The weather for the long weekend may be frightful, but the events for Auckland this winter are looking so delightful.
With Covid-19 under control - fingers crossed - in our biggest city, an extensive range of events have been confirmed from major sports events, concerts, food and cultural celebrations which are expected to pump millions of dollars into the economy.
Steve Armitage, destination general manager for Auckland Unlimited, says the city's winter events programme is "exciting to see", and that he is seeing more stability in the events industry and strong public support this year.
"We're seeing really strong interest from the public to get out and enjoy events ... and with transtasman travel now an option, we're now also seeing strong interest from Australia."
Elemental AKL festival, a collection of more than 30 events and experiences celebrating culture, cuisine and creativity, will again take place across the city between July 14 and August 1.
The festival was launched in 2019 as way to support the visitor economy in the quieter winter months and help with the economic recovery.
"There are some brand new exciting events ... Takurua, a dinner theatre show inspired by Maori and Pasifika performance and hospitality, an underground concert in the Fort Stony Batter Tunnels on Waiheke Island and a seafood festival at Te Hana Marae," Armitage said.
The Lion King International Tour starts this month, with the Doc Edge Festival, Winetopia, Matariki Festival, NZ Fashion Weekend and four All Blacks fixtures featuring on the calendar through to October.
"There's something for everyone, from free and family friendly to high-end luxury. From special food and wine-focused events to live music and stage shows," Armitage added.
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said Elemental AKL has now become a highly anticipated event.
"Winter can be a difficult time to get people off their couches ... but the huge line-up of events is a great way to entertain both local and our Australian international guests," she said.
"Our members are still struggling to recover from the compounding impact of Covid-19, so we'd encourage Aucklanders to support the array of entertainment on offer and enjoy the fantastic dining scene."
Other events at the festival this year are Ballet Noir, contemporary ballet by Mary Jane O'Reilly Dance, Street Eats at Shed 10 featuring food offerings from top chefs, pop-up bars and live music and a return of the popular Culinary Crawl.
Richard Clarke, Auckland Unlimited's head of major and business events, said the festival provided a platform for businesses to operate and engage with audiences during winter when they were less busy.
"Binging together collection of events under a festival umbrella is simply 'the sum being greater than the parts' rationale. Together the festival delivers a compelling brand and experience," Clarke said.
"The success of Elemental AKL is in how well it promotes our unique regional identity, drives visitation and promotes our vibrant culinary scene. We are seeing strong results ... and we expect visitation to continue to rise as the festival matures."
Cordis Auckland managing director Franz Mascarenhas said it has been a challenging year for the hospitality industry.
"We're proud to be working alongside so many leading experts in the industry to partake in Elemental this winter," he said.
"With the recent opening of Cordis Auckland's newest destination bar Our Land is Alive, we are delighted to offer a unique line-up of four Kiwi curated cocktails taking inspiration from the elements water, fire, earth and air."
Onehunga Business Association town manager Amanda Wellgreen said her Culinary Crawl event on July 31 sold out within just eight days.
"Onehunga is traditionally a family-oriented community, and this means winter can be a quieter season for the town centre.
"The crawl gives them a guaranteed boost of patrons and also a new range of customers who may have not considered visiting a particular establishment but now get that opportunity to try it out."
Demand for The Lion King musical has been overwhelming, with more than 84,000 tickets sold in the first five weeks, it now holds the New Zealand record for the fastest selling musical theatre show.
The All Blacks will be playing at Mount Smart Stadium against Tonga in the Steinlager series double header on July 3, followed by Rugby Championship games against South Africa and Argentina.
Auckland will also be hosting the opening match of the Bledisloe Cup on August 7. Last year's fixture saw nearly 50,000 fans at Eden Park, the biggest sports crowd since the pandemic at the time.
AUCKLAND'S WINTER OF FUN
• Elemental AKL festival, more than 30 events, various locations July 14 to August 1
• The Lion King International Tour, Spark Arena from June 24
• The Pacific Dance Festival, various location June 1-29
• Teeks, The Civic, June 5
• Doc Edge Fest 2021, SkyCity Theatre and The Civic, June 3-13
• Matariki Festival, various events and locations, June 19 to July 11
• Winetopia, Shed 10 Queens Wharf, June 18 and 19
• Auckland Live Cabaret Season, The Civic, June 19 to July 4
• Auckland Live Winter in the Square, June 17 to July 25
• Madagascar The Musical, Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre July 8-18
• The Iceberg, Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island, July 3
• NZ Fashion Weekend, Auckland Town Hall, August 23-29
• The Food Show, ASB Showgrounds, July 29 to August 1
• Baby Show Auckland 2021, ASB Showgrounds, August 20-22
• All Blacks vs Tonga, Mt Smart Stadium, July 3
• All Blacks vs Australia, Eden Park, August 7