The Queenstown International Marathon has become one of the area’s biggest annual events. What culture, what fun, as thousands of strangers come together in a race of personal achievement and athletic prowess! But when I sit in my comfortable folding chair and watch the entrants pound past, they (always) look utterly unhappy.

Call me lazy, but I’d rather embrace global cultures and improve my mental/physical well-being in a way that requires less movement. And lyrca.

If, like me, you prefer Queenstown cultural events with a more sedentary nature, be sure to take part in the following - as slowly and leisurely as you like:

Queenstown JazzFest

The sounds of saxophone and bass drift across the Wakatipu, with paid gigs at classy wineries and free concerts in public greens. One of the area’s oldest cultural events, Jazz Fest takes place annually over Labour Weekend and draws musicians from around the world. So don a black beret, or whatever makes you feel savant, and start snapping.

Maximum Activity Level: listening. (Dancing entirely optional).


Also called the Maori New Year, Matariki is actually a constellation that appears in the Southern sky around May or June. In Queenstown, the special astronomical event coincides with a party in Memorial Park. Haka and poi performances, traditional Maori dishes and storytelling bring national heritage to the community, with funds raised to support local Maori cultural groups.

Maximum Activity Level: listening, tasting and learning.

luma southern lights queenstown

LUMA Southern Lights Project

No conventional gallery walls limit this exhibit, which pushes the boundaries of both space and art. The Queen’s Gardens transform into a wonderland of lights and sounds during this three-day winter event. With free entry, kids will love the trippy visual displays, and parents can sneak a drink from World  Bar’s LUMA Lounge. The only requirement? An open mind – and maybe a woolen hat.

Maximum Activity Level: strolling.

NZ Mountain Film Festival

Perhaps the most ironic of lazy cultural activities, the festival is themed around watching other people do cool physical things. The multi-day fete begins in Wanaka and ends in Queenstown, incorporating opportunities such as a writing workshop, educational speakers and art displays. Best part? You get to scale the Alps and ski down glaciers without getting wet, cold and crabby.

Maximum Activity Level: sitting and blinking.

Auckland Airport Community Carnival

Call it the calendar’s cultural crock pot: a mix of food stands, performances, educational games and costumes that highlight the town’s international flavors. Chinese, Brazilians and Dutch (to name a few) represent their homelands with pride. Though sponsored by the Auckland Airport, the real event is free and fills the streets of downtown Queenstown, as part of the Winterfest itinerary.

Maximum Activity Level: meandering and chewing.

arrowtown long lunch queenstown

Arrowtown Long Lunch

A gastronomic delight awaits your stomach here; because unlike other food festivals that dish out from stalls, you don’t have to move anything but your fork. “Long” describes both the meals (three-plus courses served by area restaurants) and the set-up (tables stretch the length of Buckingham Street). Book a ticket from your favourite eatery and be sure to bring sunblock.

Maximum Activity Level: chewing and swallowing.

Festival of Colour

Autumn hues and artistic vibrancy inspire six days of creative colour in the Wakatipu area. Though based (biannually) in Wanaka, you can catch a theatre production in Queenstown, a painting exhibit in Luggate or a dance performance in Cromwell. Artists from all levels of the field, local to international, share their talents with the public.

Maximum Activity Level: applauding, toe-tapping, murmuring approval.

What events are on your list?