The Insider's Guide to New Zealand - - NORTH ISLAND -

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,

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. hamil­ton­

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, fiel­d­

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, bal­loonsover­

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,

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.

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