Travel

10 Must-See Events in Auckland This Winter

Larger-than-life inflatable mushrooms and even a fried chicken festival are on the list.

auckland winter shrooms

Auckland in winter has a certain charm and mystique to it. It seems to be a time for outdoor concerts, new exhibitions, and world-class events. The crisp nights are filled with music and lights, and the air carries whiffs of street food and other aromas escaping the kitchens.

Despite the cooler weather, people flock to the streets, to dine in igloos with blankets and heaters, and walk around exploring light installations, including inflatable mushrooms.

There’s a lot to do this winter, so here’s our edit of must-see events in Auckland.

Elemental AKL

July 14-31
Elemental AKL returns this July with a season of curated experiences celebrating the unique culture, cuisine, and creativity of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

For 18 days, indulge in a smorgasbord of art, music, food, and events as Elemental AKL infuses eateries and bars, theatres, and public spaces across Auckland with the very best cultural, creative, and culinary experiences from the region.

Take your pick from the Elemental AKL 2022 line-up including headliner concerts by some of Aotearoa New Zealand and the world’s top performers. There are table talks with top chefs at one-off dining experiences, immersive art and music installations at iconic Auckland venues and spectacular outdoor light displays illuminating the city’s streets and landmarks. A few show-stopping performances of theatre, jazz, opera, and dance will keep visitors entertained.

The Snugs

June 24 –July 31
Cosy up at the coolest, most Instagram-able dining experience in town, because The Snugs are back for 2022. 

It might be cold outside, but these Snugs are kitted out with all the blankets, heaters, and tasty food you could need. 

Designed for up to six people, enjoy a night out with friends, spruce up your Friday work drinks with colleagues, round up your whānau during school holidays, or impress your other half with an epic date night.

When you book a Snug, you can choose from a selection of delicious food platters, beverage packages and optional add-ons, with choices to suit all appetites.

A minimum spend is required for each booking ($80 for sessions before 4 pm and $130 for sessions after 4 pm). 

Tūrama

July 21-16
Tūrama is an open invitation to all of Tāmaki Makaurau to revisit and re-imagine the Waihorotiu valley. You will be welcomed and farewelled by atua, dance on the sparkling waters of Te Waitematā and Wai o Horotiu, celebrate artworks by icons of Māori art and design, meet the manu of this place, and come face to face with an 8-metre-high representation of resident kaitiaki Horotiu. 

Start your Tūrama journey at the intersection of Queen and Shortland Streets with a uniquely designed and crafted waharoa denoting where the waters of Waitematā and Wai o Horotiu merged. Then, make your way up to Aotea Square for a stunning visual display as a taniwha appears on the Auckland Town Hall. 

Awe at the celebration of light, form, scale and life that has been developed for Tūrama by the creative team of Angus Muir Design, Graham Tipene (Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Haua, Ngāti Manu) and Ataahua Papa (Ngāti Korokī Kahukura). 

Shrooms

July 14-31
A forest of larger-than-life, inflatable mushrooms created by Amigo & Amigo is taking over Aotea Square.

Sure to delight art-lovers of all ages, step inside and be transported to an other-worldly wonderland. With bright lights and bold colours, this fun, fungi-themed installation is a treat for both the eyes and the Instagram feed. 

This event is part of Elemental AKL.

Drag Disco on Ice

July 14
Head to the Aotea Square Ice Rink and get ready for glam, glitz and glitter at Drag Disco on Ice. Drag Kings, Queens and everyone in between are invited to come along and have some fun. 

Watch from the outskirts as local queens Yuri Guaii, Margarita Blades and Shavorn Aborealis inject the rink with a little sparkle—or grab yourself a ticket to the rink to join in and skate the night away.

There will be prizes for the best outfit, so come dressed to impress.

This event is part of Elemental AKL.

Auckland Fried Chicken Festival

July 30
Fried chicken lovers rejoice, the ‘real clucking good’ Fried Chicken Festival is back.

Growing year on year, 2022’s festival will be taking over both levels of the iconic Shed 10 on the Auckland waterfront with an incredible line-up of fried chicken dishes from your favourite food trucks and local pop-up restaurants!

There will be live music, craft beer and a wine bar plus plenty of fun activities to keep foodie fans busy in-between meals.

If you’re into hot chicken, get hyped as this is the event you do not want to miss this year.

DJs in the Container

July 14-30
Get ready for sizzling sets and epic sounds, because the Container in the Square Café will be hosting a curated line-up of New Zealand’s finest DJs, keeping the beats and the vibes pumping throughout the crisp mid-winter nights. 

It’s the perfect spot to grab a drink and soak up some tunes, as well as being an ideal warm-up session for Live Nation’s Elemental Nights concerts.

This event is part of Elemental AKL.

Metronome

July 15-31
Be entranced by Metronome—a bright performance installation, drawing in audiences with meditative movements and rhythmic motions. 

Combining object manipulation and sculpture-like manoeuvres, watch as eight towering pendulums create mesmerizingly smooth arcs of light right before your eyes. 

This event is part of Elemental AKL.

New Zealand International Film Festival

July 28 – August 7
This year’s NZIFF is where you’ll be getting your film fest fix. As for what you’ll be watching, NZIFF’s just announced the opening night film. 

“On the eve of Matariki, we are pleased to announce that the new action-drama film Muru will open NZIFF 2022 in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, with a special screening in Whakatāne. The film will have its World Premiere on Thursday 28 July at Auckland’s The Civic.”

This film joins an eclectic lineup. Music documentaries, overseas award-winners, lavish period dramas, docos shot in secret: they’re all included.

