February 5, 2020

Celebrating without champagne: A guide to Mardi Gras 2020’s drug and alcohol-free programming

It can often feel as if there’s a drink at the epicentre of every LGBTQ event, especially celebratory events like Mardi Gras. If you’re someone who is trying not to drink or use drugs, or if you’re trying to cut back a little bit, or perhaps you’ve never been that comfortable in settings where people are drinking or using, then it can be hard to celebrate being proud of who you are when most chances to celebrate this pride come with a glass of champagne.

If you’re trying to avoid environments where people are drinking or using drugs, there’s still plenty on offer this Mardi Gras season. We’ve found some fab Mardi Gras season programming that might appeal to you.


Body En Thrall Exhibition: An exhibition from Martine Gutierrez, explores her femme identity and Guatemalan heritage through photography and moving image.
7th February – 24th April, 10am – 5pm
Australian Centre for Photography, Darlinghurst


Self-defence workshop: Get fit and learn how to protect yourself at this free workshop.
Saturday 15th February, 12:15pm
Upstairs at Newtown Library


A Lavender Menace? Australia’s early lesbian movement: A forum on the role of lesbians in the early gay and lesbian movements in Australia, to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Australasian Lesbian Movement.
Saturday 15th February, 2pm
Benledi House, Glebe


Ross Watson Exhibition: Ross Watson had a hugely successful exhibition at WorldPride NYC. He’s best known for his paintings that celebrate and eroticise the male form.
19th February – 1st March, 11am – 6pm
Aro Gallery, Darlinghurst


Twenty Twenty Vision: An exhibition from Sydney-based artist Stuart Meyer-Plath, celebrating the theme of same sex relationships and attraction.
23rd -29th February, 11am – 6pm
Sheffer Gallery, Darlinghurst

Male Man Exhibition: An exhibition from Alun Rhys Jones exploring and subverting our traditional understandings of masculinity.
24th February – 8th March, 10am -5pm
Bondi Pavilion Gallery


Same sex salsa workshop: A chance to learn some new moves, all for free!
Monday 24th February, 7pm
Glamour Dance, Glebe


Queer Plants Walk Royal Botanic Garden: A chance to learn about the most fabulous plants in the Royal Botanic Garden, and how they’ve been embracing diversity for millions of years.
Tuesday, 25th February, and Thursday 27th February, 10am
The Royal Botanic Garden


Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Zoo Walk: A chance to tour the zoo with the Sisters from the Order of Indulgence, learning about the Australian animals from the Zoo Keepers and some added flavour from the Sisters. The Order also has a History Walk, if that’s more your jam.

Note: Alcohol is served at the restaurant at Taronga Zoo. If you wish to avoid alcohol, consider leaving before lunch.
Thursday 27th February, 9am
Wharf 2, Circular Quay


Daybreaker One Love: Start your Mardi Gras with a sober dance party. With yoga at 5:30am and the dance party from 6:30-8:30 in the heart of Centennial Park, this one’s for the early risers.
Friday, 28th February, Yoga at 5:30am, Dance Party at 6:30am
Centennial Park


Events where alcohol is served but it isn’t the focus

If you’re okay with being in spaces where alcohol is served, there are a heap of other events where the bar isn’t the primary focus.


Mardi Gras Film Festival: With 57 feature films, 75 short films and 2 episodics on offer, there’s guaranteed to be something of interest here.
13th – 27th February
Event Cinemas, George St, Dendy Cinemas Newtown, and others


Rainbow flag raising ceremony: Kick off the Mardi Gras period by joining the City of Sydney as they raise the rainbow flag over Town Hall.
Friday 14th February, 5:30pm
Sydney Town Hall


Mardi Gras Festival Hub: The Seymour Centre is hosting a huge range of Mardi Gras events this season, including talks, theatre shows, live music and performances, and dance parties. Some highlights include My Trans Story, Queer Thinking, Spice Night, Laugh Out Proud, and Gender Euphoria.
Thursday – Sunday throughout the festival
Seymour Centre, Chippendale


Picnic Surry Hills: A chance to explore the revitalised parks of Surry Hills now that the Light Rail is open and construction is over. There’ll be local food on offer, as well as blankets, deck chairs, bean bags and DJs in local parks across the suburb.
Sunday 23rd February, 12:00pm
Surry Hills parks and surrounds


We might not have found everything…

If you know of a drug and alcohol-free event over Mardi Gras not on this list, email aod@acon.org.au.