There’s always something happening in Cape Town, but it’s not always possible to say when. In true laid-back Mother City fashion, plans are made and cancelled on a whim. This adds to the improvisatory feel of the place, but does make forward planning rather difficult. Thus many of our Calendar events are pencilled in, rather than set in stone.
During the summer Capetonians are treated to a range of outdoorsy festivals and events, be they sports-, culture- or music-related. Be sure to keep an eye on the local press for updates, or phone the Cape Town Tourism Bureau for the latest on what’s going on.
Out the Box Festival
Where: various locations in City Bowl
When: Early Sept
Far superseding the humble Punch and Judy sock-puppet show, this week-long puppetry and visual performance festival organised by UNIMA SA (the International Association of Puppetry, South Africa) is the largest of its kind to take place in Africa. Indulge in a little suspension of disbelief as you watch puppets from around the world – from France and the Czech Republic to Burkina Faso – become magically animated, some even interacting with audience members. Apart from the live puppet shows, the festival also screens an inspiring array of documentaries and films, and hosts puppetry workshops for aspiring Geppettos.
Rocking the Daisies
Where: out of town – Cloof Wine Estate, Darling
A young, annual festival where some of the country’s biggest rock, blues, pop and folk bands play alongside lesser-known artists. Make sure your camping gear is sorted. Pack warm clothes, and avoid blow-up mattresses and open shoes as the devil thorns in the area truly are from hell.
Crazy Store Table
Where: Mountain Challenge Table Mountain, Tafelberg Road
Yes, the zany store that sells everything from plastic roses to hula-hoops and nail clippers also sponsors a 35km run around Table Mountain. You can run the fynbos-bedazzled circuit on your own or split up the slog between your mates into somewhat more manageable 17km snatches.
Hermanus Whale Festival
Where: Out of town – various locations in Hermanus
When: late Sept
Hermanus is at its most happening when the southern right whales come out to play. See how many blubbery beauts you can spot amid the festivities that include an art gallery ramble, live music, stand-up comedy, boules championship and half-marathon.
Cape Town International Kite Festival
Where: Zandvlei, Muizenberg
When: Late Oct/early Nov
The sky’s the limit as far as designs go at Africa’s biggest kite festival. Larger-than-life South Park characters dip and dive along with giant octopi and Chinese dragons on Muizenberg’s Zandvlei grounds.
Where: OR Thambo Hall, Khayelitsha
When: Late Oct
Shake your groove thang at this new festival celebrating the vibrant community of Khayelitsha. Apart from a large expo showcasing local businesses, NGOs and corporate companies, there’s a stage dedicated to live music, fashion shows boasting local design talents, and a storytelling boma that promises a fair amount of yarn spinning.
FNB Whisky Live Festival
When: Early Nov
Whether you indulge in the odd dram or have an extensive range of single malts, you’ll get your money’s worth out of this tipple fest. There are over 180 top brands from stalwart master blenders in Scotland and Ireland to lesser-known spirit makers from Japan and Wales.
Discovery Cape Times Big Walk
Where: Various locations in Cape Peninsula
When: 9 Nov
Put on your walking shoes and work those calves for charity (all proceeds are donated to a selected organisation). The Big Walk is made up of eight different routes starting at Mowbray. Timorous trundlers can opt for the 5km or 10km walks, while the fighting fit will get their lion’s share of cardio from the double-digit routes.
Cape Town Pride
Where: Various venues around town
When: Ten days, Mid to late February
Don your party shoes and shake it up at these events. Cape Town Pride celebrates everything ‘pink’ in Cape Town. The festival celebrates the city and the country’s diversity – the title of ‘Rainbow Nation’ really rings true during the festivities. Expect beauty pageants (love your hair, hope you win), champagne hikes (athletic bubbled-up queens hiking up mountains), seminars and workshops (helpful and embracing), and much more. The festival culminates with the Pride Carnival Parade and Closing Party. Don’t expect the spectacle of Sydney’s Mardi Gras but it’s a great party nonetheless.
Pink Loerie Mardi Gras
Where: Out of town – Knysna
When: Last weekend of April
Many would now claim that Pink Loerie Mardi Gras is the pinkest of all festivals in the Western Cape. It’s very much worth driving four hours from Cape Town along the gorgeous Garden Route for it. The festival has grown significantly over the last few years and features all types of gay and gay-friendly participants, usually sporting the colour pink.
Out in Africa: South African Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Where: Nu Metro
This long-running annual film festival is hailed as the best-dressed, best-attended and longest-running human rights-themed film festival on the African continent.
MCQP: Mother City Queer Project Party
Unless you want to be sent home in shame, don’t bother showing up unless you’re in costume. Better yet, create a themed uniform your entire entourage can sport. Every queen, prince and princess goes to town – and often beyond – to exhibit their interpretation of the year’s theme. From ‘shopping trolleys’ and ‘weddings’ to ‘comic strips’, no expense is spared to make this the most decadent themed event on the gay calendar.
Kirstenbosch Sundowner Concerts
Where: Rhodes Drive, Newlands
When: Late Nov-early Apr
Beat the Sunday blues with a few good bottles of wine and a sunset backdrop during the popular weekly Kirstenbosch sundowner concerts. These performances have become a summer institution among Capetonians, so get there early if you want a grassy patch from which to see hot local talents like Freshlyground, the Parlotones and Fokofpolisiekar.
Where: Various locations in Observatory
When: Late Nov-early Dec
Each year the slightly grungy ’burb of Obz transforms into a hotspot of cultural happenings for this street festival. Top local musos pump the jams from a number of stages and a market sells local and imported threads as well as its fair share of food.
Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival
Where: out of town – various locations in Franschhoek
When: Early Dec
So, what’s the difference between Methode Cap Classique and champagne? Grab a glass and start sampling the barrage of bubblies at this fabulous affair to find out. There are gourmet offerings from the area’s restaurants too.
Whatever your interests might be, Cape Town has a variety of festivals and activities to do while you volunteer during the week.