Ahh January, a time of new beginnings and quickly-shattered resolutions. Spending less time on TikTok and taking up running? That’s all yours to work out. Planning the best things to do in January 2023? Fear not, that’s why Secret Sydney is here. With summer in full swing, there’s plenty to do in Australia’s greatest city – and we’ve picked out a taste of the best events and happenings around town, just for you.
1. Dive into Sydney Festival’s eclectic programme of events (Jan 5-29)
There’s only four whole days of January you’ll need to kill before Sydney Festival hits town once more, ready to cure any New Year blues. Highlights include The Weary Traveller’s music nights, incredible performances from Afrique en Cirque, and the Blak Out program, which will feature no fewer than four world premieres. Get inspired here!
2. Ring in 2023 in style with Elevate Sydney (Jan 3-7)
Elevate Sydney is returning to town and transforming the Cahill Expressway into a major party junction. Expect five days and four nights of music and live entertainment complete with harbour views and a dynamic line-up of more than 20 Australian artists. The first and second round of tickets sold out in a flash but you can still snag some on the Elevate website ahead of the event.
3. Hang with Ratty and Mr Toad at the Royal Botanic Garden (Jan 5-22)
20 years of The Wind in the Willows hasn’t dimmed the appeal of this enchanting outdoor show, back for another season. The family-friendly production takes place on the riverbanks of the RBG, and the interactive elements of the show will delight little ones and adults alike.
4. Shake a tail feather at the return of this boozy, brilliant cabaret (Jan 7-March 4)
Still kicking yourself for missing Blanc de Blanc at the Sydney Opera House in 2019? Well fret no more, because the smash-hit cabaret is back on Sydney’s shores from January 2023, with a two-month run at the Grand Electric in the books. The glitz and glamour of 20s Paris comes alive here, and dressing to impress is highly encouraged!
5. Catch screenings on the water with the return of Westpac Open Air cinema (Jan 8-Feb 21)
That iconic screen is rising from the water once again come January, and the opening week kicks things off in style. Bullet Train brings the adrenaline, Don’t Worry Darling brings drama on (and off!) the screen, and Ticket To Paradise brings a delightful helping of Roberts & Clooney to the harbour.
6. Let Japan’s finest magicians bewitch your senses (Jan 6-29)
Whoever had the idea to assemble a cadre of talented Japanese magicians, invite them to Sydney, and fill the bar filled with brilliant cocktails, sake, and shochu deserves a pat on the back. Maho Magic Bar is a night quite unlike anything else you’ll find in Sydney this month, once you throw in the dazzling close-up magic and sleight of hand tricks on offer. It’s here as part of Sydney Festival from January 6-29, and if you don’t book tickets soon, they’ll pull off the neat trick of disappearing altogether…
7. Stock up on fresh produce at a summer market (Jan 8)
Every Sunday from 8am-2pm, growers and producers of Aussie fruit, veg, and more gather at the Manly Fresh Produce Market to sell their wares to Sydney’s ever-growing community of foodies. They’ll be taking the Christmas and New Year weekends off for a well-earned break, so January marks the grand return of this culinary heaven.
8. Live the bohemian life at Opera Australia’s La Bohème (Jan 12-March 11)
Puccini’s classic opera lands at the Opera House in January, with the classic Parisian tale transported to 1930s Berlin. It’s a new interpretation of the immortal tale, but one thing that won’t change is the powerhouse performances of Mimi, Rodolfo, Musetta, and Marcello. The run kicks off this January, with performances up until March.
9. Get your cinema fix quick at Flicker Fest (Jan 20-29)
Like your cinema short and snappy? Flicker Fest is the place for you! Returning to Bondi Beach for its 32nd edition, this excellent festival has been showcasing the best in short films ever since beginning in a high school way back in 1991. Today, it’s one of the world’s most important short film festivals, and and excellent way to spend your January evenings.
10. Plot the ultimate date night at Sydney Symphony Under the Stars (Jan 21)
We’ve already touched on the mighty Sydney Festival, but free open-air concerts put together by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra deserve their own entry. Blending film scores, classical piece, and Chinese and Vietnamese folk favourites (in a nice little nod to Lunar New Year), the show promises a pretty unforgettable night of music. Find it in Parramatta Park on January 21, and don’t forget to pack a picnic!
11. Be enchanted by Cinderella before it leaves town
Mark January 29 in your diaries; it’s the final chance you’ve got to see Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Tony Award-winning musical before it departs Sydney. Brought to life by a talented cast featuring the likes of Shubshri Kandiah, Ainsley Melham, and Silvie Paladino, it’s a still-fresh take on the fairytale with an enviable lineup of hit songs.
12. Observe Australia Day (Jan 26)
You may choose to spend the day with your close friends, you may choose to attend a vigil or protest; however you spend this Australia Day, make it count. The day starts with First Nations artworks projected onto the Opera House during the Dawn Reflection, and the WugulOra Indigenous Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo – from there, it’s up to you.
