Wild festivals and summer soirees – what’s on in Brisbane over the holiday period

Well folks, we made it to the end of the year, which means it’s officially time to sit back, relax, unwind and enjoy the festive season. If you’re venturing out of Brisbane for the holiday season (lucky you) then this one is not for you, but for those staying put, keep reading, as we’ve put together the ultimate guide on what to in Brisbane over the Christmas and New Year break. From final festive events and family-friendly fun to wild festivals and summer-centric soirees, here’s what’s on from December 21 to January 7.

Dec 21, 2023, updated Dec 21, 2023

Christmas in Brisbane
December 25 is only days away, which means this is your last chance to get involved in Christmas in Brisbane. On Friday night (December 22), the final performance of the magical all-ages Christmas show A Whimsical, Wonderful Christmas will take over Queen Street Mall’s Main Stage, outside Uptown. This beloved feature show will be happening at 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm. For more fun-filled live events, Christmas on Queen has a stacked line-up of performances, roaming entertainment from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm every day and from 4:30 pm to 8:00 pm for your Friday late-night shopping. Don’t forget to experience the Christmas windows at Uptown whilst in the area as well.

Once the sun dips, flock to King George Square this weekend and revel in the captivating visuals and sounds at The Lott by Golden Casket City Hall Lights and Brisbane’s famous 22-m illuminated Christmas Tree. This free light-and-sound show is perfect for an after-work treat or weekend adventure and is running nightly from 7:30 pm to midnight until December 24.

David Jones at QueensPlaza is your source of Christmas spirit this season, with another weekend of festive fun for the whole family! Santa Claus is back in town and ready and waiting for your 2023 Christmas portrait. Families and fur-babies can get a photo with the man in red this weekend at David Jones – the only place you can in The City! Plus, kids will receive a special gift from Santa himself.

Speaking of Christmas portraits, if a seat on Santa’s lap isn’t for you, try the Wintergarden Portrait Office, complete with two themed backdrops. Located outside Wintergarden in Queen Street Mall, this decked out photo suite offers props, lighting and two backdrops – including a retro office and Santa’s delivery depot. It’s your last weekend to score shots with colleagues, friends and family, so BYO phone and strike a pose in front of this Christmas-themed and candy-cane-striped backdrop.

For the first time this season, you can light up your evening with the Starz Christmas Show from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm at Queen Street Mall’s Main Stage. Every night until Christmas Eve, the bustling precinct transforms into a Christmas wonderland with sensational local singers and dancers for an unforgettable night of Christmas spirit.

Christmas at South Bank 
Trot on over the bridge to South Bank to continue the Christmas cheer at Christmas at South Bank. Take in the dazzling South Bank Christmas Lights display that will illuminate the parklands until December 27, or do some last-minute festive shopping  at The Collective Markets – Christmas Edition on Little Stanley Street from December 15–23. The little ones can create magical Christmas memories and burn some excitement at the elf disco party at South Bank’s dedicated kids zone, Holly Jolly Kids, with hourly sessions from 4:00 pm until Saturday December 23.

The South Bank Christmas Show will hit the stage at the South Bank Piazza from December 18–23 (tickets available here) with a jolly chorus of talented elves, along with Mr Claus himself, bringing the magic of Santa’s workshop to life with two shows each night. Kick back by the Riverside Green and soak up joyous sounds at Carols by the River, with three shows nightly (4:30 pm, 6:00 pm and 7:15 pm) from December 18–23. For even more festive tunes, roll out a rug on the Little Stanley Street Lawn and enjoy live Christmas music from a roster of local talent at Festive Beats presented by eatSouthBank, held December 18–23 from 4:30 pm.

Get into the holiday spirit and watch your favourite festive flicks under the stars at the South Bank Christmas Cinema at River Quay Green. The free Christmas cinema will have sessions nightly (6:00 pm and 8:00 pm) with everything from Home Alone to The Holiday to screen from December 18–23.

