Fancy a weekend escape? It doesn't matter when you go — Melbourne's calendar is chocka with world-class shows, festivals and major sporting events, writes Jane Jurgens

SHOWS

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Princess Theatre, to December 1

The first of J.K. Rowling's series to make the stage, the play takes up the story with Harry as an overworked Ministry of Magic employee, husband and father of three. It's presented in two parts, intended to be seen on the same day (matinee and evening) or consecutive evenings.

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Muriel's Wedding The Musical
Her Majesty's Theatre, March 12-May 19
You know the storyand the songs. Abba's tunes have been around since the 70s and Toni Collette's movie since 1994. The stage version of Muriel's escape from dead-end life in Porpoise Spit is "the best Australian musical in years". Probably since Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Kylie: Golden Tour
Myer Music Bowl, March 13
Melbourne's very own singing budgie comes home. The Golden Tour, her first shows since 2015, "is a narrative connecting all Kylie's hits into one glorious story".

Come From Away
Comedy Theatre, from July 1
You'd think 9/11 would be off limits for a Broadway musical. Wrong: this is set in the days following the attacks when 38 flights were diverted to the small Canadian town of Gander. It was a huge and unexpected hit on Broadway.

Barnum
Comedy Theatre, April 27-May 26
P.T. Barnum reckoned "Every crowd has a silver lining" so it's no surprise this revival of the 70s Broadway musical follows hard on the heels of The Greatest Showman. Spoiler alert: the show features Barnum crowd-pullers like the world's oldest woman and Jumbo the elephant but Hugh Jackman does not make an appearance.

ART & CULTURE

Mandela My Life

Melbourne Museum, to March 3

The world premiere of an exhibition covering an inspirational life. The artefacts, rare film, sound and imagery are presented in immersive multimedia environments and scenic recreations.

Escher X Nendo — Between Two Worlds
NGV, until April 28
M.C. Escher created some of the 20th century's most mind-boggling images. This exhibition features 158 of his prints and drawings alongside interpretations by Japan's avant-garde Nendo design studio.

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EVENTS

Melbourne Fashion Festival

March 1-10

Ten style-soused days featuring the work of Australia's established and emerging designers, with beauty workshops, retail events, forums and live entertainment.

The Melbourne Fashion Festival. Photo / Getty Images
The Melbourne Fashion Festival. Photo / Getty Images

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

March 8-24

Hot food and hotter names in a two-week feast of all you can eat, drink or otherwise ingest. Global movers and shakers', masterclasses sell out in a New York minute, but eateries also offer special events, there are pop-ups across town and 20 simultaneous long lunches around the state.

Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show
Royal Exhibition Buildings, Carlton Gardens March 27-31
More petals than an evening with Dame Edna: thousands admire gardens, trails, demonstrations and landscape designs at the Southern Hemisphere's largest horticultural show. Concerts, high teas and edible exhibits make this about much more than planting, potting and indoor-outdoor flow.

White Night
Previously held in February, the 12-hour free event will be part of a three-day winter arts festival in August showcasing film, fashion, theatre, music and art. Many spots become light shows, with visitors walking from one display to the next in the CBD.

SPORT

F1 Australian Grand Prix

Albert Park, March 14-17

Millions of dollars of engineering, technology, TV rights, noise, fossil fuels, socialites and champagne chasing each other around a city duckpond until Lewis Hamilton wins, much to the surprise of every Australian who knew this was Daniel Ricciardo's year. The perfect weekend.

GOLF Presidents Cup
Royal Melbourne Golf Club, December 9-15
Tiger Woods and Ernie Els send their US and Rest of the World Minus Europe teams on a shoot-out in a similar format to the US v Europe Ryder Cup.

AFL Anzac Day match
MCG, April 25
AFL Grand Final
MCG, September 28
The annual Essendon v Collingwood clash and the season-ending big dance are the code's showpiece events but pick any Saturday during the season and you'll be drawn into a full day's entertainment covering the entire chest-thumping range of Aussie patriotism, parochialism, tribal passion and perhaps just a little hype.

RACING

Spring Carnival

Caulfield, Flemington, October-November

We think of it as five minutes of thundering hooves that stops two nations, but to Victorians it runs over several weekends and weekdays, with a series of major races including the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and the small matter of the $6.5 million Melbourne Cup. Each day has its own obscure dress code and there is much partying, occasionally interrupted by horses.

CRICKET

Boxing Day Test

MCG, December 26-30

This year's opponents are a side that hardly ever gets the honour, even though they've performed rather better than the Australian XI over the past couple of years: New Zealand's Black Caps. Expect extra spice.

Australia will take on the Black Caps in this year's Boxing Day Test at MCG. Photo / Photosport
Australia will take on the Black Caps in this year's Boxing Day Test at MCG. Photo / Photosport

GETAWAYS

On the edge of the city, the steep, fern-lined 1000 Steps and Kokoda Memorial Walk is an easy entree to the Dandenong Ranges; take time out at Olinda village and quirky Emerald Market. East, Yarra Valley is a haven for world-class wines, first-rate produce and artisan treats; and a sanctuary for local wildlife at Healesville. South, Mornington Peninsula has more wineries, sandy beaches, golf and the hilltop hot springs. North, Bendigo relives Victoria's gold mining and bushranging past.

Checklist

GETTING THERE

Virgin Australia

flies from Auckland to Melbourne with one-way, all-inclusive fares starting from $239.