Ballarat’s annual Winter Festival is back with ice skating, snow falls, shimmering lights, a music festival and more

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Ballarat’s annual Winter Festival is back with ice skating, snow falls, shimmering lights, a music festival and more

Credit: Tony Evans
Words by Staff Writer

Ballarat Winter Festival returns for 2023 with a calendar of heart-warming events throughout June and July.

It’s time to bundle up and embrace the cold with the return of the spectacular three-week Ballarat Winter Festival.

Running from June 24 through to July 16, Ballarat will once again be transformed into a magical winter wonderland, with a unique array of events and activities to beat the winter blues, warm the soul and satisfy the belly.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around the region here

This year’s Festival takes place at locations and venues right across the city designed to dazzle  and amaze locals and visitors. With something for everyone – from ice skating to disco  anthems and fire jousting; to getting cosy with kangaroos and a Christmas in July event  like no other – winter is not complete without a trip to Ballarat.

Here are some of the festival highlights for 2023:

Winter Wonderlights

When we say a winter wonderland, we mean that quite literally with the return of headlining event Winter Wonderlights at Sovereign Hill. Set to be brighter than ever before, visitors will be swept up in the excitement of a special European-style Christmas as the entire township comes alive with a new shimmering light and projection show; falling snow; warm mulled wine; delicious gingerbread treats; pantomimes  and theatre shows; hands-on Christmas-themed arts and crafts; and visits from St. Nick.

Tickets here.


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The Design Exchange

Each winter, The Design Exchange market brings together a curated line-up of amazing  independent designers, artists and creators.

Spanning two-days on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 July, the market showcases Victoria’s most creative designers and makers in the Ballarat Mining Exchange. Australia is bursting at the seams with amazing independent designers, artists and creators, and The Design Exchange will provide an opportunity to celebrate and support these small businesses, handmade products, ethical trading and creativeness in an atmosphere that is inclusive and inviting. You’ll also find delicious food and talented musicians along the way.

Tickets are $5 per person with kids under 13 free. 

Knights of Fire at Kryal Castle

Combatting the winter chill, Kryal Castle in Ballarat is being set alight these school holidays with the return of its much-anticipated Knights of Fire from Saturday 24th June to Sunday 9th July.

Telling the fighting story of Snow Queen Neva’s battle to save the kingdom, here visitors can watch a spectacular fire joust; be spellbound by flaming swords; create magical potions; learn to sword fight and axe throw; partake in Knight School; and enjoy live performances that tell the story of Snow Queen Neva’s survival.

Another feature – and a real highlight – of Knights of Fire will be Kryal Castle’s exclusive Feast of Fire dining experience on Saturday 1st July. Held in The Abbey, guests will enjoy a mouth-watering menu amidst the warmth of a crackling fireplace and will be awed by fiery performances by the castle’s knights.

Book your tickets here.

An immersive Knights of Fire event is lighting up Kryal Castle for winter

Ballarat Ice Skating Rink

After its enormous success in previous years, a popular ice skating rink is making a comeback to help you make the most of winter. Armstrong Street South will be transformed into a winter wonderland from 24 June through to 16 July thanks to the team at Stars On Ice, giving locals and tourists alike the chance to skate along the ice, with or without a skating aid to keep you upright.

There will be great tunes and disco lights in the all-weather marquee, as well as child-friendly, sensory sessions with no music or flashing lights and restricted numbers and disco sessions on Friday and Saturday nights. There will also be Bollywood on Ice sessions featuring DJ Bobby M mixing the hottest Bollywood tunes, and Latin Fiesta on Ice sessions with Live DJ ‘Vico’ mixing the hottest Latin tunes.

You can find out more about the Ballarat Ice Rink here.

Lace up your skates, an ice skating rink is popping up in Ballarat this winter


Ballarat Wildlife Park

Over at the Ballarat Wildlife Park, guests will be able to meet Akasha –  Ballarat’s newest tiger. A Sumatran/Siberian cross, Akasha is the younger sister of the Park’s current tiger, Kai. While visiting, tiger visitors can also hand-feed 100 free roaming kangaroos; see koalas and emus; meet a wombat; admire the little penguins and see Crunch – the five-metre super crocodile.

Be_Hear/Now 2023

Back for a fourth year, Be_Hear/Now gathers Ballarat’s biggest artists and performers for an entirely live music festival that takes place in venues and unused spaces across the city. From unique  collaborations; to electro-western duo Confetti Western and rapper Sami Regague, Be_Hear/Now  2023 is set to be the biggest yet!

Taking the idea of nurturing local talent a step further, this year will also feature the inaugural Be_Hear/Now Live Music Conference. Subsidised by Creative Ballarat through the City of Ballarat’s creative city strategy, tickets to the day-long conference are a ridiculously-affordable $10 and, better yet, it’s not just restricted to locals – anyone from around the state is invited.

Visit the Be_Hear / Now website here for all the information.

If you think live music only belongs in a pub then Ballarat’s Be_Hear/Now has news for you

Ballarat Winter Festival will also feature a number of special food and drink experiences, show stopping performances and insightful workshops and demonstrations.

View the full festival program here