It’s getting chilly outside but Sydney is not short on fun things to do despite the weather. Lift your spirits with lights and colour courtesy of Vivid Sydney and take a trip to the Artic Circle with Borealis in the Vines. The a-may-zing line-up of events continues with cool new exhibitions, harbourside markets, lively musicals and lots of parties. Wondering where to start? Check out our mega guide to the most exciting events and happening around Sydney this May.
1. Sparkle and shine at Vivid Sydney 2023
It’s that time of the year again. Australia’s biggest cultural event returns this May to drench Sydney’s streets, waters and skies in colour and light. This year’s theme, ‘Vivid Sydney, Naturally’, will be reflected throughout the festival’s 300+ events across the 23-day program from May 26 – June 17. On the agenda: Immersive exhibitions, dazzling light shows, live entertainment, foodie events and so much more. Read all about it here.
2. Check out Western Sydney’s giant light festival
It’s lights galore in Sydney this May. While Vivid Sydney takes over the city’s institutions and streets at the CBD, Western Sydney is also getting in on the action with its very own light festival from May 12 until June 3. Set to take place at Sydney Zoo, Glow is all about dazzling light sculptures, rainbow pathways, glow-in-the-dark desserts and drinks and adorable animals. Get more information about it here.
3. Enjoy food, wine and harbour views at the Pyrmont Festival
In need of some liquid therapy? Keep the Pyrmont Festival on your radar. The popular harbourside event celebrates NSW’s vibrant food and drinks culture by providing a platform to winemakers, brewers, distillers, and food vendors from across the region over 2 days. It takes place on May 6 and 7 at Pirrama Park.
4. Fill your bags at this vibrant Artisan Market
If you like spending your weekend shopping, eating and drinking, don’t miss out on the Artisan Market in Barangaroo on Saturday, May 13 from 10am to 4pm which happens to be Mother’s Day weekend in case you’re looking for some fun ideas for the day. There’s live music and entertainment, plus a trove of miscellaneous goods including natural perfumes, handmade candles, massage oils, trendy home decor items and more.
5. Get a glimpse of the Northern Lights less than 2 hours from Sydney
The Northern Lights will shine bright over Bowral’s night sky from May 25 to June 30 thanks to a dazzling new event called Borealis in the Vines. Just a 90-minute drive from Sydney, you can experience surreal 360-degree auroras displayed alongside a soundtrack created by French composer Guillaume Desbois. It sounds seriously dreamy and an excellent date-night idea if you want to switch things up.
Steve McCurry is an established contemporary photographer whose work has won numerous accolades over the years. Photography lovers will now get a chance to witness his work up close through the ICONS exhibition. This exhibition is a tribute to McCurry’s career and showcases a collection of over 100 images that you can experience while listening to audio descriptions from 42 selected exhibitors who will narrate the stories behind these stellar photos.
Tickets are selling out fast, grab yours here.
7. Score $10 tickets to the Opera House
Yep, you read that right. The Opera House is indeed dropping $10 tickets this May but with a minor caveat. As part of a new weeklong classical festival from May 1-7, guests can decide to watch a performance inside the Concert Hall or Joan Sutherland Theatre, or watch the live broadcast on a giant screen at the Opera House Forecourt for just $10. P.S. Transporations costs are included in the tickets, just don’t forget your winter warmers.
8. Get dazzled at Lightscape
An all-new 2.1km trail will take visitors through the Royal Botanic Garden in a gorgeous light display this May. It’s dubbed Lightscape and it’s set to transform the garden into a light-filled fiesta. There’s glowing tree canopies, vibrant flowers and beautiful tunnels in this super, dare we say it, Instagrammable display. Read more about it here and get planning.
9. Dine at Gordon Ramsay’s Sydney pop-up
It’s been quite the year for world renowned restaurant residencies in Sydney. After French restaurant Mirazur’s takeover of Pier One on Sydney Harbour and UK Restaurant L’Enclume upcoming five-week residency at Bathers’ Pavilion, Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is popping up in Sydney from May 8-10. The dining experience comes with a hefty price tag but it’s not often you get to dine at one of the world’s most popular restaurants.
10. See the highly anticipated Tina — The Tina Turner Musical
Get working on your Nutbush City Limits routine because the long awaited Tina Turner musical is finally coming to town this May. The musical premiered in London in 2018 to widespread critical and commercial acclaim; it tells the story of the singer’s humble beginnings in Tennessee to her meteoric rise to global fame and a comeback story like no other.
