Illuminate Adelaide Guide {2024}

Last updated:

This article may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I may receive a small commission. Read the full disclaimer here.

Light festivals have been popping up all over the place in the last few years, Vivid has become huge in Sydney and Adelaide has joined in on the trend with the Illuminate Adelaide festival each winter. This July 2024, it’s bigger and better than ever as it settles nicely into the South Australian festival calendar.

Illuminate Adelaide combines art, technology, and light. It happens every year and features lots of light installations, digital art, and interactive experiences.

The city becomes colourful and exciting as the streets, parks, and landmarks are transformed with both locals and visitors leaving their winter hibernation to explore the magical lightscapes.

The festival offers a variety of displays and exhibitions across the city (and occasionally across the state) that engage people of all ages. It’s a great way to experience creativity and culture and get out of the house on those cold days.

This post will share all the information you need to make the most of Illuminate Adelaide 2024. I will share the best free and paid exhibitions and tips for avoiding crowds.

NOTE: Illuminate Adelaide is over for 2023. Look out for it again in 2024. Details here will be updated as soon as they come to hand.

Have Questions? – Come and join the Facebook Group and ask any questions you may have about travel in South Australia. We can provide answers, make further suggestions and update you with the latest information. Click here to join now.

About Illuminate Adelaide

Illuminate Adelaide traces its roots back to its inaugural edition in 2021. The festival was conceived as a way to invigorate the city of Adelaide in winter, showcasing artistic and technological prowess.

Building on the success of previous light-based events held in the region, Illuminate Adelaide aims to create a unique platform for local and international artists to come together and explore the transformative power of light.

Over the years, the festival has grown in scale and popularity, attracting visitors from near and far. It has become a significant cultural event, fostering collaboration, innovation, and community engagement.

This year the Illuminate Adelaide dates are from the 4th until the 21st of July and there are more than twenty different events across the city.

We acknowledge that the Kaurna people are the traditional custodians of the land where Illuminate Adelaide operates.

A historic glass greenhouse at night lit up from the inside with blue light. There are also white light beams going up into the sky

Free Illuminate Adelaide Events

While there are plenty of paid events around the city, there are also plenty of things to do at Illuminate Adelaide for free.

City Lights

A crowd of people looking up at a large illuminated light installation

The City Lights are always a favourite. The city centre comes alive with a range of sculptures and installations.

Adelaide’s City Lights program is back, transforming urban landscapes into a vibrant playground of art, light, and technology, inviting people of all ages to explore the city in a surprising new light.

With a range of installations, interactive sculptures, and innovative artworks, this year’s City Lights promises to be the brightest and most unforgettable yet.

The installations are split into three distinct groups in the north, west and east of the city square.

Each group comfortably takes around an hour to walk around and enjoy the artwork, so you can have three different nights out in the city or plan one big night to see them all.

The good part is that all the walking and wonder will keep you warm in the middle of winter.

When: 5th to 21st July
Where: All over the city centre (map will be released in July)

Movie at MOD.

Head to the futuristic MOD museum on July 12th for a free screening (although tickets are required) of the Japanese ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’.

The movie is an animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity struggles with environmental destruction and giant toxic insects.

The story follows Princess Nausicaä, a courageous young woman who embarks on a quest to understand the toxic jungle and find a way for humans and nature to coexist peacefully.

When: 12th July
Where: MOD, North Terrace, Adelaide

Illuminate Adelaide Ticketed Events

The best of the Illuminate Adelaide events require tickets to be purchased in advance.

While it may be possible to turn up at the door and purchase tickets, many of the events do sell out so it is recommended that you purchase them in advance. Here are some of the most popular.

Fire Gardens

A crowd of people looking at a framework of flaming flower pots in the dark.

Some of the most popular Illuminate Adelaide events for the last three years have been those in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. If you loved them, you will also like this year’s display, called Fire Gardens.

This time the Adelaide Botanic Garden will be transformed by the French artists Compagnie Carabosse. For three weeks, enjoy giant firepots, moving sculptures, live music, and candlelit paths.

Experience the glow of firelight as it changes the garden into a dazzling wonderland, perfect for all ages. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see the garden in a whole new light!

Make sure you get in early and book tickets because this will likely sell out.

Tickets for Fire Gardens are available here

When: 4th to 21st July (Thurs – Sun)
Where: Adelaide Botanic Gardens


A silhouetted child reaching up towards an interactive screen which shows a cartoon-like plant with flowers

Step into “EDEN,” a unique interactive experience that brings the beauty of nature to life, presented by the internationally renowned Berlin-based studio, flora&faunavisions.

This Adelaide-exclusive event merges art and nature across 150 square metres of LED screens, creating a digital garden that responds to your touch.

Plant a seed with a simple gesture and watch as it grows into a lush, vibrant landscape, showcasing the playful, hopeful side of the natural world.

As you explore, cutting-edge digital technologies let you craft plants and flowers, transforming your surroundings and sparking joy, creativity, and curiosity.

EDEN is a wonderful opportunity for the whole family to explore the beauty and significance of our planet in a world brimming with imagination and inspiration.

Get your tickets to EDEN here

When: 4th until 21st July
Where: The Light Room, Light Square

Universal Kingdom: Prehistoric Nights

A child tickling the chin of a realistic dinosaur model

After three years of Light Creatures at the Adelaide Zoo, this year we are off to the Mesozoic Era.

Travel back in time with a new experience that brings dinosaurs to life through a fusion of puppets, lights, and dramatic prehistoric scenes.

Presented by Adelaide Zoo with SA Power Networks, this event marks the first in a trilogy that explores the dawn of life on Earth.

