This is sponsored content for VisitCanberra.
As winter fades Canberra is set to burst into bloom this spring. Crisp seasonal mornings will bring days filled with blue skies and sunshine as one of the coolest cities in Australia continues to blossom.
The explosion of great places to eat and drink, combined with its world-class museums and galleries, vibrant festivals, and close proximity to some of Australia's best wineries and national parks, all wrapped up into a compact walking and cycling dream, have put Canberra at the top of must-do lists.
With spring probably one of the best times of year to see our capital at its best we thought we'd tap into the knowledge of two Canberra insiders to help plan the perfect break in the city named in the top three of Lonely Planet's list of best cities to visit.
Michael Salmon - born and bred Canberran and manager of The Canberra and Region Visitors Centre - knows the city inside and out, while Amelia Bidgood, the founder of local foodie guide Eat Canberra, and enthusiastic food tour operator, is the passionate expert on the most sublime food and drinks experiences to be had.
Here are some of their essential gems of Canberra suggestions for this spring:
Take in the tulips (and the poppies, and the pansies)
Australia's biggest celebration of spring, the glorious month long Floriade festival is on now until October 13. It's dark side NightFest kicks off for just four nights from October 3 transforming the floral fiesta into an illuminated playground with live music and comedians.
As well as wandering through the highly Instagram-worthy floral displays there's plenty of tasty food and beverages to enjoy.
"It's really the sign for Canberra to come out from hibernation and head outdoors," said Michael. "You can take a picnic, sit on the grass and just take it all in. It's sensational."
"Then at night it's like chalk and cheese - the lights, the colours and the entertainment. You need to come for both."
The Canberra region has more than 140 wineries with more than 30 cellar doors where you can drink, eat and soak in some of the most spectacular views.
"Heading out to the wineries should absolutely be on your list," said Amelia. "They are so close and there are so many amazing food and wine experiences.
"There are the most well known Canberra region wines like Clonakilla and Helm but so many more to try, and lots with fantastic restaurants so you can just go to taste these incredible wines or you can have your three course meal as well.
"Contentious Character focuses on paddock to plate and do great seasonal menus - they grow a lot of their own fruit and vegetables and use lots of other locally sourced produce.
Hidden - and not so hidden - bars
The evolution of Canberra has brought with it a new generation of smart and sexy bars - some that are an adventure just to find.
"There are heaps of cool hidden bars in Canberra, and there are new ones opening all the time," said Amelia.
"I have quite a few favourites but one that's opened just recently is Amicci - it's a deli and a wine bar and a cocktail bar. It's a little slice of Italy in the middle of Canberra.
"There's Molly's which is basically a speakeasy - it's quite hidden down a lane way - look for the wooden door! Or if you're looking for a tropical kind of vibe there's Kokomo or Highball Express which is a Cuban bar.
"Tipsy Bull is basically a gin bar with really good food as well - they have more than 200 different types of gin on their menu. Sitting outdoors there on a beautiful day is lovely."
Fabulous food experiences
Any trip to Canberra will be a delicious journey for your tastebuds.
"There are so many wonderful restaurants and cafes to try - you could just spend your whole time eating," said Amelia.
"Raku is one of my favourite experiences - it's a beautiful Japanese restaurant," she said. "They have three kitchens - one for sushi, one for the teppanyaki grilled food, and the other for steamed food.
"For breakfast or brunch I love Local Press in Kingston. It's really nice healthy and fresh food and right on the water at the foreshore. Their dishes change with the seasons but if you can, try the gluten free waffles, even if you aren't gluten intolerant. They are so light and fluffy and served with beautiful fresh fruit.
"Or there's Akiba which does does a pop-up yum cha on the weekend or you can order off the menu. I love their dumplings - really unique flavours like a vegan laksa dumpling or Peking duck dumpling. You can go for a quick bite or try their 'feed' option - eight different dishes that are a fusion of Korean and Japanese.
Even Canberra's amazing National Arboretum is home to one of the city's best food experiences, said Amelia. "The Conservatory Restaurant is one of the restaurants with the best view in Canberra but it also has food to match," she said. "The chef Janet Jeffs has led the way for the hospitality scene in Canberra and is focused on really high quality seasonal produce.
"While you're there make sure you pop around to see the gorgeous little Japanese garden - I don't think many people know it's there."
From Shrek to Elle: special events galore
While Canberra is well known for its outstanding galleries and museums, there are also plenty of special exhibitions kicking off.
Michael's picks are the Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition, September 12, 2019 to February 2, 2020,at the National Museum of Australia, and Gamemasters: The Exhibition, September 27, 2019 to March 9, 2020, at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA).
"Gamemasters: The Exhibition is going to turn the NFSA into Australia's biggest video game arcade," said Michael.
Make sure you pop into to the National Portrait Gallery as well - it's reopening this month after a refurb. There's plenty to see there including the Women in Vogue exhibition, October 11, 2019 to November 24, 2019, celebrating 60 years of Vogue magazine in Australia.
"A fantastic one as well that's only for one day a year (October 5, 2019) is the Big Things in Store at the Australian War Memorial's storage facility in Mitchell," said Michael. "You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the collection of aircraft, rockets, vehicles, tanks, artillery, and equipment including the RF-111C aircraft."
On your bike or on foot
Walking or getting on two wheels is one of the best ways to explore Canberra in spring.
"It's such an easy city to get around, that's one of the things I love about it," said Michael. "Everything is so central. It means you can do so much more here.
"Taking a stroll or riding a bike around Lake Burley Griffin is one of the nicest ways to enjoy so many of the attractions.
"Hire a bike here at the Visitors Centre and do the 'bridge to bridge'. Stop off and have an ice cream, have a picnic, head over to the National Gallery, have lunch at the restaurant at the National Library that overlooks the lake. It's a good way to get the perfect perspective on the city."
Start planning your Canberra getaway now, visitcanberra.com.au
This is sponsored content for Visit Canberra.