Plan a city or urban break around one of these exciting events coming up in the first half of 2021, writes Sarah Pollok
For the cycling obsessed, be sure to catch Whāngārei's Big Bike Film Night for a night of short feature documentaries dedicated to the joy only cycling can bring. Whether you ride a BMX, a fixie or a road bike, there's something for every biker to enjoy.
April 13; bigbikefilmnight.nz
Celebrate the year of the Ox at Auckland's annual Lantern Festival. Set up on Captain Cook and Marsden wharves, the free, family-friendly event will feature hundreds of elaborate Chinese lanterns, cultural performances, food stalls and an impressive fireworks display.
February 25-28; aucklandnz.com/lantern-festival
Feisty, independent and a little bit wild, Auckland Fringe Festival is back to show off the best of the city's vibrant arts scene. From theatre to dance, comedy to music and everything in-between, get your fix of underground culture at this iconic open-access festival.
February 14 – March 6; aucklandfringe.co.nz
With 60,000 visitors and 200 stalls over two days, Auckland's award-winning Pasifika Festival has quickly become the world's largest of its kind. Packed with fashion shows, pop opera, theatre performances and sporting competitions, it's a culturally rich event all Kiwis will love.
March 13-14; aucklandnz.com/pasifika-festival-2021
Fast, flat and full of epic views, the Waterfront half Marathon is the event runners and walkers have been waiting for. The Grand Finale of the Mizuno Auckland Half Marathon Series, the popular track goes from Tamaki Drive towards Mechanics Bay before returning along the waterfront to St Heliers.
Soak up the summer vibes and enjoy the best of Hamilton's art scene at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival. Hosted in the city's beautiful open-air gardens, the week-long festival features all things creative, from comedy and theatre to dance, music and more.
February 20–28; hgaf.co.nz
From humble beginnings to global fame, SIX60 is a Kiwi band any music lover must-see. Coming to Hamilton's Claudelands Oval, the band will play with guests Drax Project, Mitch James, Aacacia and Paige in the final performance of an epic nationwide tour.
February 27; claudelands.co.nz
Whether you're a craft beer expert, or just love a good drop, you're sure to enjoy the Great NZ Beer Festival, North Island Edition. With 40 craft breweries pouring more than 300 varieties, and a range of workshops, tastings and musical performances, there's something to please every palate.
March 13; greatkiwibeerfestival.co.nz
For a childishly delightful, family-friendly event, look no further than Balloons over Waikato. Attracting hot air balloonists around the country, the free five-day festival is one of the biggest and best in the region, with daily sunrise ascents and a final evening where balloons light up to orchestrated music.
March 16-20; balloonsoverwaikato.co.nz
Rotorua is the place to go for healthy adventures that will leave you feeling refreshed, revitalised and proud of what you and your body have achieved.
The RATS Blue Lake Multisport Festival is one of New Zealand's longest-running triathlon and multisport events, featuring something for all the family - an aquathon, a kids' triathlon, an open-water swim, sprint tri, and fun run/walk. Get in quick - it's happening next weekend.
January 30-31, facebook.com/bluelakemultisport
Then, in February, the Tarawera Ultramarathon sees runners compete in 21, 50 or 102km distances, or the ultimate 100-mile endurance run. This year's course takes in seven lakes, plus forests, waterfalls and stunning scenery.
February 13, facebook.com/taraweraultra
And finally, in March, head to Rotorua for Godzone Adventure, the world's largest multi-day, non-stop expedition-style adventure race. We can't give you many more details than that - the specific course information remains a secret until a few hours before the race starts.
March 4-13, facebook.com/godzoneadventure
Transport yourself to the 1920s when you head to Napier's annual Art Deco festival next month. A hit with locals and tourists young and old, New Zealand's Art Deco capital steps back in time, with more than 300 events celebrating the gorgeous era. (February 17-21; artdecofestival.co.nz)
Join Hawke's Bay's foodie community to celebrate the best food and wine in the region at the Winter F.A.W.C! festival. With more than 60 events running over four consecutive weekends, the diverse programme is packed with masterclasses, picnics, degustations and more. (Every weekend, June; fawc.co.nz )
Petrolheads unite at the annual AmeriCARna festival; a celebration of American Car culture, for anyone and everyone obsessed with classic American-style vehicles. While the festival visits Ōpunake, Waitara, Inglewood, Stratford and Hāwera during the first three days, the final Friday evening in New Plymouth is always an event highlight. (February 24-27; americarna.com)
Watch Aotearoa's promising young athletes compete at the Tri Taranaki Festival at Ngāmotu Beach. Want to get in on the action? Take part in the Taranaki Tri-er and Fun run to give the sport a go and raise funds for local charities.
(March 28; tritaranakifestival.nz)
For your summer music fix, look no further than the TSB Bowl of Brooklands. Catch Synthony's first-ever outdoor concert on January 23, the renowned SIX60 on the 30th or Crowded House on March 20, and keep an eye out online as more gigs are released.
