The annual long weekend in Canberra marks Canberra Day, the anniversary of the official naming of the ACT. The city was formally bestowed her moniker by Lady Gertrude Denman, the wife of the then Governor-General Lord Thomas Denman, in a ceremony on March 12, 1913. For many years Canberra’s birthday was celebrated on the third Monday in March, but was later moved to closer align with the original naming date.

Canberra Balloon Spectacular

Rise early and witness the sky come alive with colour, fire and movement as hot-air balloons launch en masse for the annual nine-day ballooning showcase. Considered one of the best and longest-running events of its kind in the world, the spectacular draws pilots from all over the globe, who take flight from the lawns of Old Parliament House around dawn each day. Get in on the action and soar above the city in a mass balloon flight with scores of other thrill seekers, or enjoy the spectacle from the ground as novelty balloons (think Yoda and Angry Birds) illuminate the skyline. Enjoy a hot breakfast afterwards thanks to the Belconnen Lions Club.

Canberra Day Balloon Spectacular
Photo courtesy of Mike Russell via Flickr Creative Commons

Enlighten

See some of Canberra’s most iconic landmarks lit up in all the colours of the rainbow during Enlighten, a 10-day visual and auditory feast of illuminations, music, art, performances and exhibitions. Parliament House and the National Library of Australia are among an array of buildings whose facades will be the canvas for technicolour moving projections during the festival. Take in the excitement of Enlighten on foot, then restore your energy reserves at the Night Noodle Markets, a smorgasbord of Asian food stalls serving up fragrant dishes in the Parliamentary Triangle. Many of the events and attractions are free, including shows in the Electric Garden, while tickets to stand-up comedy gigs, tours and other performances can be purchased in advance through Ticketek.

Awards and other festivities

Each year the territory’s chief minister uses Canberra’s birthday as an opportunity to celebrate the outstanding contributions of its citizens in an awards ceremony. More than 200 individuals and a range of community groups are recognised as part of the Canberra Gold Awards, which include the naming of the Canberra Citizen of the Year, an honour awarded for outstanding community service. After the formalities, Canberrans let their hair down on the Patrick White Lawns outside the library, which host a line-up of music, entertainment and food offerings.

Find accommodation in Canberra