1: New Zealand Arts Festival, Wellington
February 20-March 26, 2016
The granddaddy of them all, the festival formerly know as the International Arts Festival has been creating bigger and better festivals since 1986. This summer's 30th birthday festival promises to head off in ground-breaking new directions. As if they didn't have enough to do, the crew also present the Wellington Jazz Festival and biennial Lexus Song Quest, are touring Shakespeare's Globe production's Hamlet and will once more host the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (February 18-21, 2016).
2: Auckland Arts Festival
March 2-20, 2016
From its baby beginnings in September 2003 when the radical opening was held at Britomart and Queen St was closed for a party, the Auckland Festival has grown and grown. This year's festival broke all the records: 900 artists, 145 ticketed performances and 208 free events in 86 locations, reaching 180,000 people. Auckland Council is now funding the annual festival. Aotea Square comes alive with a spiegeltent, festival garden, White Night tours of galleries, children's festivals and more. See pages 8 and 13 for some of the show-stoppers.
3: Nelson Arts Festival
The little festival that could, Nelson has collaborated with Tauranga to bring international artists to town. There are acts from all over the globe -- and some from the town's own backyard, with circus, comedy, hip-hop, jazz, theatre and dance. The opening masked parade and carnivale starts Friday (5.30pm-11pm).
4: The Taranaki Arts Festival Trust (TAFT)
The biannual International Festival of the Arts has just finished its August run, but this is a province that doesn't sit around. Coming up is the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular (October 30 to November 8), then the festival of small but perfectly formed films, Tropfest (February 27, 2016), the glorious celebration of world music that is Womad (March 18-20, 2016) and, naturally for the home of Len Lye, there's the fusion of art and engineering that is Kinetika, a competion returning in 2016.
5: Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival
February 19-28, 2016
Certainly the festival with the prettiest setting, the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival has been celebrating theatre, music, art, dance, writers, ideas, circus and street performances since 1999. With more gardens slated to open in the next few years, there's no excuse to not head down State Highway 1 this summer.