérmassacre’ cabaret of A Night At The Musicals, and much, much more besides. We warn you guys every year, and we won’t stop now; the popular shows in the fest will sell out, so make sure you get in early to make sure you don’t miss out – if you haven’t already!

Where: Various venues in the Central City
When: 18 – 28 January
Why: The city’s favourite festival
is no-holds-barred entertainment
More: www.worldbuskersfestival.com

2 THE GREAT KIWI BEER FESTIVAL

Beer Fest

This epic afternoon and evening dedicated to everyone’s favourite amber liquid is the country’s largest outdoor beer fest, and is simply heaven for hopheads (and fans of cider – represent!). Craft breweries pour into Hagley Park from all over the place to pour all afternoon – you’ll be navigating over 300 beers and ciders on tap (including one-off festival brews) and it’s only a shame that it’s impossible to try them all! You’ll also find plenty of the region’s and city’s best food along with a huge line-up of music all day led by Kiwi legend Dave Dobbyn (yuss) and including Sola Rosa, Swamp Thing, and locals The Eastern and Assembly Required. Cooking demonstrations and beer seminars round off the city’s favourite beerstravaganza.

Where: Hagley Park
When: 27 January
Why: Good beer, better beer, and best beer (OK and some cider)
More: www.greatkiwibeerfestival.co.nz

3 SELWYN SOUNDS

The summer outing out in Lincoln is back for its second crack in 2018 with another sweet bill of musical talent, a top array of the region’s finest food (think Pizzacarto and Coq au Van Rotisserie), licensed bar areas and interesting stalls at the Lincoln Domain. With nine bands rocking one epic day, it’s another nostalgia-fuelled line-up this year. Leading the charge is headlining force of nature and Aussie rock legend (and recent author) Jimmy Barnes. Ol’ Barnesy’s joined by a bangin' Anzac all-star line-up including Christchurch legends The Feelers and The Narcs alongside Mental as Anything, The Mockers, Stellar, The Warratahs and The Lady Killers – a slaying Kiwi trifecta of talent in the form of Tina Cross, Jackie Clarke and Suzanne Lynch. It’s looking like another monster afternoon and evening out!

Where: Lincoln Domain
When: 3 March
Why: Classic tunes and sweet eats
More: www.selwynsounds.co.nz

4 ELECTRIC AVENUE MUSIC FESTIVAL

Electric Avenue 2018

Taking live music to the absolute limit, Electric Avenue has worked some serious magic to get one of the best ever international and Kiwi line-ups ever together in Hagley Park in February. With 3 stages and more than 30 performers rocking over 12 magical hours, you’ll get down with the likes of headliner and UK grime pioneer Dizzee Rascal (get prepared to go ‘Bonkers’!), Scottish rock and roll wild bunch Primal Scream, electro-pop supergroup Confidence Man, US hip hop royalty Black Milk, and Finland’s finest alt-rockers LAB, plus New Zealand’s own State of Mind and homegrown girl made good Theia, with still more artist announcements to come. Add a round-up of killer eats and drinks options and this is looking like a day out for the ages.

Where: Hagley Park
When: 24 February
Why: 12 epic hours of killer music!
More: www.electricavenuefestival.co.nz

5 ALLIANCE FRANÇAISE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL

French Film Fest

Injecting an infusion of French cool into the city’s cinema scene, the Alliance Française French Film Festival is a godsend to Francophiles, film fans, and those who just want to get a little bit of je ne sais quoi into their lives. Powering out an epic line-up of over 30 French language films, the festival includes comedy, drama, genre fare and prestige titles hot from festivals like Cannes and Toronto. Early announcements include dairy farming drama Bloody Milk (Petit paysan) and Cannes hits Montparnasse Bienvenue (Jeune femme), as well as enigmatic coming-of-age drama Ava. This year an even-longer than usual festival runs during March, while the festival moves to Hoyts Riccarton. Check out the full line-up online from February and get your schedule sorted!

