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Boat moving across lake with hot air balloons above

Must-attend events at Enlighten Festival

Updated 29 Feb 2024

The must-see events at Enlighten Festival 2024

Enlighten Festival will light up the nation’s capital between 1-11 March, with the Canberra Balloon Spectacular filling the sky with wonder from 9-17 March. 

Each year the Enlighten Festival offers a diverse program of events, with the centrepiece being stunning architectural projections across some of Canberra’s iconic national attractions during Enlighten Illuminations. The festival also features the local short film festival Lights! Canberra! Action!, a cinema of sound with Symphony in the Park (this year featuring well-loved Australian rock band, the Hoodoo Gurus), the local favourite celebration of the nation’s capital: Canberra Day, and a sky full of hot air balloons during the Canberra Balloon Spectacular.

We’ve gathered your essential guide to the must-do events at Enlighten Festival 2024.

Illuminated letters spelling ENLIGHTEN during Enlighten Illuminations in 2023 | © Events ACT

Enlighten Illuminations

Canberra’s iconic attractions will become canvases for digital art during the Enlighten Illuminations (1-11 March). Australian Parliament House, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Australia, Questacon, the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, and the National Library of Australia will be transformed by thought-provoking architectural projections and artistic installations showcasing Australian culture and storytelling.

While you’re out and about in exploring the Enlighten Festival Hub, enjoy amazing, illuminated installations including neon artistic reflections of the Canberra landscape, interactive projectionss, a virtual reality swing experience, and colourful fibre optics.

To celebrate the launch of Vincent Namatjira: Australia in colour, the National Gallery of Australia has commissioned a new projection and sound-based work by Namatjira to illuminate the building’s exterior for the festival. The projections will cover the architecture of the gallery’s 60 metre western façade and feature a composite video/animation that brings the artist’s works of art to life.

This year, the National Portrait Gallery is excited to be partnering with Yuwi, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander artist Dylan Mooney. Against an animated backdrop, Mooney will undertake a nightly portrait drawing session which will dynamically appear in real-time on the building. With no two nights the same, this commission encourages audiences to return night after night during the festival.

And for the Lego lovers in the family, head to Australian Parliament House between 8-11 pm each night during Enlighten Illuminations, to enjoy the iconic building being transformed into a Lego-inspired animated creation for all ages.

The Festival Hub will also celebrate some of the best the region has to offer with a range of food and drinks, from the BentSpoke Beer Garden to the brand new wine and spirits bar, Bar Berra. Enlighten Food Park will feature a lineup of food trucks and innovative restaurateurs from across the east coast of Australia, alongside local favourites. Come for one treat but stay for the rest; there’s sure to be something for everyone to enjoy within the Festival Hub.

Entry to Enlighten Illuminations is free. Some exclusive events throughout the event are ticketed.

Neon illuminating Old Parliament House at nighttime during Enlighten Illuminations | © Events ACT

Enlighten After Dark

As day turns to night, Canberra invites you to a range of free and ticketed Enlighten-themed experiences and exclusive events as part of Enlighten After Dark (1-11 March). Explore some of Canberra’s national attractions, businesses, and cultural destinations as they open their doors to host these special, after-dark events.

Like the National Gallery of Australia’s Enlighten Up Late, that will feature evenings of art, music, and family activities. You can enjoy the star-studded live music line up across Friday and Saturday nights featuring: Thelma Plum, Jem Cassar-Daley, Dan Sultan, Briggs, and Jeremy Whiskey with special guests.

Or spend an evening indulging in a degustation dinner at the Australian Parliament House (8 March) or taking a lakeside moon walk (8-9 March) as part of the Enlighten After Dark program.

Balloons inflated at Canberra Balloon Spectacular in 2023 with people standing and viewing from lawns below. | © Events ACT

Canberra Balloon Spectacular 

Wake up to surreal scenes as dozens of hot air balloons float across the capital each morning during the Canberra Balloon Spectacular (9-17 March). Head to Patrick White Lawns behind the National Library of Australia to see the balloons inflate and launch each morning from 6 am (weather permitting). Enjoy a hot breakfast from the food trucks at the launch site, or head to the lake or one of the many vantage spots to watch the balloons float across the sky.

