Arriving fresh in Auckland, I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what to expect. Being a mainlander (South Islander), I’d often sneered at Auckland for being filled with suits and corporate office blocks, for lacking culture and caring only about business. It took moving here to realise how wrong I was.
What I found was a lively arts scene, vibrant festivals, and more cultural events than I could squeeze into my calendar. And the cherry on top? These events, performances, exhibitions and festivals are from diverse cultures from all over the world, creating an international atmosphere unrivalled elsewhere in NZ.
Here are a few of my top picks for arts, culture, and festivals in Auckland:
- For a classy night out … go to a musical at the Civic.
From Aladdin to Les Miserables, War Horse to School of Rock, the big-name musicals all come to the Civic in central Auckland for their NZ season. The theatre itself is beautiful and worth a visit just to admire the heritage venue, and the shows performed here are of high quality. Perfect for a classy culture trip.
- For a laugh with friends … go to a comedy show at the Classic or Basement Theatre.
See local and international acts take the stage for off the wall plays, improvised performances, and classic stand up comedy. Take a chance on someone you’ve never heard of, and you may find a new favourite. Just be warned if you sit near the front – audience participation is encouraged.
- For a blast from the past … go see a retro movie at Silo Park Cinema (in summer).
Current films are shown too, but the biggest crowds come out for the retro favourites like Home Alone, Jurassic Park, and E.T. Take a picnic blanket, rugs and snacks and settle in for an evening under the stars with your friends.
- For a slice of culture … don’t miss the Lantern Festival, Polyfest, Matariki, or Diwali festivals.
Auckland is NZ’s most culturally diverse city, and what better way to celebrate that than by going to a vibrant festival. The Lantern Festival, for Chinese New Year, is the best place to munch dumplings while exploring the light show around the Domain. Polyfest shows off the talents of Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Niuean, and Cook Islands performers over a four-day competition. Matariki, celebrating Maori new year in the depths of winter, is best experienced through visiting arts workshops, performances and light shows through the night. Diwali showcases everything Indian from food to theatre to workshops and a final fireworks display. I dare you not to want to visit each of these countries afterwards!
- For inspiration to write that book … head along to the Auckland Writer’s Festival.
For the many of us who say we’d like to write a book someday, what better place to find inspiration and useful instruction than the week-long Auckland Writer’s Festival. Hosting local and international writers, it’s a hub of creative activity in the heart of the city.
- For live music you can dance to … don’t go past K Road.
With venues such as Neck of the Woods, Anthology Lounge, Whammy Bar, Studio the Venue, and Wine Cellar, there’s something for everyone on Karangahape Road, affectionately known by locals as K Road. Whatever your beat of choice, you’ll find a local spot to listen, dance, and party the night away. Big international acts tend toward the larger Powerstation, Spark Arena, or Mt Smart.
- For quiet appreciation … check out some of the city’s best art galleries.
Local arts are on full display across Auckland’s galleries, from classic to contemporary, niche and avant-garde to traditional. Start with visits to Artspace, Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki, Ivan Anthony Gallery, Gow Langsford Gallery, and Pah Homestead. Walking around Ponsonby or Parnell, you’ll also stumble upon smaller unique exhibition spaces.
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For more great places to eat in Auckland, visit our previous blog on 10 best cafes to hold a candidate meeting in Auckland here.