Where: Hoyts Riccarton
When: 6 – 25 March
Why: Une belle série de films
More: www.frenchfilmfestival.co.nz

6 WANDERLUST GREAT LAKE TAUPO

Wanderlust

The lifestyle-fest-writ-large is back for another huge 4 days in the Taupo region in March. Drawing attendees from all over New Zealand and abroad, this all-out celebration of mindful living assembles yoga and meditation instructors, musical performers, speakers, artists and chefs for a blissful and transformational retreat in the Wairakei Thermal Valley. There are yoga classes for all levels in a wide variety of practice styles and venue types, an intriguing musical line-up, a range of guided adventures in the outdoors, inspiring speakers, and a huge array of tasty, healthy and amazing food experiences. It’s an experience designed to leave you different than when you came with new ideas, new friends, newfound abilities and a sense of peace – Om!

Where: Wairakei Thermal Valley, Taupo
When: 8 – 11 March 
Why: Find your 'True North’
More: www.wanderlust.com

7 RHYTHM & ALPS

Rhythm Alps

Rhythm & Alps is the South Island’s biggest New Year’s festival, attracting thousands of happy campers to the stunning scenery of the Cardrona Valley, with a massive wall of music flowing virtually non-stop the entire time. This year the line-up is headlined by the sound of Kiwi summer themselves, Fat Freddy’s Drop – they’re joined by Tash Sultana, Little Dragon, Schoolboy Q, Wilkinson, Goldie, and many, many, (many!) more.

Where: Robrosa Station, Wanaka
When: 29 – 31 December
Why: Seeing in the New Year with a paaartaaay
More: www.rhythmandalps.co.nz

8 HOKITIKA WILDFOODS FESTIVAL

Wildfoods

A food festival for the brave, Hokitika’s annual Wildfoods Festival channels the wild West Coast spirit. Lucky/brave attendees can tuck into a number of exquisite gourmet options, but’s it the ‘wild’ fare that has made the festival’s name. Huhu grubs are a given, but you'll also find the likes of fish eyes, scorpions and ‘mountain oysters’. There’s also live music all day, cooking tips and the famed Feral Fashion show.

Where: Cass Square, Hokitika
When: 10 March
Why: Gourmet goodness or Fear Factor fare
More: www.wildfoods.co.nz

9 GOMEDIA COMEDY CARNIVAL

Comedy Fest

This locally-grown comedy fest that celebrates the best of local comedy talent keeps getting bigger each year. 2018's edition sees a host of local and national talent such as Tim Batt, Justin Rusty White, and Li'i Alaimoana joined by acclaimed international acts including Marcel Lucont (UK) and Charmian Hughes (UK, pictured) for a big three weeks of laughs, with something for comedy lovers of all stripes.

Where: Various venues
When: 17 March – 7 April
Why: Locally-based laugh-out-loud good times
More: www.comedycarnival.co.nz

The VIP Experience

Yes, they’re expensive and ‘VIP’ might not necessarily be the best descriptor when you’re 3 deep at the bar – but they do have benefits, including all-day food and swanky chill zones. VIP zones near the stage also offer uninterrupted views of all the action. To work out if the VIP experience is for you, use A) Economics – are you likely to spend more than the cost of the VIP ticket with entrance, food and drinks? If so, the all-inclusive VIP package could even save you a few dollars; or B) Psychology – if standing shoulder-to-sweaty-shoulder amidst the heaving masses sounds too much (are festivals really your thing?), the VIP area offers an excellent reprieve – and will also drive non-VIP friends mad when you swan off to hit up the open bar.

Around The Country

Looking for something a little more? Here's a roundup of events both around NZ and in town that are also worth checking out. Some of these out-of-town festivals are just so awesome you’ve really got no choice but to pack up the car and make tracks across the country – road trips and festivals go hand-in-hand (though flying is acceptable for the time poor). But there's local goodness afoot too! Here’s our pick of the hottest.