Spectator entry to the Canberra Balloon Spectacular is free. If you would like to enjoy a hot air balloon ride for yourself, book directly with Balloon Aloft. Rides start at $330.

For a unique perspective of the Canberra Balloon Spectacular, you can hire a paddleboard or kayak from SUPCBR, or captain your own GoBoat to head out onto Lake Burley Griffin and enjoy the view from the water.

Faces of a crowd are illuminated from the screen at Lights! Canberra! Action!  | © Events ACT

Lights! Canberra! Action!

See the best of local filmmaking talent at the short film festival with Lights! Canberra! Action! (8 March). Located in the open-air surrounds of the Senate Rose Garden, this short film festival shines the spotlight on local filmmaking talent. Watch up-and-coming local filmmakers share their perspective and interpretation of this years’ theme: ‘A Sense of Purpose’.

Canberra Day

Make your weekend in Canberra beautiful by celebrating supporting the city during Canberra Day, Monday 11 March. Join in the Canberra Day Appeal Fun Run and follow up the race by enjoying a full day of entertainment in Commonwealth Park from 10 am - 5 pm.  Sample a range of delicious cuisines and browse locally made products and handicrafts at the Food and Makers market. Enjoy live music and family activities throughout the day as you celebrate the Canberra community. Profits from the Fun Run will support local charities doing good for the nation’s capital, through Hands Across Canberra.

Symphony In The Park

Make Commonwealth Park in Canberra your scene on Sunday 10 March as the legendary Hoodoo Gurus join the Canberra Symphony Orchestra for one of the most-loved events of every Enlighten Festival every year, Symphony in the Park. A highlight of the Enlighten Festival, audiences will be treated to a cinema of sound, as they listen and dance to some of the Hoodoo Guru’s greatest hits, supported by the 40-piece orchestra.

A comfy bed in front of a window looking out across Canberra.

Staying in Canberra

Travelling to Canberra for Enlighten Festival? Make your stay even more memorable by staying at one of the amazing DOMA hotels: Hotel Realm, Burbury Hotel, Little National Hotel, Brassey Hotel or Pinnacle Apartments.

As an Enlighten Accommodation partner, DOMA is offering 20% off your stay, just use the discount code ‘ENLIGHTEN’ at checkout.

Within walking distance to all Enlighten events, all DOMA hotels offer a seamless blend of luxury and convenience, providing festivalgoers with a lavish retreat after an evening  day of artistic exploration. Indulge in world-class amenities, impeccable service, and stylish accommodation venues that will round-out your perfect trip to Canberra.

For those hoping to catch the Canberra Balloon Spectacular, Abode is also offering a 15% discount on accommodation for the duration of the festival. This special offer is available across all Abode Hotels properties in Canberra. To receive this offer, just use the discount code ‘BALLOON24’ at checkout.

Hot air balloons above lake and museum
Canberra Balloon Spectacular
Art installations at Enlighten Festival
Art installation in front of National Portrait Gallery at Enlighten Illuminations
Enlighten Illuminations
People enjoying food and drink at a market at Enlighten Festival
Enlighten Festival
A musical duo singing and playing guitar at Enlighten Festival.
Enlighten Illuminations
A circus performer at Enlighten Festival
Enlighten Illuminations
Illuminations projected on the National Library as part of the Enlighten Festival 2021.
Enlighten Illuminations
Large neon letters spelling out Enlighten on the steps of the National Library of Australia
Enlighten Festival Illuminations
People taking photos in front of hot air balloons by the lake
Canberra Balloon Spectacular
20 hot air balloons above the lake and hills of Canberra
Canberra Balloon Spectacular
People watching hot air balloons inflate and taking photos
Canberra Balloon Spectacular
Large crowd watching free musical performance
Symphony in the Park

#EnlightenFestival Gallery

Check out the hashtag on social media to see Enlighten Festival fans’ favourite moments from past years. Where will your perfect picture moment be? Share your snaps using #VisitCanberra and #EnlightenFestival.

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