Since Brisbane is the third-largest city in Australia, all the big acts and shows come to town! You can enjoy world-class music and exhibitions year-round so make sure you join in on the fun!
Year-round arts, music and cultural adventures
QUT Dance Society, Film Club, and Music Society
The clubs are open to students of all interests and skill level for only $10 so you’ll get to meet people and have lots of fun for a low cost.
QUT students are lucky to have Riverstage just a stone’s throw away in the Botanic Gardens, right next to our Gardens Point campus. Riverstage has hosted some of the biggest acts, such as 5SOS, Stormzy, Ed Sheeran, and many more! If you find the right spot, you can even hear the entertainment on campus. Check each event for costs.
GOMA – Gallery of Modern Art
GOMA is connected to the Queensland Art Gallery and has some of the coolest exhibitions throughout the year. Some of the more popular past exhibitions that were all over my Instagram feed were Yayoi Kusama and Water.
While there are some ticketed exhibitions, many are free and general entry is always free – which is awesome! Make sure to check the GOMA website before you go.
GOMA is just across the river from the Gardens Point campus. You just need to catch the ferry to South Bank and you’re there!
Tip: If you’re not into modern art, check out the Queensland Art Gallery as it has some more traditional exhibitions.
If you love comedy, dance or theatre, then you’ll LOVE the Brisbane Powerhouse. The Powerhouse hosts lots of free and low-cost events, showcases, and gigs including free comedy shows on Friday evenings. You can also catch the Brisbane Comedy Festival (usually in March) for some good ol’ fashioned Aussie humour!
You’ll also enjoy the ferry view on the way to the Powerhouse from QUT Gardens Point campus. The Powerhouse is also right next to New Farm Park – the perfect picnic place in Brissy.
Live music venues
There are hundreds of live music venues hosting all kinds of artists and bands every week in Brisbane. You can enter many of the venues without a cover charge and enjoy the night with friends! Have a look at the Brissy music venue guide for tips on where to find them.
For those of you who enjoy musicals, ballet, theatre and the like, then you should book in a show at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC). Treat yourself to a musical like Wicked or The Lion King, or get swept away with Queensland Ballet performances like Sleeping Beauty or A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
QPAC is also just across the river from the Gardens Point campus and is only a few minutes’ walk from the Cultural Centre station. You may need to budget a bit more for QPAC shows but they’re definitely worth it!
Enjoy the stars of Brisbane at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. Learn all about the universe and enjoy a show at the Cosmic Skydome – a 12.5 metre-diameter projection dome.
The Planetarium is located near the famous Mount Coot-tha and the Brisbane Botanic Gardens (not to be confused with the City Botanic Gardens next to Gardens Point). I’d recommend you make your way there by uber or taxi and make a day of it. My ideal itinerary: start with an easy hike, make your way to the Mount Coot-tha summit for awesome views of Brissy, then finish the day with the stars for only $15!
Semester 1 arts, music and cultural adventures
Laneway Festival showcases the best Aussie and international acts each summer. Tickets are usually around $150 but if you get in early you may be able to get a slightly cheaper one. Previous headliners included Charli XCX, Billie Eilish, and The 1975.
Trains and buses will get you to the festival at the Brisbane Showgrounds very quickly from either QUT campus!
Brisbane Art Design Festival
The Brisbane Art Design (BAD) Festival highlights the art and design industry and champions creativity. The festival runs over multiple venues, including the city Botanic Gardens next to the Gardens Point campus. So, you may even be able to check out some of the installations between classes.
QUT student, Nicola, attended last year and loved it! Check out her story.
Many of the BAD events are FREE! 😊 Some free events require registration and some tours require payment so be sure to check the website so you don’t miss out.
Bluesfest is a celebration of Blues & Roots and Folk music, with past headliners like Hozier, Zac Brown Band and John Legend. The festival is held in Byron Bay each year over the Easter long weekend (which usually aligns with mid-semester break).
A one-day ticket usually starts around $180 with options for three-day and five-day tickets as well. Camping is extra and usually sells out pretty quickly!
Brisbane Street Art Festival
The Brisbane Street Art Festival is not only a cool artsy adventure, it’s also a great way to explore Brisbane. The best thing about public street art is that it’s free! Some guided tours may have a cost involved, so be sure to confirm.
While the actual festival is often run during May, you can check out the awesome street art year-round. Read ‘Where to find street art in Brisbane’ for tips.
Semester 2 arts, music and cultural adventures
The Ekka, also known as the Royal Queensland Show, is Brisbane’s largest annual event and brings the country to the city! The Ekka has been running for over a hundred years and is a true Brisbane local adventure to have.
There will be carnival rides, showbags (bags of treats and goodies), fireworks, and the Brisbane-famous strawberry sundae! Buses and trains run regularly to the Exhibition station, so getting there from either QUT campus is a breeze.
Entry is usually around $25 if you present your QUT Student ID card. Most of the scheduled activities at the Ekka are free, however, you will need to budget for food, carnival rides, and showbags!
Splendour in the Grass
Gather a group of mates and head down to Byron Bay for a weekend music adventure at Splendour in the Grass. The festival runs for three days and you can choose to camp on-site to make getting to the stages easy!
Previous Splendour acts include Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper, and Tyler, The Creator.
Tickets can be a bit expensive because it’s a big event with massive names. They usually start around $190 for a day ticket and you can also buy three-day passes and camping tickets.
Idea: Consider volunteering at the event and receive a free three-day pass with camping included in return.
Brisbane comes alive in September for Brisbane Festival. You’ll see pink splattered all over the city, including across the river at South Bank and at La Boite Theatre at Kelvin Grove.
Brisbane Festival culminates in the spectacular Riverfire which lights up the night and is sure to impress! The massive fireworks display is marked on every Brisbane local’s calendar – make sure it’s on yours too!
Many of Brisbane Festival events are free or low cost. Some of the bigger shows and acts are ticketed anywhere between $10 – $70, depending on the show.
BIGSOUND is two BIG days and nights of music, conversation and networking! If you’re really interested in the Aussie arts scene, you’ll want to attend the BIGSOUND conference by day and the musical acts by night. Attending the conference will give you the chance to delve into the Australian music industry.
BIGSOUND takes place at various venues in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. The Valley is only about 20 minutes from either campus by bus (only 5 or 10 minutes by car).
The festival-only music tickets are about $70 for one night and $100 for two nights. You can also get a delegate pass which gives you entry to the conferences and more behind the scenes for around $300 as a student.
Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers sees the city of Toowoomba bloom with hundreds of thousands of flowers! There will be plenty to see over the weekend so mark your calendar every September and join in the celebration of Spring and good food.
The easiest way to Toowoomba is by car (about a 2 hour drive west of Brisbane) but there are also daily low-cost buses.
Tip: While the carnival officially runs for about two weeks, you’re going to want to plan your trip for the weekend with the Food and Wine Festival.
Cost: Most of the events are free or low-cost. You will need to buy a ticket to the Food and Wine Festival. I’d recommend you book early because they often sell out!
This article was written by Brisbane local and QUT staff member, Emma, in August 2020. Any prices are a guide only so please be sure to double-check them before the events and activities. Please also check the activity is operating normally during COVID-19 restrictions.
Head back to the QUT Study Abroad and Exchange web page