20 ways to enjoy Melbourne’s ‘new normal’

Melburnians are embracing the city’s ‘new normal’ to support small businesses, get their culture fix, and even discover parts of the municipality they’ve never seen before.

Restrictions relating to COVID-19 are continuing for the time being, and the Melbourne you know and love will look a little different for the foreseeable future.

Your favourite cafe is likely to only be offering takeaway. Your favourite event may be run in a different way. Your art or yoga class may still be held online.

Luckily for us, local business owners, event producers and artists are a spirited and innovative bunch. So there are loads of ways to still enjoy Melbourne to the max.

Read on to discover a small sample of what’s on offer in the coming months, including virtual events, online cultural experiences, foodie delights to order in, and hidden gems.

 Virtual events

1. Open House Melbourne

Get your fix of Melbourne’s architectural delights and secret spaces without leaving your living room. This beloved feast of design will be delivered entirely online for the first time ever, and most events will be free of charge. Tune in to snoop around iconic buildings on 25 and 26 July. Find out more at Open House Melbourne.

2. Melbourne Conversations

In the coming months, hear from pros about future tech and how COVID-19 could spark a digital awakening, discuss future preparedness with an Australian Defence Force expert, and cast your mind forwards to a potential ‘leisure society’. Visit Knowledge Melbourne on Facebook for dates. Presented via livestream.

3. Female Futures Project films

Watch short films made by female and non-binary young people as part of Signal’s Female Futures project. The works explore how creatives are faring in isolation, their studio spaces and their inspirations. Signal is our creative studio for young people aged 13 to 25.

4. Book clubs and storytimes

Lovers of words and stories have continued to connect through our libraries despite COVID-19. In fact, usage of digital library materials has surged dramatically. Our book clubs, conversation clubs and storytimes (for children and adults) continue rain, hail or shine, in person or online. Find out more at Libraries.

5. Screen and Sound Commissions

Experience 12 new works created as part of Signal’s Screen and Sound Commissions. During this project, eight young and emerging screen and sound artists received technical and creative mentoring from industry professionals. Find the works at Signal at the end of August.

A row of ballet dancers performing on stage

Artists of The Australian Ballet in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake
Photo: Jeff Busby

Cultural experiences

6. Migrant stories

The Immigration Museum has curated its best online content for people to enjoy from the couch, including virtual tours, inspirational migrant stories told through multimedia content, and creative activities for kids.

7. Ballet lessons

Stream cinema-quality performances and behind-the-scenes content from The Australian Ballet for free. Be swept away by powerful productions of Romeo and Juliet, La Sylphide and more, then try out five simple ballet exercises that are perfect for small spaces, guided by Artistic Director David McAllister.

8. Art exhibitions

See giant sculptures and vintage Japanese fashion thanks to virtual tours offered for free by the National Gallery of Victoria. Kaws: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness is just one of the tours available online. Learn more about the virtual and real-life art experiences on offer at NGV.

9. Literature

Have you read every book in the house during isolation? Search for City of Melbourne Libraries on Soundcloud to get recommendations from our Dear Reader and Desert Island Books podcasts, which are hosted by our expert librarians. Or find out about our eBook Valet service at Libraries.

 10. Dance parties

Melbourne dance party institution Mr McClelland’s Finishing School is taking the party online on Friday nights, live-streaming DJ sets via Zoom. Find the links on Facebook to charge up your home dance floor with the best indie, soul, disco and pop tunes. Until the end of July.

Foodie delights

11. Banquet in a box

Tian38 has reinvented its menu for takeaway. Dishes include Singaporean chilli crab jaffle, five hour-braised wagyu short rib with a Vegemite rendang sauce, and more. Banquet boxes for one to four diners are available to order online.

12. Sake by Segway

Get premium Japanese sake zipped to your door via Segway. Sake Connect is an independent ‘hole-in-the-wall’ store run by local entrepreneur Melissa Mills, a former dentist whose passion for Japanese culture transformed her life path. Deliveries include tasting notes and food-pairing information.

13. Grossi a Casa

The indulgent menu from Italian institution Grossi Florentino is now available at home. Feast on arancini, pumpkin tortellini, and lasagna. Order a fine wine and finish with the tiramisu. Handmade by chefs Guy Grossi and Chris Rodriguez, from their
casa to yours. Pickup or delivery.

14. Winter warmers by Bar Clara

The team at Bar Clara has spent recent months spreading warmth, not only by creating a new mulled cider (available to order online) but also by collecting and sharing stories of everyday heroes who have shown kindness during this difficult period. Check out the good news on the bar’s social channels.

15. New tech at The HOF

Bavarian restaurant The HOF Downtown has teamed up with local startup Mr Yum to introduce new technology that allows diners to order and pay for their meals from their tables, using their mobile phones. This is just one of the innovative ways local restaurants are responding to COVID-19.

Hidden gems

16. Wellbeing Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens

Head to the fern gully to explore three lush meditative spaces, perfect for solo contemplation. Don’t miss the ‘bird’s nest’, where you can breathe in the green surroundings in a suspended swing chair. There’s also the sheltered grotto, a Japanese-inspired moss garden and a ‘mother-stone’ fountain. Find out more at Royal Botanic Gardens.

17. Quirky items in our City Collection

From a model banana to a bottle of 1980s spumante, there are some very unusual items in our City Collection. Since the 1850s, we have accumulated an eclectic and important range of cultural material, which amounts to more than 8000 items.

18. Trin Warren Tam-boore wetlands

Did you know there are wetlands in Royal Park? Trin Warren Tam-boore means ‘bellbird waterhole’, and the place is home to many species of native fauna like ibis and kookaburras. Read the signs along the trail to learn all about the creatures that call the wetland home.

19. Self-guided walking tours

Take physically distanced strolls through Melbourne to discover famous street art and lesser-known gems, learn more about Aboriginal history, and visit arcades and lanes you never knew existed. View the maps at Walks.

20. Westgate Park

What used to be an industrial area under the Westgate Bridge, on the eastern bank of the Yarra, is now home to plants and plenty of native animals, including spoonbills and pelicans. See how many species you can spot against the city skyline. During warm, dry spells natural algae turns the lake bright pink. Find out more at Westgate Park.

Do you know of a business located in the City of Melbourne municipality that is doing something wonderful? We might be able to offer them free promotion. Find out more at Marketing support

To learn more about local businesses and events, visit What’s On Melbourne. For information about libraries and other Council services, visit City of Melbourne.

Keep in touch

Things are changing quickly as restrictions related to COVID-19 ease, and businesses and events launch innovative offerings. To keep up-to-date with what’s open, what’s new and what’s back, subscribe to our weekly What’s On Melbourne newsletter.