11. Get transported to Japan at this Cherry Blossom pop-up
Cherry Blossom season is a little while away but you can get your fill of the pretty blooms at Surry Hills’ bar Goros until Saturday, May 27. In celebration of Japan’s Sakura season, the vibey spot is slinging an all-pink menu which includes pink sushi and pink mochi desserts and pretty floral interiors for all your social media needs.
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.
13. Get crafty at The Other Art Fair
Whether you’re an xperienced art collector or just curious about art, there’s something for all art lovers at The Other Art Fair. Set to take place from May 11-14, the event will present original and affordable works from 130 independent artists along with immersive installations, performances, DJs and a fully stocked bar. Get more information here.
14. See a thousand drones light up the sky over Sydney Harbour
There’s a lot going on at Vivid Sydney this year but an event we thought deserved a special mention is Written in the Stars, a first-of-its-kind drone show that’ll take place over Sydney Harbour and feature over a thousand drones over six shows. It’s set to be the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest drone show till date so don’t miss out. Find dates and further details here.
16. Live the Mamma Mia life with this peppy musical
Here we go again: Mamma Mia! The Musical is returning to Sydney for another round of feel-good song and dance on stage this May. Dig out your sparkliest ’70s outfit and get ready for a serious dose of nostalgia at this timeless musical. It’s returning to the Sydney Lyric Theatre for a strictly limited season so don’t miss out. Book your tickets here.
Attend one of Sydney’s beautiful Candlelight concerts and get lost in a number of familiar tunes this May.Tickets are available to tribute shows to The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Aretha Franklin and more.
🕯️Candlelight: Hans Zimmer’s Best Works at SMC
🕯️Candlelight: Best of Fleetwood Mac at SMC
🕯️Candlelight: Best of Joe Hisaishi
🕯️Candlelight: Tribute to Taylor Swift at the SMC
🕯️Candlelight: Tribute to Coldplay at the SMC
🕯️Candlelight Jazz & Soul: Amy Winehouse, Aretha Franklin and More at SMC
🕯️Candlelight: Tribute to ABBA at The Grounds (of Alexandria)
🕯️Candlelight: 100 Years of Warner Bros.
🕯️Candlelight: Best of Anime Soundtracks at The Eveleigh by The Grounds
🕯️Candlelight: Tribute to Beatles on Strings at The Eveleigh
🕯️Candlelight: Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake & More ft. Ballet at The Eveleigh
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. Step inside Darkfield’s spooky shipping containers
Darkfield has brought two of its acclaimed 360-degree sensory experiences to Sydney and they’re not for the faint of heart. Taking place in dark shipping containers, Flight has made its NSW premiere and Séance makes its long-awaited return since its huge debut in 2017. Read more about this immersive experience here.
20. Head to the Sydney Observatory for stargazing, bites and booze
Powerhouse has announced a new monthly program presented right under the stars. Get fresh perspectives from leading astronomers while enjoying music, food and drinks from leading NSW producers. This month, celebrate and view the Full Moon in all its glory with composer and theatre maker Stefan Gregory on Saturday, May 6 at the Sydney Observatory.
21. Get caught up with all the autumn colours around town
Winter is definitely in the air but we’ve got a bit of autumn left to enjoy so get out there and make the most of it while you still can. And if you, like us, can’t get enough of all the gorgeous red, gold and yellow leaves that are cropping up around the city, check out this guide for a lovely leaf-peeping adventure in Sydney.
22. Check out this vibrant exhibition
A vibrant and interactive exhibition has taken over the Museum Of Sydney. Titled Playscapes, the exhibit features a series of engaging experiences and activities that are meant to draw out your creativity. Perfect for both kids and adults, the exhibition is completely free to visit until June 4, 2023.
Ever wondered what it’s like to dine in complete darkness? If science is to be believed, it can elevate your dining experience to a whole other level of deliciousness. A sensational new experience at Capriccio Osteria is putting this to the test with a blindfold and a surprise menu for guests.
24. Get nostalgic for the Golden Age of Broadway
My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Annie Get Your Gun and Cinderella are some of the many longstanding musical theatre trailblazers from the 1940s and 1950s that are still going strong today and to celebrate these iconic musical theatre trailblazers, the Sydney Opera House is doing a special tribute show for one evening only on Saturday, May 6.
25. Go on an upside down adventure
Instagram favourite the ‘House Down Under‘ has returned to Sydney, this time at the Rouse Hill Centre. In case you missed a chance to enjoy this topsy-turvy house last year, the immersive experience flips a house on its head so you can walk on ceilings and dance on the walls to your heart’s content. Grab your tickets here.
