Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, 19–28 February. For two weeks the world-famous Hamilton Gardens (see Must Do, No 2) are turned into an outdoor theatre. Take a picnic and a bottle of wine and stuff yourself on a smorgasbord of music, theatre, dance and sweetly scented flowers. Hungerford Crescent, (07) 859 1317, hgaf.co.nz
Hamilton Fringe Festival, 3–12 March. Informal, inexpensive, outlandish and not to be missed. May or may not include nakedness, insults, dirty dancing and climate change. Comes hot off the back of the more mainstream summer arts festival. hamiltonfringe.co.nz
Fieldays, 15–18 June. Yes, it’s about cows but it’s also about tractor races, rural bachelors and haute couture from barbed wire and hay-bale twine. Book early, otherwise you’ll end up sleeping in a stable. 125 Mystery Creek Road, (07) 843 4499, fieldays.co.nz
Balloons over Waikato, 16–20 March. Guaranteed to give you a crick in the neck. The sky is filled with birthday cakes, Angry Birds, astronauts, pirates and a giant Noah’s ark, topped off by a magical night glow when all the balloons puff their stuff towards the stars. Innes Common at Hamilton Lake and the University of Waikato, (07) 856 7215, balloonsoverwaikato.co.nz
Spark Festival of Media Arts and Design, August. Wintec’s five-day festival of image, music, fashion and spirited debate about all of the above. Includes lunch at the Wintec Press Club, during which media celebs are lightly grilled by baby journalists. Wintec, Tristram Street, Whitiora (07) 834 8888, spark.net.nz
Ethnic festivals. More than 160 different ethnic groups live in Hamilton, making it one of New Zealand’s most ethnically diverse cities. There are festivals throughout the year including Chinese New Year celebrations, Festival de la Primavera, Loy Krathong, the Nesian Festival and Diwali. Indigo, which kicks off on Race Relations Day (21 March) showcases art, film, dancing, fashion and food.