Come together to celebrate Manawatū's diverse creative community at the brand new Papaioea Festival of the Arts. Running for a full week in February, the Palmerston North festival will provide a platform for more than 160 established and emerging artists during 40 performances. (February 17-20; papaioeafestival.com)
Palmerston North will burst into vivid colour this February for this year's Festival of Cultures. Ring in the year of the Ox during a Friday evening Lantern Parade, and let the festivities continue on Saturday as Te Marae o Hine/The Square hosts the World Fair Day, with cultural performances and food stores from around the globe. (February 26 - 27; pncc.govt.nz)
Sport-crazed families from Palmerston North better be sure to catch the Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games. Held over three action-packed days, see national and world champions will face-off for prestigious games titles alongside fun festival games and entertainment. (March 12 – 14; ruralgames.co.nz)
Free music and magical light shows await those who attend Wellington's Gardens Magic festival. Hosted at the Botanic Gardens Soundshell across three weeks, the daily concerts feature over 200 performers covering dozens of genres for a festival all Wellingtonians will enjoy. (January 12-31; wellington.govt.nz/gardens-magic)
Vegans, cover your eyes because the capital city is getting its first celebration dedicated entirely to fried chicken. Whether you're a foodie or a fan of anything fried, Wellington's best food trucks and restaurants will treat you to countless dishes dedicated to the delicious meat.
(Feb 27; friedchickenfest.co.nz)
Grab the family and celebrate the end of summer at the annual Newtown Festival. As the biggest open-air party in the city, the free street fair will see more than 150 acts on 15 stages and 400 stalls fill 11 blocks of central Riddiford for an epic summer celebration.
(March 7; newtownfestival.org.nz)
Let's hear it for the ladies! This Easter weekend Peachy Keen brings together some of Aotearoa's finest female musicians at Basin Reserve for a wicked one-day festival, with hot names like Benee, Ladi6, Gin Wigmore, Chelsea Jade already on the setlist.
(April 3; sopeachykeen.com)
Love classical music? Then treat your ears to the best at Nelson's Adam Chamber Music Festival. The four-day festival features a mix of afternoon performances, evening concerts, masterclasses and free meet-the-artist sessions for a full musical experience (Feb 4-7; music.org.nz)
The Summer Challenge is one event every adventurer will love, but it's women only. Designed by six-time Adventure Racing World champ Nathan Fa'avae, the three-day sporting event will push Kiwi women to the limit as they kayak, bike, hike and run through Nelson's outdoors.
(March 12-14; summerchallenge.co.nz)
As craft brewing capital of New Zealand, it's no surprise Nelson has it's very own festival celebrating the beloved drink. Hosted in the lush Founders Heritage Park, Marchfest is a one-day "beer-flavoured" festivity with craft beer, good food and great music. (March 20;
If big hills, steep descents and many hours in the saddle sound like fun, be sure to register for Aoerere Enduro; a Nelson-based mountain biking event that draws cyclists from around the world to ride some of the most demanding man-made trails in the sport.
(April 2-4; aorere.nz)
Tying the knot? Then The Great New Zealand Bridal Show is a key event for the calendar, when the country's best wedding specialists, designers, dresses and companies come together at Rossendale Vineyard, just a 20-minute drive from the CBD. It's the perfect event to help plan the perfect day. (March 14; thebridalshow.co.nz)
If you've always dreamed of entering a marathon (or half), this year's ASB Christchurch Marathon is the one to run. Back for its 40th year, the course is renowned as one of the fastest in the world, with stunning scenery and landmarks to distract you from the challenge. (April 11; christchurchmarathon.co.nz)
Dogs or cats, reptiles or fish or anything in between, no matter what pet you own, there'll be something for you at Christchurch's Pet and Animal expo. Featuring hundreds of vendors, the annual expo is a great place to explore products and services to keep your pet healthy and happy. (May 8; petanimalexpo.co.nz)
Treat yourself to the best Jazz Aotearoa has to offer at Ōamaru's Harbour Street Jazz Festival. Held over Otago Anniversary Weekend, the country's best local, national and global musicians gather together for a weekend of groovy gigs and dynamic performances. (March 20-22; harbourstreetjazz.com)
It may seem like a humble farming town, but in reality, Ōamaru is the Steampunk capital of the world. So, it's a fitting location for the annual Steampunk NZ Festival; a three-day celebration where sci-fi aficionados across the country gather for festivities, fashion shows, a gala ball and even teapot races.
(June 3-7; steampunk.org.nz)
After 50,000 fans sold out the 2020 tour, Gibbston Valley Winery Concert is back with another world-class music experience. Held in the Queenstown winery, the summer concert has a big line up of Kiwi acts, including Gin Wigmore, Dragon, The Jordan Luck Band, Stellar* and Hello Sailor. (January 23; gibbstonvalley.com)
If you love a good market day, then make sure you come along to Dunedin's biggest outdoor event; Thieves Alley Market Day. Boasting more than 250 stalls selling artisanal crafts and market produce, as well as a packed schedule of music, food and entertainment, it's no surprise thousands come searching for bargain goods and great vibes.
(February 13; dunedin.govt.nz)
Looking for your next big challenge? Then head to the hills and take on the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon in Queenstown. The annual off-road trail event takes competitors along a challenging terrain of tussock lands, mountain ridges, waterfall climbs and forest creeks in a race you won't forget.
(February 20; shotovermoonlight.co.nz)
Get off the grid and reconnect with nature at Dunedin's Festival of Nature. Themed "rewilding", this year's event explores how we can regenerate and reconnect with our native flora and fauna through six days of fun activities, events and workshops.
(April 22-28; wilddunedin.nz)
Summer may be the best season, but Dunedin's Mid-Winter Carnival proves there's still lots to enjoy about the colder months. Held in the Octagon and surrounding streets, the spectacular event is full of lantern displays, night markets, carnival performers and a dazzling firework display. (June 26; midwintercarnival.co.nz)