The Best Free Activities in Canberra

free activities in canberra

Contrary to popular belief, Canberra is more than just a city of parks and politicians. Almost 10% of the population is students, so the capital has certainly learned to create a fun environment for those who don’t have much cash to spare. As you settle into the new academic year, check out these free activities around Canberra.  

Festivals galore

As the weather begins to cool down, Enlighten illuminates Canberra. From 28 February to 15 March, light shows spring up at institutions across the city, including Parliament House, the National Library of Australia and Questacon. This night-time event is very Instagram-friendly with its neon arches and 1980s themed installations. The Canberra Night Noodle Markets at Reconciliation Place is the best spot to eat while exploring the displays.

Later in the year, make sure to check out Floriade. There over one million incredible flowers on display, along with workshops, entertainment, markets, music and much more.

Find your inner artist

Canberra has an awesome arts and culture scene, but enjoying it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Smith’s Alternative, a cosy cafe-bar in Civic, is home to old yet comfortable couches and lots of great events. On the every third Wednesday of the month, Smith’s puts on Canberra’s best-known slam poetry event: BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! A great night of laughter, tears and second-hand embarrassment, the event features quite the selection of talent. If you’re feeling brave, you can get up on stage and share some of your own verses. 

Technically this one’s not entirely free, but if performance is your passion, it’s worth keeping track of the productions put on by your educational institution and your local community centre. Find their Facebook groups or websites to keep track of their calendar. These theatre and music productions are generally significantly cheaper than anything at the Canberra Theatre, and even though they’re amateur performers, they know how to put on a good show!

If you’re more intent on sharpening your own artistic abilities, Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres in Braddon is the place to go. Each one has a constant rotation of events for all ages and abilities. They even offer ‘Artist’s Toolkit’, a series of free, one-on-one workshops where amateur and emerging creators can seek advice on developing and marketing their practice, and meet fellow artists in Canberra.  

In-home entertainment

The great thing about studying is that you have a ready-made community around you. Simply being a student means you already are in the middle of a vibrant environment with plenty of activities to keep you engaged.  

On top of the theatre productions run by university clubs, there is always a variety of events where participation is free. Public lectures may not sound like your typical night out, but the Australian National University has hosted lots of amazing speakers, from well-known authors to experts across multiple fields. (Here’s a helpful hint: some of the smaller academic talks have free nibbles afterwards!). 

Trivia is always a popular option if you want to test your competitive spirit, and if you’re feeling energetic, your educational institution’s sport facilities often run free ‘come try’ days where you can discover a new sport or fitness program. Ask your educational institution for more information.

The best way to keep up with on-campus activities is by reading the email notices that land in your inbox or by following social media pages, especially those run by student associations. 

The great outdoors

Looking for peace and quiet, or keen to explore the local surroundings with friends? Canberra definitely lives up to its ‘bush capital’ title.

Black Mountain, Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie are all home to breathtaking summit views. You don’t even need hiking boots – just put on some sandshoes and say ‘hello’ to the locals taking their dog for a walk. Red Hill is another great spot, located in south Canberra. The hill is named for its orange soil and offers an incredible view of Telstra Tower, Parliament House and Woden. 

Another way to get your blood pumping is with a walk or bike ride around Lake Burley Griffin. On a good day, the water glitters in the sunlight. But maybe think twice before trying to swim in the lake!