Top ways to tap into Adelaide’s festival vibe all year round

Adelaide is renowned as Australia’s premier festival city, and the month of March sees three high profile cultural celebrations collide in one spectacular explosion of colour and creativity.

The Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Fringe and WOMADelaide pack the city with festival goers attending a vast array of live music events, theatrical performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. However, don’t despair if you can’t make it to the city for ‘Mad March’. There are plenty of ways to tap into the city’s arty vibe at any time of the year. Here are some suggestions. Book your cultural escape with Choice Hotels.

1. Focus on fine art at the Art Gallery of South Australia

For those looking for a fine art fix, Adelaide’s North Terrace Cultural Precinct is the place to be. It’s home to the imposing Art Gallery of South Australia and the State Library of South Australia. The gallery is the state’s pre-eminent arts institution and holds a collection of around 45,000 pieces – encompassing European works and a trove of Australian colonial and Indigenous works. Check the gallery’s website for details of upcoming touring exhibitions. The State Library is a work of art in its own right. Don’t miss seeing the famous Mortlock Wing – built in the late 1880s in lavish French Renaissance style. The library hosts a diverse program of exhibitions throughout the year.

top festivals in Adelaide
Art Gallery of South Australia. Image courtesy of South Australian Tourism Commission

2. Decode some contemporary art

Adelaide has a variety of institutions dedicated to showcasing contemporary art in its many guises. Two spaces to check out are ACE Open in the Lion Arts Centre, and the Samstag Museum of Art – part of the University of South Australia. ACE Open offers a free programme of immersive installations throughout the year, while Samstag showcases experimental works – ranging from performance art to photography and everything in between. It’s housed in the ultra-modern Hawke Building on the university’s City West campus, and is an easy walk from most city hotels.

3. Check out the work of local creatives at an arts incubator

Adelaide has a number of ‘arts incubators’ dedicated to advancing and showcasing the work of local creatives. With a centre in the CBD, and also in the Barossa, JamFactory is one of the most accessible. The centre broadly supports four disciplines – ceramics, glass, furniture, and jewellery/metal work. Visitors to the CBD centre can check out the daily glassblowing demonstrations and take a free behind-the-scenes-tour of the facility’s workspaces and studios. There’s also a formal exhibition space, which is open daily. The rustic Barossa centre is located on the Seppeltsfield Estate and offers the chance to connect directly with local artisans and watch them work.

4. Seek out the sensational street art

Adelaide’s arts scene isn’t contained inside buildings. The entire CBD feels like one big artist’s canvas, thanks to its popping street art. From tiny paste-ups to giant murals, there’s something special to be found, literally, around every corner. If you’re not sure where to begin, book a walking tour with Feast on Foot. You’ll spend a morning exploring the city’s street food scene and checking out the latest street art works.

top festivals in Adelaide
Take in some Adelaide street art. Image courtesy of Andre Castellucci

5. Get theatrical

Live theatre is alive and well in the South Australian capital. During the annual Fringe festival, theatrical productions of every conceivable genre are staged in a variety of performance spaces across the city. For the rest of the year, the Adelaide Festival Centre is the city’s main hub for the performing arts. It hosts theatre, dance, cabaret, comedy, opera and ballet. Head online to see what’s on during your visit. If you happen to be in town mid-year, check out the line-up at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. It attracts some of the world’s finest variety performers. The acclaimed Adelaide-based Windmill Theatre Co stages family friendly (for the most part) productions.

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6. Feel the beat

Adelaide’s iconic WOMADelaide outdoor festival packs its four-day programme with world-class musical performances, but you can head out in Adelaide almost any night of the year and find a live music venue pumping out the beats. The city has a proud tradition of supporting homegrown musical talent, and key venues include the Rhino Room and the Thebarton Theatre (known locally as the ‘Thebbie’). The Gov is located just opposite the Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Hindmarsh and is open six nights a week. Earplugs are sold at the bar for $2 a pair. You’ll soon appreciate why.

top festivals in Adelaide
WOMADelaide. Image courtesy of Tourism Australia

7. Head for the Adelaide Hills

The Adelaide Hills region is a magnet for creative types and it’s easy to understand the reason so many artists and artisans take up residence here. There’s a strong sense of community and no end of inspiration on offer. Visit the fabulous Hahndorf Academy, which exhibits work by Australian and international artists in a wonderful 19th century building. The Top of the Torrens Gallery in Birdwood is dedicated to showing pieces by local artists. If you have a car, download a map and follow the Hills Sculpture Trail – which takes in 26 public sculptures displayed throughout the Adelaide Hills and down the Fleurieu Peninsula.

top festivals in Adelaide
Follow the Hills Sculpture Trail. Image courtesy of South Australian Tourism Commission Adam Bruzzone

Need a place to stay?

Stay in the heart of the city at the Quality Apartments Adelaide Central, which occupies the newly refurbished T&G Building. The hotel offers 72 generously sized one and two-bedroom apartments, each with an open plan layout and kitchen facilities. Complimentary Wi-Fi is provided.

For those looking to base themselves in the city’s leafy north, the Quality Inn O’Connell is a fabulous option. This boutique hotel has 24 spacious rooms and is ideal for business or leisure travellers.

More: Things to do and see in Adelaide

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About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.

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