Live shows, theatre and dance
Fans of fabulous frivolity and flamboyant fun should flock to The Pink Flamingo Spiegeland for an electric array of theatre and shows. The Northshore Hamilton venue is hosting three inaugural shows that are sure to induce bulk laughs, gasps and wows. The first cab off the rank will be vivacious Vegas-style soiree Suave that combines the artistry of burlesque, astonishing acrobatics and the glitz and glamour of Vegas with wild comedy. A testosterone-packed affair awaits at the titillating interactive extravaganza Ripped and feel as though you’ve been transported the the Moulin Rouge with the provocative Parisian-inspired cabaret La Teaze

Catch the Kransky Sisters at QPAC until December 24 for A Cracker Kransky Christmas. Travelling down in a trusty Morris from their hometown of Esk, the sisters are eager to share their unravelling stories along with home-spun renditions of popular songs, deftly banged out on their wondrously odd-ball menagerie of instruments.

Still looking for something to do for New Year’s? We suggest rounding up your pals and nabbing tickets to Wildlands Festival at the Brisbane Showgrounds. This one-day music festival will have you boogieing into 2024 with a star-studded line-up featuring Aussie dance-inducers  RÜFÜS DU SOL, club icons Peggy Gou and Central Cee, plus other festival must-sees like The Jungle Giants, G Flip and more.

Grab the sticky geckos, break out the duck cakes, and alert the grannies – Australia’s much-loved Heeler family is returning to Bluey’s hometown with the original live show, Bluey’s Big Play. Showing at QPAC’s Playhouse Theatre from Saturday December 30 2023 to Saturday January 20 2024, join Bluey, Bingo, Bandit and Chilli as they star in this captivating live theatre show featuring puppetry and iconic sets.

Pink Floyd fans can experience the legendary album The Dark Side Of The Moon like never before at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium until March 31, 2024. This Queensland-exclusive celestial experience sees Pink Floyd tunes set to breathtaking visuals of the solar system and beyond, with each song boasting a different theme of time and space, ranging from futuristic panoramas to retro influences.

All the way from London’s West End, multi-award winning and record-breaking musical Chicago is coming to Brisbane from January 2, 2024. Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover and takes on a new persona to avoid conviction. Expect murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery, treachery … and “All That Jazz”.

Beware of Dangerous Goods – QPAC’s feminist comedy, cabaret and circus production taking over QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre from Thursday January 4, 2024. This hot-as-hell provocative performance features a world-class line-up of mind-bending circus, breathtaking burlesque, dazzling drag and power vocals from iconic performance group Polytoxic.

Food and drink
In case you missed the recent news, the Netherworld team expanded its presence at the northern end of Brunswick Street, taking over another wedge of the old Shamrock Hotel to open Lost Souls – a karaoke spot with a hellishly fun edge. Lost Souls is now open and giving its guests a peek inside its five themed rooms (two of which can fit up to eight and another three with capacity for 20), each designed by artist Nelson Gibbins to resemble a different realm of purgatory. Each realm is overseen by a monstrous overlord – in one room it’s a giant mutant toad, while another is ruled by a giant skeleton. The venue also boasts its own eight-tap bar, which dispenses a concise edit of Netherworld’s full tap list as well as an extensive cocktail set-up. But, if you don’t want to interrupt your singing marathon, you can also order drinks to your room via QR codes.

Fancy a weekend vino session? Add Sirromet Wines’ enchanting summer celebration Twilight in the Vines to your calendar. This seasonal experience includes a picturesque backdrop featuring cushioned seating and quaint crate tables and a gourmet tray filled with locally sourced charcuterie paired with a bottle of Sirromet wine per couple. Sit back and sip each bottle chosen by the expert winemakers and brought to your table.

Industry Beans’ bottomless brunch – which is held on the last Sunday of every month – is back, treating diners to two hours of flavour-packed fare and bottomless boozy sips. The next brunch event will take place on New Year’s Eve (Sunday December 31), which will be backed up by another fabulous feast on New Years Day (Monday January 1). Dig in to a myriad of mouth-watering eats washed down by free-flowing mimosas, prosseco, Newstead espresso martinis, Aperol spritzes, cold-brew negronis, espresso tonic highballs and of course, coffee!

Grab your go-to booze crew and book a table at Corbett & Claude anytime from 11:30 am to 6:00 pm on Sundays and indulge in two hours of flavoursome fun. For just $69 per person, you can indulge in an array of salivation-worthy starters to share, alongside your favourite pizza or pasta. Pair your food with two hours of bottomless cocktail jugs, beer or wine, exclusive merch and live music.