Auckland Restaurant Month

Restaurant Month is set to return to the city centre again in 2022 for its 12th year, with another line-up of incredible dining offers and events available throughout August. A lineup is yet to be announced, but expect Auckland’s top restaurants to get involved, offering visitors a taste of the city’s diverse and vibrant dining scene.

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Travel

Take a Submarine to the Bottom of the Great Lakes

You too can sink down to the watery grave-er, depths.

Gail Shotlander/Moment/Getty Images
Gail Shotlander/Moment/Getty Images
Gail Shotlander/Moment/Getty Images

When the waves of Lake Huron closed over my head as I sank down to the bottom of the Great Lake, I admit I was a little panicky. I definitely thought about drowning. After all, I’d nearly drowned three times in my life.

Though the first two times I was too young to now recall, the third time was in Wisconsin and the sensation has stuck with me. I remember how, as a middle schooler, I got pulled deeper and deeper into a wave pool until every wave sucked me underneath just long enough to choke on a gurgly mouthful of water. Despite kicking and fighting to swim back to safety, I could feel the water overtaking me, bubbling up over my head as I sank down. The pool was choking me, I was suffocating, and the fear of death was right in my face. As you can probably guess, I was eventually saved. Someone noticed and pulled me out of the pool, and that relief was enormous.

But here I was again, as an adult, watching sediment from the bottom of the lake swirl up around me. But this time I wasn’t drowning. This time I was perfectly safe. This time I was in a submarine.

My small group and I were passengers on one of Viking Cruises’ newest itineraries, the Great Lakes Explorer. The expedition allows guests on the Viking Octantis ship to see one of the great lakes from the other side of the surface. Though guests can participate in science-research activities like microplastics research, bird-watching, and weather balloon launches, it’s also just really cool to dive in a submarine. Whether you’re overcoming your own childhood experiences or you’re just an adventurer at heart, here’s what to know about going on a submarine expedition in the Great Lakes.

Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises
Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises
Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises

Boarding a submarine

These are-of course-yellow submarines. Can you guess their names? If you picked John, Paul, George, and Ringo… you’re absolutely right.

The Beatles can go down to about 1,000 feet and stay underwater for eight hours. Each side of the submarine has three very comfortable seats for passengers, surrounded by glass domes that allow optimal viewing at the dive site. It’s a small space (you can’t stand up straight), but you can hardly tell once you’re in the water. The seat platforms swivel so you can look out over the lake floor instead of staring at the pilot and other passengers.

The submarines are equipped with lights, cameras, and some handy claws to pick up anything valuable the pilot sees on the lakebed. They’re typically used as research vessels to take information back to the Octantis’ science program, which works in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA eventually plans to tack instruments to the bottoms of the submarines to get more detailed information about the water, the lakes, and the lakebed.

If you’re like me (that is, both claustrophobic and afraid of drowning), you’ll be happy to know that the subs are awash with safety features. Onboard, you’ll find directions on what to do if the pilot goes unconscious, supplemental oxygen hoods, a big green button to push if the sub needs to surface immediately, and a program that tells the submarine to surface if it doesn’t detect any activity from the pilot. Up above you, the sub is followed by a safety boat with a team that ensures the surrounding waters stay clear and everyone is safe beneath the surface. (So even when the safety boat radioed our pilot, Peppe from Sweden, and said, “You’re a little close to the rocks, but that’s as good a dive site as any,” I decided to trust the marine scientist.)

Photo by Jennifer Billock
Photo by Jennifer Billock
Photo by Jennifer Billock

Sinking down to the depths

Here’s how the dive works. You take Viking-owned Zodiacs (military-grade rigid inflatable boats) to a predetermined dive site that the scientists onboard the ship picked out that morning. For now, the sites will always be in Canadian waters-because Viking is Norwegian, the Jones Act disallows them from deploying subs in the United States. To transfer from the Zodiac to the submarine, you have to hold onto a metal bar, climb out of the Zodiac, and sit down on the edge of the submarine hatch. You swing your legs into the hatch, then climb down a three-rung ladder into the middle of the sub to find your assigned seat.

Once everyone is in the sub, the pilot climbs in, closes the hatch, and then radios to the safety boat to make sure you’re clear to sink. With the all-clear, air is released from outside tanks on the submarine, and thrusters push the entire thing underwater.

For our dive, we went down about fifty feet to the floor of the lake. It had been raining all morning, which stirred up the sediment around us, making everything a mossy green colour that spotlights sparkled through to highlight the lakebed. I saw a few tiny fish and a ton of invasive zebra mussel shells. Depending on the weather and your dive site, you’re likely to see more. But even just exploring the floor of the Great Lakes, something almost no one in history has done before, is an amazing thing.

Sign me up!

If you want to take a submarine dive into the Great Lakes yourself, you have to be a passenger on the Viking Octantis or sister ship, Viking Polaris. As of this writing, no other companies offer passenger submarine trips down into the lakes-especially not in a military-grade exploration submarine that is worth $6 million each. The Great Lakes expedition itineraries start at about $6,500 and can be booked on the Viking website.

Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images

Hike, kayak, or get yourself a cinnamon roll afterwards

What you can see nearby depends on your dive site. On Octantis, the subs went down in Lake Huron and Lake Superior-my dive was in Lake Huron, surrounded by the stunning Georgian Bay UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Canada. Here, you can kayak in the bay, hike through the surrounding landscape, and enjoy a Zodiac nature cruise.

Or if you can, try to take your submarine dive at Silver Islet in Ontario’s slice of Lake Superior. The small community is historic and completely off the grid, and the general store has some of the best cinnamon rolls you can find around the Great Lakes.

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Jennifer Billock is a freelance writer and author, usually focusing on some combination of culinary travel, culture, sex, and history. Check her out at JenniferBillock.com and follow her on Twitter.

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