Every October, Parramatta transforms into a wonderland of eats, beats, art, parties, and surprises for the annual Parramatta Lanes festival. The action takes place in the city’s hidden laneways, secret spaces and unusual places – from a rooftop car park to Batman Walk to St John’s Cathedral. This year, events are happening every evening from 5 pm, Tuesday, 15th through to Friday, 18th October. Here are ten excellent reasons to put Parramatta Lanes on your to-do list.
1. A Giant Pac Maze on a Rooftop
Take a break from reality in The Pac Maze. This giant labyrinth brings the ‘80s computer game Pac Man into real life. And, you’ll find it at the Rooftop at Eat Street Car Park. There are 1.5 kilometres of maze to explore, decked with LED lights and haunted by colourful ghosts. Just make sure they don’t catch you.
2. The Next Best Thing to a Time Machine
There won’t be an actual time machine at Parramatta Lanes, but there will be … Retro Future. It’s turning Dirrabarri Lane into a futuristic otherworld, based on how we imagined the future back in the ‘80s. Get there on Tuesday for live painting with Nadia Odlum, then on Thursday for a Nu Disco extravaganza, featuring DJ Levins, Poison Abbey and Midnight Pool Party. Come Friday, DJ Levins will be back, alongside Fishing DJs.
3. Eat Your Way Through More than 50 Food Stalls
Feast your way around the world without leaving town. Throughout the festival, more than 50 food stalls are peddling international eats galore. Need serious fuel? Go for Berlin Bangers or El’s Fried Chicken in Dirrabarri Lane. How about spicy Asian? Try Korean BBQ or Firepop at the Roxy Car Park. Got a sweet tooth? Dig into Koi Dessert Bar’s delights at St Johns Cathedral. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.
4. A Multi-Sensory Experience in a Pop-Up Garden
When it’s time to take five, head to Scholar Garden, Batman Walk. Created by artist Louise Zhang, this pop-up invites you to indulge your senses in a kaleidoscope of colours, shapes, lights, sounds and scents. It takes inspiration from the gardens of Chinese scholars – harmonious places, designed for peace, reflection and escape from the chaotic outside world.
5. Bingo Like You've Never Seen it Before
Not a fan of bingo? It’s time to think again. Prepare to see your grandma’s favourite game in a whole new light, when Bingo Loco takes over the Rooftop at Eat Street Car Park. Imagine bingo, but re-created as a rave, with conga lines, dance contests, lip sync showdowns, glow sticks, lots of confetti and prizes. This international hit has sold out in the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada and Australia.
6. A Re-Make of Jerusalem's Old City
Visit Horwood Place during Parramatta Lanes and you’ll find yourself walking into Jerusalem’s Old City. Wander through an open-air marketplace, be transported by singing and dancing, and sample a bunch of Middle Eastern delights. Among the food trucks serving up mouthwatering fare are The Bearded Bakers, Samaras Lebanese Restaurant and Mr Shish.
7. New Jazz, Old Wine and Lots of Cheese
What’s not to love about one of life’s classic trios? Settle into the grounds of Willow Grove, a 19th century, heritage-listed mansion, and indulge. Tuck into raclette by Frencheese, crème brûlée by Torch Me and crepes by Crepe de France – while sipping on fine wine and listening to live jazz. The program includes DJ Colin Ho, singer Mariam Sawires and The Asthmatix with a fusion of klezmer, hip hop and electronica.
8. The Ultimate BBQ
Parramatta Lanes is taking the traditional Aussie BBQ to the next level. And the results aren’t difficult to find: all you have to do is follow your nose to Centenary Square. You’ll come across some of Sydney’s most highly skilled barbecue kings, from Waroo Lamb to Jamaican Delight to 2 Smoking Barrels. In between watching master chefs at work, catch live acts playing rock and soul, including Rosa Maria, Soul of Sydney and The Sweet Jelly Rolls.
9. Little India Afloat
Parramatta River is the only watery laneway in the festival. And, for four magical evenings, it’s hosting Little India. Immerse yourself in fairy lights, tempting aromas, spicy eats and Bollywood beats. One of the star attractions is definitely Plasma by Chimera Atelier: Renzo B. Larriviere and Paul Steven Pena Castro – an incredible sculpture that you can walk into, sit on and climb over. It doubles up as a dazzling light show that changes over time.
10. Bicycle Powered Inflatable Ocean Creatures
Imagine if your next bike ride could save the world’s oceans. Well, during Parramatta Lanes, it just might. Get pedalling in Red Cow Lane and you’ll help draw attention to the impact of pollution on our sea life. This adventure is part of Wasting Oceans, an immersive art installation created by Amigo and Amigo, in collaboration with Parramatta Marist High School.