Witness the evolution from the earliest ocean dwellers to the colossal creatures that dominated the land, crafted by the creative brilliance of Erth and A Blanck Canvas.

Explore installations that range from floating bioluminescent jellyfish to playful Plesiosaurs and the formidable Australian Megaraptor, Australovenator.

Journey through this ancient world, learn about Earth’s first extinction events, and the critical role of conservation today.

This event promises a night of discovery and fun, illuminating the past to inspire the future.

Tickets for Universal Kingdom: Prehistoric Nights can be found here

When: 4th until 21st July
Where: Adelaide Zoo

Unsound Adelaide

A composite photo showing the Adelaide skyline at the bottom, green hills in the background, and a large ball made up of many different items like animals and people, flowers and buildings, in the centre

Unsound Adelaide is actually celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year, having been around longer that the Illuminate Adelaide festival itself.

This event is all about celebrating cutting-edge music, with a range of innovative performers. Even over on the Illuminate Adelaide website, this event is described as “something amorphous, undefinable, unmatchable.”

It has to be seen to truly be appreciated, and it is an event for those who are “brave-hearted, adventure-driven music fans”. Are you up to it?

Get your tickets to Unsound Adelaide here

When: 19th & 20th July
Where: Dom Polski Centre

Fill the Earth

A circular disc in shades of grey on a stage with a male dancer wearing black squatting down touching the middle of t

Fill the Earth presents a collection of seven stories that explore the ways we inhabit and shape our world.

This performance installation combines the talents of 12 artists to create a captivating experience involving physical performance, visual art, dance, and video.

From a giant caterpillar birthing green balloons to a woman crafting a garden from dead branches, each piece delves into the tragicomic rituals of our everyday lives.

It’s an invitation for audiences to contemplate how we connect with, or distance ourselves from, the world around us and fill it with our unique narratives.

This event not only merges physical and digital realms but also blends past with present, and the visible with the invisible, offering a communal, meditative journey through ever-changing imagery in an intimate setting.

Purchase your Fill the Earth tickets here

When: 12th – 14th July
Where: Nexus Theatre, Lion Art Centre

More Illuminate Adelaide Events

Above I have covered some of the most popular Illuminate Adelaide events, but this is not all of them. You can find even more events over on the website, including more music events.

Illuminate Adelaide Regional Events

Each year there are also one or two Illuminate Adelaide events that are not actually in Adelaide! In 2023 Illuminate Adelaide has teamed up with the River Revival campaign and will have a free event on the Mannum riverbank.

As yet, no regional event have been announced for 2024.

A huge inflatable lizard at night, lit from inside, painted in many colours and indigenous patterns

Illuminate Adelaide with Kids

Illuminate Adelaide is a fantastic festival for kids, especially since it falls during the school holidays. That means no early mornings after a late night out exploring the lights, and the freedom to go any night, not just the busy weekends.

The festival offers a wide range of events and activities that are both educational and entertaining. Kids will love Universal Kingdom: Prehistoric Nights at the Adelaide Zoo, and wandering through the streets enjoying the City Lights.

Tips for Enjoying Illuminate 2024

After attending numerous Illuminate Adelaide events over the last three years, here are my tips for an enjoyable evening

  • dress warm and bring an umbrella, after all, this is a winter festival
  • book tickets at least a few days in advance. The most popular events such as Fire Gardens and Universal Kingdom: Prehistoric Nights will almost certainly sell out.
  • it can get very crowded, even just walking around the streets to see the City Lights, so perhaps plan to go on a weeknight rather than a weekend if you can.
  • consider catching public transport in the city. Car parking can be a challenge, especially on the busier nights.
  • if you don’t have kids, make a night of it. Have dinner first, book a ticket to one of the events, such as Fire Gardens or Arborialis, and then afterwards wander the streets looking at the City Lights – they stay on until 11 pm and many of the families will go home well before then.
People standing in front of a huge rendition of the two fingers touching from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling

Where to Eat Before the Adelaide Illuminate Festival

This year much of the Illuminate action seems to be moving to the East End of the city, so a good area to eat dinner beforehand is the Rundle Street precinct.

If you do want to eat elsewhere in the city, such as on Gouger Street, then the free city trams can take you back to North Terrace.

There is also a pop-up dedicated food venue too. Basecamp is a food and beverage venue that in previous years has been located near the entrance to the Botanic Gardens or Rundle Park.

This year it is moving to Lot Fourteen on North Terrace to be closer to more of the events.

When: Various hours from 4th July until 21st July
Where: Lot Fourteen, North Terrace

Where to Stay in Adelaide Near Illuminate Venues

If you are visiting Adelaide just for the Illuminate festival, you might like to stay close to the venues, which again means in the city’s East End. I would recommend the Crown Plaza or the Majestic Roof Garden Hotel to be right in the thick of it.

Adelaide’s city centre is not very big though, so in reality you could stay anywhere in the city and still find it easy to access the events. Some of my favourite hotels are the Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets and the Oval Hotel.

For a more modest budget, try the Ibis Adelaide, the Holiday Inn Express, or perhaps even a private room at the Adelaide Central YHA.

Looking for more things to do in Adelaide? Read these posts next
100 Adelaide Experiences
Things to do in Adelaide in the Rain
Fun Tours in Adelaide City Centre

Don’t forget to come on over and join the Facebook group for more South Australian inspiration and to get all your questions answered. Click here to join now.

Please share this post with your friends and pin it for later

Pin image for Illuminate Adelaide guide Shows light shining out of a greenhouse and up to the sky
Pin Me
Josie sitting cross-legged in a garden
About the author

Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred, living here for her whole life. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.