What do you think, when you think Brisbane?
For many, ‘Brisvegas’ is an idea that comes wrapped in dollar-shop tissue paper, tied with plastic ribbon, and embellished with rhinestones, at least it was for me.
That is to say, you may not think of it as the classiest option for a girly getaway - especially compared to the nightlife, Instagram aesthetic, cocktails and art hunting you get in Melbourne.
To my complete surprise, and delight, however, a recent trip with Queensland Tourism showed me that in fact Brisbane ticks all these boxes and then some, and shouldn’t be the forgotten city for weekends away, particularly as it’s annual city festival gets underway.
The city of yesteryear has matured from what could be called an awkward adolescence of rigid conservative governance in the ‘pig city’ years, into a thriving city in its metaphorical mid-20s.
Over 14 new hotels have sprung up in the past year, whole new precincts dotted with funky bars and scrumptious restaurants are cropping up, but the city keeps its country town feel in the smiles and waves of the locals who pass you by.
Brisbane has the kind of cityscape that feels like it should host a charming, independent coming-of-age film - it’s both intensely photogenic and constantly humming with the music that fills so many of it’s pubs and bars and street corners.
Most of all, as almost every Brisbanite told me it’s ‘better experienced than explained’.
So if you’re planning a trip with the girls, dare I suggest you put down the concept of Melbourne, in its blustering, bitterly cold reality at this time of year, and pick up Brisbane and all it has to offer.
A music haven
Hailing from Sydney as I do, I equate live music as I do the VHSes of my youth -nostalgic, gritty, real and no longer part of modern life.
How wrong Brisbane proved me, the city is soaked in music, from the international acts it’s rolled out over the years including Powderfinger, Savage Garden, and Kate Miller-Heidke, to the buskers hustling during the city’s annual Big Sound music festival you can catch every September.
The venues that host the music are almost worth a trip in and of themselves.
The sweeping natural amphitheatre of RiverStage is worth a visit regardless of who is playing - international acts are hosted against the backdrop of Brisbane River, in the kind of grassy, chilled out atmosphere the city does best.
If you want something more intimate, the eye-popping architecture that is the Tivoli is gloriously irreverent of its chapel-like structure and had this reporter for one dancing far past her bedtime.
Now in the swing of Brisbane Festival, which will run from the 6th to 28th of September, there is no better time to feel the music in the city that hosts it best.
You won’t go hungry, unless you can’t decide
For many it’s the food that forces their hand when picking a holiday destination, and Brisbane will have your cards on the table in no time.
Perhaps the best metaphor for the city’s cultural metamorphosis is the newly transformed Howard Smith Wharves precinct.
The formerly gritty industrial bowel of the Story Bridge’s north side has been reimagined as a kind of hipster’s paradise with all the good coffee, and none of the pretentiousness.
The area was part of a revitalisation campaign that has filled it with cutting edge restaurants, the Felons craft brewery, the Fantauzzo Art Series hotel, and more quality cafes than you know what to do with.
Not that the rest of the city is lacking in gourmet options.
One example I had the thrill of sampling was the Tel Aviv inspired offering of Fortitude Valley’s Za Za Ta.
The take on classic Middle Eastern fusion, combined with the delicious cocktails (served at the bar until 2am), plus its situation in the heaving heart of Brisbane’s former red-light district, made it a wine and dine to write home about.
Speaking of the nightlife, Fortitude Valley’s hub of bars and clubs is a must for anyone looking to cut loose on the dance floor.
The dazzling strip is the perfect playground for any adult looming for a touch of irresponsibility on their escape.
For a more casual and potentially wholesome encounter, the city’s weekend markets are a must.
If you can pull yourself from bed on Saturday morning, a trip to the markets at the Brisbane Powerhouse tops my list of morning activities, not least because of the free exhibitions and music the museum offers of a Sunday, or the gastronomical strawberries as big as your hand, and sold for a pittance.
There are also plenty of alleys tucked into the city spilling over with vibrant local designers, boutique shopping and quaint picture opportunities for anyone who love a Melbourne alleyway for a ‘gram.
A walk down memory lane
On show as of this month as well, is Museum of Brisbane’s homage to their fertile music breeding ground, High Rotation.
The exhibition will run until next year, and against the backdrop of the Brisbane Festival is a perfect visit for anyone nostalgic for the great Aussie music that has poured out of the city since the 70s.
With a rotation of recovered video clips to music spanning the past 50 years, the exhibition is a walk down memory lane I couldn’t recommend highly enough.
One for the ‘gram
The city is a haven for anyone hooked to Instagram which, let’s be real, defines each of us at some point on our holiday.
Whether taking a stroll along the boardwalk that stretches across a solid chunk of the city’s north bank river side, or enjoying a picnic on the south bank with the full sight of the soaring CBD laid out before you, it really is pretty as a picture.
Most of all it is balmy as anything.
In trans-seasonal September, major Aussie cities like Sydney peak at 21°C and through at a bottom of 11°C, while Brisbane reclines at a temperature 14 °C to 24°C.
I don’t know if it was the serenade of her many melodies, the mouth-watering food on offer, or the haze of champagne at the end of a long walk down the river, but my weekend in Brisbane was the gold-tinted escape I’ve been looking for for ages.
Just an hour or so away from most Aussie cities, it’s time to embrace Brissie and all its picturesque possibilities.
Yahoo Lifestyle was a guest of Tourism Queensland.
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