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A Week In Adelaide During Mad March

When I landed late at night, after 24 hours of airports and airplanes, my body may have been exhausted, but my excitement couldn’t contain itself. I was back in Australia after my last visit, nearly 11 years earlier. This time, rather than Australia’s popular and touristic East Coast, I was in South Australia — the regional capital city of Adelaide.

Every March, Adelaide turns into a frenzy of activity, affectionately referred by the locals as Mad March season. Over the course of the month (and a little bit on either end of the month, too), several festivals take place. First, there’s the Adelaide Festival — a celebration of arts and culture, when the city’s performance halls put on high-quality shows.

And, like every good-natured cultural festival, there’s a Fringe event, too. Adelaide Fringe has been running alongside the festival, with hundreds of performances ranging everywhere from cabaret to comedy, acrobatics to art. The city figuratively transforms into a public art space, with venues all over Adelaide offering wide-ranging, quirky, and bizarre shows by international performers. It’s almost so crazy and colorful that it’s overwhelming!

The Mad March festival season has become so synonymous with the city that Adelaide is even referred to as “Festival City” across the continent. The Fringe Festival, even, is the world’s second largest (after Edinburgh’s Fringe each August). There are three main parts to the Fringe, with three main venues supported and sponsored by local, regional, and international groups. There’s the Royal Croquet Club, usually putting on a variety of high-end shows; the Garden of Unearthly Delights, the Fringe’s largest venue, covers the full gamut; and Gluttony features a lot more of the quirky and offbeat performances.

Trying to choose a Fringe performance to watch is almost an art in itself. But that’s the joy of any Fringe Festival, really — the opportunity to see something random, something you might not normally watch. Prices are often a great value, and then there’s just the excitement at seeing something of which you might have no clue about.

Performance art is a weird type of activity, and at the Fringe, you’ll find many of the weirdest. In my week in Adelaide, I saw more than a few acrobatic performances, including a group from Montreal, as well as a puppet show where the puppets were the performers’ (male) anatomy. I’ll let you imagine what that one was all about.

Besides the Fringe, there’s the annual Womadealaide festival over the long holiday weekend in March. Often the favorite of many locals, the world music festival is a hippie’s dream. People wander the festival grounds without shoes, bringing their own picnic foods and lounging in the sun on blankets and in makeshift tents. The atmosphere at Womadelaide is a lot like you might describe the Adelaide people: chill, comfortable, and kind of hip.

Adelaide isn’t often at the top of many itineraries in Australia; but, during the festival season — when there are literally non-stop and all-night parties, events, and activities — it’s one of the Australian hotspots for the season.

Besides the Fringe and festival activities, Adelaide is a comparably-small city situated on the coast, with pristine and peaceful beaches. (I hardly saw any other people on my frequent visits to the beach over the course of a week.)

The city has been meticulously planned. Unlike other Australian cities, the city was colonized not by ex-convicts, but by European settlers and migrants. A grid system exists in Adelaide, with public parks surrounding the city on all four sides. And then, there’s the Adelaide Hills to the west and the coast to the east.

It’s these wide public parks where much of Adelaide’s outdoor festivals take place, surrounding the city with live music that’s impossible to ignore. There’s glitter — so much glitter! — party people, and a social and friendly vibe. Adelaide, Australia’s Festival City, really comes alive during this time. The mix of events in South Australia’s capital and its generous amount of activities make it the perfect place to camp out for a week of fun.

For more about Adelaide, read my other blogs and tips here.

Have you ever been to Adelaide or experienced festival season? If so, what’d you think? Any suggestions for things to see and do? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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