THE BULLDOGS are returning to Ballarat in July as part of their clash against Port Adelaide. If you're heading to the city for the big game, here's how we think you should spend your weekend.

FRIDAY

Morning
Explore some of Ballarat's natural surrounds as part of one of the Ballarat Winter Festival tours. Discover the nature and wildlife of Woowookarung Regional Park in the wintertime before warming up with a hot chocolate and cake, or take the hot chocolate historical city walking tour and learn all about Ballarat's rich past while you admire the heritage streetscapes. 

Noon
This may be your last chance to test some of Ballarat's best pastry creations as part of the citywide Pie Competition. Presented by Federation University TAFE, the competition has a focus on local produce with each participating venue's pie featuring local ingredients. Click here for the full list of traders, and get ready to tantalise your tastebuds!

Dinner
Get into the weekend's sporting mood at the Ballarat and District Trotting Club's race meeting. Enjoy a hearty feed at the Flying Horse bistro, or opt for a more formal dining package at The Terrace restaurant which offers unobstructed views of the race track.

SATURDAY

Morning
Visit the Art Gallery of Ballarat and admire the 19th- and 20th-century works from the Musee de la Chartreuse as part of the Australian exclusive Into Light exhibition. Discover the romance, drama and beauty of French painting and yearn for a Parisian life of calm, culture and delight. Afterwards, enjoy the gallery's permanent exhibition of indigenous works and gilt-framed colonial and contemporary art.

Afternoon
Experience the top drops of the region as part of The Red Series. Showcasing premium wines from the Grampians and Pyrenees regions, the event will also include the chance to meet the winemakers, enjoy some live music and find your very own favourite winter wine.

Dinner
Find your place at Ballarat's latest foodie rage The Pub with Two Names. Owned by renowned Australian artist David Bromley and his partner-in-crime Yuge, this pub with a difference serves up all the classics as well as some contemporary creations in one of the most eclectic and artistic spaces you've come across.

Night
Relish in the smooth jazz tunes as part of the Ballarat Winter Festival's Jazz Series. Showcasing a variety of jazz styles, classic songs and original compositions, this is one sure way to warm your heart and soul during the winter.

SUNDAY

Breakfast
Take your friends and family along to one of Ballarat's prized cafes and indulge in a warming coffee and hearty breakfast. Ballarat will be in full celebration mode, and our local cafes will be ready to welcome you with open arms and plentiful tastes! If you're visiting with the whole family, The Hydrant Food Hall features a great children's play nook and some divine dishes to kick-start your day - including their delectable bacon and egg toasties, classic smashed avocado or waffles with roast duck!

Afternoon
If you're lucky enough to have scored tickets to the AFL match, then you're in for a real treat. Watch as Ballarat's adopted team the Bulldogs take on the fiery Port Adelaide. If you missed out on tickets, fear not - you'll be able to catch all the action live and on the big screen next door to MARS Stadium at the Ballarat Showgrounds. Enjoy carnival rides, a petting zoo, inflatables, buskers, food trucks and loads more. All the info here.

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