Be blown away by 225 cutting-edge works of art, music, light and theatre. Feast at hawker markets. Ice skate under the stars. An epic new festival called Rising is set to electrify Melbourne streets and landmarks from 1 to 12 June. Whether you’re at the festival on a loved-up getaway, with friends or with your family, here’s what to see, what to eat and where to stay.
Explore the wild outdoors
Don’t be daunted by the scale. The big idea, says festival co-director Hannah Fox, is to choose your own adventure over any or all 12 nights of the festival. “Rising is designed as a holistic experience – it's not just going to see a show then going home. There's food, wine, public art, performance and music, all intertwining in the city.”
Start here: Rug up and get a feel for things at The Wilds (open 1-19 June, beyond the end of the festival), a technicolour outdoor art park at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. First, fuel up at the food stalls (carb-loading with pasta from cult purveyors 1800 Lasagne is a good idea) and grab a cocktail to wander with. Then explore the mind-bending ecosystem of sculpture, soundscapes and performance art. Get your glide on at Rinky Dink, an ice skating rink that will delight kids and adults alike. On one night, book dinner at The Lighthouse, The Wilds' pop-up restaurant, which plates up four-course fine-dining menus inside a plant-filled glasshouse bistro.
Don’t miss: Monochord, a nightly work from artist Robin Fox that sends a kilometre-long beam of laser and sound up Birrarung / the Yarra River. “It's something that you can spend half an hour really taking in,” says Fox.
Pick your performance
There are shows that go everyone’s speed each night. Dance to Lucy Dacus’s brand of indie pop at Forum Melbourne on 8 June or catch a tech-driven 21st-century spin on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray at Arts Centre Melbourne throughout the festival (from 5 June). Inside a ballroom that was hidden inside Flinders Street Station for decades, stroll through A Miracle Constantly Repeated, artist Patricia Piccinini’s installation of hyper-real silicone sculptures, light, sound and video (until 12 June).
Stay up later: Grab Malaysian and Chinese hawker food at the Heffernan Lane Night Market (until 9pm Friday-Sunday). At Golden Square in Chinatown, experience a live art exhibition set in a heritage car park and order an atmospheric rooftop nightcap. Eyes peeled: throughout the night, performance artist Scotty So will be staging pop-up drag shows that fuse Tang dynasty, Japanese kabuki and operatic influences. Up for more noise? Artist Jason Phu’s Parade For the Moon, a 30-person spectacle of marching spirits, dragons, drums and animals, goes until 11pm/midnight.
What to do in daylight
If you’re around on Sunday 5 June, see Still Lives at the National Gallery of Victoria. This free exhibition transforms Aussie Rules players into living sculptures by suspending them in the air using ropes (yes, really!). The work tackles sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia in sporting culture. At ACMI at Fed Square, Anything and Everything explores how young people navigate identity, connection and intimacy. Plates of cured kingfish and potato bread at Hero, the celebrated restaurant attached to the museum, make the perfect lunch.
Stroll, shop, snack: Quintessential Melbourne is easy to explore on foot. Browse the racks at edgy, sibling-owned boutique label Alpha60 on Flinders Lane. Around the corner on Russell Street, join the queue at Lune Croissanterie for a coffee and a buttery croissant to go. A couple of blocks away, the spray-painted walls of Hosier Lane form Melbourne’s most famous street art gallery. From here, walk via bustling Flinders and Swanston streets to the historic The Block Arcade on Collins Street, where you can quietly dig for vinyls at Basement Discs or browse unique timepieces at French watch boutique Bell & Ross.
Where to eat
Rising’s The Lighthouse, food stalls and Heffernan Lane Night Market will keep you going but some of Melbourne’s best restaurants are also right near the action. Asian fusion restaurant Supernormal, famed for melt-in-your-mouth lobster rolls and plates of delicate dumplings, is just a short stroll from Monochord. By the river in the Yarra Building at Fed Square, find Big Esso, an Indigenous-owned restaurant where you’ll taste creative dishes like kangaroo tail with pepperberry bourguignon.
At Her, a new multi-venue hotspot on Lonsdale Street, order spinner crab omelettes and Bloody Marys for breakfast from the all-day cocktail bar, sway to DJ beats until late in the Music Room or linger over a negroni until 1am at the leafy rooftop bar.
Where to stay
Couples will find elegant downtime in the luxurious suites, spa and scenic pool at The Langham, which, on Southgate Avenue, is situated between Golden Square and The Wilds. With six buzzy bars and restaurants plus slick meeting spaces, the edgier QT Hotel is a great pick if you’re jamming work into the mix. Families can spread out in a two-bedroom apartment at Flinders Landing Apartments, a short walk from the Yarra and many of Rising’s key venues.