From festivals to races to art exhibitions, there’s always something exciting on the Alice Springs events calendar. Discover fun and unique events to suit all locals and visitors, whatever your interests may be.
A diverse array of vibrant festivals spaced out throughout the year celebrate everything from classic and exotic cars to Central Australian culture to beanie hats. Dance the weekend away to the tune of the most celebrated local and touring musicians playing various genres of beautiful music, or admire all kinds of unique artwork from the most talented artists.
Cheer from the sidelines to races of camels, cars, runners, or boats along a dry riverbed. Immerse yourself in the lively celebration of desert culture through music, art, food, drink, films, comedy, and more. Whatever time of year you decide to visit Alice Springs, you’re sure to discover a quirky event that promises a wonderful time for all guests.
Allow a network of pathways to guide you through a wonderland of enchanting waves of colour at the Field of Light. As darkness falls over the outback, the desert is brought to life by an immersive art installation consisting of over 50,000 illuminated spindles in a multitude of gentle colours beneath the starry night sky. The display covers a staggering 49,000 square metres on a canvas of red sand.
In the local Pitjantjatjara language, the name of the installation is ‘Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku', which in English is ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’. However, the Field of Light is so much more than that, as it perfectly combines art with culture in the most captivating way.
The concept was inspired by Uluru itself when renowned artist Bruce Munro was camping there in 1992; however, it wasn't until several years later that the sketches in his notebook were brought to life at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The exhibit has travelled around the UK, the US, and Mexico, before arriving at the base of Uluru in the heart of the Northern Territory in 2016. This is the largest recreation of the exhibition to date. Originally intended to remain there until 2017, its stay has been extended twice due to overwhelming popularity. Since 2016, visitors from all around the world have been mesmerised by this unique artwork.
A number of different tours and experiences are on offer to those lucky enough to witness the magic of this breathtaking installation.
Once a year, car enthusiasts from all over Australia and further afield gather in the red centre for a weekend-long celebration of all things wheels. If you love cars then this is an event that needs to be added to your calendar immediately. Red CentreNATS allows you to watch some of the coolest and craziest cars in the country being used, raced, and enjoyed across tarmac, grass, and dirt. Come along to watch or even enter your own vehicle.
The family-friendly auto festival features a full program of competitions, both on and off the track. Enjoy three days of thrilling events including drag races, show n shines, thrifty grass driving, and street cruising. Watch as a 4 wheel drive track in Blatherskite Park puts off-road vehicles and drivers to the test with log hops, barriers, and more. See an impressive collection of cars in the street parade which departs from Blatherskite Park and rolls into town and back, and learn how much power your car really has at the Diggamen Dyno Cell.
Points are awarded to cars through cruising, drag racing, driving events and show judging, for the best to be named the Red CentreNATS Champion – a title open to both street and elite class cars. The festival concludes with a podium party in Blatherskite Park on the Sunday evening, featuring entertainment, food stalls, and a bar.
Red CentreNATS takes place across three Alice Springs venues within a 12KM radius: Alice Springs Inland Dragway, Blatherskite Park, and Lasseters Centre of Entertainment.
For ten days a year, the desert is brought to life with impressive artwork, dazzling light shows, and excellent performances, set against the stunning backdrop of the spectacular MacDonnell Ranges. The name Parrtjima means ‘shedding both light and understanding’ in the local Arrernte language and the aim of the event is to celebrate the oldest continuous cultures in the world through the latest technology. Visitors can gain a deeper insight into the country and Arrernte culture through artwork, light installations, and more, from Arrernte artists and those from across the central desert region and around the Northern territory. Parrtjima is a celebration of indigenous arts, culture, and storytelling, enlightening attendees in the most engaging and entertaining way.
Magnificent artwork commands a large portion of the ranges, celebrating the beauty, uniqueness, and survival of the landscape. Meanwhile, Alice Springs Desert Park and Todd Mall host a thrilling program of interactive workshops, music from talented local and national musicians, Indigenous dance, films by Aboriginal filmmakers, and insightful talks, as well as more artwork and light installations. Visitors can wander through a unique outdoor gallery of contemporary and traditional Aboriginal art, and immerse themselves in artwork and stories through light installations coupled with soundscapes.
Parrtjima is the only authentic Aboriginal light festival of its kind. Entry is free, and everyone is encouraged to attend. As well as the culture, there is a hub of food and drink stalls. The event is family-friendly, featuring a children’s’ area with artwork specifically designed to engage younger guests.