Until Saturday December 30, the Hansel and Gretel Immersive Cocktail Experience is transforming Wickham Terrace into an abandoned forest, allowing guests to step into a fantasy world of magic, wonder, delicious cocktails and sweet treats. Start the night with a welcome drink in hand on arrival, before taking a journey through the witches lair and edible confines (yes, edible). Taste the delights of her house at every step, with secret surprises and hidden treasures nestled in any nook, yours to uncover. Fill up on tasty treats such as donuts and candy, while sipping on two inclusive cocktails as a performance takes place, further immersing you into the troublesome tale.

If you’re yet to lock in your New Year’s Eve plans, check out our extensive round-up of New Year’s Eve soirees. But be quick, everything is sure to sell out fast (if it hasn’t already!)

Entertainment and exhibitions
For all of the LEGO lovers out there, Jurassic World by Brickman at Queensland Museum is finally open with its larger-than-life exhibition. Discover mind-boggling dinosaurs, props, scenes and activities made from more than six million LEGO bricks and built over 10,000 hours. Jurassic World by Brickman runs until July 14, 2024. Across the river, Museum of Brisbane’s latest exhibition, Rearranged: Art of the Flower, is blooming with a lush collection of paintings, textiles, sculptures, ceramics and new media. The perfect stop off on your way to some of the festivities on Queen Street, this exhibition offers a grounding and engaging adventure with art for all ages.

See the stories that shaped your childhood come to life at QAGOMA’s latest exhibition Fairy Tales. Exclusive to Brisbane, the unmissable exhibition brings together artists, film makers and designers to explore centuries-old folk stories and fairy tales through immersive installations, stunning costumes, contemporary artworks, cinema and artefacts. This weekend, the GOMA cinema is also hosting a screening of Beauty and the Beast (2017) for the ultimate fantastical Sunday afternoon.

Craving more art? Experience sis, QAGOMA’s exhibition featuring three decades of art-making from a sisterhood of Pacific artists. With everything from large sculptural installations to compelling video, this exhibition is a medley of mediums and meanings. In the same precinct you’ll find Queensland Art Gallery’s latest exhibition, Living Patterns, which considers artistic elements such as colour, shape and form. With works from leading Australian artists, this exhibition has been curated so it engages and challenges your perception and experience with art.

Whilst there, nip across to The State Library of Queensland for its ongoing collection, Working Country, which considers the relationship between First Nations people, the pastoral industry and survival since colonial invasion. This free exhibition offers a unique entry point into Australian history and is available until January 2024.

Until January 20, The University of Queensland Art Museum will host the art exhibition Mare Amoris (Sea of Love). This exhibition gathers creative and intellectual practices that dissolve the colonial boundaries of oceans and their connected waters. Artists and their kin give language, voice, and form to these watery spaces, passed down through matrilineal storytelling, bodily memory and land-based knowledge systems.

Aussie sports fans will tell you that nothing screams summer like cricket. Cricket fans can catch the Brisbane Heat play in the Big Bash League at The Gabba on December 27 against the Sydney Thunder, on New Year’s Day against the Sydney Sixers, on January 7 against the Hobart Hurricanes and on January 10 against the Perth Scorchers.

Nothing screams a summer weekend than strolling through some stalls of your local market. Find Brisbane’s usual suspects on over the Christmas period including Northshore Produce Markets, Riverside Markets, Kelvin Grove Village Market, Jan Powers Farmers Markets, Davies Park Market, Carseldine Markets, Nundah Farmers Markets and the Redcliffe Markets. For delicious dinner time eats, Eat Street Northshore is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and serving up an array of flavours of delicious street food vendors. 

Looking to gift mindfully this season? Hit up one of Brisbane’s several second-hand and vintage fashion markets. Love Me Again Market is once again taking over Milton with its curated bounty of stallholders offering designs from a selection of much-loved brands.

Events may be subject to be postponed or cancelled at the last minute. We do our best to remove cancelled events but be sure to check the organiser’s own event page for the most current updates.

Want more? Head to our comprehensive Event Guide for all of the fun around town where you can search by category, date, location and more!

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