Featured Activities

Wānaka’s arts and culture scene will leave you refreshed

When we talk immersion and Wānaka, you could be forgiven for immediately thinking of the brave souls who, regardless of the season, plunge themselves into the glacial waters of Lake Wānaka.

This time, though, it’s the arts that locals and visitors are soaking in year-round. With festivals, creative events and live music around the clock, Wānaka’s arts and culture scene will leave you every bit as refreshed and revitalised as a quick dip in the lake.

Sure, this region is known as a summer bolt-hole for trampers, campers and holiday-makers, and a winter wonderland for snow bunnies from near and far. But not to be underestimated is what Wānaka has to offer in autumn, arguably the most spectacular season in the region. Come March, as the autumn colours appear and turn the hills and lakefront tracks into a riot of golds, reds and oranges, they form the backdrop to a very different kind of stage.

5 Japanese women singing in a choir

Wānaka Festival of Colour

At the biennial Wānaka Festival of Colour, the streets and venues of Wānaka and the Upper Clutha come alive for a celebration of the arts. Leading national and international acts join us for one riotous week, bringing together the best of dance, music and theatre. Alongside the ticketed events, there are free talks, exhibitions and the popular Community Day featuring circus acts, dance performances and interactive shows. It truly is a festival for all ages.

More than that, there is an unmatched community spirit that lies at the heart of the festival, giving it a unique and distinctive Wānaka flavour. Known for punching well above its weight, the programme is always packed full of performances that will surprise and delight, even beyond the headline acts.

Trumpet player at Wānaka's Festival of Colour

Aspiring Conversations

This year, however, and every second year while the Wānaka Festival of Colour takes a break, Aspiring Conversations becomes the talk of the town. A festival of ideas and kōrero/stories, early April will see a host of speakers, artists and performers opening up conversations on a diverse range of topics. With passion and humour, these events will invite challenging, inspiring and real conversations about important issues.

The arts have always been essential to cultures and communities, providing the opportunity for self-reflection and wider thinking, as well as entertainment. As communities evolve, so too do the arts. This year’s Aspiring Conversations is very much a response to the times we live in. Thought provoking? Definitely. Entertaining? Undoubtedly. To find out more, head to Aspiring Conversations.

Speakers at Aspiring Conversations

Are there ways to get involved?

Absolutely! Both the Wānaka Festival of Colour and Aspiring Conversations have a strong team of volunteers who are integral to the smooth running of the programmes. Whether you’re a local or a visitor to town, volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new people, see the workings of the festival and enjoy some of the top-notch shows in the process. You can register your interest on their website.

The best way to get involved, though, is just to dive on in! Whether a festival, a live music gig, a local performance or a community day, there’s no better way to experience the vibrant culture of the town than by soaking up as much of the arts as you can. Embodying community, creativity and collaboration, the arts and culture scene in Wānaka is becoming just as much of a draw as our incredible landscapes.

Dancing at Wanaka Festival of Colour

So much to see, so little time! How do I find local arts and culture events?

Your first port of call when finding what’s on in the arts and culture scene should be Te Wāhi Toi. Wānaka is one of Aotearoa’s fastest-growing areas, with a melting-pot population from all walks of life contributing to the region’s colourful vibrancy. This diverse community can’t help but be reflected in the local arts and culture scene. Celebrating local Wānaka events and an extensive community of artists, makers, performers and creatives, Te Wāhi Toi is an online arts and culture hub for the Queenstown Lakes District. Make sure to check it out!

Volunteering at Wanaka Festival of Colour

Take the plunge.

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s to live in the now, not knowing what may lie ahead. Make the most of what we have, what we can do, and celebrate it. Loudly. So, with international and local acts dipping in and out of Wānaka, there’s no better time to take that plunge and immerse yourself in the arts. This year, let yourself be swept up in a wave of thought-provoking discussions, uplifting family shows, soaring musical performances and extraordinary theatre. Your body, mind, and soul will thank you for it.

Head to Arts & Culture to explore what’s happening in the Wānaka arts scene right now.