Celebrate Australian art and culture at the quirky, weekend-long Alice Springs Beanie Festival. This unique event began in 1997 as a beanie party organised by a group of friends in an effort to sell beanies crafted by Aboriginal women in remote areas. Since then, it has grown into an annual festival where both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists can exhibit their creations and share their culture and stories.
The Beanie Festival strives to showcase the textile creations of Aboriginal women, exhibit women’s culture, and promote handmade textiles, with a focus on the beanie as a regional art form. It is a community event, and the sheer level of community participation, along with the organisers’ relationships with various local Aboriginal organisations are what make the event unique. 150 volunteers work tirelessly to run the festival, which attracts over 7,000 visitors from around the world. Over 500 beanie makers from all around Australia and further afield contribute over 7,000 handmade beanies.
Visitors can shop for beautiful, unique beanies created by independent artists, and celebrate the winners of the beanie competition. Furthermore, there are free workshops available where guests can learn to make a variety of textiles including beanies, baskets and more, from inspiring and talented crafters. As well as plenty of beanies, there is fantastic live entertainment, delicious tucker from an array of community food stalls, and a bar where you can quench your thirst. Entry is free with a gold coin donation, meaning you can save your dollars for beanies and snacks!
Alice Springs is proud to be home to one of Australia’s quirkiest race days: the Camel Cup. Around 20 riders bring their camels from farms around the region to race eight heats throughout the day, building up to a finale. You may not be surprised to hear that camels are not the easiest animals to ride, which is one of several factors that make the races so exciting to watch, providing endless fun and entertainment for both riders and viewers. Camels have a long history in Australia, however, this event is about more than racing camels – it's more of a carnival. Aside from the races, visitors can enjoy an array of vibrant live entertainment, delicious food stalls and bars, and market stalls.
The origins of the Alice Springs Camel Cup can be traced back as far as 1970 when a bet between two friends led to a camel race in the dried up Todd River bed. The popularity of the race led to it being made into an annual event. Although the venue has temporarily changed for essential upgrades, the races generally take place in Blatherskite Park, which is the only venue within the Southern Hemisphere built specifically for camel racing. Within the park is the Noel Fullerton Camel Racing Arena, named after the man who originally challenged his friend to a camel race, without whom this thrilling event would not exist.
If you ever happen to be in Alice Springs in July, the Camel Cup is not to be missed.
For a totally unique event that promises hours of fun for the whole family, look no further than the Rotary Henley on Todd Regatta. What makes this boat race unique is that there is no water! The races take place along the dry bed of the Todd River, and competitors carry bottomless, lightweight kayak, rowing boat, and yacht frames, and dash through the sand to the finish line. Other events involve sand shovelling, sand skiing, boogie boards, tug-of-wars, and sandcastle building for the kids. No other dry river boating regatta exists on the planet, so it definitely shouldn’t be missed.
All attendees are strongly encouraged to participate in the various events throughout the day, which include solo and team races, as well as plenty of options for kids. Participants can opt to get creative and build their own boats or use those provided, and the most impressive homemade boat wins a prize. The day begins with a parade down Todd Mall which raises excitement for the event. The finale of the day is the battle of the boats – three motorised boats fire flour bombs, water cannons, and water balloons at each other, resulting in a huge, colourful water fight. The winner is decided by the crowd. Outside of the boat races, visitors can also enjoy live music, food and drink stalls, and a kids’ entertainment area.
The regatta is held annually on the third Saturday in August and is the main method of fundraising for the rotary clubs of Alice Springs.
Alice Springs is proud to be the home of one of the largest and most thrilling annual sports events in the entire Northern Territory: the Finke Desert Race. Every year on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June, over 600 cars, bikes, quads, and buggies race from Alice Springs to the remote town of Finke and back on a demanding 460KM off-road, multi-terrain course. The two-day event is open to all entrants and is perceived as the richest off-road race in Australia. It is also considered one of the most challenging off-road courses in one of the most remote places on earth. The fastest car and the fastest bike are both awarded the impressive title of ‘King of the Desert’ and a prize. However, most competitors and fans consider simply making it there and back to be a significant and worthwhile achievement in itself.
The Finke Desert Race attracts keen entrants from all over Australia and the rest of the world, as well as plenty of onlookers, with an estimated 12,000 spectators camping beside the track and sleeping under the stars in swags and tents.
The race can be traced back to 1976, when it began as a bike race between some local motorbike riders from Alice Springs to the Finke River and back. Following the success of this ride, the Finke Desert Race was created and has taken place annually ever since. In 1988 cars and off-road buggies were welcomed to race alongside the bikes as the event continued to grow.