13. Pop along to Carriageworks for a stacked programme of art and culture
Whether it’s the dizzying artwork of Paul Yore’s WORD MADE FLESH, the colourful, powerful tributes to those lost in the HIV/AIDS crisis in Bloodlines, or a gripping exploration of the frozen wastes of Antarctica, you’re going to find something memorable at Carriageworks this month. Check out the full programme of events here.
14. Take your shot at the Pixar Putt mini golf experience
The beloved mini-golf sensation, Pixar Putt, is coming back to Sydney for the summer holidays. This open-air experience is made up of interactive putt-putt holes, inspired by the stories and characters from some of Pixar’s most iconic films. Pixar Putt will take over Darling Harbour until February 5.
15. Watch your favourite movies under the stars (Jan 5-March 1)
The Rocks’ super charming outdoor cinema needs no introduction. The free for all cinema hosts weekly movie nights at the beautiful cobblestone laneway of Atherden Street. This January they’re screening The Devil Wears Prada, Crazy Rich Asians and more fan favourites every Wednesday at 7.30pm.
16. Don’t miss Elton John’s final Australia show
Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road global tour is coming to Sydney on Wednesday, January 18 at the Allianz Stadium. It’s been four years since the music legend has been saying goodbye to fans across the world on this extended tour. He’ll tour Australia for one last hurrah before retiring from touring; snap up some tickets here.
17. Visit this immersive Gucci exhibition
The Gucci Garden Archetypes exhibition has finally made its Australian premiere at Powerhouse Ultimo. Filled with colourful themed spaces, an infinity room filled with Gucci bags, a groovy dance party and intricate world-building of Gucci campaigns, it’s a must-see.
18. Explore the Blue Mountains with an astrophysicist
Walking through the Blue Mountains never gets old. On this guided tour, you’ll be accompanied by an astrophysicist who will answer all your questions and witness the beauty of the world heritage site after dark. Get all the details plus tickets here.
19. Have a Parisian-inspired picnic with So Frenchy, So Chic (Jan 21)
The city’s most beloved French music festival is returning this summer. So Frenchy, So Chic marks its 12th year in Sydney and Melbourne with a huge celebration of all things French. Expect food, fine wine, music and more when the party arrives in Sydney’s Bicentennial Park later this month.
20. Don’t miss the final shows of Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Enter a world of glamour, glitz and extravagance with Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Currently playing at the Capitol Theatre, this long-running musical will finally wrap up its Sydney season on January 28.
21. Grab plant-based treats at the Sydney Vegan Market (Jan 21)
The Sydney Vegan Market will be back this month for a day of vegan treats, yoga, music and more. In its first edition of the year, the market is going big with lots of fun events lined up. Find them at the Sydney Olympic Park from 9am to 4pm.
22. Experience a taste of Poland with the PolArt Festival
The immersive PolArt Festival celebrates Polish culture and heritage through music, dance, poetry and art shows. About 60 diverse events are taking over the city until January 6 including art exhibitions, poetry readings and theatre productions. Find the stacked program of events on the PolArt website.
23. Escape to this multisensory Frida Kahlo exhibition
Perhaps the biggest coup for the Sydney festival is a major Frida Kahlo exhibition titled Frida Kahlo: Life of an Icon taking over The Cutaway, Barangaroo this January. Expect dazzling holography and immersive 360-degree projections. Plus there’s live Mexican music performances and VR technology.
24. Enjoy an alfresco movie night with Moonlight Cinema
Moonlight Cinema is one of the most exciting outdoor events of the year and it’s back in town for its summer season. Film lovers will find heaps of new releases and old classics in their January lineup. On the list are Twilight, The Princess Diaries, Damien Chazelle’s Babylon and more. Check out their website for more.
25-33. Experience the magic of a Candlelight Concert
Watch Sydney’s beautiful Candlelight concerts and get lost in a number of familiar tunes this January. Grab tickets to tribute shows to Queen, Hans Zimmer and more.
🕯️Candlelight: Best of Hans Zimmer at The Eveleigh by The Grounds🕯️Candlelight Jazz: A Tribute to Amy Winehouse at The Linseed House
🕯️Candlelight: Tribute to Taylor Swift
🕯️Candlelight: Best of Fleetwood Mac at SMC
🕯️Candlelight Summer Central Coast: The Best of Hans Zimmer
🕯️Candlelight: A Tribute to Jay Chou
🕯️Candlelight: A Tribute to Queen at The Eveleigh by The Grounds
🕯️Candlelight: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
🕯️Candlelight Summer Byron Bay: The Best of Hans Zimmer
34. Spoil yourself with a fancy glamping experience
Mayfield Garden is back with a cosy glamping experience to help you welcome 2023 in style. Recharge and relax in the glamping tents located by Mayfield’s Obelisk Pond, fitted with several luxury furnishings until January 26, 2023. It’s also quite the view to wake up to.
