The nights are getting cooler, meaning Sydney’s hottest event is just around the corner! Back for its 11th year, Vivid Sydney 2019 is lighting up the Harbour City with a stellar lineup of speakers, performances, and, of course, lights.

Running for three weeks from 24 May to 15 June, there are over 200 events taking place across the city. As always, Vivid will dazzle us with incredible light displays that will play over the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Botanic Garden, Barangaroo and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

This year’s lineup is the most exciting yet, with Filmmaker Spike Lee, jazz legend Herbie Hancock, Aussie legend Paul Kelly and rock band The Cure.

While you could take those three weeks off work and try hop through every event in the program, chances are you may have to pick and choose. Luckily, we’ve done the work for you, and rounded up the events you just can’t miss this year.

Game Changer Series: Spike Lee on Films, Politics and Race

Sydney Town Hall

1 June 2019, 4pm – 5:30pm

Few filmmakers can use comedy to  bridge the delicate line between political and racial commentary like Spike Lee. From his most recent 2019 Academy Award nominated BlacKkKlansman to past sucesses such as Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Inside Man, and Jungle Fever, Lee isn’t afraid to make movies and TV series’ that are controversial and bold.

This Game Changer event marks Lee’s first trip Down Under, where he will talk to Rhoda Roberts AO about his work and personal views on the media, Hollywood, and filmmaking. Tickets are already selling fast for this hot event, so make sure to get in quick if you want to see one of Hollywood’s directing legends in person this year.

Tip: If you’re travelling to Sydney from out of town, hire a car and take an iconic road trip to the Harbour City! With over 170 locations across the country, Thrifty car rental is the best choice to get you to Vivid Sydney.

Under the Harbour

Museum of Contemporary Art, Circular Quay

24 May – 15 June

Every Vivid Festival, the MCA transforms into an artistic masterpiece, and this year the Spinifex Group is taking us Under the Harbour to discover the beauty hidden below. With neon creatures, magnificent botanic marvels, and a giant octopus with its tentacles wrapping around the building, this projection will amaze and immerse the whole family.

Thirteen Ways to Look at Birds ft Paul Kelly

City Recital Hall

1 June, 5:30pm – 6:45pm

Paul Kelly is one of Australia’s most poetic songwriters, crafting songs that reflect our culture and country,  this year the music legend teamed up with Australian composer James Ledger to celebrate the nation’s diverse birdlife through thirteen new songs and soundscapes. Inspired by prose from renowned authors like John Keats and Emily Dickinson, each song will bring together technology, acoustic instruments, and Kelly’s iconic vocals to create a captivating symphony.

Kelly and Ledger are teaming up with piano trio Seraphim and singer-songwriter Alice Keath to put on one performance only as part of the Vivid Sydney events lineup, so be sure to pick up tickets quickly.

Tip: Looking for ways to get around during Vivid Sydney? Everyone else is too, which means there will be long queues at the taxi rank and surges on ride sharing apps. Avoid the price hikes and rent a car from Thrifty – this way, you’ll have the freedom to hop around to all the different events that are on during the festival.

Austral Flora Ballet

Sydney Opera House

24 May – 15 June

A visit to Vivid isn’t complete without a trip to Circular Quay. This year, the Vivid Sydney’s Opera House projection will bring the ballet to life. Imagined by LA-based artist Andrew Thomas Huang, the Austral Flora Ballet tells the story of New South Wales by combining the state’s iconic flora with the grace and artistry of ballet. This hypnotic spectacle will see waratahs, red beard orchids, and kangaroo paws dance across the curves and arcs of the Opera House’s sails.

Herbie Hancock

Sydney Opera House Concert Hall

10 June, 6pm – 9pm

The iconic jazz legend Herbie Hancock: a 14 time Grammy-winner helped redefined contemporary jazz by fusing hip-hop, funk, fusion, and electro, and has performed with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, and Kendrick Lamar. For one night only, Hancock will be putting on a spectacular show at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall – an event not to be missed for anyone who’s a fan of jazz and funk…or for anyone who wants to enjoy a night of really great music.

Sydney Film Festival 2019

Various locations

5 – 16 June

What do you get when you combine one iconic Sydney event with another? 12 days of cinematic masterpieces and engaging talks. This year the Sydney Film Festival is celebrating its 65th birthday and has put together an impressive list of over 300 features, Aussie flicks, classic movies, and short films. The full program is available on 8 May 2019 and will no doubt sell out quickly, so get your Flexipasses ready now.

Tip: If you’re getting to and from an event, make sure to plan ahead to make sure you get a spot at the Vivid Sydney parking areas around Circular Quay and the Opera House.