26. Cinephiles, clear out your Thursdays for a Wes Anderson retrospective
Love all things Wes Anderson? Now’s your chance to check yourself into The Grand Budapest Hotel again because a Sydney cinema is doing a special retrospective of his work in celebration of his upcoming release Asteroid City in June. From May 4 through to June 15, take a dive into Anderson’s whimsical world’s once again at Palace Central. See the full program here.
27. Check out Australia’s first-ever donut vending machine
Dr. Dough Donuts, a colourful Bondi shop has found a way to turn any bad day into a good one — by dispensing donuts out of vending machine. It’s surprisingly an Australia-first concept and the cute shop is bringing all the sugar-induced happiness to town with donuts, cookies and gifts. Find it on level 6 of Bondi Westfield opposite Max Brenner.
28. Let your hair down at this underground party
We weren’t kidding when we said Vivid is literally taking over the city. Even the long-abandoned underground tunnels are getting a glow-up. The event is titled Dark Spectrum, and is set to be a 900m immersive experience that combines perfectly choreographed light displays, music and technology to deliver a visual feast for visitors. Read more about it here.
29. Catch a movie at a boujee electric vehicle drive-in cinema
Do you own an electric vehicle? There’s a movie event coming to town designed exclusively for you. Australia’s first-ever electric vehicle drive-in cinema is coming to Sydney complete with whisper-quiet battery generators powering the sessions on the rooftop of the Entertainment Quarter car park from May 4-7, 6pm to 11pm.
30. Keep the party going at this late-night bar
Sydney’s late-night scene is slowing coming back to life with more venues and industries getting on board to cater to night owls. A new two-level restaurant and bar called Zaffi has opened on Little Hunter Street with a 4am licence and it’s bringing neon-lit party vibes and Australian-Lebanese cuisine to the CBD.
31. Fuel your fromage obsession at a Buratta Cheese Night
If cheese gets you weak then head to Salt Meats Cheese for an indulgent cheese night which is all about Buratta. The one-night-only event kicks off on Tuesday, May 16 across its Circular Quay, Cronulla and Drummoyne venues with pizzas, pastas and more on the menu.
32. Treat mum to an elegant high tea for Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day is coming and they say the best thing you can give someone is time. So why not spend the special day with your mum munching on elegant treats and tasty teas? Check out the best high tea spots in Sydney here.
33. Grab something organic at the Sydney Vegan Market
Head to the Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday, May 21 for your fill of all things vegan. Apart from 100 epic stalls, there’ll be a free fitness class, live music, face painting, storytelling and lots of food.
34. Dig out your beret and head to this Parisian bistro in Bondi
It’s all about Parisian bistro fare, French cocktails and nostalgic vibes at Bondi’s newest French bistro and bar, Chouchou. There’s an atrium-courtyard out front and terrasse-style dining on the footpath along with DIY raclette (!). Read all about it here.
Solving a murder mystery is always a fun time, especially with close friends and family. In this immersive murder mystery experience, the 19th-century Old Government House in Sydney is the scene of a chilling crime and you will need to don your detective’s hat to get to the bottom of the mystery. Grab your tickets for this thrilling experience here.
36. Chow down on burgers, barbecuqes and more at Meatstock
Meatstock is returning with barbecues, butcher wars, bourbon and bull runs planned in Sydney on May 5 and 7 at the Sydney Showgrounds in Olympic Park. There’s also live music, burger-eating contests, food trucks, moustache competitions and plenty of beer.
37. Find something unique at The Sydney Fair
The Sydney Fair returns to the Royal Randwick Racecourse from May 4-7 with thousands of collectibles on offer from some of Australia’s finest antique and vintage dealers with pieces dating back to the 60s. There’s also a special exhibition of royal pieces in celebration of the King’s coronation.
38. Hear from Nigella Lawson live on stage
If you’re looking to polish your kitchen skills, you can hear directly from internationally-renowned food writer and television cook, Nigella Lawson in an exclusive live-on-stage shows on May 21 at the State Theatre. Tickets are available here.
39. Head to an immersive theatrical event at the Pylon Lookout
BridgeClimb’s Pylon Lookout & Museum is hosting a special and intimate event world-class performances and harbour views . Titled The Unfair Advantage, Australia’s leading sleight of hand specialist Harry Milas will take guests on a theatrical journey for the books. Seats are limited, book yours here.
40. Hit this giant new gaming venue in Sydney
Fortess has now opened an outpost in Sydney and not only is it much bigger than its Melbourne digs, but it is also the largest video games and entertainment venue in the Southern Hemisphere. Expect an esports games arena, PC gaming zone, arcades and much more. Read about it here.
41. Keep exploring our magnificent city
There’s a lot more to do in Sydney that we can’t possibly fit into one list. Here are a few more events to look out for this May.
More things to do inspo