35. Unleash your inner ogre at a Shrek-themed rave (Jan 14)
Time to get your green on at Shrek Rave, where the dance floor is the swamp and the attendees are fellow ogres. Expect Shrek DJs spinning party bangers and hits from the movie to Shrek visuals, giveaways, and an ‘I’m A Believer’ singalong at the strike of midnight. It’s all going down this January at the Oxford Art Factory.
36. See the cities of the world in LEGO form at Phive
This summer at Phive in Parramatta, Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught has made it easy for residents to travel the world with a fun and imaginative exhibition. Featuring more than 628,000 LEGO® bricks assembled over more than 2200 hours, visitors can see some of the world’s most iconic cityscapes up close. Marvel at world-famous landmarks, iconic city streets and much more.
37. Keep the holiday spirit going with the Hunter Valley spectacular
If the post-Christmas psychosis is hitting you hard, you don’t have to let go of the holiday festivities just yet. The Hunter Valley Christmas Lights Spectacular will continue to delight visitors until January 26 complete with three million twinkling lights, rides and innumerable photo ops. Grab your tickets while you still can.
38. Watch these performers sing before they make it big
A New-York style Broadway diner has come to town with singing waitstaff, huge neon signs, burgers, shakes and live performances each night. The offering comes to town courtesy of the team behind Karen’s Diner so you know you’re in for a good time.
39. Head to Sydney Observatory for stargazing, bites and booze (Jan 22)
Powerhouse has announced a new monthly program presented right under the stars at Sydney Observatory. Get fresh perspectives from leading astronomers while enjoying music, food and drinks from leading NSW producers later this month.
40. See Australia like never before with a multisensory showcase
Australian Geographic: Our Country is an immersive, multi-sensory experience that uses large format multi-screens to take the audience into the very heart of Australia’s vast wilderness. It’s on now at the Sydney Exhibition Center.
41. Dine at this chic new waterfront restaurant
Sala is the latest entry to the harbourfront restaurant scene in Sydney and offers the very best of Australian seafood in Italian dishes. Brought to town by chef Danny Russo and Flying Fish owner Con Dedes, you’ll find it in the coveted location of Jones Bay Wharf in Pyrmont.
42. Be spellbound with dinner and a show at The Magician’s Cabaret
The Magician’s Cabaret is super popular for its extravagant shows and excellent dinners. There’s no other show in Sydney quite like The Underground Burlesque Experience or La Belle Rose—Sydney’s longest-running cabaret show. Grab your tickets before they sell out.
43. Plunge deep into the abyss with Erth’s Shark Dive
To complement their huge shark exhibition that is currently entertaining Sydneysiders, the Australian Museum has announced yet another event with sharks taking centrestage. As part of Sydney Festival’s mega 2023 program, the AM is bringing an interactive experience to town courtesy of Erth complete with puppet performances and soundscapes.
44. Dance on the streets with this vibey art event
A fantastic grassroots initiative is coming to Erskineville that you should keep on your radar. Dubbed Sound Out the Street, the summer event comes from the PACT Centre for Emerging Artists and includes vibrant pop-up performances, live music and dance. It’s also completely free to attend. Get details about the January program here.
45. Have a cheeky night out with Magic Men Australia
Magic Men are Australia’s best male dancers and their shows serve up a heart-racing and sweat-inducing spectacle. From the performers in their eye-catching costumes to the waiters, who will be serving you a glass of sparkling on arrival, this is one live show that is not for the prudish.
46. Take a trip to the 90s with the Unpopular exhibition
‘Unpopular‘ is the current cultural offering that has taken over Powerhouse and it’s a must-visit for music lovers. The exhibition spotlights the never-before-seen archive of music mogul Stephen Pavlovic with behind-the-scenes footage of brands like Nirvana and Beastie Boys. It’s on until June 4, 2023.
47-48. Discover an excellent program of live music with Zenith Sunday Sessions
Chatswood is upping the ante with a series of live music acts featuring world-class musicians at Zenith Sunday Sessions. The series of Sunday afternoon concerts will focus on classical, jazz and world music and begins this January with a complete performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as well as a concert by Simon Tedeschi and George Washingmachine.
🎶 Zenith Sunday Sessions: Phoenix Collective Vivaldi Four Seasons
🎶 Zenith Sunday Sessions: Simon Tedeschi with George Washingmachine
49. Get lost in Van Gogh’s magical artworks
Experience The Starry Night, Sunflowers and a number of other images as they swirl, sway and soar in a digital projection with Van Gogh Alive. And we’re not just talking giant screens, the works are displayed on columns, walls and the ceiling completely drenching the arena for a truly immersive experience. It’s all happening at the Entertainment Quarter and you can snag some tickets here.
50. Be mesmerised by this intimate magic show
A Magical Soirée, by Bruce Glen combines fantastic stories with fascinating magic tricks to leave audiences in awe and wonder inside a heritage building. Grab your tickets here.