Food & Wine

Hungry? Summer’s high-season for the country’s best food fests. Highlights on the culinary festival scene include the annual Hagley Park fave South Island Wine & Food Festival on December 2, rocking top drops from more than 40 wineries alongside some of the city’s top foodie offerings all set to the soundtrack of a killer line-up of live music, including headliners The Black Seeds. In Mt Maunganui, Beast of a Feast on January 4 pairs street food, craft brews, live music and games, while the Wellington Wine, Food & Craft Beer Festival sees the region’s best local gourmet producers and restaurants with local wineries and breweries in a summer celebration hitting Waitangi Park for a big day on January 27. Also worth putting on your radar is the boutique Bridge Pa Wine Festival (January 20), in which eight Hawke’s Bay wineries team up for a bus-around summer’s day of good wine, food, and fun, and the North Canterbury Wine & Food Festival (March 11), which showcases the outstanding wines of the Waipara region and gourmet treats from the regions’ local producers and top Christchurch chefs and restaurants. Down south, the Gibbston Wine and Food Festival (March 17) is Queenstown’s premiere wine and food festival and showcases the region’s finest, while the Marlborough Wine & Food Festival (February 10) in Blenheim continues as New Zealand’s longest-running and arguably most prestigious wine festival, inviting festival goers to Brancott Vineyard to enjoy the world-famous output of local vineyards, but also top notch fare.

Music

The classic Kiwi summer gig season kicks into high gear early with Live In The Park (December 9), an 8-hour mini-festival featuring two massive New Zealand “sh”s – Shapeshifter and Shihad – who are joined by Kora, Dub FX and Drax Project to kick your sunny season off in style. For more music-driven good times, kick back to the sounds of summer with the day-long Nostalgia Festival (February 10), a celebration of independent music set within the replica 1900s Ferrymead township that’s backed by the soundtrack of New Zealand’s top indie artists busting out some top tunes over two stages, and serves up awesome food and drink too. Elsewhere, the North Island Rhythm sibling Rhythm and Vines (December 29 – 31) in Gisborne is arguably New Zealand’s most renowned music festival, and makes the most of the natural charms of another stunning part of the country, basing itself at the Waiohika Estate vineyard. Raglan’s Soundsplash (January 19 – 21) invades stunning beach-side Wainui Reserve for three big days of music (including Shapeshifter and Katchafire) and summer fun. Reggae fans need to get themselves to Tauranga for One Love on January 27 & 28; this year it’s headlined by Shaggy and Magic!, who are playing New Zealand for the first time. In Auckland, Laneway Festival (January 29) is perhaps the country’s premier indy/alt music fest and is stuffed with the too-cool-for-school, Splore’s alternative three-day fest of music and arts (February 23 – 25) on the shores of the beautiful Tapapakanga Regional Park attracts a dedicated host of mindful party animals every year, and in the capital, annual mega Kiwi music fest Homegrown (with the next edition a bit later than usual, on April 7) will rock 5 stages and 45 bands, including Shapeshifter, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Devilskin, Stan Walker, Dave Dobbyn, Che Fu, Katchafire, and many more. 

The Arts

Up in Wellington, the New Zealand Festival (February 23 – March 18) is a three-week arts festival that delivers a spectacular culture injection (including music, theatre, visual arts, dance, and events for writers andreaders) to the capital. This year’s event includes the chance to watch Star Wars as the NZSO performs the soundtrack live, an extraordinary adaptation of Swan Lake that swaps Tchaikovsky for Irish folk music, and the eye-popping digital interactive wonderland that is Future Playground; with this many amazing events, it might well be worth thinking of heading north for a week or two. You might be tempted to keep going too, with this year’s Auckland Arts Festival held throughout March; look for the gloriously classical to the cutting-edge, with programme highlights including the English National Ballet and a hit theatrical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.

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