Australia: What to do in January 2011 (Hint: sports and art)

For most of us, January is a time to reassess and prepare for the year ahead. Why not ease into the year and take things down a notch or two in January with these suggestions from Asia-Pacific travel editor Shawn Low, so you can save your energy for the hard work of planning for a big trip a little later in the year.

Victoria

It's a given that Aussies are crazy about sports. And the first Tennis Grand Slam, the Australian Open, kicks off each year in Melbourne. The action runs 17-30 January at the Rod Laver Arena (and surrounding courts). If you haven't been before, a good way to get a feel for the atmosphere is to buy ground pass for the early games (AU$19-$29).  You get to walk around all the outside courts and rub shoulders with fellow fans. Get a used game ball, a hot dog and a tan. Should be fun to find out if Rafael Nadal can continue his good form and wrestle the trophy back from Roger Federer…

New South Wales

In keeping with sedate activities, the Museum of Contemporary Art is still running a large Annie Leibovitz exhibition: A Photographer's Life 1990–2005. Financial woes aside, Annie Leibovitz is still a powerhouse of photography and this is a great showcase of her body of work. Tickets AU$15.

Tasmania

MONA is coming. In January, the exciting Museum of Old and New Art is opening in Hobart. The museum officially opens 22 January but the full program has yet to be released so keep an eye on their website for details. Leading up to MONA's arrival is MOFO, the MONA Festival of Music and Art. Artists on the roster include local acts and international guests like Phillip Glass, Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell and Blues Explosion. (There's going to be a big launch party on 21 January with acts such as The Cruel Sea and Wire - 2500 free tickets are available by ballot from www.mona.net.au/fri21. Good luck!)

South Australia

For some reason, people seem to get excited by watching men in body-hugging lycra huffing and puffing on a bicycle. Check out what all the fuss is about at the Santos Tour Down Under. This is a 758km bike race that starts at Mawson Lakes and finishes in Adelaide. It's Australia's biggest cycling event and runs from 16 to 23 January. Cycling greats racing include our very own Cadel Evans, Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady, while international stars include 2006 Tour de France winner Oscar Pereiro and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. It's Lance's last international race. Ever. Or so we're told.

Queensland

Seems like Brisbane has been trying to reinvent itself of late. No more 'Brisvegas' – now the city is filling its calendar with a slew of arts-related events in a bid to rid itself of its unofficial moniker. The Brisbane Powerhouse is kicking off 2011 with a range of kid-friendly activities like the Young Film Makers Summer Day Camp or a comedy show called The List Operators For Kids: More Fun than a Wii. The city is also home to the fabulous Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art, which is kicking off the year with 21st Century: Art in the First Decade - a 10-year retrospective of art the gallery acquired between 2000 and 2010, accompanied by an intensive programme aimed at children – 21st Century Kids Summer Festival. Parents, Brisbane beckons.