$ Free Thrills
Rug up and take a trip to Takapuna Winter Lights (23-25 July, 5-10pm) and enjoy the cooler nights and twinkly lights in a safe, festive atmosphere on Hurstmere Rd, with food, illuminations and entertainment.
Or head to any place you can see the Auckland Harbour Bridge for Vector Lights (6pm-12pm every night and marvel at the sustainable light and sound show. Access the soundtrack on your mobile device, then listen online as you view the electrifying extravaganza from your fave harbourside hangout.
Or head out East along a stimulating Art Trail with a series of imaginative and inspiring events. Visit art galleries and admire a variety of art works, many of which will be for sale. You can also watch artists in action, or attend imaginative workshops for a very low fee.
If you’re keen for more funds-free fun - check out some of these other fabulous free things to do while in Auckland
$ Cheap Thrills - under $25
Let art steal your heart, and ease(l) on down to Art in the Park (Eden Park, Saturday July 24- Sunday, July 25, 10am-6pm. GA $15, kids under 14 free), the perfect place to ooh and ah over paintings, sculptures, photographs and prints with options to purchase pieces, whether you’re just starting your art collection or adding to it.
If you’re more of an outdoor art person, how about signing up for Te Wai o Horotiu Art Hīkoi? (Sunday, August 1, 11am- 12:15pm. $22.50 - $25, 12 and under free). Join the kaiārahi (tour guides) from Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, as they show people around significant Māori public artworks in the central city. The trail starts at Britomart Hotel (29 Galway St) and ends on the volcanic slopes of Rangipuke, Albert Park and promises to let your city shine in a brand new light.
Less of the art you say, and more of the action? Then say gidday to Paradice Ice Rink in either Avondale or Botany for Disco on Ice, (Saturday, July 31, 8:30-10:30pm. $15-$19.) A midwinter disco on ice is just the ticket for skating away the winter blues beneath zinging disco lights, because whether it’s date night, or a mate night, it’s always a skate night.
$$ Mid-range - fab fun for under $100
For an inventive interactive dining experience, join Hannah Miller Childs - A Lady Butcher - and Andrew Childs - Behemoth Brewing’s brew-master - as they discuss the finer points of beer and butchery at Butchery & Beer Progressive Dinner (Thursday, July 22, 6:30-9:30pm. $95) Learn about both these arts over a delectable five-course meal served with matched beers.
If you’re looking for an exquisite blend of dance, music and fantasy, you might like to check out Ballet Noir – What becomes of the broken hearted (Friday, July 23, 8pm – Saturday, July 24, 2pm and 8pm, $25-50). One of Aotearoa's best loved ballet and contemporary dance choreographers, Mary Jane O'Reilly has created this contemporary piece to be an elegant reflection of the sometimes uneasy times we find ourselves living in.
$$$ Push the boat out, an event over $100
Celebrated chef Ben Bayly believes food is more than just fuel, and that a good meal should tell a story which is exactly what Ahi – An Auckland Food Story (Tuesdays, July 20 & 27, 6:30pm. $150) sets out to do. Enjoy a thoughtful tasting menu with dishes presented by the producers themselves and matched with local wines.
If you’re hungry for a little adventure, join the crew from Auckland Sea Kayaks and paddle across the Waitematā Harbour to Devonport, Auckland’s picturesque Victorian village. Kai by Kayak is every Saturday throughout Elemental AKL (17, 24 & 31 July, $165).
$$$$ If money is no object - opera buffs and food lovers please book now!
Sound Bites (Thursday July 29, 3pm- Friday July 30 10am. $1,195, per person, twin share) is an exclusive evening of song and supper featuring world-renowned tenor Geoff Sewell and celebrated chef Josh Emett. Enjoy champagne and canapés, followed by a spine-tingling performance of beloved opera classics then you’ll be invited to enjoy an exquisite dinner featuring local produce and the finest wines. Your evening also includes luxury accommodation at the five-star Park Hyatt and an indulgent breakfast.
Stay and Taste of Matakana (Friday 23 July 12pm – Sunday 25 July 12pm. $12,000 for group of eight) is the ultimate foodie retreat to Matakana for eight very special guests. Let the Matakana Coast region wine and dine you with dinner menus inspired by the local ingredients and artisan producers of the area. This luxurious retreat includes a two-night stay at the Matakana Estate Lodge, where you can relax and recharge while making the most of the sprawling views over the vineyards and Matakana Valley, a private Oyster Farm Tours and wine tastings, and two private dinners cooked by the internationally acclaimed chef Cory Campbell, complete with wine pairings.