Your guide to Sydney Festival 2020

Life: The Show features in the Sydney Festival 2020 line-up.
Life: The Show features in the Sydney Festival 2020 line-up.

The summer festivities don't end in Sydney after New Year's Eve. Kicking off in the second week of January is the Sydney Festival, an annual celebration of art, music, dance, circus, cabaret, drama and all things Australian.

Sydney Festival partners with several restaurants and hotels to offer special deals and packages for festival goers. Mantra 2 Bond Street has executive apartments and a rooftop pool, while Mantra on Kent has self-contained apartments. Both Mantras are just a few minutes' walk to many festival events.

Another choice pick is the whimsical QT Sydney, next to the historic State Theatre. Formerly the old Gowings department store, the 200-room QT hotel has retained its charm and sophistication with designer interiors. Plus, the doormen dazzle in cabaret outfits.

For a great deal at some of Sydney's most-popular restaurants, including Botanic House, Kittyhawk and the Squire's Landing, mention "Festival Feasts" when booking. There are $30 or $55 menus as well as à la carte options so you can grab a quick bite before catching a show. The pick is Indu on Angel Place where you can soak up the festival atmosphere while dining on a $55 feast of South Indian dishes like devilled prawns with tamarind, salmon dosa or Goan pork-belly curry.

The Sydney Festival started life in 1956 as the Waratah Festival, a celebration of the blooming of this true-blue Aussie flower. The event used to include a parade, a popular art competition, beauty contests, exhibitions, performances and the Lord Mayor's reception at Town Hall. But in 2020, the line-up looks a little different than it did 64 years ago.

The nearly three-week cultural event features some high-profile local and international shows, as well as some smaller off-beat performances.

Wesley Enoch, the festival's director, has curated a program that will also include Indigenous events and special performances just for kids. Many of the events are free, starting from opening night.

Sydney Symphony Under the Stars and Opera in the Domain have long been popular with families who enjoy spending an evening on a blanket with a picnic basket listening to a free concert. Set in the stunning grounds of Parramatta Park, the program of this year's Symphony Under the Stars is an ode to famous German composer Ludwig van Beethovan. Opera in the Domain features some of the industry's best singers, performing well-known arias.

The world premiere of Bungul at the Opera House is a tribute to the musical legacy of Gurrumul Yunupingu. The performance of dancers and songmen is accompanied by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Bungul is a ceremonial celebration of Dr G's final, posthumously released album, Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow).

The Sydney Festival will also host a number of cabaret shows including a reboot of 1970s show Betty Blokk-Buster, that is directed by Craig Ilott. Betty invites you into her tent show of has-beens, battlers, freaks and survivors.

Throughout the entire festival, Sydney becomes a creative and cultural hub with enough art installations, workshops, talks and circus performances to fill your January calendar several times over.

Transport: Virgin Australia, Qantas, QantasLink, Rex Airlines and Jetstar fly to Sydney from about $200, depending on where you are flying from. If you are driving, hotels can arrange parking but it will be pricey.

Stay: Rates for QT Hotel start from $263 per night. Join the QT Club to save 10 per cent. QT hosts a couple of festival events so it's a convenient location to stay. Mantra on Kent starts from $194 per night; Mantra 2 Bond from $260 per night.

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